Monday, December 26, 2011

Best of 2011 Giveaway!




I am sooo excited to be doing a giveaway as part of the Best of 2011 Giveaway Hop! I feel in love with so many books over the year, and really over the last few months. But I wanted to pick just one that I'd read and decided on Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. Even though there were a few books I loved more, this is the one I'm most excited about with the movie coming out in mere months! So the Grand Prize of my giveaway will be a new paperback copy of The Hunger Games.

The other two books I chose to include were not really among my favorites, but they have had such amazing reviews on Goodreads that I wonder if they wouldn't be appreciated more by other readers. Torn by Erica O'Rourke and Tempest by Julie Cross. The copies of Torn and Tempest have been gently used by me as they were parts of giveaways.

Good Luck and remember to come back daily to earn more entries! Please note this is open to US and Canada only.





Check out some of the other blogs included in the Giveaway Hop and enter to win more great books! (Songbird can be found at 89. Prissy Fit)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Contest for Aspiring YA/Middle Grade Authors

I'm so excited to be sharing this opportunity! Keep reading for more info about a chance to win feedback on your manuscript and aid in UNHCR's development of libraries in refugee camps.

Win a literary agent or acclaimed author's feedback on your unpublished manuscript for young adult or middle grade readers.  This rare opportunity is being offered to the six winners of an essay contest recently announced by the literacy charity Book Wish Foundation.  See Bookwish.org for full details.

You could win a manuscript critique from:


  • Laura Langlie, literary agent for Meg Cabot
  • Nancy Gallt, literary agent for Jeanne DuPrau
  • Brenda Bowen, literary agent and editor of Karen Hesse's Newbery Medal winner Out of the Dust
  • Ann M. Martin, winner of the Newbery Honor for A Corner of the Universe
  • Francisco X. Stork, winner of the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award for The Last Summer of the Death Warriors
  • Cynthia Voigt, winner of the Newbery Medal for Dicey's Song and the Newbery Honor for A Solitary Blue

All that separates you from this prize is a 500-word essay about a short story in Book Wish Foundation's new anthology, What You Wish For.  Essays are due Feb. 1, 2012 and winners will be announced around Mar. 1, 2012.  If you win, you will have six months to submit the first 50 pages of your manuscript for critique (which means you can enter the contest even if you haven't finished, or started, your manuscript).  You can even enter multiple times, with essays about more than one of the contest stories, for a chance to win up to six critiques.

If you dream of being a published author, this is an opportunity you should not miss.  To enter, follow the instructions at http://bookwish.org/contest.

Good luck and best wishes,

Logan Kleinwaks
President, Book Wish Foundation

What You Wish For (ISBN 9780399254543, Putnam Juvenile, Sep. 15, 2011) is a collection of short stories and poems about wishes from 18 all-star writers: Meg Cabot, Jeanne DuPrau, Cornelia Funke, Nikki Giovanni, John Green, Karen Hesse, Ann M. Martin, Alexander McCall Smith, Marilyn Nelson, Naomi Shihab Nye, Joyce Carol Oates, Nate Powell, Sofia Quintero, Gary Soto, R.L. Stine, Francisco X. Stork, Cynthia Voigt, Jane Yolen.  With a Foreword by Mia Farrow.  Book Wish Foundation is donating 100% of its proceeds from the book to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, to fund the development of libraries in Darfuri refugee camps in eastern Chad.

Good Luck!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review: Tempest by Julie Cross

Tempest  
by Julie Cross
Published: January 2012
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Available: Amazon  

Blurb:
The year is 2009.  Nineteen-year-old Jackson Meyer is a normal guy… he’s in college, has a girlfriend… and he can travel back through time. But it’s not like the movies – nothing changes in the present after his jumps, there’s no space-time continuum issues or broken flux capacitors – it’s just harmless fun. That is… until the day strangers burst in on Jackson and his girlfriend, Holly, and during a struggle with Jackson, Holly is fatally shot. In his panic, Jackson jumps back two years to 2007, but this is not like his previous time jumps. Now he’s stuck in 2007 and can’t get back to the future.

Desperate to somehow return to 2009 to save Holly but unable to return to his rightful year, Jackson settles into 2007 and learns what he can about his abilities. But it’s not long before the people who shot Holly in 2009 come looking for Jackson in the past, and these “Enemies of Time” will stop at nothing to recruit this powerful young time-traveler.  Recruit… or kill him. Piecing together the clues about his father, the Enemies of Time, and himself, Jackson must decide how far he’s willing to go to save Holly… and possibly the entire world.

Review:
 I really wish I could say that the blurb or the cover attracted me to this book, but neither of them did. I entered a free drawing through Goodreads and it seemed mildly interesting. It also had a lot of interest so I assumed good things. Well, after finishing it, I cannot understand why. According to the ARC version I received there is a HUGE amount of marketing going into this book, and it already has a movie deal signed. But I'm at a total loss as to why?! This book was a complete mess. From the cover to the last page.

