Friday, December 31, 2010

It's the end of the year as we know it...

Yup, 2010 is over.  It's been a huge year for me!  2010 milestones: I applied to colleges, I got a car, I started a book blog.

So in honor of 2010, here's a quick recap of the highlights.

Best book read in 2010: Looking for Alaska.
Best book tour/promo in 2010: Nightshade.
Best book published in 2010: Still a toss-up for me.
Best movie of 2010: Inception.
Best TV show of 2010: White Collar.
Best news story of 2010: Repeal of DADT.
Best song of 2010: Save Yourself, I'll Hold Them Back tied with Na Na Na, both by MCR.
Best concert of 2010: Sick Puppies.

Worst part of 2010: managing to get seriously sick a record four times.

Anyways, 2010 was a fabulous year overall, but I still can't wait for 2011!

Happy New Year, everybody, hope you had an awesome '10 and hope your '11 is just as grand!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Review: Audrey, Wait!

Audrey is music-obsessed, quirky, charismatic, and so over Ethan.  She dumps him, bored of his egotism and lack of personality.  There's only one thing.  Ethan's in a band.  And when Audrey dumps him, he writes the song. "Audrey, Wait!"  That song. The one that plays on every radio station.  It's a hit with everybody, zooming to the top of the charts.

And it's about Audrey.  Suddenly, she's a celebrity.  There are people taking pictures of her at school, mobbing her at work, talking trash about her online...  All she wants is to survive school, dance for hours at concerts, and maybe get to know her cute co-worker better.  But can she have a life that even resembles normality when Ethan and The Song are out there?

Entertainment: ★★★★★

I laughed until I couldn't breathe, couldn't wait to see what would happen to Audrey, Ethan, and everybody, and couldn't put the book down.

Plot: ★★★

I'll be honest, the plot was slow at times.  But it was a really interesting take on the whole suddenly-famous routine, and better done than most versions of the "I'm magically suddenly famous!" plot. And I adored the ending.

Characters: ★★★★★

I love the characterization.  The characters are introduced as real people, openly flawed, with real personalities.  The interaction between the characters, too, is amazing, particularly Audrey's blooming ice-cream-shop romance with her co-worker.

My only complaint would be that Audrey slumps a little in the second half of the book, going a little angsty and boring for a few chapters.  Luckily, she recovers and goes on to an amazing finish.

Writing: ★★★★★

See above comment; I laughed and laughed and laughed. Showing/telling was balanced perfectly, description nicely done, characterization nearly exquisite.  Let's just say I loved it.

End Result: five stars.  A really excellent book.  Read it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Review: The Off Season

DJ Schwenk survived summer. She's got her best friend, Amber, back. She's got Brian Nelson, cute and popular and smart. She's made it onto her high school football team. Everything seems to be looking up... and then it all goes horribly wrong.

Entertainment: ★★★★

This book is the sequel to Dairy Queen, which has a place of honor on my shelf of good books. So I had really high standards, and The Off Season lived up to them.

Plot: ★★★★

The plot is basically DJ trying to survive the ups and downs of her tumultuous eleventh-grade year, and it's not thrillingly exciting or action-packed.  It is cute, endearing, and enjoyable, as is the ending.

Characters: ★★★★★

I'm just going to come out and say it: Murdock writes some of the best characters I've ever read about.  DJ herself is amazing, complex and realistic. Brian is a Prince Charming with his own personality and his own flaws, not just a little star to obediently orbit DJ, which is sadly rare in love interests. The only way I can describe the characters, really, is real. They're gritty, flawed, sometimes unpleasant, sometimes wonderful, and just so real.

Writing: ★★★★★

Murdock's writing is appealing.  It's not perfect, sometimes there's too much or too little description, all the things I usually gripe about in this section.  But there's just something intangible about her writing that makes her books fun to read.

