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


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.


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 


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

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

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?


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!