Monday, August 15, 2011

novapsych is going on hiatus

Followers, readers, you've been fabulous.  Blogging has been great, I've had fun, and hopefully you've enjoyed reading novapsych!

I'll be heading off to college in a few days, and I'm really excited.  Unfortunately, with all the chaos of moving, getting settled in, taking a full course load my first semester, and hopefully meeting some fun people.... I'm just not going to be able to put in the time and effort that you, the readers, deserve.

I'll be leaving the website up, so all my past reviews and posts will still be available.  In the spring, after surviving my first semester, I'll make the final decision about whether novapsych will keep going or will have to say a permanent goodbye.  In the meantime, I'd like to thank you all for being so fabulous!  If you want to un-follow, I completely understand; and if not, I appreciate the loyalty.

Hopefully, I'll be back in the spring; but for now, adieu ~

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review: In the Coils of the Snake



Miranda was raised by her human family, but she always knew she was destined for greater things.  The goblin King, Marak, spent her childhood grooming her to be the next queen, the perfect wife for his son Catspaw.  But everything goes wrong when, inexplicably, the enemies of the goblins reappear in their traditional lands.  The elves, long thought extinct, have returned under the leadership of a mysterious and powerful man called Nir.

Caught up in events that spiral out of their control, Catspaw finds himself forced to trade Miranda for an elf bride and Miranda finds herself a captive of Nir.  The new arrangements upset everyone involved, and tensions quickly rise between the two races...

Entertainment: ★★★

I loved the first book and liked the second, so I had high standards for this book.  Unfortunately I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I did the first two, and so I was a little disappointed.

Plot: ★

I'll be frank: I didn't understand the romance.  In the first two books, yes, there was imprisonment and coldly calculated reproductive interests involved in the romance.  Here, though, the "romance" just reads as very misguided Stockholm syndrome.  While the Catspaw-Arianna romance was understandable, at least, maybe even a little sweet, the Nir-Miranda romance was just outright weird.  I didn't like it.  Also the plot itself, romances aside, was a little predictable.

Characters: ★★★

Previously in the series, the heroines were strong and vibrant and interesting.  In this book, though, things changed a lot.  Miranda goes all starry-eyed, mushy, and helpless around Nir, even though by all rights she really should resent him at least a little for imprisoning her.  Arianna was slightly better but still so timid and mousy that I really couldn't connect with her either.  Nir I was completely lost on.  Catspaw, though, was nice.  He was the only character I really liked.

Writing: ★★★★

Issues with the plot and characters aside, Dunkle delivers another beautifully written installment with lovely descriptions that really bring the story to life.  I really do enjoy her writing.

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

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review: Haroun and the Sea of Stories



Haroun is the child of a famous storyteller, known far and wide as the Ocean of Notions and the Shah of Blah.  Although they live in a sad, nameless city, blanketed by smog and fed with glumfish, Haroun is happy with the crazy stories his father produces.

Until the day his mother runs off with the neighbor, and Haroun's father is unable to tell any more stories.  He has simply run out of words.  It is up to Haroun to restore his father's gifts and write his own happy ending...

Entertainment: ★★★★★

This story is short but so cute.  I have a feeling that the story will appeal to all ages - easily understandable for kids, but also satirical and whimsical for adults.

Plot: ★★★

The plot is simplistic and easy to predict, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Characters: ★★★★

The characters were so much fun to read about!  They spanned all sorts of imaginary races with a creativity and originality rare in much longer and more complex stories.  Also, they were funny.

Writing: ★★★★★

Rushdie is absolutely amazing.

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

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Review: Likely Story: Red Carpet Riot



Mallory is the star writer of a hit soap opera, Likely Story.  She's also sixteen.  Likely Story is getting rave reviews and has gotten several Emmy nominations, but Mallory isn't as happy as she should be.  First there's the fact that she's in love with Dallas, the star of her show, when she should be in love with her boyfriend Keith.  Then there's her mother, whose latest antics are forcing Mallory to take drastic action.  Then there's the fact that Likely Story seems to be getting more and more out of hand.  Then there's the new website, likelywhorey.com, which seemed dedicated to ruining Mallory's life.  And oh yeah, there's gym class.  The Emmys are approaching quickly and Mallory's going to have to act fast if she wants to keep her show, her friends, and her sanity...

Entertainment: ★★★

It started off okay, and then went downhill about halfway through.  Likely Story was clever and funny, and although Red Carpet Riot had some of the same satirical humor overall it was just less enjoyable.

Plot: ★★

This actually read a lot like a soap opera plot, in that it was fairly unoriginal and fairly predictable.  I think I've read nearly every scenario in this book before.  Honestly, it just wasn't that interesting.  And the ending was just fake

Characters: ★★★★

I will say that most of the characters in this series are actually very interesting to me, because even most of the bad guys are part good and even the good guys get bad sometimes.  There's a lot of grey areas, which makes for some entertaining characters.

Writing: ★★★

Fairly well-written.