End Result: four stars.  A good book, definitely worth your time.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, or the the holiday of your choice.  However you choose to celebrate or even if you don't celebrate at all, have a great day and enjoy life! :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Review: Vinyl Princess

Allie is all about the music. She can name just about every album ever commited to vinyl, as well as every band member, their personal history, the fate of the band, similar music, and so much more.  She's working her dream job at Bob and Bob's music store, a vinyl heaven.  And on top of that, she's just launched her new blog/fanzine combo, Vinyl Princess.

Entertainment: ★★

To be honest, I didn't recognize half the music Prinz rhapsodizes about.  That diluted my enjoyment a little, because I ended up feeling kind of stupid. Also, I just got bored.

And oh yeah, the girl on the cover looks nothing like Allie, who has short, dark hair. Seriously, why would they put a random blond girl on the cover? I'm a detail person, and this detail drives me crazy.

Plot: ★

See above comment: boredom. Nothing happens. Even the events that could be really cool are just kind of... plain.  I wanted to like this book, I really did, but I just couldn't read more than a chapter at a time; it was just too slow.

Characters: ★★

Allie is all. about. the. music. As in, there is disappointingly little other characterization.  She has a nice voice and could be pretty cool, but she just ended up never really becoming 3D. The side characters range from flat to decent, with varying levels of characterization and interesting-ness.

Writing: ★★★

Allie has a good voice, and the writing wasn't bad.  At times, it was even light and funny.

End Result: two stars.  I was not impressed.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


That's right: this is the


Monday, December 20, 2010

Music Monday: Danger Days Edition

If you have not heard Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys yet, I am about to rock your world.

It's My Chemical Romance's new CD.

The music is excellent, of course.  Planetary (GO), SING, and Save Yourself I'll Hold Them Back are my personal favorites, although honestly they're all good.

The real selling point for me, though, was the world of the Killjoys.  MCR has released music videos for Na Na Na and SING (both brilliant) and I love how they fit together to form a storyline.  SING actually made me tear up a little when I watched it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Review: Ash

After losing her mother and father, teenaged Ash is treated as a servant in her stepmother's home.  But with the help of a little fairy magic, she's able to anonymously attend a sparkling ball and catch the eye of a prince.

But fairy magic doesn't come free: the mysterious Sidhean warns her that the price is to become his.  And Ash isn't really interested in the prince, anyways.  Instead, she's shyly courting Kaisa, the king's huntress.

Entertainment: ★★★

It started off well, but I got progressively less interested as the book progressed.  I had a few issues with the story.  One, apparently every female in that world is totally ambiguous about orientation.  If you want your entire world to be bisexual, authors, go for it; great for you.  I'm not a homophobe.  But in context here, it just didn't make sense.  I was completely thrown for a loop.  And left wondering what Ash was doing suddenly being attracted to girls, out of the blue.  And wondering why apparently a lot of girls shared Ash's orientation and not a single male did, as far as I could tell.  And wondering why Ash never seemed to notice that she spontaneously changed sexual orientation.  You'd think that sort of thing would, you know, at least inspire a sentence or two of introspection, not just be taken for granted.

Anyways.  There was also Sidhean (more below) and the ending (more below.)  But my general evaluation is: a great start, that sort of peters out into unfortunate-ness halfway through.

Plot: ★

In general I'm a fan of rewritten fairy tales; in fact I love them.  But I didn't like the Cinderella references.  They were scattered and heavy-handed, almost like the author wrote the story and then went back and stuck in a few paragraphs here and there to link the book to the fairy tale.  Fairy tale parallels should be subtle and/or original, and unfortunately Ash didn't really pull off either.

As far as the actual plot, it was largely unimpressive.  The romance was sudden and felt forced.  I strongly disliked the ending.  I felt that there was no resolution, no closure, and that there were an awful lot of threads left dangling.  Plus the "clever" or "feisty" or whatever conflict resolution seemed fake to me.

Characters: ★★

Not a whole lot to write here, because Ash didn't have a whole lot of character.  She came off as very bland, very vanilla, and not a lot of her actions really made sense to me.  Kaisa was just kind of odd - she seemed to spend the whole story performing her role as a love-interest prop without actually becoming a person.  Sidhean really annoyed me.  He started off cool but then turned cliche, plus he gets a little stalkerish.  I'm sticking to my spoilers-free style, but I hated his shall we say behaviour at the climatic point.