First the cover is a complete rip off. Okay so it's in color, but there is absolutely no way the publishing company didn't see an eerie resemblance to Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush cover. What is wrong with cover artists today? The cover doesn't even depict a scene from the book!! There's one moment it seems close to but still, where is the originality?

On to the plot. Time travel? I'll go with it. I'm not a huge fan (apart from Back to the Future movies), but it's not being over done in today's market. The problem is that this came off as a mesh of Time Cop, The Butterfly Effect and Jumper. And not only that, but what seems to be original is a complete mess. There is absolutely no logic to the time jumps happening. The hero Jackson jumps into the past, then into the future, then creates an alternate past and still manages to jump into a future similar to the one he was first in, but not like the one he was going to be in after going into the past and creating an alternate. Confused? Yeah, well so was I. And what's worse is there is absolutely no point to anything he does after the big jump he initially takes. Everything could have been solved if he'd simply stayed there, because no matter what he does in the past, it won't change the future, except when it creates an alternate future (which apparently makes sense in this book).

Oh, the characters, or character I should say. Jackson is a boy. No, he really is. I say that because I think the author forgot this fact at moments (many moments). Like when he goes into the past and thinks about how all the college kids he sees would be surprised that Jon and Kate broke up. Really? Teenage boys know and care who Jon and Kate are? And they assume a mass of other college kids will too? Please. Teenage guys care about very few things. Sex, sports, technology, girls, working out. Any of these I could believe, but a middle aged married couple with eight kids? Anytime there was an opportunity for Cross to address even the faintest physical contact it's glossed over, and it didn't feel like she was trying to shield her young readers, but that she didn't know how to describe it from a boy's perspective. What a cop out. If you're writing from a boy's perspective, and having it centered around a romance (which this book supposedly is), then get me in the mind of this boy, and be honest about it. (This is exactly why I have yet to attempt writing from a male's point of view.)

Jackson is also a flake. And not one I would want as my boyfriend. Here he is with this amazing ability to time travel and instead of telling his girlfriend, he stands her up multiple times, pays off her roommate with his credit card (oh, boy did I mention that he's uber rich?), and then when she's shot and laying dying in his arms he time jumps back too far. So there's the big problem he faces. Not that his girlfriend, Holly, is dying in his future, but that he's stuck in the past. At first he tries to get back to her, but within a couple of chapters, he's trying to see his dead sister, uncover his father's secret government job, and date the younger version of his dying girlfriend, because really, why try and get back to help her when he can have a younger one?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ranson Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children 
by Ranson Riggs
Published: June 2011
Publisher: Quirk Publishing

ISBN: 9781594744761
Available: Amazon

Blurb:

A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

***

It's hard to put into words what I felt when I finished ready this book. I absolutely loved it, but it was nowhere near what I thought it was going to be. As always, I fell for the cover. The creepy girl levitating in black and white was enough to get me interested, that it takes place in Wales was just a bonus. 

Throughout the book are scattered photo's that tie into not just the characters, but also the background story of Jacob's grandfather. They were creepy and dark, and some of them were disturbing, despite their innocence. The photo's alone were enough to keep me turning the pages. I felt like a kid again with my first chapter book, frantically reading just so I could figure out the meaning behind the pictures.

Photo's aside, the story is solid. Although it starts out a bit slow with information, it did have some immediate action that made me curious enough to not to skip pages. Jacob's character has some typical boy moments and he comes across as a believable and likable character. The other characters are a bit more on the eccentric side (apart from Jacob's parents). The mix of Peculiar's was great. Yes, there was almost an X-Men feel to them, but they have a believability to their reactions to their situation. Emma is the only one I found hard to follow. She swings back and forth with her feelings about Jacob and his grandfather, and frankly the idea of Emma and Jacob in a romantic relationship was the creepiest part of the book.

Riggs does do an amazing job with the time travel aspect of the story. I've always found time travel books a bit frustrating (check out my upcoming review of Julie Cross's Tempest for more about that), but Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children manages to explain it and still make it understandable. The idea of loops that allow a pause in time while the present continues on was intriguing.

I did feel as though the author was trying to leave it open for a sequel but I really don't feel like I'd want to read any further. My interest in the Peculiars was satisfied, and unless the concept sounded amazing I'd happy with the way this one ended. Sometimes, it's better just to stop while things as good. and I can't see this story getting better than it already is.

This is a definite recommend, and although it looks like it would be for older teens, I think younger teens would find it more enjoyable.  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Review: Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris

Bad Taste in Boys 
by Carrie Harris
Published: July 2011
Publisher: Delacorte Press

ISBN: 9780385739689
Available: Amazon 

Blurb:

Someone's been a very bad zombie.
Kate Grable is horrified to find out that the football coach has given the team steroids. Worse yet, the steroids are having an unexpected effect, turning hot gridiron hunks into mindless flesh-eating zombies. No one is safe--not her cute crush Aaron, not her dorky brother, Jonah . . . not even Kate! She's got to find an antidote--before her entire high school ends up eating each other. So Kate, her best girlfriend, Rocky, and Aaron stage a frantic battle to save their town  . . . and stay hormonally human.
 

