Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hedgie's Must Reads: August 2013

Summer is now over, and we're headed into the months of fall! And oddly enough, I am not horribly sad about it. I had a pretty good summer; busy times at the library, lots of reading, going to the beach, the Renaissance Faire, and book shopping. But there's so much to look forward to in the fall! Movies, books, Christmas. ;-) Though technically that's winter. Anyway, this last month of August might have been busy, but I actually didn't have all that many good reads. Mostly because I was busy and didn't have as much time to read.

A Spark Unseen (ARC) by Sharon Cameron (5/5)
The sequel to The Dark Unwinding, this novel is more of a wartime espionage story than a Gothic mystery like the first book. But it is still every bit as good. With a strong protagonist and even stronger supporting cast, period-appropriate dialogue and writing style, and twists and turns that just keep coming, you won't be bored or disappointed. I wasn't sure it would be as good as Book #1, but it was just as brilliant. More of a girl-read than a guy-read, appropriate for any age, though probably better for fourteen-and-up, great for fans of historical fiction mysteries, steampunk, and espionage stories!

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (4/5)
The first book in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, this is one of the most original and entertaining books I have ever read. I was impressed when I first read it, and my good opinion has not waned even now that I'm much older and have read so many more books. Percy Jackson a funny, resourceful, and loyal-to-his-friends protagonist, and Annabeth a genuine "kickass" girl who doesn't have an Attitude. The Author blends humor and drama artfully together, and it's quite evident that he's done his research on Greek mythology. Girl-and-boy read, any age, great for fans of Greek mythology or someone just looking for something new. Ideal for a Summer Read!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Author Visit: Marissa Meyer

That's right - I am finally posting this! I am so sorry it took me so long! My photographer had just as busy a month as I did, so it took her a while to get the pictures to me (huge thanks to Rachel for being my photographer in the first place! You're the best!)

On July 27, 2013, Marissa Meyer, author of The Lunar Chronicles (Book #1: Cinder. Book #2: Scarlet) was on tour in Washington State. I was able to attend her visit at the Centralia Timberland Library, and what a blast it was. I was able to record her lecture and the Q&A, and as soon as I get a chord for my recorder that allows me to upload my audio files, I will add it to this post for my Readers' enjoyment. I tried typing it out, but me put it this way: a 45+ minute talk pushed my patience considerably, and I'm sorry Readers - I love you all, but not that much. ;-) Besides, I don't want to run the risk of misquoting Marissa Meyer, so letting you guys listen to it at your convenience is a better idea.

In the meantime, enjoy the pictures! :-)

The lovely table all set up for Marissa Meyer's visit!

Handmade androids welcoming Marissa Meyer!

Some lovely pins that event attendees were allowed to take home for free!
I got a "Big Bad Wolf" pin, which now resides on my book bag.

Marissa Meyer telling us about her books and how she was inspired to write.

Marissa Meyer signing my copy of Scarlet!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review: Story's End - Marissa Burt

Story's End by Marissa Burt
Series: Storybound #2
Genre: Middle Grade, fantasy
Published on April 2, 2013
Published by HarperCollins
Pages: 416
Read From: 8.21.13 - 8.28.13

Long ago, a King ruled the land of Story. . . .During his reign, Heroes, Villains, and characters of all kinds lived out new Tales filled with daring quests and epic struggles. 
Then the King disappeared, and over the years, nearly everyone forgot that he had ever existed. Now an evil Enemy has emerged, determined to write a new future for Story that he will control. And an ordinary girl named Una Fairchild is inextricably tangled up in his deadly plan. 
Una and her friends Peter and Indy are desperate to find a way to defeat the Enemy. But Una soon discovers that the real key may lie in her own mysterious ties to Story's past - and to the long-forgotten King, who could be Story's only hope for survival.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I like it well enough. It's exciting and pretty and definitely echoes the classic storybook feel. And you can't see the character impersonators very well!

Characters: Una Fairchild actually isn't in Story's End that much. There are now multiple protagonists that we follow, and Una isn't given as much attention as others. Even so, I still liked her. She isn't as snippy towards Peter as she was in Storybound, and she still displays a healthy dose of curiosity and intelligence. Peter got a bit on my nerves whenever he started acting all jealous of Indy and became pouty and even a bit whiny, but those little episodes are thankfully short-lived as well. As I predicted, Snow makes her peace with Una and becomes a surprisingly helpful character. And though she continues to be at odds with her mother for over half of the book (which did get old), I still managed to like Snow a lot. It's always hard to take a character the Reader has spent so long hating and then making them likable. I'm happy to say that Marissa Burt pulled it off. Sam the talking cat wasn't nearly in Story's End enough; he was practically nonexistent, which I was very sad to discover. But the appearance of a new character - Kai - made up for my disappointment. Sometimes there are characters that just hit me the right way, and Kai was no exception. I loved him the moment he appeared, and I desperately hoped that he would actually turn out to be trustworthy. Confident and cheeky (without being a flirt), Kai brought a lot to the overall story, and I found myself most reading for his sake. New character crush? Possibly. :-) The villains - Fidelus and Duessa - are another matter. Duessa was a surprisingly good villainness - and villainnesses are extremely difficult to pull off. She seemed capable and truly cold-hearted. Fidelus, too, seemed genuinely cold-hearted and didn't monologue too much. However, there were plenty of times when the two, together, were a bit more cliche than I like, and Fidelus was too impatient. Impatience is a bad flaw in a villain. The scariest villains always have the most remarkable amount of patience.