Writing: ★★★

There was nothing standout to report here: the writing was fine without being particularly special in any way.

End Result: two stars.  I was not impressed.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Blog Hop/Follow Friday!

Hi, blog hoppers! Welcome to novapsych!

Book Blogger Hop

Follow Friday Question: What did you study in college, or are currently studying and did it lead to your current 9 to 5 or are you doing something totally different?

I'm still a senior in high school, so I don't think this totally applies.  The current plan, though, is to major in Anthropology.

Blog Hop Question: What do you consider the most important in a story: the plot or the characters?

Well, they're both important; I usually give them about equal weight in my reviews.  However, I am more likely to stick with a story that has a non-plot and great characters, than a story with a strong plot but weak characters.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Review: Elixir

Clea has always had a charmed life: daughter of two world-famous politicians, talented photojournalist, independant young adult.  She has two best friends, Rayna and Ben, and a happy life.

Until she starts seeing him in her photos.  In the background, in the sky, in buildings, always watching her.  She's never seen him before in her life, but he feels instantly familiar.  And then the dreams start: dreams of her with him.  But she's not Clea; she's Olivia, a Roman, or Anneline or Catherine or Delia, living out a series of past lives with the mysterious man.

And then on a trip to Brazil, she comes face-to-face with Sage, the man of her dreams.  But is he her dream guy?  Or is he her worst nightmare?

Entertainment: ★★★★

This was a pretty cool book.  I liked Clea, who was an excellent narrator, and couldn't wait to figure out what would happen to her.

Plot: ★★

I've said it before, I don't love charmed-life setups, with infinite money and no apparent obligations to follow the law or behave like a normal person.  I also didn't love the ambiguity of the plot - half the time I wasn't quite sure what the plot was - and I felt like there was not nearly enough closure in the ending.

Characters: ★★★★

I loved Clea and Rayna and adored many of the side characters.  That said, Ben was whiny and obnoxious and I didn't like him at all (never a good thing for a love triangle member.)  Sage was absolutely ADD, bouncing around from one personality to another.  At times he was shy, naive, even cute, and I loved him.  At others he was all-knowing, or dark, or self-sacrificing, or childish, or a whole host of other personality traits that were just confusing.  Neither of them felt like great love interests, although I liked Sage marginally better.

Writing: ★★★★★

The description is perfect, not too much and not too little.  Clea's voice is loud, clear, and realistic.  Everything is balanced perfectly: not too mushy, not too scary, not too dark, not too anything.  Duff's done an excellent job here.

End Result: four stars.  A good book, definitely worth your time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Trailer Tuesday

So you've probably heard of Across the Universe by now - I know I've seen it on several different book blogs and websites.  The trailer just came out not long ago, and it's pretty cool.  I love the narration and the suspense the video builds.  It makes you really, really curious to see what the book's all about.

Across the Universe is due to be published approximately 28 days, 17 hours, 42 minutes, and 45 seconds from the time I write this post, according to the lovely website.  Check out the website and read the first chapter - frankly, it's amazing.  I can't wait until January!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Review: Girl in the Arena

Lyn is a celebrity, the daughter of seven gladiators.  They fight to the death in televised neo-gladiator matches, and when one of her dads dies, her mother Allison remarries.  Again.  And again.  Bound by the strict rules of the Gladiator Sports Association (GSA), Lyn, Allison, and Lyn's brother Thad live scripted lives.

Until the seventh husband, the hero of the sport, Tommy, is slain by a new, young, skilled gladiator.  And the GSA hands down an unbearable sentence: Lyn must marry her father's killer.

Lyn is tired of playing by the GSA's rules and has no intention of marrying.  She'll do anything to be free... even enter the arena herself.