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

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Review: Nomansland



Keller has grown up on Foundland, or Nomansland as it is also called.  It's an island populated entirely by women, all trying to rebuilt society after a nuclear apocalypse.  They live their lives governed by strict rules, always aware of the ever-present threat of mutants - and worse, men - from outside the island.


But when Keller and some other girls discover a secret place from the Time Before, full of magazines and makeup and forbidden objects like mirrors, they start to question the truth of everything they've ever learned...


Entertainment: 


First of all, I loved the worldbuilding.  Honestly, it didn't sound good on the book jacket flap.  It sounded cheesy.  But it turned out to be unique and interesting.  The dystopian society is militant about avoiding the Pitfalls: sins like Decoration, Coquetry, Reflection, and Triviality.  They dismiss beauty as weakness and relationships as full of flaws.  Although that's not exactly a new concept, in Nomansland it was done in a new way.  I did have a few issues with the story, but overall I thought it was an interesting read.


Plot: 


I will say the plot was a little lacking - in that there isn't really much of a plot for the first half of the book.  It does pick up a little in time for a good finish, but overall it wasn't exactly action-packed or thrilling.


And I'm a little confused why these girls, upon discovering a house essentially full of treasures, decide to hold a beauty pageant and play dress-up.  I get that they've lived hard lives without beauty so they're excited about this new perspective and blah blah blah but really, if you're raised as a warrior from a young age you don't just melt into a puddle of overly feminine goo the first time you see makeup. You should be a little tougher than that.  So I really didn't understand that part.


Oh, and the reproductive system on the island?  A little icky.


Characters: 


I liked Keller, who I thought was both strong and interesting to read about.  I really like Ms. Windsor, the somewhat-tyrannical leader.  She was an interesting mix of psychotic and rationally intelligent.  At one point, she describes her rise to power, which was fascinating, and really gave her some unexpected depth.


Most of the side characters, though, I just didn't get.  I don't even know what to write here... I just didn't get them.


Writing: 


Aside from the world building, the writing didn't appeal to me all that much.  It wasn't actually flawed or anything, I think it's just an issue of personal preference.


(I apologize if this review is a little contradictory and confusing; it was a complex book and I still have mixed feelings about many parts of it.)


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

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Review: Dash and Lily's Book of Dares



Dash has tricked his divorced parents and is spending Christmas alone in New York City.  When he's browsing through the spectacular second-hand bookstore, the Strand, he comes across a red notebook.  A girl named Lily challenges him to a series of dares.  Of course, Dash accepts - and he writes back.  In the days before Christmas, they swap dreams and dares in the notebook.  They seem to be perfect for each other, but could their real-life selves possibly match up?

Entertainment: ★★★★

At times I felt the story dragged a bit, but at others I was literally laughing out loud, so overall I felt it averaged out to an above-average read.  Also, the cover is lovely.

Plot: ★★★★

The premise was cute, the execution excellent, and the ending not nearly as cliche as you would expect from the summary.

Characters: ★★★★★

Lily was a little obnoxious; I felt she was a little too starry-eyed and childish.  But the others made up for her easily.  Her extended family was hilarious.  Dash was actually pretty appealing, for a long-word-using book nerd that is consistently described as "snarly."  And of course, the militant mommies.  An excellent cast.

Writing: ★★★★

I liked the subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences between the two authors' styles; it made the book fun to read.

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

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review: Truancy



Track lived an average life in the City, being brainwashed and oppressed every day in school.  His world changes the day his little sister is accidentally killed in a terrorist attack.

Wanting revenge, Track joins the terrorist kids that are calling themselves the Truancy.  He's determined to kill their leader, Zyid, his sister's killer, but instead finds himself Zyid's second in command.  As he learns to fight and kill, he starts to wonder whose side he's really on...

Entertainment: ★★★

The premise sounded very cool - a school system systematically devoted to turning children into faceless, obedient cattle, and a rebel group with the fabulous name of the Truancy.  And in many ways it was interesting and exciting and fun.  However.  By the end of the book, I was finding it more than a little cheesy.  And it started to turn into this weird martial-arts movie, complete with a wise, pacifistic sage and lots of sword fights.  I was seriously expecting Jackie Chan to do a cameo or something, it was that strong a resemblance.  So I finished the book with mixed feelings - it was exciting, but frankly a little weird.

Plot: ★★

Honestly it took itself a little too seriously.  And it was hard to take the mercy/pacifism message it supposedly had seriously when everybody's slicing and bombing and gunning each other to bits.  And frankly having a teen as the 'wise sage' character was just bizarre.  He's spouting all this philosophical stuff you'd expect to come from the bearded man on the mountain but instead he's, well, a kid.  Oh, and I  still don't understand why everybody was taking the time to learn samurai skills when they all clearly had access to guns and bombs.  So the only way I can describe this plot is as anime meets dystopia, and I didn't think Truancy combined the two well.

Characters: ★★★

As mentioned above, the whole wise sage kid thing was weird.  And Zyid was equally weird.  Both of them talk like adults, not dropout kids.  And I just didn't get a lot of the side characters (most of whom also talked like college-educated world-weary forty-year-olds, not children).  I did like Tack, though, and I thought his growth and change was fairly plausible.  So for him, I'll give the Characters three stars.

