Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ravings of an Irrelevant Book Blogger

I'm no fool, I know no one is watching.  Google Analytics does not lie.  But you know what?  I find the fact that no one is watching ridiculously liberating.  I could say just about anything and it wouldn't matter.  I could admit that secretly love 'Stars Are Blind' by Paris Hilton, that I'm listening to it as I type this and no one would know.  This blog is like the Carson Daily Show of the internet--does his show still exist, by the way? (See?  See what I mean, self?)  Hardly anyone is visiting my little book blog, not even my mother.

Not yet, anyway.

Oh, but they'll come.  And they'll like it, too.  I'll be like The Bloggess, except I'll talk about books and be a lot less relevant.  It's going to be great.  I'll have reviews and interviews and giveaways.  People will subscribe, they'll love me.  And then?  When I finally win the internet the ARCs and galleys will come pouring in from all the major publishing houses.  I'll be swimming in free books.  A library of my very own.

(Soon preciousss.  Soooooooooon.)

Review: City of Ghosts (Downside Ghosts #3) by Stacia Kane

(Hey everyone! If all goes well this will end up being an honest to goodness--traditional--book review.  Before I get started I feel I should warn everyone I have ADHD and my medication is starting to wear off, also I dislike doing things the way they should be done--did I mention I also have Oppositional Defiant Disorder?   Because I totally do.  Anyway, my point is, despite the fact that I'm attempting to write a legitimate review I might go off on a few tangents like this.  Just thought I'd warn you.)

When City of Ghosts begins our protagonist, Chess, is on medical leave, recovering from the events of the last book.  Not only has her work life been put on hold, but her personal life is in shambles.  The only friend Chess ever had--Terrible, enforcer to a powerful drug lord--wants nothing to do with her, treats her with disdain, and rebuffs her attempts to make things right.  The other guy in Chess's life, Lex, is reluctant to walk away even after Chess tells him she's not interested.  She wonders why she let anyone into her life to begin with; a solitary life was less complicated.  Much drugs are had.

Then it seems things start looking up for Chess.  She's able to return to work, agreeing to assist the Black Squad on a particularly difficult case involving black magic.  Bound by a powerful spell, Chess is unable to tell anyone what she's doing, why she's investigating a building near one of her dealer's properties.  Because of this she is forced into working with Terrible once again--though, in all honesty, she craves Terrible's company, wants a chance to talk to him--and allow him to accompany whenever possible as she investigates so he can piece together what's really going on and report back to his boss.

Duty bound, Terrible does as he's told--works with Chess--but he is mercilessly cruel, says the worst things to Chess he is less than happy about it.  They discover there may be more to the case than originally thought: more players in the game, and a form of black magic Chess has never encountered before.  To make matters worse the woman Chess is reporting to is condescending and just plain irritating to be around.  Oh, yeah, and Lex keeps showing up.   It's a disaster.

I enjoyed this installment of the Downside Ghosts series.  I wish I could say I loved it, that I'll be giving City of Ghosts five stars, but I can't.  While I reveled in the relationship aspect, I sort of had to slog through the mystery/Chess's professional life.  It's not that the latter was uninteresting, it's just that personal relationships have become a big part of Chess's life, key to her overall character development.  Things between Chess and Terrible are so unbearably awful that it's difficult for Chess not think about it all the time.  Even I spent way too much time being angst-ridden over the whole ordeal.  I lost much sleep over it, walked around feeling like crap for a couple of days.  True story.  This isn't typical behavior; it's rare for a book to affect me so immensely.  

Because of my complete inability to relax until things were somehow resolved between Chess and Terrible, I could not focus on the mystery.  This is pretty unfortunate as the details of this particular case were a lot more complicated than any of the other cases Chess has worked on.  Which means I got a little confused from time to time and I was frustrated with myself and the book. 

Do I place the blame on Stacia Kane?  In her writing?  Her storytelling abilities, originality and timing?  When it comes to this specific series I'd have to say no, I don't blame Stacia Kane.  Sure there are aspects of the Downside universe that don't quite work for me, some of the details are a little fuzzy, and some grammatical errors (ironic I point this out, I know, seeing as I hardly ever edit what I say or write) but none of it stopped me from being so completely consumed by this series that I could do little more than think about it for a week straight.

I mean, it's a dystopian urban fantasy about a drug addict who traps ghosts for a living.  The characters are named Chess and Terrible. Other than Kane's talent for storytelling, for writing emotion in such a way that moved me on so many levels, there's no reason for this series to be among my favorites.

But it is, it totally is.  The Downside Ghost series by Stacia Kane is going on my 'favorites' shelf.  And even though City of Ghosts probably only deserves three stars--overall--I'm going to go ahead and give it four because it ends on such a satisfying note. 

I recommend this book, this series, for lovers of urban fantasy or those looking for something new.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Review: Unholy Magic (Downside Ghosts #2) by Stacia Kane


For Chess Putnam, finding herself near-fatally poisoned by a con psychic and then stopping a murderous ghost is just another day on the job. As an agent of the Church of Real Truth, Chess must expose those looking to profit from the world’s unpleasant little poltergeist problem—humans filing false claims of hauntings—all while staving off any undead who really are looking for a kill. But Chess has been extra busy these days, coping with a new “celebrity” assignment while trying on her own time to help some desperate prostitutes.

Someone’s taking out the hookers of Downside in the most gruesome way, and Chess is sure the rumors that it’s the work of a ghost are way off base. But proving herself right means walking in the path of a maniac, not to mention standing between the two men in her life just as they—along with their ruthless employers—are moving closer to a catastrophic showdown. Someone is dealing in murder, sex, and the supernatural, and once again Chess finds herself right in the crossfire.


Kat, fellow Goodreader (and my favorite Australian) summed up this book best: gut-wrenching. This book ripped out my innards, tap danced all over them, unceremoniously shoved them back inside me, and sewed me up haphazardly. Sure, in the end, my guts were no longer all over the place but serious damage was done. And I liked it. Sounds like I'm being over-dramatic, I know, but you should see my Unholy Magic status updates.

This book, Stacia Kane's writing, sent me on an emotional roller coaster ride from hell. Now, don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad thing. I mean, I do love roller coasters. I love the sensation of plunging down steep slopes and shooting through loop-de-loops at eleventy-billion miles an hour. I love screaming like a maniac, thinking I might die any second (knowing I won't). But see, that's just a regular roller coaster ride.

Unholy Magic, is more like a terrifying ride on a rickety old roller coaster that may or may not be missing some track. While being stark naked. Halfway through the ride you see that, indeed, there is a section of the track missing, and you realize you're about to die--But, wait! Instead of flying off the track and plummeting to a gruesome death, the roller coaster sails across the gap--Speed style--and lands on the other side, tracks lined up and everything. It's unbelievable.

In the end you're still alive and you feel exhilarated and invincible and you want to do it again. You see that you can because, hey, there aren't many people in line. But as you prepare to get up you vomit in the lap of the stranger sitting next to you.  Oh, and hey, you're still mysteriously naked.  

It's horrible, but in the best way possible. Does that make sense?

Now you're probably thinking I don't like like this book--I mean, "horrible in the best way possible" doesn't sound like high praise, amirite?  Well, you couldn't be more wrong.   I enjoyed Unholy Magic despite all the feelings--some downright beautiful, some so cringe-worthy I wanted to crawl in a hole and die--it stirred within me.