Review:

First, I absolutely love this cover! I just wish it was a bit more representative of the story. It gave me a dark, serious vibe, but the book was definitely more on the humorous side. 

The book does funny well. It's not the flat out kind that gets annoying fast, but it has a touch of self deprecating humor that pops up through Kate and her out look on life. Kate's character really is what keeps this story together. She's smart and knows it. And best of all she's not afraid to show it. Her access to the football team is due to her future goal of going to medical school and she uses her medical knowledge to help her figure out what's going on. 

Kate's brother Jonah is great as the annoying younger brother that ends up not being so bad. Their relationship felt natural and he didn't end up as just a plot device. He played an important role in the story and there were a lot of moments throughout the book that he makes great. 

Aaron is Kate's love interest and even though he's portrayed originally as the super high school hunk, he ends up coming across as a pretty normal guy. Kate has a lot of nervousness dealing with him at first that makes him seem aloof, but once Kate relaxes, Aaron's character becomes a lot clearer.

The best thing about Bad Taste in Boys is that it doesn't shy away from the blood and guts that is the heart of a good zombie story. So many humorous YA zombie books I've red have played it safe, glossing over the gross factor of zombies, even avoiding any part of it by changing the essence of what zombies are. Harris stays true to zombies and gives us the gore. If I didn't want gore then I wouldn't read about zombies!

This is definitely falling into the category of better zombie books I've read. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Interview with the Author and Illustrator of Cardsharp, Paul Westmoreland (POW)

I am very excited today to be interviewing author and illustrator Paul Westmoreland (also known as POW) and discussing his Young Adult novel, Cardsharp.

Cardsharp's Goodreads Blurb:

Burning houses. Daring robbers. Motorway chases. Exploding boats. Flying daggers. Brutal policemen. Ruthless pirates. Beautiful women. Deadly bullets. Racing hearts. International Criminals. Narrow escapes. Tricks, stings and electrocutions. And a priceless painting by one of art’s world’s most notorious masters.
Welcome to the adventures of Vincent Ward, where getting through each day alive just isn’t enough.

Did you always want to be an author?

No, I wanted to be a film director. But when I started writing stories that I hoped would become movies, I realized how much fun you can have just writing. With movies you have limits like, Can you film a robbery in the national Gallery? Can you blow up a luxury yacht? In a book you can do it from the moment you decide you want to, and no one can stop you. Writing is still the most liberating place to be creative. Your only limit is the alphabet, and it’s free!

Tell us a bit about Cardsharp.

My novel, Cardsharp is a roller-coaster thriller set in the art-smuggling underworld. It follows Vincent Ward as he travels across Italy to save a lost painting by Caravaggio from a ruthless organization of international criminals. It’s edge-of-your-set action all the way through, with a healthy shot of art history so you can look cleaver after you’ve read it.

How did you come up with the idea for your novel?

I’ve always been interested in art, and I find the art world fascinating. Because paintings are worth so much, people with a lot of money – many of them bad people – will go to extraordinary lengths to get their hands on paintings. All this makes it a rich area for writing exciting stories, and I went from there. I always start with an interesting artist and a goal for Vincent, and the story grows from there.

If you got the chance to spend a day with any character from your books, who would it be and why?

I would choose Mr. Masters, my curator of the National Gallery, because he could open the vaults and show me all the pictures no one else ever gets to see. Though I’d probably chicken out of a day with Vincent, my main character, because too many people shoot at him and there’s always trouble chasing him. 

What drew you to the YA genre? 

Again it’s freedom and creativity. I always wrote for adults, but then my dad told me about a competition for writing YA books, I tried it, didn’t win, but it was so much fun I didn’t want to do anything else. You can do anything with YA, so long as it’s exciting! And I love writing like that.

What do you hope readers will get out of your novel?

I hope readers get a taste for art. Most people, especially my adult readers, have enjoyed it and learned something new, and some of my young readers have dragged their parents to galleries.

Where do you like to do your writing?

My favourite place to write at home, in my kitchen. But I can write anywhere – on the train, in a coffee shop – last week I even wrote while I stood in a queue at the post office.

What are some of your favorite YA books or authors? Non-YA?

H.I.V.E., CHERUB and Young Bond are all great. I also read adult books and biographies by interesting people. I also re-read Tuesdays With Morrie every few years because it’s full of lessons in life.

Are there any books and stories that have influenced or stuck with you from your childhood or youth?

I had a short version of The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle when I was little and read it over and over. There are some scenes in that which had an effect on me that I try to put into my stories. The fear of dinosaur attacks and adventures with nerves of steel – they’re great ingredients for fiction.
  
Do you have any other works published and how do they compare genre/style wise with your current work?

Sadly I don’t. I have a story set in the circus that nearly got published, but alas, it didn’t happen. I’d like to go back to it, but Vincent’s next adventure is taking up all my time right now!

Do you have any current writing projects? Can you tell us a bit about them?  