Writing: ★★★

Props for good fighting scenes, at least at the beginning of the book.  I do have to take away points, however, for a severe lack of slow scenes and the fact that 429 pages of fight scenes just gets old fast.  Plus towards the end the fight scenes were getting a little deja vu and repetitive.  Overall fairly well written with plausible action.

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wishlist Wednesday



Skye never questioned the story of her life. Her Aunt Jo adopted her after the death of her parents when she was just a child, and together they flip through memories the way some people flip through photo albums. 

She never questioned if the stories were true. 

Until the night of her 17th birthday, when the arrival of two strangers intrudes on her cozy life. Polar opposites, like fire and ice, Asher is dark and wild, while Devin is fair, cold, and aloof. Skye has no idea what they want—only that their presence coincides with the beginning of some shockingly strange events. Events that Skye, if she dares to think it, might be responsible for causing. 

High up in the mountains of Boulder, Colorado, Skye finds herself caught in the middle of an ancient battle, one that began untold millennia ago. Torn between unpredictable Asher, whom she loves, and the infuriating Devin, who she can’t stay away from, her fate is murky as a starless night. And as the secrets of her true identity are revealed, Skye realizes that her destiny may reside in the Heavens—or somewhere darker.


Although a supernatural love triangle isn't exactly a new idea, it sounds like Davies has put a fresh spin on it.  Also, that cover is gorgeous!  I can't wait until September.  What do you think - will you be reading A Beautiful Dark?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Review: Are We There Yet?



Elijah and Danny are brothers with wildly different lives.  Danny is diligently climbing the corporate ladder, while Elijah spends his days at boarding school drifting, using drugs, and dreaming.  When their parents trick them into taking a trip to Italy together, they are less than thrilled; they haven't gotten along in years.

They don't expect to fall in love with the same girl.  They don't expect to learn to understand each other in ways they never thought possible.  They don't expect this trip to change their lives...

Entertainment: ★★★

This book was just... meh.  Some of Leviathan's books are stunningly amazing, even life changing, and this one was just average. I was a little disappointed.

Plot: ★★

There were no twists, no suprises, no exciting premises.  Nothing to hold my attention; I just got bored.  There is little to no plot, besides the brothers wandering Italy in a vague, uninterested way.  And the romance itself is vague and half-hearted feeling.

Characters: ★★★

So, I did like the characters fairly well, or at least I liked Danny.  Elijah was just too vague for me, if that makes sense, sort of a floating cloud of character traits that never managed to coalesce into a real person.  Julia was lacking, lacking personality and uniqueness and any kind of romantic appeal.  But Danny carried the show, along with a few tastefully done side characters.

Writing: ★★★

I hate to be repetitive, but it was just average.  I tried for several minutes to think of something to write here, and then realized that nothing at all stands out about the writing for me, which I hate.  Even books that I honestly hate I hate for a reason, and here I just felt there was nothing to love, nothing to hate, nothing to connect with at all.

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

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review: The Dark Divine



Grace Divine is the pastor's daughter.  The perfect kid with the perfect family and the perfect life.  But then comes Daniel.  Daniel was the childhood friend of Grace and her brother Jude.  Daniel disappeared years ago, and now his hair is dyed black and he's a whole new person - a scary person.  And Grace can't help but be drawn to him...

But Daniel's return is the catalyst for a series of changes.  The buried past is being unearthed.  Grace's "perfect" family is crumbling, her brother seems different and darker, everybody is keeping secrets... and Daniel's secrets are the most dangerous of all.  Or are they?

Entertainment: ★★★★★

I basically loved The Dark Divine.  It's full of drama, secrets, romance, darkness, and all kinds of fun.  There's a wonderful plot twist that really stunned me.  A really good read.  And I absolutely loved the wordplay with the title.

Plot: ★★★★

Some books are so straightforward: there's the good guy and the bad guy.  Not The Dark Divine.  It's twisted, in a mostly good way.  I had no idea how this book was going to end, and when it did I was stunned at what happened.  And happy, but mostly stunned.

Characters: ★★★★

Just about every character is a shade of grey.  Even Grace finds herself questioning the darkness inside her as she tries to save everyone.  The ultimate villain - and of course I can't give away just who that villain turns out to be - was really well-written.  And even the side characters like Grace's mother and friends have their own depth and their own secrets and their own darknesses to deal with.

Writing: ★★★

I don't think I really have bad to say here, except that some of the hints dropped early on were a little obvious, and so the "big reveal" of the supernatural element wasn't really a surprise.  But overall, a well-written book.

End Result: four stars.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Review: The Ruins of Gorlan



Will is small, scrawny, and orphaned.  When he turns fifteen and is chosen as a Ranger's apprentice, he's not sure what to think.  The Rangers are eerie, shadowy, mysterious; there are rumors that they practice dark magic.  Will's new master, Halt, is an abrupt and cynical man who makes Will work hard, but still quickly earns his respect.