I don't know, I guess the best way to describe the experience is by saying Kane's writing is such that I felt as though I was there, within the pages of the book, watching everything play out. Not only that but I felt all of the characters emotions and it was amazing and terrifying and overwhelming all at the same time.

It was great.

I'll be reading Unholy Magic again, sooner rather than later, I just need a little time to recover. Four stars.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Review: Unholy Ghosts (Downside Ghosts #1) by Stacia Kane


The world is not the way it was. The dead have risen, and the living are under attack. The powerful Church of Real Truth, in charge since the government fell, has sworn to reimburse citizens being harassed by the deceased. Enter Chess Putnam, a fully tattooed witch and freewheeling ghost hunter. She’s got a real talent for banishing the wicked dead. But Chess is keeping a dark secret: She owes a lot of money to a murderous drug lord named Bump, who wants immediate payback in the form of a dangerous job that involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and enough wicked energy to wipe out a city of souls. Toss in lust for a rival gang leader and a dangerous attraction to Bump’s ruthless enforcer, and Chess begins to wonder if the rush is really worth it. Hell, yeah.

I'm going to start this review off on a tangent--when do I not?  As far as I'm concerned 2011 has been the Year of Meh.   Television has been practically unwatchable.  Movies released this year: heinous.  The books were, at best, mediocre.  Admittedly, there were a few notable exceptions but, for the most part, I'm disappointed.  

Over the past six months I've grown weary; struggled to finish most of what I've started, and, by the way, failing more often then not--you should see my pile of abandoned books.  Because of this I've been feeling the need to take a step back, maybe not read so much.  Maybe spend my money more wisely--it is ridiculous how much I spend on books and audiobooks.   You know, take a break. 

2011 killed my love of books (and movies and television).   

That said, over the past couple of days I've fallen in love with books (and reading) all over again.   I'm in love.  Love I tell ya.  Can't-get-enough-make-everyone-sick-can't-eat-or-sleep-head-over-heels in love.  Me and reading?  It's like we're on a second honeymoon.  I have Stacia Kane and her Downside Ghost series to thank because of it.  

I know, I know--none of the books in the Downside Ghost series were published this year.   It doesn't matter.  What does matter is I love reading.  Again.  

Funny thing, it's not like Downside Ghosts is The Best Series, Ever.  And it has to be said: it's definitely not for everyone.  However, as far as I'm concerned, it is compelling and addictive.  It's good.  

So.  Unholy Ghosts.  Where to start?   Twenty-five year old Cesaria "Chess" Putnum is a hot mess, and not in that chick-flick cliche can't-get-my-life-together-because-I'm-so-adorably-clumsy-and-I-wear-glasses-that-make-me-look-unfortunate-until-I-finally-remove-them-during-the-makeover-montage-and-that's-when-everyone-discovers-I'm-super-hot sort of way.  I mean the sort of hot mess that's boozy and pops pills all the live-long day.

I'm not going to lie to you.  I avoided this series for that exact reason.  Boozy pill-poppers just aren't my thing, or so I thought.  The other day I was looking through my kindle bookshelf and I noticed that I had the sample of Unholy Ghosts--for the life of me, I can't remember when I downloaded it.  Curious, figuring I had nothing to lose, I decided to give it a chance before I went ahead and removed it.  Imagine my surprise when I realized I couldn't go the rest of my life without reading more.  So I purchased it (FYI, the Kindle edition of Unholy Ghosts is just 99 cents).  

The thing I like about Chess is, well, I pretty much like everything.  Honestly, I don't even mind that she's a drug addict.  Of course, most of her problems wouldn't happen if she wasn't addicted to pills, but if that were the case Unholy Ghosts wouldn't be so good.  One of my favorite aspects of Chess's life her employment.  She works for the Church of Truth as a Debunker, which is a person who goes around trying to debunk claims of hauntings.  If she's able to then she gets a bonus and if she doesn't the homeowner will be compensated by the church and the debunker will rid the home of the ghost.  

Sidenote: Did I mention this is a dystopian urban fantasy?  Because it is.  Basically way back in the year 1997 ghosts escaped wherever it is ghosts go (or actually The City, as it's called in this series) and got all murdery, killing one-third of the world's population.  At the time The Church of Truth was just a small organization but they succeeded in capturing all the ghosts.  25 years later The Church of Truth is the only religion.   They pretty much run the government too.  Worldwide.  

The church has vowed to keep people safe from ghosts, which is why homeowners are compensated if their haunting is real.  /sidenote

Chess is good at being a Debunker and it's something she's proud of.  She also loves the Church of Truth, despite the fact that it reigns supreme.   I can't fault her for it because everything else in her life is crap--growing up being passed from abusive foster home to abusive foster home will mess you up, you know?  And anyway the Church is the only place she's ever felt safe, the only thing that's ever given her life value.   

Anyway, things get really interesting when Chess's drug dealer blackmails her into working for him. <--and I'm stopping right there because I don't want to ruin it for you.  Plus, this review is entirely too long. 

This isn't my favorite book in the series, there are a few things that didn't exactly work for me, but I still like it. (Just so you know Unholy Magic, the second book in the Downside Ghost series is...um...intense.  I'll be reviewing it soon).  Three stars.  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: Anna Dressed In Blood (Anna #1) by Kendare Blake

First off, I feel I should discuss the cover art: I know, I know--everyone loves this cover. Unfortunately it doesn't do anything for me. Look, I stopped being fooled wowed by cover art after reading Fallen by Lauren Kate. That's a lie--the cover for the third Paranormalcy book makes me ridiculously happy, but at least I'm fairly certain I'll like that book since I like the first two books in the series.

In my opinion the following would have made a better cover for Anna Dressed In Blood:

Carrie,Prom Queen,Anna Dressed in Blood,They're All Gonna Laugh

Infinitely better, don't you think?

Moving on...

You know how Cake Pops are the newest, coolest thing in baked goods? And everyone's all "O mai, it'ss teh caaaaaaaake popssssssss!"? And you're standing there thinking, sure they're cute but they're just little glorified cupcakes on sticks? Well, let me start by saying: Anna Dressed in Blood is the Cake Pop of the publishing industry. Sure it's cute(-ish) but I fail to see what the big deal is.

Ghostly Cake Pops

Seriously, what's the big deal?

I've read several reviews that claim this book is hilarious and disgusting and terrifying. Plus! Awesome Characters! Weird Romance! I was under the impression Anna Dressed in Blood was the YA version of Fargo, except with a Very Murdery Ghost instead of a woodchipper. And I was all, sign me up!

My mistake was falling for the hype & actually believing the rumors.

It's not laugh-out-loud funny

"Hey" he says, pulling up a chair. "Aren't you going to eat your Jell-o?"
"I effing hate green Jell-o," I reply, and push it his way.
"I hate it too. I was just asking."
I laugh. "Don't make me hurt my ribs, you dick."

Bahahahahaha. So funny, right?

Kidding! I'm not sure which parts were supposed to be funny, actually. Even during the 30% of this book I did enjoy I never laughed, not even in my head. I'd have settled for a "that's what she said" joke. I'm not too picky when it comes to humor.