The Romance: There isn't any!

Plot: Una has unwittingly unleashed Fidelus - the Muse who turned evil and caused the Unbinding. He now has his heart set on crowning himself King and rewriting Story for himself and the Taleless. To do so, he must possess the Three Elements: the quill, ink, and parchment that were originally used to bring the Muses and Story into being. Together, Una and the Resistance must build an army to defeat the Enemy and the Red Enchantress, and find the Elements before they do. Or all of Story will be lost before the True King can return and reclaim his throne. A more straight-forward storyline than Storybound, and yet it felt much more complicated. We are following three separate plots: Snow and her mother's, Peter and Indy, and then Una. It's not necessarily confusing, but it does give the story the feeling that a lot is happening all at once. And sometimes the jumping around from one narrative to another can be a bit confusing, because the Author doesn't always explain how much time has passed between what's happening to Peter, and what's happening to the narration we're now following. This especially becomes an issue at the climax. Overall, though, the plot itself is interesting - and far darker than I was anticipating. Characters are being slaughtered and tortured, and others are being given to the Taleless so they can finally have mortal bodies. Naturally, the Taleless look something like zombies when they take over a body, because every story needs zombies, right? (Sarcasm.) I still love the concept of Story and find it a fascinating world. But the whole rebellion felt a bit rushed and squeezed in. Like maybe there ought to have been a third book? There were also a few instances that felt too convenient. Nothing hugely mortifying to the plot itself; mostly tiny things, but it was still there. And it could have just been me. I was temporarily worried that Una would spend the majority of the book agonizing over the identity of her parents, like all protagonists seem to do when they find out Dear Old Dad and/or Dearest Mama aren't as nice as they imagined. Thankfully, though, she really doesn't. At least, she isn't very vocal about it. There's concern and shame alright, but it isn't focused on too much.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. There are three main characters we follow: Snow, Una, and Peter. It was interesting to have several different perspectives, whereas in Story's End, we mostly just followed Una. But it also didn't give me as much of a chance to get to know the characters better, for which I was very sad. I always like to get to know characters more. The writing style is still nothing special, but it isn't bad and it fits the intended age of the audience.

Content: Nothing, other than some rather scary imagery that might be a bit disturbing for younger Readers. Zombies, dripping blood, wounds inflicted by torture (no serious details, though), and an overall ambiance of dark magic are some of the scary imagery.

Conclusion: Here is where Story's End began to fall down just a bit. The Resistance is ready to march upon Duessa and Fidelus, and either defeat them or die trying. It's all very noble and self-sacrificing; I love stories with an army marching into impossible odds (I love it even more when they realistically lose). For a moment, it even looks like that exact thing might happen! And then suddenly characters are popping up, Una conveniently finds the thing that will undo Fidelus, Snow is off wandering the castle passages and then she's suddenly in the midst of battle, and Fidelus and the King are locked in an epic battle that is rather difficult to follow. Suddenly reinforcements that I had no idea the Resistance had are showing up and . . . . it's all a bit confusing and rushed. The overall concept was good, but too much was going on all at once with very few effective transitions. And then it just kind of ends. This two-book series really could have used a third installment. I still liked Story's End and I think it is a great little series for Middle Graders. But it also had its imperfections that could have easily been fixed by making this a trilogy. Events were just a bit too rushed. Still, it isn't even close to the worst Summer Read that you could pick up.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-boy read, nine-and-up, great for fans of Harry Potter (just don't expect it to be nearly as epic) and Inkheart, and fantasy.

Others in This Series:
2)Story's End

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday #12

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.
It's a weekly meme about upcoming books we're excited about!

(Divergent #3)
by Veronica Roth
Publication Date: October 22, 2013

From Goodreads:

What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation - like a single choice - changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered - fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she's known, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris's new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature - and herself - while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

The Royal Ranger
(Ranger's Apprentice #12)
by John Flanagan
Publication Date: November 5, 2013

From Goodreads:

Will Treaty has come a long way from the small boy with dreams of knighthood. Life had other plans for him, and as an apprentice Ranger under Halt, he grew into a legend - the finest Ranger the kingdom has ever known. Yet Will is facing a tragic battle that has left him grim and alone. To add to his problems, the time has come to take on an apprentice of his own, and it's the last person he ever would have expected. Fighting his personal demons, Will has to win the trust and respect of his difficult new companion - a task that at times seems almost impossible.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #9

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish 

This week's topic: Top 10 Most Memorable Secondary Characters. This is a toughie!

