Friday, October 31, 2014

Hedgie's Must Reads: October 2014


Gasp! It's the end of October! That means Christmas is exactly one month away! Well, December is, at least, but to me the whole month of December is Christmas. :-) So October was a great month. It was busy; I'm so glad I took that break in September. Worked a lot, even wrote some in my new story, didn't read as much as I wanted to, but still found some good books! But enough with all that - let's get into the books! So technically, I read these in September, but they didn't get reviewed until October, due to my little month-long break.



October Wrap-Up



The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas (3/5)
A series of five novella prequels to Throne of Glass, telling Celaena's story of how she ended up in the salt mines and what happened to Sam. I enjoyed most of the novellas, wasn't a huge of the romance - and unsurprisingly Celaena - but it was terrific backstory that helped me understand Celaena better. I still don't like her, though. However, Arobynn Hamel, the Assassin King, makes this collection totally worth reading! Overall, I enjoyed it. Girl-and-guy read, seventeen-and-up, fans of fantasy!




When Ava Lavender is born with bird wings, her mother locks her away from the neighborhood in fear of what they might do. But Ava doesn't intend to be locked up forever; she wants to see the world. Determined to find out why she has wings, she learns that her ancestors weren't exactly normal themselves. And then tragedy strikes. This was a gorgeously written book, with lots of well-developed characters. But I also didn't like many of them, and the story overall left me feeling disturbed. Still mostly on the fence about how I feel about it as a whole. But the writing alone makes it worth reading.

Book #2 in the Harry Potter series. When Harry Potter receives a warning that he mustn't go back to Hogwarts, it only makes him more determined to escape the Dursleys. Once there, strange things start happening and whispers of the mysterious Chamber of Secrets having once again been opened begin to circulate. I can understand why this is a favorite with a lot of Potter fans. It's fun, it reads like a mystery, and we learn more about the world of witchcraft and wizardry - and about some character pasts! Girl-and-boy read, fans of fantasy!



The Minister's Daughter by Julie Hearn (3/5)
Set in a 17th-century English village, tragedy strikes and suspicions rise against the local cunningwoman when the minister's two daughters claim they are being tormented by a witch. This was a very short read, but also very good. Not a huge fan of writing style, though I very much enjoyed the authentic-feeling dialogue. The dash of real magic - pixies and faeries - threw me for a moment, but got used to it after a while. The ending wasn't disappointing, but I wish there had been more to this story. Girl-read, seventeen-and-up, fans of historical fantasy.



City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare (3/5)
Book #2 in The Mortal Instruments series. When someone starts murdering Downworlder children and the Soul-Sword goes missing, the Inquisitor of the Conclave suspects Jace. But Clary knows that Valentine, their father, is responsible, and she's running out of time to prove Jace's innocence. Once again, I really liked the world building and enjoyed the overall plot. It was exciting and fun. However, the romance is just awkward in this installment - even though I know "the twist." Girl-read, eighteen-and-up, fans of paranormal and fallen angel/demon fiction.




Best Reads of October

Love By the Morning Star by Laura L. Sullivan (4/5)
Anna is a common English girl who desperately wishes she were an aristocrat. Hannah is a half-Jewish German girl who is sent to England to live with her mother's rich family. Anna is sent there, too - as a kitchen maid. But their roles are quite unexpectedly switched - and then you throw in some romance. It's a hysterical mess. I loved this book so much. It was hilarious and well-written and just a touch dark. I couldn't stop laughing, even though none of the characters were necessarily the most likable. Girl-read, eighteen-and-up, fans of historical fiction and good romantic comedies (like The Importance of Being Earnest).


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
An adult historical fiction novel set in WWII-era France and Germany. This tale follows a blind French girl and a young German boy who becomes a protege when his skill with radios is discovered. Unbeknownst to them, their lives will intertwine when Germany invades France and the Wehrmacht starts hunting down a priceless, and possibly cursed, diamond. A surprisingly quick read, this is a very well-researched, moving, dark, and beautiful story that begs to end in tragedy. Girl-and-guy read, twenty-and-up, fans of tragic historical fiction.