It's not terrifying. (Not even a little.)

I keep reading reviews that claim this book is scary. It isn't. Yeah, there's a ghost (a couple, actually). Yeah, Anna likes to make it look like her dress is dripping with blood. Yeah, she murders people. But it just so happens that none of that scared me. If there was a demonic clown in this book then I might have been a little frightened. But, alas, no demonic clowns.

It's not a paranormal romance

As far as I'm concerned it's not PNR unless the romance is a major part of the story. Believe me when I say this: the romance is hardly even present. What little romance there is between Cas and Anna is forced and awkward. I only knew they were in love because I was told as much. There was no flirting. No longing glances. No blushing and looking away. No showing off. Now I can't even remember if there is any kissing. I think there might be a kissing scene, but the romance is so minor I just don't remember. The only things Cas and Anna had in common is both their fathers are dead and (view spoiler). Other than that, I can't think of anything else they might have in common. I would have loved to hear that they both liked the same subjects in school, read the same books, or even that they shared a deep passion for pie, but that never happened. Their conversations consisted of Cas questioning Anna about who killed her, the people she killed and how she feels about it, ghost killing, nightmares, and how to stop the gruesome murders happening in Thunder Bay.

I don't know, maybe that's what passes for romance in Canada these days.

The other romance is more interesting, in that it's an unconventional human pairing. I loves me an unconventional love story. That said, it's still another romance that's only present because we're told as much. Sure, Thomas the Nerd is crushing hard-core on Carmel, the hottest girl in school, but I fail to see why she might return his feelings. He's described as looking like a 12-year-old with unkempt orangey-red hair. He dresses ugly, he's awkward and he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder (which, by the way, conveniently disappears early on in the story). Yes, Thomas is nice to Carmel and worships the ground she walks on, but that's pretty much how everyone treats her. She's the hot girl, remember? So...what's in it for Carmel? I want to know that she finds him attractive on an intellectual level, or that it's his sense of humor and confidence that she finds irresistibly sexy (by the way, he's not funny but he needs to be because he is the plucky side-kick), or that she loves him because he really wants to be with her for her personality and not just her looks.

It's not disgusting

I'm not going to lie to you. All the gory details are vague at best. So if you're not into that sort of thing, don't worry, you're pretty safe. That said, I feel I should warn you: yes, there is some dismemberment, and, yes, it is a little abrupt when it happens the first time, but other than that... *shrug* I've actually seen worse (on tv).

The Walking Dead gif
That. Just. Happened. Now please excuse me as I dry-heave for the next 30 seconds.

Which brings me to my next point:

I need the characters to show some genuine emotion

Look, I know I just said that I've seen worse and that's why the gory descriptions didn't affect me. It's just that, had I seen someone dismembered IN REAL LIFE, I'd: 1) vomit 2) vomit some more 3) run away screaming 4) cry 5) dry-heave just thinking about it 6) have nightmares for the rest of my life 7) work it out in therapy.

And that's what I'd do if I never even knew the person.

These kids? Have never seen any real (read: not hallucinations) dismembered bodies, ever. So when they see it happen to people they actually know, I want them to do at least one of the following: 1) run away screaming 2) go into hysterics while standing there 3) go into shock 4) huddle in a corner 5) vomit 6) dry-heave 7) cry about it for more then a paragraph 8) have nightmares 9) call the cops 10) feel survivor guilt.

None of that happened, which is why these teens seem so robotic.

Also? I have a problem with the amount of time these kids spent on getting their stories straight. They spent more time working on alibis then they did thinking about the kids that died horrible, painful deaths. It's seriously disturbing how little they spent thinking about the dead kids or the dead kids' families. And don't tell me it doesn't really matter how they felt about the dead kids because they were bullies who deserved to die.

It's called empathy. Look it up.

(2 stars)

(I have so much more to say but I don't know if I'll be able to finish this review before next week. I'm posting it now as a sort of early Thanksgiving present for everyone. You're welcome.

Happy Thanksgiving!)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Review: Dead on the Delta (Annabelle Lee #1) by Stacey Jay

Once upon a time, fairies were the stuff of bedtime stories and sweet dreams. Then came the mutations, and the dreams became nightmares. Mosquito-size fairies now indulge their taste for human blood—and for most humans, a fairy bite means insanity or death. Luckily, Annabelle Lee isn’t most humans. The hard-drinking, smart-mouthed, bicycle-riding redhead is immune to fairy venom, and able to do the dirty work most humans can’t. Including helping law enforcement— and Cane Cooper, the bayou’s sexiest detective—collect evidence when a body is discovered outside the fairy-proof barricades of her Louisiana town.

But Annabelle isn’t equipped to deal with the murder of a sixyear- old girl or a former lover-turned-FBI snob taking an interest in the case. Suddenly her already bumpy relationship with Cane turns even rockier, and even the most trust-worthy friends become suspects. Annabelle’s life is imploding: between relationship drama, a heartbreaking murder investigation, Breeze-crazed drug runners, and a few too many rum and Cokes, Annabelle is a woman on the run—from her past, toward her future, and into the arms of a darkness waiting just for her. . . .


This is the third book written by Stacey Jay that I've read. The first one--YA Fiction--You Are So Undead to Me, was a fun and entertaining read. So enjoyable, in fact, I was glad that I took a chance on an author I'd never heard of before. The second--also YA Fiction--Juliet Immortal, was decidedly not so entertaining. Or fun. Or imaginative. Or worthwhile. Heck, I'm almost done reading it but I just can't muster the strength to finish--I just don't care what happens anymore.

So why did I buy this book which, by the way, was purchased while I was in the middle of forcing myself to slog through the pages of Juliet Immortal? Because it was marked 60% off at Borders, that's why. Also, like I said, Stacey Jay's first offering was quite good, so I was willing to give her another chance. I'm so glad I did.

Dead on the Delta is a new UF series--not YA--that isn't horribly original. Meaning there is a Kick-A Protagonist who has some sort of special ability or power. This Kick-A Protagonist? Has--you guessed it: a troubled past, intimacy issues, and a drinking problem that goes hand in hand with her tendency to pop pills. Did I mention this story is set in Louisiana? Because it is. Also? This book has killer fairies.

That's right. Killer. Fairies.

So why did I like Dead on the Delta despite the fact that it doesn't seem to have anything new to bring to the table, you ask? The protagonist, a 20-something FCC employee/former debutante/med school dropout by the name of Annabelle Lee, is a loveable, albeit prickly, character that I couldn't help but root for. Also her "special power"--immunity to poisonous fairy saliva--is actually not all that special, though only about 5% of the population is immune. So it's not like she's an all-powerful (read: unbearable) Mary Sue.

Anyway, if you're looking for a new UF series to pick up I suggest you give Stacey Jay's Dead on the Delta (book #1 in the Annabelle Lee series) a try.

(4 stars because I was genuinely entertained by this book despite the fact that there were a few things that didn't quite work for me. I will be reading the next book in this series).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?