Will isn't going to have a peaceful career, however.  The exile, Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, has been plotting his revenge for fifteen years now.  With the aid of terrifying supernatural creatures, he's poised to destroy Will's homeland...

Entertainment: ★★★★

I liked this book.  I don't think it's going to be an enduring favorite or anything, but it was certainly enjoyable.

Plot: ★★★

Okay, so, it's a little predictable.  Maybe even a lot predictable.  But it's fast-paced and interesting, enough that it nearly made up for the predictability.  Also, I was a little confused as to why the side story of Horace took up a good third of the book, instead of staying a small side story, but whatever.  It was an interesting side story.

Characters: ★★★★

Halt was quite well done, I thought.  Will and Horace were decent, as were most of the side characters, but Halt really stole the show.

Writing: ★★★★

I liked the description and I loved the "narration voice."

End Result: four stars.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wishlist Wednesday


Jael Thompson has never really fit in. She’s changed schools too many times to count. The only family she’s ever known is her father, a bitter ex-priest who never lets her date and insists she attend the strictest Catholic school in Seattle. And her mother—well, she was a five thousand year old demon. That doesn’t exactly help.
But on her sixteenth birthday, her father gives her a present that brings about some unexpected changes. Some of the changes, like strange and wonderful powers and the cute skater boy with a knack for science, are awesome. But others, like the homicidal demon seeking revenge on her family? Not so much.
Steeped in mythology, this is an epic tale of a heroine who balances old world with new, science with magic, and the terrifying depths of the underworld with the ordinary halls of high school.
Sounds fun and exciting!  I know I'll be reading Misfit as soon as I can get my hands on it!  What do you think - will you be reading Misfit?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Review: Havemercy







In the generations-old war between Volstov and Ke-Han, the Dragon Corps are Volstov's greatest weapon.  They are a gang of mistfit young men astride monstrous metal dragons that wreak havok - in Ke-Han and in Volstov. 


The riders are getting harder and harder to control and the dragons themselves seem to have begun malfunctioning.  Four unlikely heroes will be forced together to save their country... if they survive each other.


Entertainment: ★★


Props for having an interesting premise, but it just moved so slowly.  I read not one, but two books at the same time, and I finished both before I could make myself finish Havemercy.  It was a book I could have liked, should have liked, but just couldn't bring myself to really like.


Plot: ★★


The plot started getting pretty good, at around 200 pages in.  The first half of the book just felt like some very elaborate scene-setting and background information.  And to be honest, I skimmed some of Hal and Royston's chapters.  Their narration was not very interesting.  At all.  So the plot in theory wasn't bad but in practice was very dry and didn't hold my attention at all.


Characters: ★★★★


Like I said above, Hal and Royston's chapters were a bit dull.  And their romance was pretty cheesy.


But Rook and Thom made up for that easily.  They were... awesome.


Writing: ★★★


I liked it, but didn't love it.


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

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bonus Review: Tales of Beedle the Bard



In honor of today's release of the final Harry Potter movie: A review of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a collection of fairy tales and childrens' stories from the world of Harry Potter, illustrated by J.K. Rowling herself.

Entertainment: ★★★★

It's really short (100 pages or so; I finished it in less than an hour) but it's a fun, quick little read.  Maybe targeted for a younger audience, and it's definitely not as deep and amazing as the actual Harry Potter books.  But as a little addition/extra for the series, it's great.  Also, each story comes with some commentary from Albus Dumbledore, which was really fun to read.  Dumbledore's writing is entertaining and clever and sometimes more fun than the stories themselves.

Plot: ★★★

Each of the stories resembled classic fairy tales, and as such there were no real suprises.  And it's hard to pack any kind of plot into 10-15 page stories.  Still, they were nice little tales.

Characters: Not really applicable, I feel.  Dumbledore gets five stars, though.

Writing: ★★★★

To be honest, I was a little let down because this is much different from Harry Potter... it's the fat-free, lite version.  But JKR does deliver some nice little children's stories, fairly well-written.

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

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review: Paranormalcy



Evie has been special for as long as she can remember: she can see through glamours, the magic that hides vampires and werewolves and faeries from the rest of the humans.  Her best friend is a mermaid, she kind of dated a faerie, and her job is hunting down, Tasing, and capturing paranormals.  And yet she'd love to think of herself as normal.

But of course, things are never that easy.  Paranormals are dying - they're being murdered.  And Evie seems to have a mysterious connection to the killer.  Now she only needs to solve the mystery, defeat the killer, get her shapeshifting crush to fall in love with her, change the ending of a dark prophecy, elude dangerously scheming faeries, and oh yeah, maybe go to prom...

Entertainment: 

I wanted to like this book, I really did.  But three pages in, and I was mentally groaning.  My main problems with this book: Evie's an airhead I couldn't connect with at all.  The plot was just unbelievable; I'm okay with a little suspension of disbelief, but not the kind that has me rolling my eyes and saying, "Yeah, I'm so sure."  I saw the ending coming about 200 pages away.  And most importantly for me, it didn't add anything new to the paranormal YA genre.  I really like books that add something new and exciting; and I didn't feel that Paranormalcy had anything unique to say.