As I mentioned, the next adventure for Vincent sees him racing across France and battling an insidious art dealer who is trying to re-write art history. I also have a TV series going to the BBC, which could be very exciting!

If you would like to know more about Cardsharp, read a few sample chapters, or get a copy, visit www.powbooks.com

Cardsharp is available for Kindle on Amazon, or as a paperback from Lulu. There are also links on my site.
Thanks for reading. POW

Thank you, Paul! 

I'm really looking forward to reading Cardsharp. Look for my review coming later this month!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent 
by Veronica Roth
Published: May 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books

ISBN:  9780062024022
Available: Amazon

GoodReads Blurb:

Beatrice "Tris" Prior has reached the fateful age of sixteen, the stage at which teenagers in Veronica Roth's dystopian Chicago must select which of five factions to join for life. Each faction represents a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. To the surprise of herself and her selfless Abnegation family, she chooses Dauntless, the path of courage. Her choice exposes her to the demanding, violent initiation rites of this group, but it also threatens to expose a personal secret that could place her in mortal danger. Veronica Roth's young adult Divergent trilogy launches with a captivating adventure about love and loyalty playing out under most extreme circumstances.

Review:

I avoided this book at first, mainly because I thought it would simply be a spin off of The Hunger Games. There were a lot of comparisons online and having enjoyed The Hunger Games I was hesitant to read a rip off. I am so glad that I finally picked it up. Yes, it is a dystopian series, but for me that is where the similarities end. For me The Hunger Games trilogy felt a bit forced, the idea of creating a special games for the sequel just for Katniss wasn't logical or believable. Divergent though is a much better premise for a series, it ends with action, grief, and hope to carry us into the sequel. But there is no real finish to Divergent. It's more of a beginning to Tri's story.

Roth does a wonderful job in putting us inside Tris's head. Tris is likable and she's faced with a choice that she never expected. She had assumed that she would be a part of her family's Abnegation fraction, but when her qualities are tested, her results are erratic and the tester's nervousness causes Tris to question her place in Abnergation. When her turn to choose comes she leaves them behind forever to join Dauntless. And after she makes her choice, she commits to it. She doesn't waiver in her attempts to earn her place in Dauntless. But what once seems like the noble and courageous path, has become riddled with pride, ruthlessness, greed and a struggle for power. It is in Dauntless that she discovers the reason behind her strange results. She is Divergent. A sixth fraction in which the people are all fractions together. But they must hide from society and are most often put to death in fear that their existence will disrupt the status quo. Tris really struggles to understand herself and what she faces feels authentic.


The supporting characters are as well developed as Tris. They are flawed and their choices have a profound impact on Tris and her belief in their society. They didn't feel placed there to simply fill space. Even Tris's love interest has a solid roll in what is happening, and the love story could even have been taken out, and his part would have been just as important. 

The major conflict is entirely believable within the parameters of the setting. That these fractions can survive independently while still depending on each other, and not allow for interaction between them is impossible. Roth shows how the separation causes problems within their world, the fear, the anger, the feelings of superiority are slowly tearing them apart.   


The only part that I had a hard time dealing with was the violence. I would definitely not recommend this book for younger readers. Tris and the rest of Dauntless are submerged in an atmosphere of violence. They are in a perpetual battle for life and are expected to physically, mentally and emotionally fight for their place in Dauntless. Tris does not always win. And it was disturbing to think of her being beaten so badly, not just in fair fights, but also when she is attacked by someone she considers a friend. But the violence is necessary to the story. Divergent does not pussy foot around it. Tris's world becomes a violent, scary place that demands she make decisions that will change everything. There were deaths in this book that I never saw coming and a few twists that made the ending perfect.


This was probably one of the best books I've read this year and I can't wait for the sequel. With the current trend of book to movies for YA I'm really hoping that this is the next on the list to make that transition.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review of Zombie Queen of Newbury High by Amanda Ashby

Zombie Queen of Newbury High 
by Amanda Ashby
Published: March 2009
Publisher: Puffin
Available: Amazon

Blurb:

Quiet, unpopular, non-cheerleading Mia is blissfully happy. She is dating super hot football god Rob, and he actually likes her and asked her to prom! Enter Samantha - cheerleading goddess and miss popularity - who starts making a move for Rob. With prom in a few days, Mia needs to act fast. So she turns to her best friend, Candice, and decides to do a love spell on Rob. Unfortunately, she ends up inflicting a zombie virus onto her whole class, making herself their leader! At first she is flattered that everyone is treating her like a queen. But then zombie hunter hottie Chase explains they are actually fattening her up, because in a few days, Mia will be the first course in their new diet. She's sure she and Chase can figure something out, but she suggests that no one wear white to prom, because things could get very messy.

Review

When I initially read this book I was quite happy with it. A solid 4/5 I would have given it,  But in the days that have passed since I finished it, I've found that my memories of the book have diminished. There are bits and pieces that I can remember, and not all of them are good, so in the end I would have to say that 4/5 would have been extremely generous. 