I wasn't going to read this book. Really, I wasn't. The title of this book alone is enough to make me run screaming in the opposite direction. And the cover art? Is even worse--I'm not your stereotypical girl in that I don't dream of visiting Paris, for any reason, ever. Though I can't help but admit that all positive reviews from trusted Goodreaders did make me a little curious. I mean, it sounded like this book was a really fun YA romance. But for me YA & Romance are never a good match. The vast majority of YA romances are gag-worthy and cause me to sigh with frustration and/or roll my eyes a lot until I finally chuck them across the room because I've got a migraine.

This past summer I was vacationing with my stepdaughter and she was looking for a fluff-tastic read. Knowing I read quite a bit she asked if I had any suggestions. Since I don't really do fluff I couldn't think of anything besides Unearthly, which she promptly gobbled up and begged for more. Then I remembered a number of my GR friends seemed to like this book and I figured it would be right up her alley as well, so I purchased it.

That was way back in July. And my stepdaughter never got around to reading this book because she was suddenly too busy text messaging her stupid ex-boyfriend (I'm not kidding. The guy is a freaking moron, though I digress). Since then my copy of Anna and the French Kiss has been gathering dust because I didn't get around to returning it before the 14-day grace period for returning books to Barnes & Noble was up.

Then the tenth anniversary of 9/11 snuck up on me and I fell to pieces--I mean, completely freaked out. See, I typically prepare myself for this time of year, make a point to avoid footage or pictures from that day. But, yeah, without really thinking things through I decided I was ready, that I would be okay. Now that the tenth anniversary has come and gone, I'm fairly certain I'll never be ready for any of that, ever.

Anyway, by Sunday night I was in the midst of having an nasty anxiety attack that was only increasing in it's severity. I needed something--anything!--to divert my attention, so I found refuge within the pages of Anna and the French Kiss, the fluffiest novel I own. I'm not going to lie to you, it helped.

Right away I could tell I was probably going to like it. The first paragraph sucked me right in because it reminded me of a cheeky little game my husband and I play where we name every stereotype we know about other countries (we're lame, I know). I liked the opening paragraph so much I then read it to my husband and it brought a small smile to his weary face as well.

Check it out:

"Here's everything I know about France: Madeline and Amélie and Moulin Rouge. The Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, although I have no idea what the function of either actually is. Napoleon, Marie Antoinette, and a lot of kings named Louis. I'm not sure what they did either, but I think it has something to do with the French Revolution, which has something to do with Bastille Day. The art museum is called the Louvre and it's shaped like a pyramid and the Mona Lisa lives there along with that statue of that woman missing her arms. And there are cafés or bistros or whatever they call them on every street corner. And mimes. The food is supposed to be good, and the people drink a lot of wine and smoke a lot of cigarettes.

I've heard they don't like Americans, and they don't like white sneakers."

That's just awesome, right? My husband and I particularly loved the bit about mimes. We even added to the list--"Black and white striped shirts", "red scarves", "Berets", "people gnawing on baguettes Regina George style" (see: Mean Girls. And yes, we totally made this one up because we amuse ourselves in the most idiotic of ways), "people pretending they don't speak English", "Escargot!" and so on...

After we finished proving our ignorance to one another I read on.

All-in-all Anna and the French Kiss was a pretty good read. It's not the sort of book I usually pick up, or enjoy, but I liked well enough. It's kind of fun to be inside Anna's head because she's got a quirky personality. Her exchanges with St. Clair are, for the most part, fairly amusing and remind me of the sort of silly and/or ridiculous conversations my husband and I have when we're alone.

That said, I did feel like the story was a tad bit disjointed. The first half of the book is written in such a way that I continuously forgot I was reading a fluffy YA romance, which I really appreciated. The second part of the book is pretty much all fluff, which was alright(-ish). I mean, I could have done without some of the angst (most of which was unnecessary, by the way), and I didn't particularly care for the fact that Anna pretty much becomes a mental patient for the second half of the story, nor did I care much for (view spoiler)

The ending was pretty good, though, which I appreciated. It even has a sweet message, ends on a positive note.

Anyway, because Anna and the French Kiss provided a much needed escape when I needed it most, and because it's much better then most (or even all) fluffy YA romances I've read I'm going to go ahead give it four stars, even though it probably only deserves three. I recommend this to anyone looking for a good fluffy YA romance and/or a quick escape from reality.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review: Deadline (NewsFlesh #2) by Mira Grant

***Warning: this review contains spoilers for Feed***

I really don't know what I can say about this book besides how disappointed and frustrated it left me. Not that I was expecting something incredible mind you. I mean, it's not like Feed left me begging for more so I have no idea why I gave Deadline the time of day.

Actually I do know. I'm not too bright. I was going to purchase The Demon's Surrender on Tuesday June 14th, because that's when it was released, but for whatever reason the audiobook was not available for sale at audible. So I wasted a precious audible credit on this ridiculously long piece of trash. How long is this audiobook you ask? 15+ hours.

Yes, more then 15 hours of what amounts to a really long episode of The Incredible Hulk, featuring zombies and the magical world of news blogging. Except to make things extra fun The Hulk Bruce Banner Shaun, our main character, has his dead sister's voice stuck in his head running commentary on everything he does. And he talks back to that voice. Vocally. Like, all the time no matter who is around.

When people encounter Shaun's strange behavior and make the mistake of asking if he's feeling okay, Bruce Shaun looses his crap and 'splodes out of his clothes in a fit of rage, turns green and goes on a punching spree. And he's all 'HULK MAD! HULK SMASH! HULK KILL!' starts acting like a massive douche-canoe--like, way more douche-y then he usually acts--and threatening to punch the crap out of whoever had the nerve to ask him about the state of his mental health.

See, that wouldn't be such worrisome behavior if he were some crazy urine-soaked hobo who lives out of a refrigerator box. But see, Shaun is the head blogger at this massive news blog he and his (dead) sister started a few years before. He has a ton of employees all over the world.

Mr Crazy Pants is in charge. Really.

And that's where my first issue with Deadline springs up. Who in their right mind would put up with that crap? The answer is no one. Not even people who are supposedly friends with said crazy person. Especially when that person has not contributed ANYTHING worthwhile to the blog in over a year. A person who doesn't even make any real decisions anymore. A person who does little more then show up and carry on conversations with the dead sister living in his head himself and threaten to punch people, occasionally carrying out those threats and breaking noses in the process.

We're supposed to believe that his employees are that loyal and/or so stupid they'd be willing to stick around and take that sort of abuse. Bloggers who are at the top of their fields and could go to a number of other news blogs or easily start their own.

One could argue that he just lost his sister and these people are just trying to be understanding, but here's the deal: his sister died a year prior to the events in Deadline. Plus, they live in a world where zombies run free. Every last one of them have lost close friends and loved ones yet none of them act like him.

So...what makes Shaun so special?

Nothing. He's not special. Which is why I grew weary of this book almost from the get go. But I kept reading because I thought he was going to calm down and pull his act together. Don't want to be all spoiler-y but it needs to be said: that never happens. In fact his behavior worsens yet NO ONE takes a cattle prod to his crazy ass; no one throws him to the zombies.

There is a whole lot of other stuff that happens which, I'm sorry, doesn't really matter because (view spoiler). To be honest, I feel there is little of importance that goes down in this book. It's all a bunch of happenings that don't amount to anything in the end. If you've read Deadline and you don't agree with me, that's cool. Just do me a favor and ask yourself this: what, if anything, happened in this book that wasn't made so completely pointless by the way the book ended? I bet your answer is along the lines of 'nothing'.