Halt in John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series. 
I have a hard time calling him a secondary character because he really is like another protagonist. But he isn't the protagonist of the series, so I guess he's a secondary character.
  • Areida in Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted. 
I love best friends, especially best friends whom the protagonist is forced to leave behind in order to protect them. And still the best friend remains loyal. Areida is one of those.
  • Las Bombas in Lloyd Alexander's Westmark Trilogy. 
Another favorite character type is the witty conman, be they villain or secret friend. Las Bombas reminds me a lot of Mr. Tigg in Charles Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit (another favvie), and so he's an absolute favorite.
  • Cinna in Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy. 
For those of you who saw the movie, but didn't read the book, they totally got Cinna wrong in the movie! I like the Cinna in the books, not the movie. I wasn't expecting to when I first read the book, but I really did.
  • The Black Prince in Cornelia Funke's Inkworld Trilogy. 
One of Dustfinger's oldest friends, caring, and full of good advice, the Black Prince has got to be one of my favorite secondary characters in this entire trilogy. He's just awesome.
  • Meenore in Gail Carson Levine's A Tale of Two Castles
Again, I have a hard time calling Meenore a secondary character because he's so important to the plot, but he's also not a protagonist. I love dragon characters, and Meenore is one of my favorites. He's like a dragon version of Sherlock! :)
  • Thorn in Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles. 
Yeah, Thorn kind of rubs me the wrong way, and I want to deck him half of the time. But at the same time, he's a fun character. He serves a purpose to the story and doesn't become a love interest for Cinder.
  • Fernald (AKA the hook-handed man) in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. 
I really don't know why, but Fernald, the hook-handed man, was always my favorite out of Olaf's henchmen. I never really imagined that he was all that bad of guy, and I always pictured him as a pretty classic Depression Era mobster. But still not all that bad of a guy. He may be the reason The Grim Grotto is my favorite out of the books.
  • Noah in Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys. 
He doesn't say much, but he's always there and he's just a bit quirky. Out of all the boys in this book, he was my favorite.
  • Tyson in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson & the Olympians series. 
Adorable. Like a teddy bear. Funny. There's just nothing about Tyson to dislike.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday #11

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.
It's a weekly meme about upcoming books we're excited about!

The House of Hades
(The Heroes of Olympus #4)
by Rick Riordan
Publication Date: October 8, 2013

From Goodreads:

At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy's instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through Gaea's forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven will be able to seal the Doors on both sides and prevent the giants from raising Gaea. But, Leo wonders, if the Doors are sealed, how will Percy and Annabeth be able to escape?

They have no choice. If the demigods don't succeed, Gaea's armies will never die. They have no time. In about a month, the Romans will march on Camp Half-Blood. The stakes are higher than ever in this adventure that dives into the depths of Tartarus.

Emerald Green
(Ruby Red Trilogy #3)
by Kerstin Gier
Publication Date (US): October 8, 2013

From Goodreads:

Gwen has a destiny to fulfill, but no one will tell her what it is. She's only recently learned that she is the Ruby, the final member of the time-traveling Circle of Twelve, and since then nothing has been going right. She suspects the founder of the Circle, Count Saint-Germaine, is up to something nefarious, but nobody will believe her. And she's just learned that her charming time-traveling partner, Gideon, has probably been using her all along.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #8

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish 

This week's Top Ten topic: Top 10 Things That Make My Life as a Reader/Book Blogger Easier. This should be fun!

  1. Goodreads! Though it also complicates it. I cannot tell you how much bigger my to-reads list got because of Goodreads. But it is a great resource for finding out about new books, getting ARCs through their giveaways, and keeping track of what I've read, what I want to read, et cetera.
  2. Shelfari. It's a bit like Goodreads powered by Amazon. Some of you have probably seen my handy-dandy little Shelfari widget on my blog, listing the books I've read this year! It's made my blog so much more efficient. No more having this HUGE list of titles people have to scroll all the way down to the bottom to see what I've read recently. Shelfari keeps it all tidy - and people can see what the book looks like! It's also a great way for me to keep track of what's on my "reading now" shelf without having to get up and go to my library for a peek.
  3. Youth Services librarians. They are another great source for new YA and Middle Grade books.
  4. My pretty blue planner! Sometimes I forget when I have something scheduled - or when. So having a calender is nice, and it's also a great way to keep track of authors and fellow bloggers I need to stay in touch with - or blog tour sites.
  5. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest. I am putting these all under one thing, because they are my networks. Still have to add Google+ to that list, and Blog Lovin'. My blog wouldn't be where it is now without networking, and these three have been great ways to gain attention!
  6. Public library. Naturally, I don't buy every book that I have reviewed. I would have bought a lot of bad books this year if that was the case. If I like a book, I'll buy it, but I definitely use my local library for all it's worth. True, it means I'm a little late in getting some books in, but I would rather that than spending money on a novel I won't enjoy. And to be fair to the library, they do a pretty bloody good job of getting new material in on time.
  7. My book bag! Wait, you say - how can a book bag make my reading/blogging life easier? Well, for one thing, it cheers me up and gives me a moral boost. Where does the moral boost come from? Because I made it all by hand, and I did a bloody good job. Also, because I made it by hand, I also customized it to my needs. So I can fit everything I need in there for a trip into town. I don't go anywhere now without my recorder, USB drive, reading light, notebook, special pen, and - of course - whatever book I am reviewing. And it all fits handily into my book bag - and it's still very compact!
  8. No-slip bookmark. Seems like a pretty simple thing, but I really cannot expound the wonders of a no-slip bookmark. It's fast and easy to slip in between the pages, it doesn't constantly keep slipping further down the pages, and it doesn't get bent at all!
  9. My Anubis Book. What's my Anubis Book? It's the book I keep all of my reviewing notes in. Yes, I write notes as I read. Why is it called an Anubis Book? Well, if you know anything about Egyptian mythology, you know that Anubis was responsible for weighing the hearts of the deceased before they entered the Afterlife. That's sort of what I do when I review books; I weigh their worthiness of being called literature. And because I write down what ultimately equals my opinion of the book's worthiness in this little notebook, it is my Anubis Book. :-)
  10. And last, but certainly NOT least, my reading chair! Where would we bookworms and book bloggers be without our special reading chair? It comforts us and is witness to all of our emotions and struggles to write a review that conveys all that we thought of a book (which can sometimes be very difficult). I only recently acquired a proper reading chair (pictures will be up someday on my blog; they can, however, be found on my Facebook). I don't know how I did without for so long.