Oh, and it took me a good minute to figure out how to correctly pronounce the title, which was just obnoxious.  Maybe saying "paranormalcy" comes easy to some people, but for me it didn't at all.

Plot: 

Like I said above, there just wasn't anything new here.  There was nothing to make me sit up and go, "Ooooh, exciting," or "Hey, didn't see that coming," or even "That's cool."  It was just dull, and I couldn't force myself to stay interested.

Characters: 

I'll give two stars because Lend, the love interest, was interesting and actually kind of cute.  Otherwise, though, I couldn't find anything to like.  Evie's so very dumb blonde.  She could have been super cool, or super tough, but instead she seemed to be this weird cheerleader-hunter combination.  Maybe it's because I'm not enormously girly myself, but her rhapsodizing about pink and soap operas got on my nerves.  And she names her Taser.  Tasey.  I think it was meant to be cute, but I really almost put the book down at that point.  Obviously she won't disagree with all readers the same way she did with me, and for some she might actually resonate quite well.  This isn't a character that is just bad... she's just a character that I personally don't like.

Anyways, her aside, the rest of the cast was kind of blah.  I'm not actually sure who the antagonist was really supposed to be - out of the two I thought had villain potential, one wimped out and the other actually seemed dubiously well-intentioned at the end.  So yeah.  There was just nothing that stood out about the rest of the characters.

Writing: 

It was okay, a little casual and girly for my tastes, but a pretty enjoyable style overall.

End Result: two stars.  I was not impressed.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wishlist Wednesday




In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she's spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It's there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she's never heard before . . . and her secret is almost exposed.

Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can't be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country's only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime.

Um, wow.  Maybe it's because I'm a language nerd, but this literally sounds like the best book to come out this year!  What do you think - will you be reading The Pledge when it comes out?

Guest Post: When I'm Not Writing by Sheenah Freitas

I have one too many hobbies that keep me busy when I’m not writing. I enjoy hiking, sewing, drawing, and reading. But my favorite hobby (besides reading) is one that everyone enjoys and that is baking.
Christmases came and went and we usually got our share of holiday cookies courtesy of my grandmother. And then the dreaded year came when neither Grandma nor Mom were in the mood to bake cookies. I was mortified. How could the holiday season feel merry when the smell of baking cookies didn’t saturate the air and one of us didn’t burn our tongues by eating a cookie the moment it came out of the oven? So I looked for some cookie recipes to try and self-taught myself how to bake.
That Christmas gave us chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, chocolate Yule logs, and for the first time ever: an army of gingerbread men. Being a stickler for truly homemade cookies everything was made with as much organic/all natural products I could find and completely from scratch, including the icing. It wasn’t long before people began to put in requests and for a short time, it felt like I was doing more baking than writing.
My chocolate chip cookies quickly became a family favorite. I’ve made Orange Dreams which are two soft cookies embedded with a zest of orange sandwiched between homemade icing and topped with homemade orange frosting. And thanks to Food Network Challenge, I finally created my very own chocolate chocolate chip cookie recipe that I call the Jaded Chocolate Chip. The challenge was simple: create a chocolate chip cookie using the assortment of ingredients they provided. I eyed the ginger and green tea and demanded to see someone create one from that, but none of the chefs did (they pretended they couldn’t hear me through the TV, the nerve!) so I did it myself and that’s become the new family favorite.
Baking is a great way for me to relax and it gives me a time to step away from my world when I’m stuck. Chances are after I’m finished I’ve figured out what the problem is and have some cookies to eat if there are any left. I’m always looking for a new recipe to try and have begun to try my hand at pies. It’s been an interesting adventure, but I still prefer baking cookies over all else.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Review: Eon: Dragoneye Reborn



Eon has a secret.  She's one of the candidates to compete to be chosen as a Dragoneye apprentice.  The twelve Dragoneyes are men bonded to energy dragons, each dragon associated with a Zodiac animal.  They are granted great powers that they must use to protect the kingdom.  Eon is the least likely to be chosen: a lame leg has made her an unlucky and physically weak cripple.  The only reason she's allowed to compete is a rare ability to sense all twelve dragons - but she doesn't think that will be enough to recommend her to the dragon, especially with her secret.  She's actually a girl, Eona.

Sure enough, when the day comes, the Rat Dragon passes over her in favor of another boy.  Eona is heartbroken, until a miracle occurs: the lost dragon, the Mirror Dragon, that disappeared hundreds of years ago, appears and bonds with Eona.

So life should be great now, right?  Enormous power and prestige as the first Mirror Dragoneye for as long as anyone can remember; fame and fortune are Eona's for the taking.  But of course, life's never that simple.  The current Rat Dragoneye is a cruel, ambitious man named Ido with dark plans for the Dragoneyes - and for Eon in particular.  Her secret is getting harder and harder to hide as she struggles to keep up with the complex, dangerous game of politics that she doesn't understand.  Civil war is brewing, and both sides would love to have the Mirror Dragoneye on their side.  One wrong step can mean her death...