And then there's the plot holes. So many plot holes. Gigantic ones. One in particular that is so infeasible, so massive you sort of want to write Mira Grant hate mail while reading it. Or maybe that's just me.

Speaking of holes, am I the only one that thinks the answer to the zombie problem, should a zombie apocalypse ever occur, is the Grand Canyon? I mean, it's a massive hole in the ground, right? All we'd have to do is round up and herd all the zombies to the Grand Canyon. We could walk them in at ground level and then brick them in, or just let them walk over the cliffs (this option is rather inhumane but, hey, it's flesh-eating, disease-carrying zombies we're talking about not adorable puppies and kitties). I'm also willing to consider using Carlsbad Caverns, as it is also a massive hole in the ground and I'm not a huge fan of New Mexico.




Don't even get me started about Shaun's (not at all thought out) motorcycle ride of karma from zombie hell. I'm sorry but who is that stupid? Why would anyone let anyone else ride a motorcycle into a place so insanely infested with zombies? I kept wondering why they couldn't strap that thing to the back of the van, or, I don't know, LEAVE IT BEHIND. Hell, even if there really wasn't room left inside the van, Shaun could have easily strapped himself to the roof, or (call me crazy) strap some of their equipment to the roof of the van in order to make room for him. Either way, he would have been safer.

One last thing: (view spoiler)

I will not be reading the third book in this series. One-and-a-half stars.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Review for Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

From bestselling, Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray, the story of a plane of beauty pageant contestants that crashes on a desert island.

Teen beauty queens. A "Lost"-like island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to emall. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives underground in girls, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror! Only funnier. With evening gowns. And a body count.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the plots from Drop Dead Gorgeous, Austin Powers, Mean Girls, Lost, and Lord of the Flies. Whip until nice and fluffy. Stir in equal parts Bollywood, Boy Bands, Pirates, An Evil Corporation, Crappy Parenting, Reality TV, Miss Teen USA pageants, and commercials aimed at teens. Next add 4 cups Teenage Sexuality (all types), 2 cups Feminism, 1/2 cup Identity Issues, 1/2 cup Self-Esteem Issues, 16-Teenage Beauty Queens (all types. Just make sure one is much more intelligent then the others), a handful of henchmen, a handful of open-minded hot guys with British accents, one hot eco-"terrorist", one crazy-go-nuts dictator, copious amounts of satire, and 1-20 oz. bag of Sarah Palin. Stir until well blended. Batter will be slightly lumpy. Pour into cupcake pans (cuz cupcakes are all the rage, yo!) Bake for: 35 minutes. Let cool.

Frosting: Mix equal parts Sunshine, Love, World Peace, Sparkle Ponies, Sequined Dresses, Cute Shoes, Makeup, GRRRRRRRRRL POWER! a handful of sand, one Lesbian makeout session, and one Sex Tape. Whip until creamy.

Frost cupcakes then sprinkle with way too many unnecessary footnotes. Top each cupcake with a maraschino cherry that has been laced with an organic hallucinogen.

Take those cupcakes and dumb them down. Dumb them down again. A little more...

One more time...


Okay, there you have it: the recipe for Libba Bray's Beauty Queens (in cupcake form). Enjoy!

2.5 stars. Real review to be posted after the weekend.


I spent the weekend thinking about what I would say in this review, how I would explain my beef with this book. I want to make it clear, I don't hate Beauty Queens, nor do I like it.

It was okay, overall. I mean, sure, it did have it's moments. Not that Beauty Queens caused me to laugh out loud--because it didn't, especially not after the novelty of the "helpful" footnotes and commercial parodies wore off. They were fun for the first few chapters, then they became an irritation.

Also, I don't particularly care for Libba Bray's brand of satire. At times it was so overdone it only inspired sighs of frustration, eye-rolling and thoughts of, "that would have been funny if" or "that could have been more powerful if" from me. I felt as though I was watching one of those really bad (read: not funny) movie parodies, like Dance Flick, or Epic Movie.

Yes, at times Beauty Queens is that much of a punishment, and then some.

But that's not the worst part. My major problem has to do with the fact that Bray's story had a great foundation. I mean, just read this:

“I’ve been thinking about that book about the boys who crash on an island,” Mary Lou said to Adina one afternoon as they rested on their elbows taking bites from the same papaya.

“Lord of the Flies. What about it?”

You know how you said it wasn’t a true measure of humanity because there were no girls and you wondered how it would be different if there had been girls?”


“Maybe girls need an island to find themselves. Maybe they need a place where no one’s watching them so they can be who they really are.”

There was something about the island that made the girls forget who they had been. All those rules and shalt nots. They were no longer waiting for some arbitrary grade. They were no longer performing. Waiting. Hoping.

They were becoming.

They were.

Sure, it's all a little contrived, but still it's a great jumping off point. Instead of doing anything worthwhile with it, Bray took that idea and made it into a Very Special Episode of The Facts of Life, except way more condescending and a ba-zillion times more preachier--it's not like the main message Bray is pummeling her audience with is new. Girlfriend is preaching to the choir the entire time. And at no point does this book challenge one to think. Beauty Queens thinks for you, because thinking is hard, y'all.

You wanna sell me on something? Give me a chance to think for myself. Show me both sides of the argument. Present me with questions that don't necessarily have an easy answer. Let me draw my own conclusions. Don't incessantly beat me upside my head with your answers, your way of thinking. See, when that happens I tend to lose interest in what you have to say--even if I happen to agree with you--because you clearly think you're superior, that I'm not intelligent enough to come to the right (read: your) conclusion. Do. Not. Like.

And don't even think of telling me that some teenage girls need a book to do their thinking for them, that they need to be force fed the messages contained within Beauty Queens because their parents, their peers, the media has damaged them, tricked them into thinking otherwise. Even if that is the case with some teenage girls, I fail to see how shoving a message down their collective throats--be it negative or positive--is the way to go about building up self esteem, or fixing identity issues.

Moving on...

I don't fault Libba Bray for wanting to make this book funny, because Beauty Queens would have bombed royally had it taken itself too seriously. But like I said earlier, she took the satire, the tongue-in-cheekiness, way too far. Beauty Queens is obnoxious. Beauty Queens is that know-it-all girl that you sort of want to punch in the face because she isn't as clever as she thinks she is; someone ought to bring her down a few notches.

Anyway, because of Bray's lack of control every character has been reduced to a cardboard cut-out of a stereotype. Beauty Queens has two really stupid blondes from the south, a really slutty girl from the midwest, a super sexually repressed girl from the upper-midwest, two minorities, a crazy pageant-head from Texas, A stereotypical lesbian, and a girl who is hearing impaired. Even Ms New Hampshire, whom, might I add, is this story's Marysue, is feminist to a fault, goes around feeling superior to the other girls on the island because she's "enlightened" and they're just a bunch of stupid fools.

There were a few others who had even less going for them. Ms New Mexico, for example, had a tray table embedded in her skull. That was her only defining quality throughout the entire book. I kid you not. *headdesk*

The only character that I found interesting, that had any sort of depth, was Ms Rhode Island. (view spoiler) She's the only character I truly liked; seemed to have her crap together. She's probably the only reason anyone should read this book. Really. The rest of the ladies? Were really irritating and irrational and totally rubbed me the wrong way--go figure.