What do I recall? There's the voodoo ritual Mia does that creates the zombies, and I love that they're not out and out zombies right away. Mia was a bit annoying with her constant references to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, maybe that's just because I hated the television show, but it didn't make me think she was cool for being into that retro stuff. I just felt sad for her pathetically boring life. Candice was at least funny. Her obsession with her health is what keeps the zombie virus from being the typical stuff. As for Chase, he was boring, even after his true identity is revealed. 

The best part of this book was the way the soon to be zombies were attempting to fatten Mia up. I loved the way she was completely oblivious at first and then when she clues in, she goes to some extreme lengths to keep them from attacking her.

The end was a bit too obvious for me, even with the attempted twist. I think the ending was what ultimately made this a forgettable book. There was nothing there to draw me back in to reading it again.    

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Breaking Down - Breaking Dawn Movie Review

I went today to see the Breaking Dawn Part 1 movie and WOW!  Yes that is a wow in all capital letters :)

Now, take that wow with a grain of salt, because it's not an all round one that applies to any great movie I've seen, but as far as the four Twilight movies so far, this is my ultimate favorite.

So, what worked better this time around? Special effects/make up. there were of course the continued use of the CGI wolves, which irritate me, but they fixed a lot of other little things that were driving me nuts. Bella's hair, actually looks real, as does Jasper's. Too bad for Rosalie because yet again her's sucked. The movement of the vampires was good, although I do think the effects in Eclipse were a bit better. Anything of course was a step up from the horrible ones used in the first movie.

For me though, the make was amazing in the deterioration of Bella. I don't remember the books seeming so harsh on her body, except of course for the hunger. But the movie showed such a progression during the pregnancy, and at one point you look at her and see just skin and bones. It was quite sad to think what she was going through, and yes I did cry (I'm just glad the hubby wasn't there it ask me loudly if I was). The effects used on Bella at the very end were even better, and a perfect plug for her Kristen Stewart's new movie Snow White and the Huntsman. Just awesome!

The wedding was really good. knowing how Bella feels about getting married, how she feels about being the center of attention, it was so fascinating to see her start her walk down the aisle. I'm sure people will blast Stewart for her lip biting, half open mouth, but that terrified look on her face is what Bella would have been wearing those first few steps. I loved the change she goes through when she sees Edward waiting for her. The reception was hilarious, awkward, unfunny speeches, which made it all the more funny, each one staying true to the character speaking.

The ending, this was what I had wondered about, where would they cut it. And frankly I think the moment director Bill Condin chose was perfect. And better yet was they way he did it. I won't give spoilers, but definitely a more dramatic ending than New Moon or Eclipse (I won't include Twilight, because for me that was suppose to be a gentle, bittersweet ending).

Leah, and Seth. For me the two of them saved the wolf pack. Seth was cute and charming in a boyish way, completely missing Jacob's obvious hints to take a hike and he is easily the most likable character in the series. He has a conscience and  a willingness to do what it takes to do the right thing. With Leah I liked her much more than in the books. There we only ever really learned about her through Jacob's eyes and here we get to see the difficult and devastating position she is in and how she longs for escape. That she will fight with her enemy to do it makes it even more sad. Yes, I cried when she opened up to Jacob about it.

The music was probably the biggest thing for me, because in the previous movies it has been used so well. I loved that here, we didn't just get a whole slew of new music, but we were also given snippets of music form the first movie. Just hearing the music brought back memories of the first, which was obviously the point. There were even times when different pieces sounded blended together, which was even better. So, the music did not disappoint. 


Now on to what didn't work.

The wolves, oh the wolves. As humans they did great, the acting was good and the pretty much had the least cheesy lines of all. But the CGI, and the CGI talking wolves. Absolutely the worst moment of any of the movies. It felt as if I were watching a children's cartoon with the thought voice overs from the pack and even though I know the books have the characters communicating like that I think it would have been a wiser move to have them in human form for the movie version.

The wedding dress. I was so disappointed. It was beautiful, well at least the back was, but didn't suit Bella's character a bit, and Stewart looked uncomfortable in it as well.Alice's dress was pretty hideous, too and even though her hair looked real, I hated the styling. They were obviously paying homage to her characters flapper days human life, but it didn't suit Greene.

Overall, I was so happy with this movie. The cheesy lines were fewer and further between (although not completely gone), and the actors had much better direction. I am now sitting her, feeling the urge to check out the release dates of the DVD and of Part 2.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Breaking Down

Oh, Twilight, how I have missed thee and the eternal turmoil you inflict as I debate how much I love and hate you. I've resisted doing a complete review of the Twilight Saga, simply because it is such a hot point between readers, authors, movie goers and just about anyone who is aware of the series and I am a firm fence rider. But as the title of my post suggests, Breaking Dawn is where I am breaking down, at least in a way since this is more about the movies than the books.