The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (4/5)
Book #1 in the Lockwood & Co. series. Something has happened to cause all the ghosts in Britain to become very active. Nighttime isn't safe anymore, and ghost hunting companies are forced to hire kids to take care of the poltergeist problem, as children are more sensitive to supernatural activity. Through some unfortunate events, Lucy Carlyle is put in the employment of Lockwood & Co. - a ghost-hunting company run without adult supervision. Their reputation is slowly waning, and they're forced to take on England's most haunted house. This was equal parts hilarious and equal parts terrifying, with amazing characters to boot. Girl-and-boy read, twelve-and-up, fans of supernatural.



Worst Reads of October


Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern (2/5)
Anne has been disabled her entire life. She's fiercely intelligent, but she can't talk and sometimes she can't control what her body does. Michael is a quiet, severely-OCD boy who was once brutally honest to Anne. Now he's been asked to help Anne around to her classes. What sparks between them is more than friendship. I liked this book up until a certain twist in the end that I just didn't understand the purpose for it. It kinda ruined the whole book for me. Girl-read, eighteen-and-up, fans of The Fault in Our Stars.




The Universe Builders by Steve LeBel (2/5)
Bernie is recently graduated from god school. Now, he just has to prove that he can build stable worlds. Unfortunately for Bernie, his old school rival Billie works in the same department as Bernie. And he's out for revenge. The premise was great, but the world building was rather dull, the characters pretty basic, and the dialogue a bit of a chore to get through. I was curious to see how Bernie was going to succeed in the end, since his case looked so completely and utterly hopeless. But overall, it could have been done better. Girl-and-guy read, fifteen-and-up. 



Best and Worst Book of October

Thursday, October 30, 2014

October 2014 Book Haul


October is over! Which means we're heading in to the serious holidays! Yay! (I think.) So October was pretty busy; I didn't get as much reading done as I wanted, but I certainly got a lot of book buying done. To be totally and absolutely fair to myself, 26 of these book were $1.00 each (can't pass up a bargain like that!) and several more were free review copies (finished ones at that!). So in reality, while this book haul is massive, I didn't actually spend all that much money.




Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday #65 + WWW Wednesday #35

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

The Retribution of Mara Dyer
(Mara Dyer #3)
by Michelle Hodkin
Publication Date: November 4, 2014

From Goodreads:

Mara Dyer wants to believe there's more to the lies she's been told. There is.

She doesn't stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead. She should.

She never had to imagine how far she would go for vengeance. She will now.

Loyalties are betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and fat and chance collide in this shocking conclusion to Mara Dyer's story. Retribution has arrived.

Why I'm Excited

- True, I haven't yet read the other books. But I plan to very soon (this will, in fact, probably be the next series I buy), and I've heard nothing but good - and odd - things about this series.
- I like odd.

Mortal Heart
(His Fair Assassin #3)
by Robin LaFevers
Publication Date: November 4, 2014

From Goodreads:

Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.

She has spent her her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn't mean she has. . . .

Why I'm Excited

- The conclusion to a series that just gets better and better!
- Finally, we get to hear about the one girl I have actually been the most curious about!
- It's here!!

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Should Be Reading
What are you currently reading?

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things, though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

I have quite literally just started this book, and am only 50 pages in. Can't even begin to tell you how excited I am to be reading this finally! Will we get some answers? More questions? Probably!

What did you read recently?

Paul is the new kid at Mortingham Boarding Academy, and he has a dark secret.

Caitlyn admires Paul from afar and resents that he only has eyes for Erika.

Erika thinks that she and Caitlyn are best friends, but she's wrong.

Adam is a bully with a major chip on his shoulder.

Mark is outgrowing his old friends but doesn't know to make new ones.

In a few short hours, none of this will matter. Without warning, a horrifying infection will spread across the school grounds, and a group of students with little in common will find themselves barricaded in a classroom, fighting for their lives. Some will live. Some will die. And then it will get even worse.

I'm not really a zombie fan - actually, I'm totally not. But Silver was creepy. Cyborg zombies! They are so awesome. I gave this book 4/5 strawberries, because it actually did spook me a bit, the plot was awesome, and there was some surprising character depth for a relatively short read.

What do you plan on reading next?

Cast out of her family three years ago, Mara turned to the only place that would take her - a school where students train to protect others. But Mara is stunned when guarding a noble girl in the Empire's capital turns out to be more dangerous than she could've imagined. More shocking still, she finds the boy she thought she had lost forever outside the gates of her new home.