You know how every chick flick has at least one painfully ridiculous cringe-worthy scene? The sort of scene that makes you wonder how stupid Hollywood thinks women are. The sort of scene that makes you vow to never see another chick flick again, like that random musical number with synchronized dance moves in My Best Friend's Wedding. Or the 'Bend and Snap' scene from Legally Blonde. Or the entire length of the movie Mama Mia? Yeah, this book has that. It ENDS with one of those scenes.

Read this book or not. It's totally up to you. I didn't like it, clearly, but I'm not pleased with a lot of books these days.

P.S. Why is it books meant to inspire and empower women to be proud of who we are, to stop aiming for an an unattainable level of perfection in the looks/weight/personality department, always have MCs that fall in love with men who are perfect in every way? Like, especially their bodies are super beautiful, and the MC can't shut up about how physically beautiful her love interest is. How come female MCs don't fall in love with guys who have great personalities but are lacking in the looks department? Why can't it just be about a meeting of minds? Why do looks ALWAYS play a part in books written for a female audience? Especially when we go around telling ourselves that looks shouldn't matter, to anyone (especially men). Isn't that more then a little hypocritical?

Oh, yeah, I forgot. No one wants to read about ugly people falling in love. At least one of them (*cough* the guy *cough*) has to be super hot.

P.P.S. I'll have you know, starting when I was 12 years old, my parents sent me to a girls camp in Colorado--five summers in a row. No electricity. No cabins. No toilets or showers or mirrors. No boys. Just a bunch of girls forced to sleep in tents with a bunch of other girls their same age. Wanna guess what THAT was like? Hell on earth. Friggin' WWIII broke out every single year! I hated it. Adolescent girls are mean. Like, ridiculously mean, especially when civilization isn't present. You think Lord of the Flies is insane? Take those boys and replace them with teen girls and you'll have a massacre on your hands. At the very least there would be a few violent cat fights. I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Review: Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

This is what I learned from reading Rot & Ruin:

1. Zombies iz people too. So they should be treated with respect, yo. (more about this later)

2. Books containing zombies can be really irritating and boring.

You see, I didn't know this was a possibility. I mean, it's zombies we're talking about here. How could zombies be boring? Turns out all you need to do is add a lame teenage romance and BAM! What really matters (ZOMBIES!) gets shoved onto the backburner in favor of the not-so-important (love story??? Who invited that guy? Alright, I'm out!).

It needs to be said: if I wanted a romance novel I'd waste my time reading the likes of Nicholas Sparks. And that would never happen. Ever. Besides, I picked up a zombie book because I wanted to read a zombie story. Horror, Violence, Decapitations--oh my!

Maberry's story has these things, but not enough to hold my interest. Most of the time we're being preached to by Tom Imura, Benny's older brother. See Tom Imura is a zombie slayer for hire. One of the best. You'd think a katana-wielding slayer extraordinaire would liven things up a bit. But no. No, he doesn't. He just waxes philosophical about how zombies are people too.

The treating-zombies-with-respect-by-not-killing-them-unless-you-have-to thing? Ruined this book. Basically the argument defending this school of thought goes a little like this:

Tom Imura: Pretend you're at a loved one's funeral and suddenly someone you don't know shows up and like defecates on your loved one's corpse. Wouldn't that anger you? Wouldn't that be disrespectful to your loved one and everyone who ever cared about them?

Me: HECK YEAH! Let me at that disgusting jerk!

Tom Imura: These zombies are other people's loved ones.

Me: I totally agree. So sad. :(
Go on.

Tom Imura: Okay, so when you go around decapitating random zombies who are in no way bothering you you're pretty much doing the same thing as that filthy stranger that took a massive dump on your love one's corpse.


Tom Imura: So basically you should just leave all those walking corpses--you know, the ones that totally want to eat your face and make you a zombie--alone. Because if you don't that's the same is defecating on a dead body. Or something.

Me: *laughing hysterically* er...what??? I fail to see the connection. Your analogy is shoddy at best.

Tom Imura: No really, think about it. Zombies have feelings too, as do their loved ones who may or may not be alive after the zombie apocalypse happens. Just leave all those innocent flesh-eating zombies alone, k. Promise? Unless, of course, a family member of a specific zombie hires you to hunt down said zombie for the sole purpose of decapitating them.

Me: Uhhhh...no. If a zombie apocalypse happens I'm going to decapitate EVERY ZOMBIE I SEE. Wanna know why? Because I'm thoughtful. See, if I'm ever unfortunate enough to become a zombie I hope someone would be thoughtful enough to decapitate me and burn my remains to ash. As far as I'm concerned it would be incredibly disrespectful to do otherwise.

I certainly don't want to walk the earth for an indefinite amount of time, rotting away and eating other people. What if I end up being one of those naked zombies? No one wants to be a naked zombie. I'd rather be dead dead then be a naked zombie, or a zombie of any sort for that matter.

Also? Zombies carry disease. A freaking plague. Why wouldn't I want to stop that from spreading?

I have zero desire to finish Rot & Ruin despite the fact I've got only 25 pages to go. Like I said earlier, there is a laaaaaame teenage romance that pretty much hijacks the plot. I probably would just bite the bullet and finish the book if I hadn't had to force myself to get this far. So no, I can't do it Cap'n.

Jonathan Maberry is totally going be among the first to die when zombies attack. Mark my words.  Two stars.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Review: Graceling (The Seven Kingdoms #1) by Kristin Cashore

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug. 

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.


I read Graceling over a year ago and i feel it necessary to say: I don't like this book. The romance is incredibly unromantic and the rest of the story is some (crazy man-hating version of) feminist propaganda.

I happen to like books which feature feminist heroines and are light on the romance. So I should like this book, right? Yeah, but I didn't. First of all, Katsa acts like a petulant child throughout the entire book, not some feminist poster child. Also, I felt like the author spent too much time trying to sell us her agenda: dresses are the worst, femininity is wrong, men don't respect women, commitment ruins relationships, marriage is a tool of the devil, and so on.

Look, I understand that some women feel that way, and I'm completely cool with it. I'd be lying if I said I've never thought some of the same things once or twice. That said, I hate how the author shoves her views down my throat instead of telling me a story that causes me to think. To me it's clear Cashore strongly believes women need to act like men in order to be legitimate. Not just men but men who have intimacy issues.

Every other woman in this book is portrayed as weak and dumb. So basically, in the Seven Kingdom universe, unless you're an angry, dress-hating, man-hating woman with an aversion to commitment there is something wrong with you.

News Flash: femininity isn't anti-feminist. I'm sorry but it is possible for independent, intelligent and stable women to embrace their femininity without losing credibility. And anyway, isn't that the point of the feminist movement? Gaining equality without having to act like 'one of the guys'?

I could have handled Katsa's aversion to relationships if she hadn't had any feelings for Poe, or if she knew she wasn't emotionally ready to make that sort of commitment. But no, the whole thing was built up do be some great personal strength of hers. In the end it just felt like she ('she' being Katsa. Or Cashore. Kat-Shore?) was trying to prove a point or something, like "look at how independent I am. I'm not a barnacle. I don't need a man...except for when I needs teh sex. Poe, I'm sorry you lost your sight and all, but never fear, my lover, I'll prolly be drunk-dialing you in the future, cause I am comfortable with my sexuality. kthanxbai. *sob* Walking away is way hard, which is why I am so strong. *sob* Grrrrrrrrrrrrrl Powerrrrrr!"