As far as the books go, Breaking Dawn was probably my second favorite book of the series, Twilight being the first. I'm hoping it will be a much better movie. When the first Twilight movie came out, I loved it and I still do, even when I am cringing at the bad special effects, and the cheesy lines. I was watching it while at the gym yesterday and had to change the channel a few times because I was blushing so bad, embarrassed for the actors having to say some of those lines.

With this saga (both in book and film form), I've always been one of those people who walk the line. I can easily see why teenage girls and women are obsessed with it. This is a story of undying love, self-sacrifice, and fierce protectiveness and that can attractive, especially if it's wrapped up in gorgeous packages like Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner. That said, I am also a fierce hater. There was a serious need for this series to be edited, and the length of Breaking Dawn in book form is just proof that once you hit it big you can do anything you want. How did not one signal editor chop out 50-60K  off that book?

Sticking with the movies, if the first movie was cheesy and had bad special effects, and much of it has continued through the series, then really I should only expect more of the same in Breaking Dawn. New Moon has been my favorite movie so far. Even with the reduced screen time for Pattinson, I thought it actually had the best direction. Sure there was cheese and plenty of eye rolling moments, but there was just something about it that for me was different. I've thought about it a long time, and essentially I think it's all come down to the music and change in special effects.

The music in the first three films has been perfect. I think I could just listen to the sound tracks of the films and be able to pinpoint moments from the movie (and no, I do not watch them compulsively or even often). This is really where I can see myself loving or hating Breaking Dawn part 1. But what I've heard so far has been beautiful. So my hope for the movie is that it will live up to that one expectation from me. With that I leave you with the first music video from the Break Dawn soundtrack, A Thousand Years by Christina Perri.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Review: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
Published: July 2010
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Available: Amazon 

Blurb:

In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other.  Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack.  And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole. 


 
There were so many things I expected of this book and I don't know if they were completely delivered. Regardless there were so many things I loved about this book.

To start if you have not seen the  book trailer check it out. For me the trailers for all three of the books are wonderfully done and tell so much about the books, some of which I didn't make complete sense of until I read the books.

The tone of Stiefvater's first Mercy Falls book Shiver is continued perfectly here.  Linger is poetically and beautifully written. Stiefvater's writing flows smoothly and her occasional use of poetic style is well done. The one problem I had was that things moved sooo slowly. I wish things there had been more of a sense of urgency.

Grace and Sam's love is tested even as it builds. There were moments where I felt like there was a gap between them that didn't feel natural for two young lovers, but Stiefvater was able to pull them back together. Grace's parents drove me nuts in their suddenly inconsistent behavior, but in a way it worked to build some suspense. Hopefully there will be some resolution to their actions in the third book.

The additional focus on newcomer Cole and Isabel was probably where I found myself the most conflicted. While their story lines were interesting and I really enjoyed the interactions between the two of them, I found them a distraction to Sam and Grace's story. Shiver was really about them discovering their love, but here with the added multiple points of view I just felt less connected to them. 

The ending was a bit hard for me to take. About two thirds into the book, I knew what was going to happen and I wasn't happy with it. While the first book in the trilogy left me with hope and a light feeling, Linger was anything but. There was a confusion of action and then boom! it was over exactly like I expected. I have hope the third book will work better for me.
  

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review: Torn by Erica O'Rourke

Torn  
by Erica O'Rourke
Published: June 2011
Publisher: Kensington
Available: Amazon

Blurb: 
Swirling black descends like ravens, large enough to block the glow of the streetlights. A dull roar starts like a train on the 'L', a far-away rumbling that grows louder as it pulls closer, until it's directly overhead and you feel it in your chest, except this doesn't pass you by. Verity, white-faced and eyes blazing, shouts through the din, "Run, Mo!"

Mo Fitzgerald knows about secrets. But when she witnesses her best friend's murder, she discovers Verity was hiding things she never could have guessed. To find the answers she needs and the vengeance she craves, Mo—quiet, ordinary, unmagical Mo—will have to enter a world of raw magic and shifting alliances. And she'll have to choose between two very different, equally dangerous guys—protective, duty-bound Colin and brash, mysterious Luc. One wants to save her, one wants to claim her. Which would you choose?

Review:

Okay, so from the blurb it sounds like the book is going to open with some action, right? Well it doesn't, because guess what? The first half of the blurb happens before the book even starts! Yeah, how exciting. I don't even care that this wonderful friend is dead, because I never even meet her.

This though, is the least of the problems I had with Torn. I'd like to start with something positive and I'm finding it hard. That's not to say the book was horrible. It wasn't. It was just okay. I received this from a LibraryThings give away and it's taken me almost a month to read it. I finally forced myself to take it to the gym and read on the treadmill, just so I could finally get it out of the way.

There were so many things I wanted to like about it, but I just couldn't. So, starting there, the first thing was the cover. The cover put me off, right away. I know I shouldn't judge the book by the cover, and in this case I truly didn't. I hate the cover. The girl looks boring, and pasty, and I hate the weird part in her bangs. And what was up with the cloth wrapped around her head? The blurb is what made me want to read this book, and I hope that the next book in the series has a better cover, because this one didn't do the book any favors.