Mara knew her life in the dizzying Imperial city would hold dangers. How could she have known that her heart, as well as her life, would be at stake?

The second book in the Bhinian Empire series, I have an ARC of this that I really must read before the book is actually released. I enjoyed the first book pretty well, so I'm excited to delve back into this world with a new protagonist.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday #63 + Teaser Tuesday #24



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


This week's topic: Top 10 Characters I Would Want to Be for Halloween. Quite honestly, I have no idea. And I'm tired enough that if I weren't dedicated to this blog and my readers, I would just skip this Top 10. But I won't! I will persevere! So, watch as I muddle my way through this!

  1. Halt from Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan. Or, really, just any Ranger. It doesn't necessarily have to be Halt. I have the bow and the horse and the cloak - why not?
  2. Violet Baudelaire from A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. I actually did dress up as Violet one year - not for Halloween; another event (can't remember what). And it was fun. Sadly, I don't think my Violet costume fits anymore. . . .
  3. Flavia Gemina from The Roman Mysteries by Caroline Lawrence. Also dressed up as her on numerous occasions. Sewing a sky-blue tunic isn't hard.
  4. George from Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene. Forget dressing up as Nancy Drew; everyone does (or did) that! George was my favorite anyway. Tomboyish and practical. Nancy always kinda irritated me.
  5. Celaena Sardothean from Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Celaena may be my least favorite character in that series, but I have to admit that I would be really, really fun to dress up as her. The world-class assassin.
  6. Sage from The Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen. So this is under the assumption that I could actually make myself look like a boy (it'd take a bit of work). The truth is I like dressing up as guy characters; they get to have all the fun! And Sage would be fun. Of course, no one would know who I was supposed to be. . . .
  7. Annabeth from Percy Jackson & the Olympians by Rick Riordan. Because she's the daughter of Athena, and awesome.
  8. Ella of Frell from Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. Gotta throw a future princess in there somewhere, right? And I think we can all agree that Ella is awesome. Hey, be glad I didn't say Char (no, that would just be weird).
  9. Brenda from the Maze Runner Series by James Dashner. Something tells me that there's going to be a lot of Gladers running around this Halloween. So I'm going as original as I possibly can with this series: I bet no one is going as Brenda.
  10. Magnus from Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes. Actually, a Watcher would be more fun, but Magnus might be my favorite in the series. And like I said, I'm blundering through this Top 10 topic, and he's the first that popped into my head.
Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading

- Grab the book you're currently reading.
- Flip to a random page!
- Share 2 teaser sentences from that page!

Adam joined him. Although he had homework to do and Cabeswater to tend, it was difficult to feel hurried. The air in the barn was drowsy and timeless, and there was nothing disagreeable about rifling through the wonders and follies. Some of the things in the barn were machines that still ran by means mysterious. But others were things that Niall Lynch must have dreamt into life, because now they slept. They found sleeping birds among the clutter, and a sleeping cat, and an old-fashioned stuffed bear that must have been alive, too, because its chest rose and fell. With their creator dead, all of them were beyond waking - unless, like Ronan's mother, they were returned to Cabeswater. Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater (pg. 158-159)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Review: The Universe Builders - Steve LeBel

A copy was provided by the author
in exchange for
an honest review
The Universe Builders by Steve LeBel
Genre: YA, fantasy, science fiction
Published on August 1, 2014
Published by Argon Press
Pages: 420
Read From: 10.4.14 - 10.17.14
















SYNOPSIS
We've all heard of the fabled perfect being, the Greek God. 
Well, how about a geek god? named Bernie, yet. 
Fresh with his diploma from God School, determined but unsure, bright but without confidence, Bernie faces the challenge of building his own universe. If only it were that easy. . . . 
An old school rival will do whatever it takes to ensure Bernie's failure, even if it means destroying his world. 
It's god vs. god, guile vs. goodness, where only one of them plays by the rules. Bernie must find a way to outwit his evil foe. If he fails, it will cost him everything.

Review

Cover Blurb: Yes or No? The cover art isn't bad. It's very sci-fi and rather interesting.