Entertainment: 

I apologize for the long summary - it was a long and complicated book.   Anyways, overall, I liked it.  The world building was fabulous - the Pearl Empire was China-inspired but still unique and interesting.  The world building details made the story move kind of slow, but I was interested enough in learning more about the world that I didn't mind all that much.

I had only two things that turned me off a little: first, there are excessive amounts of eunuchs and discussions about becoming and being eunuchs.  When I thought about it, it kind of made sense, given that part of the story is set in a royal harem and all.  But still.  Call me old-fashioned but I really don't want to read about that, okay?  Mention it in passing and move on, please.  Second, I really wish more time had been devoted to the dragons and the powers associated with them.  But overall, it was an enjoyable read.

Plot: 

It was a little... expected, I guess the word would be.  I mean, the basic plot's not exactly new.  And frankly, I found the way in which Eona takes on the antagonist dumb.  I won't spoil the resolution, but I didn't like it much at all.

I found the political intrigues much more interesting than the actual "action" plot.  Overall, it was the world building and the characters that kept me reading... not the plot.

Characters: 

Eon was pretty cool, as a character.  As a person, I don't think I would like her at all, but as a character, she was very interesting.  I liked how she had to struggle to hide her femininity - too many girls just cut their hair and can miraculously pass as boys in YA literature, which I always found stupid - and how she had to work for, well, everything.  Yes, she had a special dragon-seeing talent thing, but that didn't change the fact that she still had to work her butt off for anything and everything she wanted.  And she still doesn't get everything she wants.  I liked the side characters, too, particularly Ido.  He was so hateable, which made him an excellent villain.

I also liked the characters' realistic reactions to things.  When they find out Eon's secret, most of them get pissed.  Some stop talking to her.  One guy reacts violently.  They don't just go, "Oh, gee, what a hard life you had.  I'll just support you unconditionally from here on out."  No, they react like people, and Eon has to earn back their respect.  I liked that a lot.

Writing: 

I though Eon was decently written, and I thought the author did an excellent job of explaining and describing the "spirit world," which in my opinion is rarely well done.  So, overall I enjoyed the writing.

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

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Review: Titus and Atreus



Titus is lost after his parents' death.  His sister has vanished, he's starting to hate school, and his house feels incredibly empty.  And then a strange teenager enters Titus's house through the upstairs mirror, and drags Titus to another world.  This world is like Earth but in some ways different.  Everyone on Earth has a "twin soul" there; a person that looks, acts, and thinks like they do.  When a person dies or is injured in one world, their counterpart suffers the same wounds.

Titus is the twin soul of a newly-orphaned prince.  This prince, Atreus, is like Titus - but in some ways different.  He can talk to angels, for one thing.  Atreus has brought Titus to his world in order to fulfill an impossible prophecy, a prophecy nobody can truly understand...

Entertainment: ★★★

In Titus and Atreus's defense, I read it while under the influence of a mild cold.  That may have tempered my enjoyment a little.  I ended up feeling fairly neutral about the book; I didn't love it, I didn't hate it.

Plot: ★★

It just felt very haphazard to me.  Things happened for no apparent rhyme or reason, and were never fully explained.  Some parts felt extremely implausible, so implausible I wasn't willing to suspend disbelief; some parts just felt cliche.  The romance(s) were awkward and none too original.  The conflict - oh no, an evil king is attacking us - didn't hold my interest.

Also, I really didn't like the ending.  At all.

There were parts of the story that had a lot of potential - for example, Titus begins remembering some of Atreus's memories, memories he couldn't have had access to.  I really wanted to read more about those aspects of the story, but sadly they were never really explored.

Characters: ★★

Titus started off mopey and emo, but improved quickly.  By the end of the book, I though he was decent.  Atreus, in contrast, I still don't understand.  Most of the side characters were a little vague and predictable.  As mentioned above, the characters' romances were just awkward and not particularly interesting.  Plus, everybody basically paired off, romantically, so there wasn't much intercharacter tension at all.

Also, villains can be the best part of the story, but the villain in Titus and Atreus read as very lackluster to me.

Writing: ★★★

Myers is a decent writer, and the writing was fine.  I don't have any complaints to lodge here.  However I didn't find much that stood out, either.

End Result: two stars.  I was not impressed.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Review: Superior Saturday






On the sixth day, there was sorcery.


Arthur has five of the seven Keys, rules five sections of the House, and has rescued five parts of the Will.  It's all downhill from there, right?  Think again.  He's up against Superior Saturday, the strongest sorcerer in the House.  Saturday has been planning for millennia for the arrival of the Heir, and she's got a plan to stop him.  A plan that involves dissolving most of the House into the void called Nothing.  Arthur is under attack on all sides, with only questionable-at-best allies.  The Keys themselves seem to be working on him, changing him into an angry and arrogant person he doesn't want to be.  And on Saturday, even getting the sixth Key and the sixth part of the Will might not be enough to save him...