Moving on from the superficial...

The characters, oh how they drove me nuts. Mo, or Mouse as random people call her, is supposed to be nice. Yes, nice. We're told multiple times throughout the novel that she is nice one, while Verity is the energetic, pretty, vibrant, friendly, outgoing, special one. The problem with nice is that it's boring and we never really see Mo do anything or even say anything that would label her as super nice. She has very few interactions with people other her own age, other than her love interests. She doesn't seem like the nice type. She's mildly rude to her mom, her uncle, her lawyer, the police and even her love interests, and only hangs out with another friend because she doesn't want people to talk about her not being nice and normal. I'll get to her love triangle in a bit.

Luc is the first love interest to appear, and oh what a tangled mess she gets into with him right away. He's weird, and is pretending to be a doctor, and he might have been dating her dead friend Verity. But what's so bad about that? It's perfectly normal, and nice of course, to lust after your dead friend's boyfriend at her funeral, right? (See why I don't buy the whole, Mo is sooo nice aspect? I was seriously trying to keep the characters separate from the love triangle, but it's not working) For the first half of the book, Luc is weird, annoying, frustrating and filled with a superiority complex. Nothing appeal at all about him, yet apparently he's hot and that is enough for Mo. The second half he gets a bit better, although he becomes a bit boring and predictable then. O'Rourke, it seemed, couldn't decide who Luc was. One moment he's talking as if he were an old fashioned, middle aged man, and the next he's using the word ain't. Considering the sometimes unusual (not is a good way) vocabulary O'Rourke chooses to use instead of a well placed common noun or verb, I'm think she was often pulling things from the dictionary just to sound smart. Maybe this is what happened to Luc.

I did like Colin. He was independent, distrustful of everyone, even Mo, and he seemed to have a believable attitude to the world he was living in. Too bad O'Rourke had to ruin his consistency by having him fall for Mo. Considering he's a few years older, and obviously has more maturity from his life experiences than Mo, I couldn't figure out why she appealed to him in the least. The kiss between them was steamy though and I'll give O'Rourke props for that.

The plot dragged. Seriously dragged. Like cut the first hundred pages of Mo flip flopping between lusting for Luc and then trying to focus on her dead friend's death all while lusting after Luc just to remind us that Mo is a mature high schooler who doesn't want to be trapped in her hometown forever (Oh, sucks to be you Colin -who-will-never-leave-his-hometown)

The action once it starts in the last few chapters, is confusing and lacking specific details. The magic blasted into her, the magic blazed around them. The nebula consumed me. Let the nebula consume me. (Yes, that nebula consumed her twice within two pages!) There was also something about lines and were actually an infinity of worlds and lives that crisscrossed, and they were beautiful. I wished I could have visualized what O'Rourke was seeing as she wrote the final scene, but alas, she didn't give me any details!

This is obviously part of a series, but sadly I will not bother picking up the next book. I value my time too much to be bothered spending another month of time struggling to be interested in these characters and a magical world that I have to create on my own.
 


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Early Reviews!

So excited! I've finally received my advanced copy of Julie Cross's Tempest and now I just found out that I'm going to be getting an advanced copy of Amanda Hocking's Switched. I've never read any of Hocking's other work, so I'm really interested to see if all the hype is justified. Look for the reviews of Tempest within the next few weeks and of Switched hopefully by the end of the month!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Review of The Walking Dead Compendium Vol. 1

9781607060765
Available: Amazon

GoodReads Blurb (This is the blurb for only the first issue of The Walking Dead, so as to not give any spoilers):

An epidemic of apocalyptic proportions has swept the globe, causing the dead to rise and feed on the living. In a matter of months, society has crumbled: There is no government, no grocery stores, no mail delivery, no cable TV. Rick Grimes finds himself one of the few survivors in this terrifying future. A couple months ago he was a small town cop who had never fired a shot and only ever saw one dead body. Separated from his family, he must now sort through all the death and confusion to try and find his wife and son. In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally begin living.

** Be warned that I would recommend this book for only mature YA readers who are not disturbed by graphic violence or sexual content. **

So I have to say that my only interest in reading this was because I love the AMC show. Zombies had never really been a genre that I wanted to read at that time, and comics ranked even lower. However, I wanted to know where the characters were headed as well as seeing what was different.

I'm very glad to say that my love for the TV show did not cause me to dislike anything about the comic. In fact it made me appreciate the interactions between the characters (both in the comic and on the show) even more. I do have to admit that I missed Daryl and T-dog who do not appear in the comics, but the comics have a much quicker revolving door of characters, although the core characters of Rick, Lori, Carl, Carol, Andrea, Dale and Glenn stay consistent.

There were so many differences that to me the comic and the show are separate entities, and I hope that the show doesn't stick too much with the comics. Both are dark and character driven, but the comic is a much more disturbing look at human behavior. The sexual content and truly disturbing violence builds as the issues progress, and although I really enjoyed the beginning issues, the later ones seemed like they were trying too hard to push the boundaries of what people will read. 