Monday, August 19, 2013

ARC Review: A Spark Unseen - Sharon Cameron

A copy was provided by the publisher
in exchange for
an honest review.
A Spark Unseen by Sharon Cameron
Series: Dark Unwinding #2
Genre: YA, historical fiction, mystery, steampunk
Published on September 24, 2013
Published by Scholastic Press
Pages: 352
Read From: 8.9.13 - 8.12.13

When Katherine Tulman wakes in the middle of the night and accidentally foils a kidnapping attempt on her uncle, she realizes that Stranwyne Keep is no longer safe for Uncle Tully and his genius inventions. She quickly flees to Paris, where she hopes to remain undetected as she searches for the mysterious and handsome Lane, who is suspected to be dead. 
But the search for Lane is not easy, and Katherine soon finds herself caught in a web of political intrigue. From the court of Napoleon III to the underground tunnels of Paris, Katherine will have to decide how a dangerous weapon can be kept from both a queen and a emperor, and whom she can trust to make her uncle safe once and for all.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I don't like it quite as much as the cover for The Dark Unwinding, simply because you can see the character impersonator's face. However, she works pretty well for Katherine, so she doesn't bother me as much as most character impersonators. I still love the mechanical gears, and that dress is gorgeous.

Characters: Katherine Tulman is still a great protagonist. Intelligent, practical, and brave, she's the sort of girl I love as a protagonist. Some Readers might not like how very confident and decisive Katherine is, and every once in a while I can see how her decisiveness might come across as snobbishness. But I loved how firm of mind Katherine was. There are so few female protagonists who are like that. Katherine's main flaw is her temper. When her plans are derailed, she doesn't handle it very well, but she at least never flies off the handle much. Her anger comes out cold and quiet, which works. I got a little frustrated with her inability to blend in. Katherine is trying to behave normal; to do nothing to bring suspicion down on her house, and quite honestly, she does the exact opposite. Running out on dinners, exploring someone's house unbidden, lurking outside at night. Could you be a little less obvious, Katherine? I still liked her, though; she's just not very good at handling stress. Henri Marchand, I must admit, I adored. He is the type of cad that I really enjoy in a book. It helped that he never became a love interest for Katherine - that, in fact, made all the difference. I didn't trust him, but I still loved him. He was ridiculous and flirtatious, but he was actually a very decent fellow in the end, and was only teasing. He's the sort of fellow that I might want to smack most of the time, but I couldn't dislike him. Lane isn't in A Spark Unseen much, but my good opinion of him has not wavered. He has a bad habit of blaming himself for things that are not his fault, and he is a bit more overprotective than might be desirable, but he's a good man and Katherine knows how to handle him. And his flaws make him a realistic character. A Spark Unseen also made me appreciate a character that I didn't take much notice of in The Dark Unwinding: Katherine's solicitor, Mr. Babcock. He was a man we don't learn much about, but get a very strong sense that he has quite the past. He's always in the background, pulling strings that you wouldn't think he could pull, and his personality never shines out from all of the much more prominent ones. But once one does notice him, one realizes just how awesome of a character he really is. Uncle Tully is still a very likable eccentric. I half expected him to get a little annoying in this installment - eccentrics can only be fun for so long, - but I found it to be quite the opposite. Among all of these characters are several wonderful society busybodies that added that Austenian feel that I adore in novels like this one. Mrs. Harcastle was a riot. And as for the villain? Well, I'm no big fan of returning villains. If they die, they should be dead. "I'll be back" rarely works well. It did in this, though. Remarkably. And I would almost say that Ben was a much better villain in this one than in The Dark Unwinding.

The Romance: I was worried that Henri might become a love interest for Katherine, in the absence of Lane. He was handsome and devilish. Katherine is sensible, but it is the fad for sensible females to be carried away by rogues. Thankfully, this never happened, though Henri certainly flirted horribly with her. I'm still very much in support of the romance between Katherine and Lane. They are both characters I love, and their attachment feels real and deep.