Characters: I wanted to connect to someone very badly, but I just couldn't. Bernie was a nice enough guy, but he was also pretty flat - as was Lenny and Suzie and all the others. Actually, I wanted to throttle Suzie, she was such a perfect little person, always worried about what Bernie had for lunch and whether or not he was getting enough sleep, and never having a bad thought about anyone. It wasn't that she was too nice - because I will never hate a character for being too nice. She was just irritating. At first, I was indifferent to her, and then it suddenly hit me like a tidal wave that I in fact quite disliked her. Billie was at first really fun to hate; he was an awful person. But after a while. . . .I just got bored. With everyone.

The Romance: Suzie has a crush on Bernie. It doesn't go anywhere.

Plot: Bernie has graduated from god school, and now it's time for him to get a job as a builder of worlds. The problem? Bernie sometimes has trouble following the rules, especially when it comes to dealing with created life forms. Other gods have no trouble blinking thinking beings out of existence if they need - or want - to. They have no trouble antagonizing their civilizations so war breaks out. As far as the average god is concerned, they're just things incapable of true thought or feeling. Bernie doesn't believe it, and such problems with ethics might get in the way of his being able to create worlds for a living. But the other gods are willing to give Bernie a chance, and so Bernie is accepted on a trial run. However, Bernie still has other problems: his nemesis from school Billie. Billie hasn't forgiven Bernie for what he did to him in school, and now Billie is out for revenge. It helps that the boss is also Billie's uncle, and Billie is determined to prove Bernie an absolute and totally incompetent world builder. Bernie is going to have to be clever and resilient to win this one. The overall concept of The Universe Builders was interesting. Readers are introduced to the world of the gods - of powerful beings who create worlds and can do pretty much anything. What was my problem with this book? The world of the gods was nothing new. They wear jeans, go to lunch in cafeterias and restaurants, live in normal houses, work in construction and banks, go to a regular old school - pretty much live like we do. When introduced to the "world of the gods," I expected something quite different; something unfamiliar and new and unique. So world-building-wise, I was a little disappointed. The plot itself doesn't have a whole lot going. Bernie tries to build his world, Billie ruins it, Bernie has to fix it, Billie ruins it some more - et cetera. This goes on for, well, the entire book. What kept me reading was: I wanted to know how Bernie was going to succeed, because his plight really did look totally hopeless. But it didn't take me long to get a little bored with everything, as it just kept repeating and repeating and repeating.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. The dialogue was no good; it read like Dick and Jane, with 30's slang like "gosh" and "golly" and such. Outside of dialogue, the writing style wasn't bad and even at times had a nice rhythm to it. However, the Author spent a lot of time on unnecessary detail and countless reiterations of ideas and plans and character thoughts. Right in the middle of the book, the Author gave a lesson on how the supply distribution system works - why?! And every once in a while, there would be snippets from Bernie's journal that would reiterate events that had already been covered in the previous chapter.

Content: None.

Conclusion: My lukewarm feelings towards this book didn't change with the ending. The climax wasn't really all that hair-raising or alarming or anything. The Universe Builders has a great concept at its core - there's no denying that. And the characters could be awesome with more development and complexity. But in general, I was just kind of bored with this book.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, fifteen-and-up.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Stacking the Shelves #65

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


PRE-ORDERS


Atlantia by Ally Condie
For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamed of the sand and sky Above - of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all Rio's hopes for the future are shattered when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected choice, standing Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio's true self - and the powerful siren voice she has long silenced - she has noting left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother's death, her own destiny, and the corrupted system constructed to govern the Divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.

In the Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken
Ruby can't look back. Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government's attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. Only Ruby can keep their highly dangerous prisoner in check. But with Clancy Gray, there's no guarantee you're fully in control, and everything comes with a price.

When the Children's League disbands, Ruby rises up as a leader and forms an unlikely allegiance with Liam's brother, Cole, who has a volatile secret of his own. There are still thousands of other Psi kids suffering in government "rehabilitation camps" all over the country. Freeing them - revealing the government's unspeakable abuses in the process - is the mission Ruby has claimed since her own escape from Thurmond, the worst camp in the country.

But not everyone is supportive of the plan Ruby and Cole craft to free the camps. As tensions rise, competing ideals threaten the mission to uncover the cause of IAAN, the disease that killed most of America's children and left Ruby and others with powers the government will kill to keep contained. With the fate of a generation in their hands, there is no room for error. One wrong move could be the spark that sets the world on fire.