Entertainment: ★★

So here's the thing: the premise is fabulous, it's action-packed, and it's got social commentary.  From the description, Girl in the Arena sounds fabulous.  In practice, though, it's actually kind of boring.  I was very disappointed.

Plot: ★★

Bonus points for a cool premise, but negative points for being really slow and predictable.  I was never really in any kind of suspense about what would happen.

Characters: ★★

This is one of those things I can't pinpoint, can't say, "Well, clearly, this was the problem." But in some vague way, none of the characters felt real or interesting to me.  I wasn't emotionally invested in any of them.

Writing: ★★★

There's this weird thing, where there's no "quotation marks", -just these hyphens-, for dialogue. Once I got over that, the writing was decent... but not stellar.

End Result: two stars.  I was not impressed.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What's in a Name Challenge

I'm on a roll with these challenges, aren't I?  Anyways, this is a cool challenge hosted at its very own blog: WhatsinaName4.  The challenge is to read one book in each of the following categories:
  1. A book with a number in the title: First to Die, Seven Up, Thirteen Reasons Why
  2. A book with jewelry or a gem in the title: Diamond Ruby, Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Opal Deception
  3. A book with a size in the title: Wide Sargasso Sea, Small Wars, Little Bee
  4. A book with travel or movement in the title: Dead Witch Walking, Crawling with Zombies, Time Traveler's Wife
  5. A book with evil in the title: Bad Marie, Fallen, Wicked Lovely
  6. A book with a life stage in the title: No Country for Old Men, Brideshead Revisited, Bog Child.
As usual I haven't decided which books to read yet, but I like how this challenges requires a little creativity in choosing titles.  I can't wait for January!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

2011 Shifter Challenge

I decided, while I was sick, that I was going to be ambitious and sign up for multiple 2011 challenges.  So here it is, my very second challenge!

The Shifter Challenge, hosted over at Parajunkee's View, is a challenge to read 20 books in 2011 with at least one of the main characters being a shifter of some sort.  I haven't decided which books I'll be reading yet, but I already can't wait :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Review: Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country

Having rescued his twin brother, Dael, from cruel captors, Zan-Gah expects a happy ending.  However, the girl he loves is in love with Dael.  Dael himself is much changed from the playful, laughing boy he used to be: where Zan has grown strong and wise, Dael has grown into an unpredictable, coldly distant, harsh killer.

Zan now wants to bring his tribe to a place he calls the Beautiful Country, a land of luxury and plenty.  There, he is sure that they can prosper and that Dael will find healing.  But the journey is a long and harsh one, and as much as Zan longs for peace, Dael longs for violence and bloodshed...

Entertainment: ★★★

Overall this book was a little simplistic for my tastes, but I enjoyed it as a quick afternoon homework break.

Plot: ★★

Things are a little too implausible in this story.  The miraculous timing of uncontrollable natural events, for example.  And I didn't like the ending much at all, although I won't spoil it by saying why.

Characters: ★★

I thought Dael was pretty interesting, with his somewhat warped personality.  Besides him, well, the book was really short so there just wasn't a lot of characterization.

Writing: ★★

I did prefer the writing in this book to the writing in the previous book, because it's less educational and more entertaining.  However, some scenes just fell flat.  Overall I was a little underwhelmed.

End Result: two stars.  I was not impressed.

Monday, December 6, 2010

I have the flu...

...and of course I have been slacking off and I don't have any pre-written posts for this week.  So novapsych will be on hiatus for a few days until I feel better.

Thanks for being patient, readers.

I'm going to go back to sleep now.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Review: Zan-Gah, A Prehistoric Adventure

Zan, a boy from a brutal prehistoric world, sets out to find and rescue his twin, Dael.  Along the way he faces captivity, danger, and friendship in unexpected places...

Entertainment: ★★★

I felt this book was probably intended for an audience a little younger than me, so it was a little simplistic for me.

Plot: ★★★

Although it was a little predictable, the plot had an interesting setting and was fairly enjoyable to read.