Plot: It's been two years since Stranwyne was flooded; when Ben Aldridge tried to steal one of Uncle Tully's genius inventions to sell to the French as a military weapon. Two years since Katherine's love Lane left England to try and track Ben Aldridge down. Things have quieted down, but then Katherine interrupts a kidnapping attempt on her uncle one night. When the English government demands that Uncle Tully move to London to build weapons for them, Katherine realizes that Uncle Tully simply isn't safe at Stranwyne anymore. So she does the most unlikely thing: she takes Uncle Tully to Paris, right in the heart of a country that also wants to use his genius for wartime. But keeping Uncle Tully isn't Katherine's only reason for coming to Paris. Only weeks before, she was informed of Lane's death. Refusing to believe that he is dead, Katherine is determined to find his whereabouts - and discover why he hasn't contacted her in all this time. But trying to balance keeping Uncle Tully secret, rebuilding her reputation in good society, and dodging spies and murderers is more than one girl can take. A Spark Unseen is different from The Dark Unwinding. Book One offered a Gothic-like mystery in an isolated setting with steampunk flairs. Book Two is more of a military espionage story. There is a bit of a mystery, but it isn't like Book One. That said, it is still just as good, because it is different. I enjoy espionage stories as much as mysteries, and I just loved all of the characters, the era, and the plot. This is an Author who isn't afraid to kill off characters, so I was certainly surprised several times reading this. And like with The Dark Unwinding, you spend a lot of time wondering how things will connect. And yes, it is all explained.

Believability: I have nothing of which to complain. There is one moment where Katherine comes face-to-face with Emperor Napoleon III, and usually scenes like that can feel totally improbable. But the Author manages to pull it off; the circumstances allow it.

Writing Style: First person, past tense. I really like the Author's style. It's classy, it fits the era, and it's got a nice feel to it. It, of course, has some modern-isms to it; that's very hard to get rid of when writing nowadays. But it's barely there, and overall has a Victorian ambiance to it.

Content: None.

Conclusion: Some might say that the Author crams far too many revelations in a short amount of space. Normally I would agree, and even now I half do. There are a lot of revelations in a short span of time. They come in one after another, and there's an equal amount of characters popping in and out of scenes. Usually this doesn't work. Usually it feels like a train wreck. And if there had been just one more revelation, it would have been one. But it wasn't. Surprisingly, it really wasn't. Some of the revelations the Reader will have already figured out, and they will be pleased with themselves. Other revelations the Reader will not have figured out, and will be pleased with the explanation. And still others are totally unexpected. You will briefly wonder if maybe that last revelation was just a bit too much. But in the end, you'll shake your head and say, "I still liked it anyway." The final showdown between Katherine and Ben manages to not melt into a cliche moment, despite the fact the Ben monologues a fair bit. He's one of those rare villains who can actually get by with monologuing and still be intimidating. And best of all - this may in fact be a two-book series! No trilogy! What a novel idea! I was a little worried that A Spark Unseen would be a disappointment after The Dark Unwinding, which was such a wonderful mystery. But as soon as I started reading it, I knew I would love it just as much as the first book - and I do. It ran the risk of being too much at times, but it pulled it off. Amazing!

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, any age, great for historical fiction, mystery, and espionage story fans!

Others in This Series:
1)The Dark Unwinding
2)A Spark Unseen

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Stacking the Shelves #11

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Review

From the Library:

Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay
In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city's vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city's Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan's enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra's sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity's only defense against the Wild Chalklings - merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students study the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing - kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery - one that will change Rithmatics - and their world - forever.

A Midsummer Night's Scream by R. L. Stine
It was a horror movie that turned into real horror: Three young actors lost their lives while the cameras rolled. Production stopped, and people proclaimed the movie was cursed.

Now, sixty years later, new actors are venturing onto the haunted set. In a desperate attempt to revive their failing studio, Claire's dad has green-lit a remake of Mayhem Manor, and Claire and her friends are dying to be involved.

At first, Claire laughs at Jake's talk of ghosts and curses. He's been too busy crushing on her best friend, Delia, or making out with that slut, Annalee, to notice that she's practically been throwing herself at him. What does he know anyway? This is her big chance to be a star!

But then, Claire runs into a creepy little man named Benny Puckerman, and gets her hands on a real love potion! Unfortunately, the course of true love never did run smooth . . .

The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan
When the goddess Artemis goes missing, she is believed to have been kidnapped. And now it's up to Percy and his friends to find out what happened. Who is powerful enough to kidnap a goddess? They must find Artemis before the winter solstice, when her influence on the Olympian Council could swing an important vote on the war with the Titans. Not only that, but first Percy will have to solve the mystery of a rare monster that Artemis was hunting when she disappeared - a monster rumored to be so powerful it could destroy Olympus forever.

Pulse by Patrick Carman
The year is 2051, and the world is still recognizable. With the help of her mysterious classmate Dylan Gilmore, Faith Daniels discovers that she can more objects with her mind. This telekinetic ability is called a "pulse," and Dylan has the talent, too.

In riveting action sequences, Faith demonstrates her ability to use her pulse against a group of telekinesis masters so powerful they will flatten their enemies by uprooting street lights, moving boulders, and changing the course of a hurtling hammer so that it becomes a deadly weapon. But even with great talent, the mind - and the heart - can be difficult to control. If Faith wants to join forces with Dylan and save the world, she'll have to harnass the power of both.