Compulsion by Martina Boone
All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lives with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some miles on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt's South Carolina plantation - a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.

Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she can't see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who knows what Barrie wants before she knows it herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family's twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn't what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.

Talon by Julie Kagawa
Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragonslayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they're positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser.

Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George.

Soldier Garret Xavier Sebastian has a mission to seek and destroy all dragons, and Talon's newest recruits in particular. But he cannot kill unless he is certain he has found his prey - and nothing is certain about Ember Hill. Faced with Ember's bravery, confidence and all-too-human desires, Garret begins to question everything that the Order has ingrained in him - and what he might be willing to give up to find the truth about dragons.


BOUGHT



Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker
There's something about the swamp in Sticks, Louisiana. Something different, something haunting. . . .something alive. Everyone knows this, and everyone avoids going near it. And even the Mardi Gras-bead-decorated fence that surrounds it keeps people away.

Until one morning when Sterling Saucier's older brother, Phineas, runs into the swamp. . . .

And doesn't return.

Instead, a girl named Lenora May climbs out in his place, and all of a sudden, no one in Sticks remembers Phin at all. They treat Lenora May as if she's been Sterling's sister forever.

Sterling needs to figure out what the swamp's done with her beloved brother and how Lenora May is connected to his disappearance - but first she's got to find someone who believes her.

Heath Durham might be that someone. A loner shrouded behind rumors of drug addiction, Heath has had his own strange experience with the swamp. He and Sterling will have to piece together enough bits of memory and ancient swamp lore to get to the truth. But as the wild swamp encroaches on their town, Sterling and Heath may find a lot more than they expected. . . .and Phin may be lost to them forever.

This Week, On The Reading Hedgehog.......

October 20, 2014 - Monday
October 21, 2014 - Tuesday
October 22, 2014 - Wednesday
October 23, 2014 - Thursday
October 24, 2014 - Friday
October 25, 2014 - Saturday

Next Week, On The Reading Hedgehog........

October 27, 2014 - Monday
Review: The Universe Builders - Steve LeBel
October 28, 2014 - Tuesday
Top Ten Tuesday #63: Top 10 Characters I Would Want to Be for Halloween
Teaser Tuesday #25
October 29, 2014 - Wednesday
Waiting on Wednesday #66 + WWW Wednesday #36
October 30, 2014 - Friday
October Book Haul
October 31, 2014 - Saturday
Hedgie's Must Reads: October 2014

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Guest Post: Author Behavior

Being involved in the book community, we hear a lot about author behavior; something an author said at an event that has caused a kerfuffle, or something they posted on a social media site. Some of these things have been, I think, blown out of proportion and taken out of context. Others, not so much (like an author stalking a blogger). So I've asked my guest bloggers, Hazel, Kel, and Katherine, to talk about what they think about author behavior. How should authors behave on their social media sites and at events? And what does it do to your regard for an author if they behave in a less-than-professional manner?

Katherine's Thoughts


I wrote a short story once. It was for my 9th-grade English class. I worked extremely hard on that story, simply because I don't have the natural talent some authors have when creating characters and worlds. The story was complete rubbish and I knew it. In fact, I'm surprised the FBI hasn't come looking for me, considering that I pretty much stole all the ideas from Gossip Girl (for the record, though, I got an A. Said story went in the recycle bin, never to see the light of day again).

As an author, you need to have a thick skin. That's not a suggestion; that's a fact. You may think that you're book or story is the most precious thing on the face of the planet, the best thing since the baby Jesus was born. But the hard truth is, not everyone is going to like your book. Some people will love your book to death; others will revile it and tear it apart. A lot of people think that William Shakespeare is the greatest writer in the English language. Others think he's horrible, unintelligible, and all around boring.

Even though I'm not an author myself (and never plan to), I do know that the best way to better yourself as a storyteller is to take all criticism, good and bad, and LEARN from it. Oftentimes, it will help you tremendously in the long run. Unfortunately, not all authors realize it.