Yeah, because being a loving, trusting, equal and committed relationship isn't a sign of strength. Strength can only be had by loners who don't like to commit because doing so will supposedly lower their self-worth ...ummm....I mean..."independent" people.

Also, it has to be said: The love scene grosses me out as much or more than the sex scene in Titanic and/or Avatar. Some people just don't know how to write a love scene. James Cameron and Kristin Cashore are among that group.

Two stars because the concept was cool. Too bad it was poorly executed.

Update 12/02/11: my feelings about this book have not changed but I feel the need to correct something.  Ever since reading this guest post over at The Book Lantern written by Katya of Readers United I've been feeling the need to come back here and take back a couple of my comments.  Katya points out authors are not their characters and I agree, they aren't.  They don't necessarily have to share their characters viewpoints or values.  

Kristin Cashore is not Katsa.  It was wrong of me to say so.  

That said, I really wish Katsa had grown to appreciate the fact that femininity is not a bad thing.  She didn't need to start loving dresses or anything, but I wish she'd have come across a character that was feminine and  strong, or married and equal to her partner.  I wish she'd have realized that it is possible to be an intelligent, independent woman without having to lash out all the time.  I'm not saying Katsa needed to change her lifestyle, but I would have liked to see her acknowledge that not all women are helpless morons. 

She despises all other women, does not seem proud to be a woman.  In fact, I'd say she's ashamed.  HOW IS THAT FEMINIST!?  It would have been great to see her trying to inspire others instead of look down on them.  

And anyway, I got the impression the only reason every man (except Po) took Katsa seriously is because she could kill just by touching another person, not because her work ethic, intellect or independence.  It's not like anyone would actually try to stop her from doing whatever the hell she wanted to do.  It's not like she actually had to fight for anything she wanted, unlike every other "stupid" woman in the seven kingdoms.  I fail to see how she's some feminist poster child.  Unless of course having the ability to kill others at will (because supposedly that's the only reason anyone would ever take a woman seriously) is requisite to being a card-carrying feminist.  If so, we're all screwed.   

Also?  All the angry lashing-out did not add to her credibility, if anything it took away from it.  Having a chip on your shoulder doesn't make you feminist.  I mean, yeah, some feminists do have a chip on their shoulder, but so do lots of people.  The two are not mutually exclusive.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Review: Rage (Riders of the Apocalypse, #2) by Jackie Kessler

Missy didn’t mean to cut so deep. But after the party where she was humiliated in front of practically everyone in school, who could blame her for wanting some comfort? Sure, most people don’t find comfort in the touch of a razor blade, but Missy always was . . . different.
That’s why she was chosen to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War. Now Missy wields a new kind of blade—a big, brutal sword that can cut down anyone and anything in her path. But it’s with this weapon in her hand that Missy learns something that could help her triumph over her own pain: control.

A unique approach to the topic of self-mutilation, Rage is the story of a young woman who discovers her own power and refuses to be defeated by the world.


Melissa Miller is not okay.

For starters her home life is a joke.  Her parents are hardly ever available--emotionally or otherwise--because of their demanding careers so they think all is well on the home front.  They have no clue that Melissa and her sister loathe each other, want nothing to do with one another.  They don't know that Melissa is deeply troubled, in desperate need of help.

School is no better.  Melissa's been a social outcast ever since her ex-boyfriend told everyone her big secret: she's been cutting herself for years.  As she drifts from class to class she hears the lowered voices, the laughter.  The name calling.  "Melissa Miller is an emo dyke.  Cutterslut.  Freak."

The cherry on top?  She somehow caught the attention of Death himself.  During their first meeting he brazenly informs Melissa it's only a matter of time before she really messes up--cutting herself too deep and in the wrong place, bleeding out.  He tells her the act will look intentional.  Horrified by this revelation Melissa battles with the urge to cut and is successful for a few months despite the temptation. 

It is when she is targeted by her peers, becomes the victim of a mercilessly cruel prank, she loses her resolve to not cut herself, accidentally taking things too far.  In her most desperate moments Death appears to her once more, offering a deal: die or wield the sword of war; become a horseman of the apocalypse.

Sounds dark, heavy and a tad bit silly, no?  Before I go ahead and answer that I want to explain my feelings about YA books that deal with serious issues.

I'd be lying if I said I haven't purposely been avoiding YA novels that deal with hard hitting issues like eating disorders, drug addiction, rape/sexual abuse, prostitution, suicide, and drunk driving.  Don't get me wrong, it's not that I find such topics offensive--because I don't.  It's because I don't want to submit myself to what might amount to a novel-length public service announcement.

I grew up in the 80s and 90s.  I saw every Very Special Episode of Growing Pains, Different Strokes, Family Ties, Saved By the Bell, and Full House.  Every single one of those Very Special Episodes were ridiculous and entirely too heavy-handed in their delivery.  Besides I already did my time.  I survived adolescence.  That's why, for the time being, I've chosen to forgo reading most YA novels dealing with hard-hitting issues, regardless of how good they may or may not be.

That said, I've always wanted to understand cutting.  Understand why people do it, what the fascination is.  Cutting wasn't a common practice while I was a teen, or--and I think this is most likely--wasn't ever talked about.  There were no After School Specials about cutting for us Gen-Xers, thank you very much.

So, back to the original question: is this book dark, heavy, and a little silly?  My answer is yes. And no.

Horseman of the apocalypse storyline aside, the subject matter is quite dark but it's honest, it's real.  Jackie Kessler holds nothing back, doesn't sugarcoat a thing.  It's clear she did her research and I appreciate it. (How do I know?  After I finished reading Rage I did a little research on cutting).  Far too often cutting is downplayed in the media, made to look like it's just a thing teenagers do to get attention and/or fit in.  Another common misconception: all cutters are emo or goth.  Kessler's character, Melissa, isn't emo or goth.  She's just a girl who feels entirely too much but doesn't have a healthy way of dealing with her emotions.  Melissa turns to cutting because it's a release of sorts.

Though I was somewhat skeptical at first, I ended up liking the whole horseman of the apocalypse storyline.  Gimmicky or not it's a new, interesting and creative way to write about some of the serious issues teenagers deal with.  It does not take away from the positive messages within the story.    

Rage is the second book in the Horseman of the Apocalypse series. The first is Hunger, about a girl with a severe eating disorder who becomes Famine.  In Rage the main character becomes War.  At first I was unsure exactly what the connection was, why a cutter was chosen to become War.  Why not a crazy violent rageaholic instead?  Now all is said and done I believe Kessler made the right decision and was successful in making the connection.  In fact I'd say she pretty much hit it out of the park. 

As far as Kessler's writing goes: it's good, solid.  I quite like Kessler's style of writing.  It's clean.  Every word has a purpose.  Though this story deals with serious subject matter it doesn't take itself too seriously (example: Death looks an awful lot like a certain deceased alternative rock star).  Everything plays out rationally, there are no cop-outs.  Rage ends on an honest note, something I appreciate in YA fiction far more then anyone could imagine.