Characters: ★★★

I liked the characters in and of themselves, and honestly they deserve a higher rating.  However, I was completely confused by their interactions.  Literally a few pages after meeting a female character, Zan-Gah exclaims to himself that he loves her.  I actually thought, "Wait, what? When did this happen?"  Dialogue was sparse and the character's relationships to each other were told, not shown, which left them feeling a little clunky and awkward.

Writing: ★★

Zan-Gah had odd little "teacher moments" that I wasn't sure if I liked - there would suddenly be an educational paragraph on the lives of Zan's real-life models, that really did nothing to advance the story.  I liked learning about the prehistorical people, but I wish it could have been saved for the end or somewhere it would not have slowed down the story.  Also, there was an enormous amount of telling-not-showing.  However, I liked the description, and enjoyed the wordplay on the names - for example, the character meant to "hold up a mirror" to Zan and his personality is named Naz, or Zan backwards.  I like when little details like that are slipped into a story.

End Result: three stars.  A decent book, but not amazingly excellent.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Review: Watersmeet

Abisina is an Outcast, a hated child, hated because of the color of her hair and her unknown father.  Her mother's status as village healer has kept her alive, but can't restrain the villager's hate, disgust, and fear.  And then Charach arrives, a charismatic and seemingly beautiful leader.  Under his control, the Outcasts are hunted down and killed - and so is Abisina's mother.

With only her mother's dying words and a necklace to guide her, Abisina must find her way to her father, at a myserious place called Watersmeet.  But even if she is able to reach this safe haven, will she be able to escape Charach's spreading evil?

Entertainment: ★★

Here's the thing: I'm not a fan of Moral Stories.  You know, the kind that teach you to Play Nice With Others.  First, there were just too many Morals (at least three main Moral Lessons, plus plenty of minor ones).  Also, they got heavy-handed, even tending towards preachy.  At one point, a character laughs, then quickly adds, "It's not right to enjoy his fear. We won't get anywhere if we seek revenge!"  Not only is it confusing characterization, it's just ridiculously un-subtle.  Moral Stories can be okay, but this one was just overdone.

That aside, I really couldn't find much to enjoy in Watersmeet.  Maybe it's because I've read a lot of similar books lately, but it just came off as bland.

Plot: ★★

Okay, so, heroine who grows up hated and despised by her people, with a mysterious and absent parent, goes on Epic Journey.  And the story concludes with an Epic Battle.  It came off as Fantasy 101, the most basic outline for a fantasy-fiction story that has been used infinitely many times before.  Plus, the whole thing seems quite deliberately designed to faciliate Moral Lessons.  Please, put plot over Morals, or your plot suffers greatly and I'm forced to give it terrible ratings.

Characterization: ★

Abisani was... I don't know.  That's kind of the problem.  Her main characterization is the Prejudice she must Overcome (see above comments on the Moral Lessons) and also her emotions of anger/fear/need for revenge that she must also Overcome.  But as a person?  What she likes, dislikes, dreams of? I would've loved to get to know her - she had a great starting point - but unfortunately she ended up becoming more of a Moral prop than a character. And I'm still not sure what she really looks like, other than dark hair and green eyes.

The villian, Charach (aka the White Worm), fell victim to my least favorite flaw.  He was evil just because he is full of evilness.  Why does he want to conquer the world? Oh, just because.  Why does he hate goodness and light and small children? Well, come on, he's evil.  In fact, he oozes evil slime that kills everything he touches, just to add more unnecessary emphasis on his evil.  Villains, in my opinion, are often more important than the hero of the story, and Charach really fell flat.

A few of the other characters were interesting, many were only average.

Writing: ★★★

Abbott excels at character descriptions, and Abisani's internal conflict came off as fairly realistic. My only real quibble was that the Epic Battle was epicly lacking.  The actual fighting (beyond being far too short) was written more as a series of still, posed shots than a realistic, dirty, tangled, moving, crazy battle. Beyond that scene, however, the writing was decent.

End Result: two stars. I was not impressed.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


I just got home from a Sick Puppies show.

My ears are still ringing.

I had the time of my life.