Some of you may not have been aware of the most recent (and possibly most frightening) incidents of authors behaving badly. Kathleen Hale, author of No One Else Can Have You, wrote an article for The Guardian about her possibly being Catfished by a book blogger. Said book blogger wrote a one star (but not offensive) review of her book, so what does the author do? She stalks the blogger on the social media front, obtains her address (and confirms it with HarperCollins), GOES TO HER HOUSE, PEEKS IN HER CAR, AND CONFRONTS the book blogger at her house. All because of a one star review. The blogger got so scared that she's no longer blogging, and has virtually disappeared off the social media sites, though I really can't blame her.

I'm sorry, but this is NOT OKAY. STALKING IS NOT OKAY. This could have gone horribly wrong, as was the case of another BBA, Robert Brittan. He got so enraged by a one-star review that he tracked the reviewer down and hit her over the head with a wine bottle. What if Ms. Hale had done that? This blogger has young children. Previous articles of the author's have shown she has a history of obsessive and violent behavior. If could have gone really wrong, really fast. But no bad review should ever be worth doing something so morally corrupt, disgusting, and unacceptable.

For example, Divergent got pretty lackluster critical reviews when it came out. Suppose, hypothetically, that Theo James happened to read one of these said bad reviews and take it upon himself to hunt down the critic, look up his address, and confront him personally. I don't care how hot Theo is, I would immediately lose all my respect for him as an actor and as a person. Because what he did would be unethical and morally wrong (that being said, I can say with certainty that he would most likely never do anything like that).

The Internet these days has made it easier than ever with readers to interact with their favorite authors. But it's also made it more dangerous. This whole incident with Hale has made it perfectly clear that we as reviewers have to be especially careful with who we give inform out to. We should not, however, have to apologize for giving our honest opinions about books. We're not doing this for pay. We're not doing this so we can potentially destroy an author's career. We do this for fun, for the enjoyment of sharing our love of reading and certain books with others. If I were ever an author, I would much rather someone hate my book and give me an honest opinion than suppress their real feelings for fear of me being hurt.

As far as author interaction is concerned, I do think it's wonderful when authors interact with their fans, whether in person or on the Internet. There should be boundaries, though. Authors should NEVER ask for your personal information. I don't care if you're the Queen of Sheba, you ARE NOT getting my personal details. And unless you know the author personally, don't invite them other, either. In general, readers, reviewers and authors just need to be extremely careful when it comes to interacting with their fans, just like actors need to be careful when interacting with their fans as well.

Kel's Thoughts

I think the rule for how authors should behave is the same for how everyone should behave: treat others the way you'd like to be treated. Beyond that, I'm not going to comment on "how authors should behave." They're adults, they're professionals, and they know that what they say, for better or worse, may have an effect on their book sales.

I will, however, say that, as with celebrities, I do my best to avoid chatter and gossip surrounding authors. We all bring different beliefs, preferences, politics, etc. to the table when we read. Knowing things about the author's personal life/actions can color my perspective while reading a book, so I try to limit my exposure to that.

If I like a book, it doesn't mean I have to love the author or vote the same way or like the same music. Similarly, hating a book doesn't mean I have to despise the author and avoid him/her. Good example: I HATED an eARC I read this summer, but I still follow the author on Instagram because he posts cute puppy photos. :)

The other thing I try to remember in these matters is grace. I'm not always as forgiving as I should be, and I jump the gun way too often; but we all make mistakes and say stupid things. It's easy to pick a side and join the attack. Applying the Golden Rule to the situation? Especially to all parties involved? That's a little harder.

Hazel's Thoughts

The past couple months seem to have shown a blow up of authors being less than courteous to their readers, whether through social media or even, at the extreme, stalking (without naming names). This isn't socially acceptable behavior in any quarter, but it makes it all the worse when it's authors doing this to their readers. As an author myself, I find this particularly despicable. I would never think to mistreat my readers thusly. They are the people who keep us going! Whether they give you a bad review or not, you shouldn't go ballistic and have a tiff over it like a five-year-old, because that's what they're acting like. And refusing to answer that you term "stupid questions?" If you offer on your websites for readers to contact you with questions, then you should be ready to answer anything, no matter how mundane. If you aren't prepared for that, then don't offer.