Entertainment: 

It seems as though the more I read about the world of the House, the more complex and interesting it gets.  As with the previous books in the series, Superior Saturday was an entertaining, exciting, and enjoyable read.

Plot: 

I have to say I didn't love this plot as much as I loved the others in the series.  It felt a little haphazard, and I didn't think there was nearly enough resolution at the end.

Characters: 

I think Arthur's struggle against the Keys is interesting, but it made me like him significantly less.  And in comparison to the previous books, many of the characters (including Saturday) were just a little lackluster, not as quirky and unique as their counterparts in the other books.

Writing: 

I can't complain about Nix's style, no matter what I have to say about the other aspects of the book.

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

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Review: The Frenzy

This book counts towards the Shifter challenge.




Liv has a secret: on her thirteenth birthday she lost control and turned into a beast.

With her prescription pills and her shrink and her boyfriend, she thought she had the wild rage, the frenzy, under control.  She was wrong.  Now she's seventeen, and it's happening again...

Entertainment: 

I didn't really like the cover, and it never really got better from there on in.  The characters were weird and I didn't connect with them, I outright disliked the plot, and I alternated being bored and confused for most of the story.

Plot: 

It's really incoherent and confusing at times.  Random snippets of (fairly important) information are thrown in at awkward times, leaving me thinking, "Well, it would've been nice to know that earlier."

Other than that, it starts off kinda slow and doesn't speed up all that much.  The foreshadowing was so obvious that none of the (what I assumed were supposed to be) surprise twists were really surprising.  The book ended on a bizarre note that didn't provide all that much closure.  I wasn't really impressed.

Characters: 

Liv was odd - I still don't understand hardly anything about her, and I certainly didn't connect with her.  She came off as cold and emotionless, except for her severe anger management issues.  Anger issues accentuated by her mood fluctuations when she decides sex works better to keep her under control than her medications - please don't try that at home.  Corey, her love interest, seemed to be defined entirely by his attraction to her - yeah, I can't think of anything at all I learned about him other than that he's black and obsessively in love with Liv.  Then there's Liv's random werewolf stalkers - who want her to kill people, and in turn kill the innocent relations of children that annoy her - and her dysfunctional family that shoots anything that moves.

Frankly, the whole cast was bizarre.  I really don't know what to say here.  It was just weird.

Writing: 

It was alright - a little disjointed, and it moved really fast without explaining, well, anything.  Not too bad, but not good enough to make the rest of the book work.

End Result: two stars.  I was not impressed.

Wishlist Wednesday










The year is 2032, sixteen years after a deadly virus—and the vaccine intended to protect against it—wiped out most of the earth’s population. The night before eighteen-year-old Eve’s graduation from her all-girls school she discovers what really happens to new graduates, and the horrifying fate that awaits her. 

Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Eve sets off on a long, treacherous journey, searching for a place she can survive. Along the way she encounters Caleb, a rough, rebellious boy living in the wild. Separated from men her whole life, Eve has been taught to fear them, but Caleb slowly wins her trust...and her heart. He promises to protect her, but when soldiers begin hunting them, Eve must choose between true love and her life.


Creepy, dystopian, exciting, romantic - I can't wait!  What do you think - will you be reading Eve when it comes out?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Author Interview: Sheenah Freitas

What was your favorite part of the writing/publishing process? Your least favorite?
My favorite part is the revising and editing stage. I love seeing the entire story evolve and actually sound like a story. The first draft is my least favorite part because there can be days where I’m balancing a pencil on my nose and staring at a screen running my mind over a billion different scenarios that could or should happen and yet none of them seem right. My first drafts are never pretty to look at so I love it when I can go through and polish things up.
What would you say is the most important element in a good story?
For me, I would say characters. If the characters aren’t interesting, why would you bother reading their story? An author could have brilliant prose and write a beautiful story about the human condition, but without characters that nobody cares about, whose going to want to read it?
Who is your favorite character from The Chosen, and why?
That’s a tough question. I love all of my characters, but I’m going to have to go with my merman, Derek. I think he’s the only guy in my book that truly acts like a guy. If there’s a pretty woman that he sees on the street, he’s going to look versus Reeze who will glance at her but only see her as a person and not as a female. And despite his fun attitude, he has his dark secret that he doesn’t want anyone to know. It’ll be revealed in the sequel, The Number, which I’m working on now.
If you had to pick just one thing for readers to take away after reading The Chosen, what would it be?
I think every author can agree that they hope the reader enjoys the book, but I hope that readers will think about responsibility. Throughout the book Kaia is trying to come to terms with her responsibility to save this planet that she’s never heard of. It’s not a choice for her and we get to see the consequences of her actions in the sequel. I know saving a planet is an extreme, but you could apply it to other things like a pet. You buy an animal because it’s cute and then once the newness and cuteness wears off what do you do? Keep taking care of it or would you get rid of it?
And just for fun, what would you say is the most interesting thing about you?
I have these incredibly vivid dreams. My family is a little jealous that their dreams are about mundane things like work or school. There are always these epic adventures or storylines going on in my dreams and most of the time I’m not even in them. I’m more like an observer, watching these people from the sky. So as long I keep dreaming, I’ll always have story ideas.