Dash--Life Between the Numbers by Greg Armamentos
Thirteen-year-old Dexter loves to run. Whether along the roads or on the forest trails, he loved to push his speed to the limit. To him, running provides the freedom to dream. Already the fastest kid in his school, he has his sights set higher. He wants to be famous. He dreams of being legendary.

But running also provides the freedom to not think at all. Because sometimes thinking leads to memories. And there are some memories of Mom and Grandpa that Dexter would rather forget. When he runs straight into a debilitating illness he has to wonder - will he ever be fast again? Will he ever be somebody?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Review: Towering - Alex Flinn

Towering by Alex Flinn
Genre: YA, fairytale retelling
Published on May 14, 2013
Published by HarperTeen
Pages: 293
Read From: 8.9.13 - 8.9.13

High in my tower I sit. I watch the birds fly below, the clouds float above, and the tall, green forest stretch to places I might never see. 
Mama, who isn't my mother, has kept me hidden away for many years. My only companions, besides Mama, are my books - great adventures, mysteries, and romances that I long to make my reality. But I know that no one will come to save me - my life is not a fairy tale after all. 
Well, at least no one has come so far. Recently, my hair has started to grow rapidly and it's now long enough to read the bottom of the tower from my window. I've also had the strangest dreams of a beautiful, green-eyed man. 
When Mama isn't around, I plan my escape, even if it's just for a little while. There's something - or someone - waiting for me out there and it won't find me if I'm trapped here towering above it all.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Despite the character impersonator, I actually really like this cover. Something about the snow and the tower and the white dress all combined totally captures my attention, and tells my bookworm senses that this is going to be one great book. Well, it didn't like - completely.

Characters: Wyatt, the true protagonist of the story (not Rapunzel), presented problems for me. On the one hand, he was a nice enough guy who didn't drink and helped out whenever he could. But he was just a little too guy for me, and there was something about him that prevented me to from becoming attached. Now, I am sure there are plenty of Readers out there who will get attached; I'm just not one of them, and I'm not entirely sure why. I just . . . didn't really care. Rachel - AKA Rapunzel, - on the other hand, I really liked. She was innocent and classy and curious, and also brave. She did what needed to be done when it needed to be done with very little hesitation.

The Romance: This is what didn't meld very well with me. Wyatt and Rachel's attachment to one another is very sudden. It is, in fact, one of the most sudden romances in written history. Maybe because I wasn't attached to Wyatt, the rapidity of the attachment bothered me more than it might have if I had liked him better. But I've been a fan of fast romances; they aren't realistic. And this one is no exception. Not to mention that Wyatt is the first male Rachel has ever met, so she doesn't know anyone beyond him.

Plot: When Wyatt comes to live with Mrs. Greenwood - the mother of Wyatt's mom's childhood friend, who mysteriously disappeared, - he doesn't expect anything exciting to happen. Mrs. Greenwood lives in the middle of nowhere, in a town where everyone knows each other and internet is a thing of myth. But when Wyatt arrives at Mrs. Greenwood's house, he's greeted by the ghost of Danielle Greenwood - Mrs. Greenwood's daughter, who went missing several years back and was never seen again. Wyatt isn't sure what he sees is real or a figment of his imagination, but the discovery of Danielle's diary makes him wonder just what happened to Danielle - and whether she could, in fact, still be alive. Okay, sounds relatively exciting, right? It, in fact, sounds like a mystery, right? Towering actually did take on a Gothic mystery feel that I wasn't expecting, but don't get too excited. While I enjoyed the overall concept - [Spoiler] a magical drugring selling a plant called rhapsody [End spoiler] - the story fell down in areas, mostly in pacing. As I have said earlier, Wyatt and Rachel's romantic attachment is way too quick. It's no exaggeration when I say that they are passionately kissing and saying, "I love you" after two minutes of meeting one another. Yes, they share this special telepathic link because Rachel is Danielle's daughter, and Wyatt is part of some prophecy that doesn't even get mentioned until the book is well past halfway done. I'm still not buying it. The only thing that keeps the first half of the book from dragging is the Gothic feel to it, as Wyatt reads Danielle's diary, is followed by a stranger, and keeps hearing a girl's singing when no one else can (hint, it's Rachel). But then a bunch of stuff is sprung on the Reader: an ancient prophecy, a special brush that holds a key Wyatt and Rachel will need, and Rachel's special healing powers that is strangely, and dangerously, similar to Disney's Tangled (only without the chameleon). There are some great ideas in the plot! But it's too rushed.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: First person, past tense. There are two narrators: Wyatt and Rachel. Wyatt is the principle narrator, and he's all right. I enjoyed Rachel's more; she had a better narration voice due to her havng only read classic literature all her life.

Content: 2 s-words.

Conclusion: Now that the prophecy is sprung on us Readers, it's also time to reveal this ages-old curse the whole town is under! And all of those people who mysteriously disappeared over the years? That has a magical explanation as well, and the villains . . . Well, it's just a tidy, and ultimately rather disappointing, end for everyone. I liked the concept of Towering, and it had great potential. But it was rushed and sprung too many things all at once at the very end. And I didn't care about Wyatt.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, ages fifteen-and-up, good for fans of modern fairytale retellings.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sea of Monsters

Books to Movies is a feature where I review movies based off books! These reviews are for people who have read the book, so spoilers are definitely within.