This compendium ends in a way that I would never have expected. I was shocked and definitely not prepared for some of the deaths that occur. But in order to move the story and characters forward it had to be done. I just wish it hadn't felt like such a massacre. I'm debating now if I want to read more issues and I think I'll probably wait. I enjoy the show more than I liked the comic and show producers have said that eventually the show will follow some of the same story lines. I want to be surprised and at this point my heart is with the show.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review of Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Published: October 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

ISBN: 9781416989417
Available: Amazon

GoodReads Blurb:

For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her...until Patch comes along. 

With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment, but after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is far more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel. 


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


***

So the cover of this book is amazing. The story not so much. It felt too much like the author read Twilight and then sat down and wrote the story the way she wanted it to happen. The whole thing about suddenly being seated beside a new mysterious, strangely acting, guy in her bio class was straight from Twilight. Although I have to say that Fitzpatrick definitely made her 'hero' a bit more lively. 

Nora was pretty blah, and in fact I find it hard to remember much about her other than she made some pretty stupid decisions. She seemed to be constantly flip flopping and it drove me nuts. I can get that she is supposed to be confused, but I just wanted her to make up her mind about something! She is constantly switching between believing Patch is stalking her and then thinking he would never hurt her. It's the same with Elliot, and pretty much everyone else she interacts with. At least in Twilight Bella took a stand in believing and loving Edward despite what he was capable of. 


The ending was a jumble of action, that seemed too obvious and in fact was so predictable that I wanted to skim to the conclusion. In fact there was a lot I wanted to skim in this book. The scenes with Nora's best friend Vee start out interesting, at least until Vee starts acting like a complete moronic b***h. 


Patch is the only thing that saved this for me. I loved him for the simple fact that he was a horrible, manipulative, sarcastic, and all-round bad boy. He hides his intentions pretty well behind his lecherous behavior and although I can't see why Nora falls for him so hard, or why she believes he'd never hurt her (at least part of the time), I liked him. He is unapologetic and is the only character that is consistent throughout the book, even though it's as a prick. 


That said, I think Patch and Nora's 'love story' is an excellent example of what is wrong with YA books. Patch sexually harasses Nora repeatedly, he stalks her, he forces her into uncomfortable situations and Nora never once says no. She attempts to deflect his comments, she makes excuses for herself and for him, but not once does she stop him and tell him 'No'. In fact, by the end she finds his aggressive and offensive behavior a sign of his affection. Even Bella told Jacob no, when she became uncomfortable. Even Bella told Edward to stop hiding things from her. 

I am willing to try more from Fitzpartick and have already read the second book in the Hush, Hush series. I'll be posting that review soon followed by my review of the third book, which I am getting ready to read.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Review of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Published: April 2001
Publisher: Puffin

ISBN: 9780141310886
Available: Amazon


GoodReads Blurb:

When Melinda Sordino's friends discover she called the police to quiet a party, they ostracize her, turning her into an outcast -- even among kids she barely knows. But even worse than the harsh conformity of high-school cliques is a secret that you have to hide.

*** this review may contain minor spoilers***

Tales of rape usually hold little appeal for me, mainly because when I read I like to escape from the harsh realities of our world. But I'd heard so much about Speak over the past year, particularly when it appeared on a list of books to ban. The reviews were glowing and it seemed as if this would be a book worth crying through.

What it was, was a bit more complicated for me. There were definite parts that moved me to tears, the beginning especially was wonderful. At first Melinda is very sympathetic. She's obviously gone through a traumatic experience and doesn't feel like she can talk to anyone about it. She acts wounded and her reactions are believable. 

Around halfway through the book, I was getting pretty tired of it. I wanted her to really show a change in her attitude and actions. I wanted her to take action. But she doesn't. It's just an endless stream of her being ignored or teased by her former friends, of her moping about how no one understands. When she finally does take some action, when her rapist moves on to a new girl, she does it in a way that is so immature that I couldn't blame the other girl for reacting with skepticism. 

There's a major emphasis on her being an artist like her father and like her art teacher believes her to be. And maybe it's poor description by the author, but the art Melinda creates sounds as if it looks like crap and it is literally made from garbage. Maybe it was supposed to be symbolic of how Melinda felt about herself, but I always felt that art made from garbage is usually garbage art, especially since Melinda doesn't really put any thought into her work, she simply does it and suddenly her teacher and another students are amazed. Makes me think of when a child's stick figure is sold for thousands of dollars. 

The end was no surprise and in fact it gave me a bad taste in my mouth. It felt convenient and too much of a happy ending. Speak started out as such a deep and realistic story, but by the end it just felt hollow. I didn't cheer for Melinda, because to me her story stopped feeling authentic. I thought this book would have been a wonderful opportunity for the author to address the need to report rape and sexual assaults, but Melinda never does that. She just adds it to the rumor mill. 


This book had so much more potential, and frankly it has put a sour taste in my mouth for other books by Anderson.