Social medial being so big these days, stuff flies around the internet really fast, and this might not be a good thing. Sometimes an author might just be having a bad day and they say something biting, and regret it later. Then everyone blows it out of proportion. However, the point (to me, anyway) of posting stuff in the internet, is that you are typing something out. You have to think about it that much longer, and it's not just something that comes out of your mouth on a whim, so you must mean it enough to choose to write it down and post it on the internet, and your own social media sites as well. In that instance, I do believe that the authors are fully aware of what they are doing, and for whatever reason, they want to make themselves look bad. Whatever, just remember, like when you were a kid throwing a tantrum, there will be consequences.

I've seen several boycotts going on around Goodreads for books written by authors who have gone off the reservation. Even as an author myself, I am totally for this. It's the only way they're going to realize that what they did could actually affect them and the sales of their books. I would hope that if I was ever terrible to my readers, then I would be reprimanded. I can only hope these author will change their ways, though I think the stigma will always be with them.

And let's talk about reviews, as this seems to be one of the problem areas. A true reviewer will write an honest review, whether they pick up a book from the library or are given the book by the author themselves. That should have no affect on the final outcome of the book. If it sucked, it sucked, plainly put. Authors cannot go into writing without a spine. You can only hope that everyone will love your book, yeah - we all do. But it's not reality and you also need to keep that in perspective and put a helmet on. You're going to get bad reviews. That's just how it goes. Not everyone likes a book equally. I will agree that some reviewers don't go about reviewing properly, either. You can't just say you hated a book without giving a reason for it. But nor should authors hate on the readers for that, either. Several of my favorite authors have written books I've hated, but I still love their work; I just didn't like that particular book. Authors just take things too seriously. They worry too much about ratings, when the truth of the matter is that true writers do not write for that. We write because we love it, no matter what anyone else thinks. It's not going to stop up from writing what we want to. And in my experience, for every one bad review, there are usually one or two good ones. In fact, the only review I have ever gotten was not even a bad review; the person just said they thought something should have happened with my characters that was way off the mark. And I didn't go off and call them out because of it, either. As an author, you do have the right to hate a review and even cry or yell about it. But that does not give you the right to publicly say so.

The one thing I will not tolerate as an author is hating the readers, so I hate it when authors call them out. There is no excuse for that. They are the only people who keep you going. Without them, you wouldn't be anything, therefore treat them well! Because if the ratings go down, guess whose fault that is. There are a lot of terrible books out there that have great ratings, so it literally means nothing.

To make a long story short, if you're an author, are spending your time surfing the internet, just looking for people hating on you, stop and go back to writing! If you can't handle the pressure, you don't need to be out there putting authors in a bad light. Always use social media responsibly.

The Reading Hedgehog's Thoughts

I am a bit of a hypocrite - or at least, I will be, once I go from writer to published author. Why? Because I understand what it must be like with fans. Fans are such a double-edged sword; they're great because they make your book successful and who doesn't love sharing their work with people who appreciate it? On the other hand, though, you also have the fans that can pervert your characters and your story through fanfiction, or fans who are creepy and annoying. As a writer, I cannot imagine anything worse than having some unknown person write a fanfiction that totally distorts my characters and my story. As the writer, the characters are way more than "just characters."

So, how can I fault an author who is, say, very vocal on their thoughts about such fans and fanfiction - especially when they're asked? Of course, there is a place and a time to voice certain opinions, but I absolutely cannot blame an author for wanting to make their view clear on something that directly concerns something that is so near and dear to their heart. Again, especially if they are asked. Is there a way of putting it without being downright rude? Oh, sure. Will media take it that way or blow it up into something that it wasn't? Absolutely.

Why does this make me a hypocrite? Because I also can't stand authors who are rude to fans. That person has traveled - sometimes quite a distance - to meet you and talk about how much they love your book, and ask some burning questions. There's nothing more disappointing, more depressing than discovering that a person you admire is really a jerk. Thankfully, I have never met an author who has been like this, and in general (but not always) I think YA and Middle Grade authors tend to be a lot nicer. They're writing YA and Middle Grade because it's fun and it's what they love.

Something that makes me even more of a hypocrite: when I'm an author, I know that if someone asks me what I think of fanfiction, I will tell them the truth (I don't like it), and if a fan ever said something untrue about my characters, I would correct them, and probably not in the nicest manner (it would totally depend on what they said about my character, though).