Rated: PG

Is it worth watching?

As with The Lightning Thief, if you like the books, it will drive you up a wall. They changed so much that it hardly resembles the original story. But if you're just looking for a fun summer flick to go see with your friends and family, Sea of Monsters isn't the worst choice you could make. It's relatively entertaining, well made, and not ridiculously long.

Is it clean?

Yes. Again, Percy and his friends are the result of Greek gods getting together with mortals, but there are no details either visual or verbal. And the powers some of demigods weald are more like superpowers than magic. There is no language or excessive violence - it's all quite bloodless, though Percy takes a bit of a pounding when a mechanical bull breaks into Camp Half-Blood. Kronos and the Oracle might be a bit scary for younger kids.

How is the cast?

While I still maintain my opinion that Logan Lerman just isn't Percy Jackson, I have to admit that I've warmed to his portrayal a bit more than my original opinion. My biggest issue with him is he's too old. If they were making The Heroes of Olympus series, then he would actually work rather well, visually. Acting ability-wise, I almost feel like he's holding back. I watched Sea of Monsters with an open mind, and I must admit that I think Logan Lerman actually does have it in him to be the perfect Percy Jackson. But as it is, there's something lacking in his performance (which may or may not be entirely his fault), and he's just too old. Alexandra Daddario's Annabeth may have blonde hair now (well, sort of blonde), but I still don't like her as Annabeth. She doesn't come across as having an Attitude, but she's also not very useful and just lacks Annabeth's spunk. And I am still dead-set against Brandon T. Jackson's portrayal of Grover. I love Grover in the books! He's annoying in the movies. But what about the new characters and cast? Pierce Brosnan isn't Chiron anymore; Anthony Head is. And I have to admit that I liked him as Chiron. I haven't seen Anthony Head play many likable characters, so I was dubious when I found out he was the new Chiron. But it worked! Stanley Tucci was the perfect Dionysus and yes, Nathan Fillion actually worked splendidly as Hermes. I hate to admit it, because I am not - as a matter of principle - a Nathan Fillion fan, but this time I liked him. Unfortunately, that's where the good casting ends. Douglas Smith was not a good Tyson. Again, too old, and just . . . . not Tyson. Visually, I was fine with him, even though he really didn't look the way I imagined Tyson. But his delivery just didn't convey the personality or mentality Tyson has. Tyson's simplistic, yet perceptive, way of thinking was totally lost, and his childish curiosity nil. They got his trusting and blind faith spot on, but that's about it. Tyson's natural ability to work with metals was also never touched on, making him a pretty useless addition to their group, unfortunately, because Tyson is very useful in the book. Finally, there's Clarisse, played by Leven Rambin. Okay, she did better than I was expecting. Visually, she looked nothing like how I pictured Clarisse. I imagined Clarisse much more muscular. Not ridiculously so, but this girl had noodle arms. However, amazingly enough Leven Rambin's portrayal didn't come across as an Attitude, either. Nor did I feel Clarisse's genuine dislike for Percy, and that may be because the writers of the movie totally obliterated the feud between Percy and Clarisse's dad, Ares. So, while some of the minor characters were good, once more the major cast was faulty. Don't even get me started on Luke.

Did the story stay close to the book?

Um, no. Because they messed The Lightning Thief up so badly, there was no way Sea of Monsters could be salvaged. The movie makers were forced to make the changes that they did, though some of them they didn't have to do. The beginning is nothing like the book. Percy is a full-time camper in the movies, rather than going back out into the mortal world in between summers. So if you were hoping to see the deadly dodgeball game between Percy and the cannibalists giants, forget it; it's not there. Tyson doesn't find Percy in the outside world and protect him from monsters; he just comes wandering into Camp Half-Blood one day, at Poseidon's bidding, to keep Percy company. Yes, Thalia's tree is still poisoned, and a cure must be found before the barrier is totally broken. Clarisse is given the quest to journey to the Sea of Monsters and retrieve the Golden Fleece from Polyphemus' lair, and Percy and Co. sneak out of camp to help. Wait - what about Percy's dreams? What about Grover's quest to find Pan and getting captured by Polyphemus? Well, Grover's quest for Pan is nonexistent in the movie, and therefore so are Percy's dreams. Unlike in the book, everyone already knows where the Golden Fleece is; it's just that no one has tried to capture it. The Fleece gives off a scent that lures satyrs to Polyphemus' island, so Grover tags along with Percy's group so they can find it.

Did they even get the little things right?