Monday, July 4, 2011

2011 Debut Author Challenge: Complete!

My second challenge is complete!  The challenge was to read twelve books by debut YA authors.

1. Wither
2. Broken
10. XVI

Review: Across the Universe

This book counts towards the Debut challenge.




Amy is told that when her body is frozen, she will go to sleep and wake up again 300 years later, on a new Earth.  But fifty years before the scheduled landing, Amy's pod is unfrozen.  She finds herself trapped inside the Godspeed, the giant space ship carrying hundreds of frozen bodies - including Amy's parents - and the strange world of Eldest.  The ship's living population has never known another world, and they are entirely under the control of the tyrannical and cruel Eldest.  With Elder, his teenaged heir, Amy discovers that the Godspeed holds many secrets.  She doesn't understand the Eldest's world, and she can't stop dreaming of an Earth that is centuries behind her - and her parents, frozen and unaware.  Who can you trust, in a world where you can never belong?

Entertainment:

This book really kept me in suspense - every page, I was dying to know what would happen next!  It was seriously intense.

Plot:

Like I just said, super intense.  It was unique, at times jarring, exciting, and a little creepy.  The ending was amazing - bittersweet, semisweet, I don't know how to describe it, but it was beautiful.

Also, the world-building was incredible.

Characters: 

Amy was okay - at times she came off as a bit bland.  Elder was awesome - I loved his personality, his inner conflicts, the way he matured over the course of the story, and even his slight moral ambiguity.  The villain(s) were interesting, believable, and even a bit understandable and relatable.  Overall, I thought the characterization was great.

Writing:

Quite well-written.

End Result: five stars.  An excellent book.  Read it.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Review: Lady Friday






On the fifth day, there was fear.

The Morrow Days are done playing by the rules.  Saturday has shut down the interHouse elevators, trapping Arthur in Friday's realm.  Lady Friday herself has vanished, after arranging a showdown between Arthur, Saturday, and an enigmatic enemy called the Piper.  Meanwhile, Arthur's friend Leaf has been captured by Friday, who plans to use her and all other humans for a sinister experiment...

Arthur is trapped and can't trust anybody.  Even those denizens of the House who honestly want to help him can be taken over at any time by the Piper's music and made to betray him.  The Will has been changing, and seems much darker and more determined than ever to fulfill its mysterious purpose.  Saturday and the Piper both want Arthur dead... and now, Arthur can't use the power of the Keys, the one thing that kept him alive during the previous four days...

Entertainment: 

I devoured this book (somewhat ironically, on a Friday) and now I can't wait for the next!

Plot: 

I love how the plot has grown so much darker and more twisted with each new book.  Lady Friday wasn't straightforward or simple, it was exciting and suspenseful.

Characters: 

The characters in this series started off great, and they've only gotten better.  First, Arthur.  I love how pragmatic he is; he doesn't go on about 'death before dishonor' or whine about how hard his life is or sulk or talk about how Super Special he is.  He's just a guy, and I'm honestly cheering for him to get an (eventual) happy ending.

The rest of the cast, meanwhile, is just as fascinating.  Many of them are morally ambiguous (see: The Will) and that's just plain interesting to read about.  Every character is quirky and unique and cool, and I think the series is worth reading just for the characters.

Writing: 

I think Nix's writing might be addictive, because I can't seem to stop reading this series!

End Result: five stars.  An excellent book.  Read it.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Review: Ruby Red

This book counts towards the Debut challenge.




Gwyneth is one of the normal members of the family.  The time-travelling gene skipped her and landed on Charlotte instead.  Not that Gwen really minds; she's fine having a normal life and watching movies and doing other normal things with her best friend Lesley, instead of taking riding and fencing lessons like Charlotte.

But when Gwen involuntarily time-travels on her sixteenth birthday, her entire eccentric family is startled and horrified to find that Gwen is the Ruby, the twelfth time-traveller.  Too bad Gwen was never trained for any of it, and is totally unprepared to deal with time traveling...

Entertainment:  

It was an interesting premise, but it didn't hold my interest all that well.  In the end I finished it having liked it but not loved it.  I suppose what I didn't like about it was that it was so bland - definitely a vanilla-flavored book, not particularly memorable at all.  Which is too bad, given the great premise.  So, in the end, I felt neutral about it.

Plot:  

Although I predicted the twist of the ending, it was a unique and entertaining plot.  The time-travel element seemed fairly well-thought out and plausible.  I only wish that a few more questions had been answered in this first book - there's quite a lot of plot threads left dangling until the sequel.

Characters:  

Gwen was alright, albeit a little bland.  Really, none of the characters stood out as particularly good or bad to me.

Writing:  

Fairly well-written, although at times the vocabulary and sentence structure and such seemed kind of immature.  But given that the narrator was sixteen, I guess that makes sense.  So, it was fairly well-written.

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