So, yeah, I'm going to go ahead and recommend Rage by Jackie Kessler.  Four stars. 

(My advanced copy of Rage was provided by Netgalley.)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

With his first foray into teen literature, acclaimed author Sherman Alexie packs a punch in this absorbing novel about a Native American boy searching for a brighter future. At once humorous and stirring, Alexie's novel follows Junior, a resident of the Spokane reservation who transfers out of the reservation's school -- and into a nearby rich, all-white farm school -- in order to nurture his desire to become a cartoonist. Junior encounters resistance there, a backlash at home, and numerous family problems -- all the while relaying his thoughts and feelings via amusing descriptions and drawings. Having already garnered a National Book Award for Young Adult Literature, this moving look at race and growing up is definitely one to pick up.


On vacation right now (in Hawaii--Aloha) but this book is so amazing I had to take a little time away from playing on the beach so I could rate this book. Five stars.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is short but it took me four days to get through. Mainly because I'm in Hawaii so reading isn't on the top of my to-do list. But still, had this book been less then amazing I wouldn't have continued reading it after my plane landed in Honolulu. There were several times I had to put the book down in order to really think about what I'd read. Even more times when, after finishing a chapter, I'd reread the same chapter outloud to my husband and we'd discuss it.

Sherman Alexie has a way of telling the most tragic stories and somehow making it funny or at least putting a positive spin on it. I love how he writes. He's talented in a way that makes me weep.

I'd like to write more but the beach is calling my name. I hope to update this review when I get home. Mahalo.

P.S. if you haven't read this book yet, you should seriously consider doing so, even if you don't think it's something you'd like--to be completely honest I didn't think I'd like this book, which is why I didn't pick it up until now. Just saying.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

When I saw that one of my favorite goodreaders, Tatiana, gave this book four stars I thought she'd gone insane.  I mean, it's a YA book featuring angels for crying out loud!  Surely it can't be good let alone worthy of four whole stars from Tatiana, so clearly she lost her mind.   But I purchased the audiobook anyway because it was January 13th and I was anxiously awaiting the release of [book:Shadowfever|7304203] which was still five days away at the time.  Plus it didn't hurt that this audiobook was reasonably priced at Audible.

Initially I was a little irritated with Unearthly.  It starts out with a dream/vision that the main character has--is it just me or do too many of these books start out the exact same way?  But I kept with it because I paid for it, dangit!  Fortunately it didn't take too long for my initial irritation to wear off--I'd say no longer then the first few chapters. 

For the next several chapters I didn't have much of an opinion.  Not that the book was bad, because it wasn't.  The writing was fine, good even, but I refused to make an official judgment call.  Too many times I've fallen in love with a book only, in the end, to hate it more then poison.  I wasn't going to get burned.  Nope.  Not me.  Not again. 

Now all is said and done I'm going to go ahead and say Tatiana isn't crazy.  This book is good.  In fact I'm going to go ahead and give this book four stars because I really like it.  Though, in my heart, it will always be a five-star read because it's one of few YA paranormal romances that doesn't make me want to go on a stabbing spree.  Also? Unearthly is the only published YA novel featuring angels that doesn't make me want to hunt down the author so I can punch him/her in the face repeatedly.

I know the last few sentences make me seem violent beyond all reason, but believe me I have plenty of reason.  Just read every other YA paranormal romance featuring angels and you'll agree.  And anyway, when I say 'stabbing spree' I really mean 'write a scathing review and/or weep for all the trees destroyed in order to publish such atrocities'.  And when I say: 'hunt down the author so I can punch him/her in the face'?  ...well, I actually mean that*.

Moving on...

Seeing as most publishers have been saturating the market with badly written, ill-plotted out, basically retarded series about some supernatural something falling in love--twuuuuu wuvvvvv--with a vapid human I'd begun to believe there was no such thing as a good, or even great, YA paranormal romance.  Especially when angels are involved.  But Cynthia Hand changed my mind with her debut novel, Unearthly. 

It's funny, but Unearthly doesn't contain some magical new concept or some amazing innovative plot twist that will make your head explode.  It's just good.  That's it.  Turns out Cynthia Hand's "secret" is actually no secret at all.  She employs the method of showing her audience, not telling.  That's right, Cynthia Hand doesn't assume her audience is mentally-challenged.  Also?  Her main character, Clara Gardener, doesn't have the mental capacity of a boy-crazed, unmedicated ADHD 'tween hopped up on pixie stix.  She's normal. And by normal I mean Clara's just a regular, well-adjusted, non-angry, non-emo, non-cutting teen. Although, yeah, she has angel blood pumping through her veins, but she's incredibly easy to relate to nonetheless.    

What I love: Clara doesn't do what every other protagonist in this genre does: inform you she's super intelligent "'cuz she likes calculus-n-stuff", only to prove otherwise as she dithers about like a blind slack-jawed yokel the duration of the novel.  She's better then that.  Also?  She has a healthy yet realistic relationship with her mother.  They actually talk to each other and are, for the most part, honest with one another.  It's quite refreshing actually. 

Clara isn't the the world's only, most speshul angel-blood evuh.  She's actually one of many, though at first she doesn't know of any others beside her mother and her younger brother.  She also isn't super good at everything she does.  Clara doesn't have every boy falling for her, at least no more then your average teenage girl.  And like all teenagers she manages to make a fool of herself every once in a while. Like I said: refreshing. 

What I really love (skip this if you plan on reading this book as it is sort of spoiler-y, albeit hardly): the romance.  It's a real (more importantly healthy) teenage romance wherein the characters actually talk to one another, get to know one another before falling in love, or even liking each other for that matter. 

The guy in this book?  Is normal.  He acts like a normal teenage guy.  He's not unintentionally feminine or too-good-to-be-true.  But he's not over-the-top alpha male either.  He's just that one guy you went to school with.  You know, the guy everyone liked not because he was the hottest or richest, in fact he probably wasn't, but because he was funny, charismatic and just overall likable despite his flaws (though, yeah, it didn't hurt that he was good looking).  Yeah.  That guy. 

And when Clara gets together with him, well, they aren't obnoxious.  No gazing into one another's eyes talking about how unworthy they feel.  No waxing-poetic about perfect Adonis-like bodies and angel-like faces.  Their relationship contains actual substance.

What I don't necessarily care for: This book contains a love triangle.  Sort of.  I mean it's hardly even present.  And the protagonist isn't playing both guys for all they're worth.  And there isn't any cheating going on, not even in Clara's heart.  BUT it's still a love triangle of sorts and I'm afraid it might end badly for all involved because of various reasons I won't go into here. 

That said, even if over the course of this series the triangle does play out the way I don't want it to, I think I'll be okay. Clara has free will and I am confident she will take the time to think things through rationally.  She can choose between one or the other regardless of the consequences (good and/or bad).  In fact she pretty much makes her decision in this book.  

So yeah, I recommend Unearthly.

*Disclaimer: I would never actually hunt down and assault any author.  No matter how much they deserve it (Smeyer, James Frey, LAUREN KATE, Becca Fitzpatrick... I could go on).  There are times in which I am sorely tempted to but I wouldn't.   I'm passionate about literature but NOT insane.