Okay, so here are the changes, both medium and small: Grover does end up being captured by Polyphemus (never mind how; I don't want to give everything away), but he poses as a chambermaid, not a Cyclops bride. The quest for the Golden Fleece doesn't echo Odysseus' voyage, like in the book, because the movie makers got rid of so much: Scylla, Circe's island, even the way they distract Polyphemus. Circe's island is referenced; in the movie, she built a theme park on Polyphemus' island, but he kept eating her costumers, so she shut it down. I don't know why Circe would build a theme park; a spa, like in the book, makes much more sense. In any case, we never get to meet Circe. And because we never get to meet Circe, and Percy doesn't get turned into a guinea pig, the vitamins Hermes gives Percy are replaced with something else: a tape gun that dissolves whatever you outline with the tape. The incident with Monster Donuts is gone, which I understood because it isn't wholly important to the plot, and also they already had a hydra in the first movie. Oh, and those flesh-eating sheep Polyphemus keeps? They're gone, too. Annabeth still doesn't have her cap of invisibility, so the whole thing with taunting Polyphemus by pretending to be Nobody is cut out as well. Clarisse does still have her steamship, which I was glad to see, but it doesn't blow up at any point. Tyson almost dies in a different way, which I actually kinda liked better, because it was much more of a personal sacrifice and a deliberate protection of Percy. Tantalus is completely cut ou of the movie. When Thalia's tree is poisoned, Percy immediately discovers that Luke is responsible, so Chiron isn't dismissed from the camp. There are no chariot races and no vicious pigeons. You can forget about meeting the Party Ponies, too. The makers also changed the rules of the Mist. It isn't a supernatural occurrence that keeps mortals from seeing the unexplainable; it's a spray that can cover up the abnormal temporarily - like Tyson's one eye. Probably the most annoying little thing for me, though, was the Golden Fleece itself. It wasn't a fleece - it was a skin with pretty gold patterns sewn into it. Sorry, but that's not how I picture the Fleece - at all. And probably the biggest "little" thing they changed was the prophecy. They expanded it to not only include future events, but what would also happen on the quest for the Golden Fleece. Don't worry, though - the hippocampus is still in the movie - and he's really awesome - and the mechanical bull, which is also really awesome.

But the ending is good, right?

It's different. Very different. Because it's a movie, the makers upped the showdown between Luke and Percy by a lot. And when I say a lot, I mean to the point where Luke actually uses the Fleece to resurrect Kronos - which, by the way, totally didn't happen in the book! That's what Luke planned on using the Fleece for, but it didn't actually happen. And while Kronos is actually rather intimidating in the book, he isn't at all in the movie. And if Luke truly died at the end, that's going to seriously mess up future movies, because Luke - as we Readers all know - is more than a little important in the later stories.

So if I absolutely adore the book, will I like the movie?

Quite honestly, I actually cannot give a straightforward yes-or-no answer, which I wasn't expecting. Yes, the movie is entirely different. But because of what they did to the first one, they really had no choice but to change a lot of things. And also, I can appreciate them not wanting to make a 2-hour+ long movie, which is what they would have had to do to keep it strictly like the book. The actors were not the best choices for the characters, but they are still good actors and I got used to them - except Grover and Tyson. As a regular movie-goer, I actually enjoyed it. As a Percy Jackson fan, I was sad at the changes, but I actually have a hard time saying that I hated them. Oh, I didn't like who played Tyson and Grover, and Annabeth and Clarisse could have used some work. Percy still has potential, and I think that as  I watch the (I assume) further sequels, I may actually come to like this Percy Jackson as much as the Percy Jackson in the books. I was sad they cut out Tantalus and Circe's island, and I sad that Percy's quest didn't echo Odysseus' voyage as much as it did in the book. But again, I also appreciate that this movie wasn't 2+ hours long. What irked me the most was the end. So, I guess this is what I think: if you adore the book and hate any change of any kind, you'll hate the movie. If you adore the book, but can accept that a movie adaption needs changes - especially when they've already messed up the first movie - you'll find it entertaining, if not a little depressing that they had to make so many. If you adore the book but like it when movies are totally different, you'll love the movie equally.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday #10

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.
It's a weekly meme about upcoming books we're excited about!

Fire Storm
(Young Sherlock Holmes #4)
by Andrew Lane
Publication Date (US): October 1, 2013

From Goodreads:

Fourteen-year-old Sherlock has come up against some challenges in his time, but what confronts him now is completely baffling. His tutor, Crowe, and Crowe's daughter, Ginny, have vanished. Their house looks as if nobody has ever lived there. Neighbors claim never to have heard of them. Sherlock begins to doubt his sanity, until a chance clue leads him into the throes of a mystery that involves kidnapping, bodysnatchers, and a man who claims he can raise the dead. Before he knows it, Sherlock is fighting for his life as he battles to discover what has happened to his friends.

Beauty's Daughter
by Carolyn Meyer
Publication Date: October 8, 2013

From Goodreads:

What is it like to be the daughter of the most beautiful woman in the world?

Hermione knows . . . her mother is Helen of Troy, the famed beauty of Greek myth. Helen is not only beautiful but also impulsive, and when she falls in love with charming Prince Paris, she runs off with him to Troy, abandoning her distraught daughter. Determined to reclaim their enchanting queen, the Greek army sails for Troy. Hermione stows away in one of the thousand ships in the fleet and witnesses the start of the legendary Trojan War.

In the rough Greek encampment outside the walls of Troy, Hermione's life is far from that of a pampered princess. Meanwhile, her mother basks in luxury in the royal palace inside the city. Hermione desperately wishes for the gods and goddesses to intervene and end the brutal war - and to bring her love. Will she end up with the handsome archer Orestes, or the formidable Pyrrhus, leader of a tribe of warriors? And will she ever forgive her mother for bringing such chaos to her life and the lives of so many others?