But being an author and doing author events is a profession; it's part of your job. And as anyone who is good at their job knows, you have to maintain a professional face. It's part of it, unfortunately. It may grate on the author's nerves, they may want to scream and shout, but it is part of the job. Bite your tongue, be diplomatic if at all possible, and grin and bear it.

This ties into social media behavior. Authors, of course, can say whatever they want on their social media pages - or even in public. They have freedom of speech as much as the next person. But if you tie your social media to your job (AKA writing and promoting your books), you're going to have to treat it with the same professionalism as events. And if you say something that angers a lot of people, well, accept the consequences. Fans are, fortunately and sometimes unfortunately, how your books gain success. They are your market; they are your clientele. That doesn't mean you have to give in to their every demand (like changing things in your story; never sacrifice what the story needs for popular demand). But you do have to behave professionally toward them in interactions. If authors really want a social media space where they can vent, make it private, put it under a different name, et cetera. If you're a high-profile author, there's always the risk that some clever bloke with discover your identity, of course. But maybe there's just some things that don't need to said on social media, and should instead be vented to friends and family only.

When it comes to authors reading reviews, I always think it's a bad idea. Just like authors shouldn't read fanfiction or go onto Tumblr (you're setting yourself up for irritation and horror by doing that), it's my opinion that authors should just avoid reviews entirely. Let's face it: someone out there isn't going to like your book. It may be a lot of someones. It may be a few. There's going to be someone who doesn't necessarily express their dislike for your book in the most flattering of terms (whether that's right or wrong is another topic we'll discuss in the future: Blogger Behavior). Don't. Look. Just don't. Because it will bother you, and you will want to respond. And that isn't going to look good for anyone, least of all the author. Reviews are dangerous territory for authors, and it should be avoided by them. You'll save yourself - and others - a lot of problems that way.

It wouldn't be easy being an author, sharing and exposing something so close to you to the ridicule and opinions of the world. It is a fear I fight with daily when I question whether or not I really want to be published (I do, don't worry). But events and social media are used for promotion, and should be treated like any other job. I know authors hear the same stupid questions over and over and over again. But it's part of the job to answer them. There's also this handy-dandy thing called Frequently Asked Questions, as well as putting statements up on your website and/or social media saying, "Hey! I love questions! But I don't always have time to answer all of them! Check out the FAQ to see if maybe your question has been answered already!" And authors, if you open yourself up to be asked literally anything (I know of a few who do), well, that means you'll be asked things that are not related to your books and that's your own fault.

That being said, fans also should be a little more conscientious about what they tell authors (would you really like it if someone told you they wrote a story about something you spent years writing, and they totally twisted everything in it?). But Blogger/Reviewer/Fan Behavior is a topic for another time.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Review: The Screaming Staircase - Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
Series: Lockwood & Co. #1
Genre: Middle Grade, supernatural
Published on September 17, 2013
Published by Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 390
Read From: 10.1.14 - 10.4.14












SYNOPSIS
A sinister Problem has occurred in London: all nature of ghosts, haunts, spirits, and Specters are appearing throughout the city, and they aren't exactly friendly. Only young people have the psychic abilities required to see - and eradicate - these supernatural foes. Many different psychic investigation agencies have cropped up to handle the dangerous work, and they are in fierce competition for business. 
In The Screaming Staircase, the plucky and talented Lucy Carlyle teams up with Anthony Lockwood, the charismatic leader of Lockwood & Co., a small agency that runs independent of any adult supervision. After an assignment leads to both a grisly discovery and a disastrous end, Lucy, Anthony, and their sarcastic colleague, George, are forced to take part in the perilous investigation of Combe Carey Hall, one of the most haunted houses in England. Will Lockwood & Co. survive the Hall's legendary Screaming Staircase and Red Room to see another day?

Review

Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I love the cover art - character impersonators included (you can't see their faces, and anyway, they do look something like how I imagined Lucy and Lockwood). The cover is spooky and intriguing and awesome.


Characters: You know how when you just love absolutely everyone in a book, you don't even know where to begin in explaining why? That's where I'm at with the characters of The Screaming Staircase. They are all too wonderful and unique and awesome that I just want to fangirl. But I won't, because I am not a fangirl. Lucy Carlyle is everything a person could want in a female protagonist bound for supernatural adventures. She has nerves of steel, sarcasm, quick-wittedness, an ability to accept the abnormal and strange, and she's inquisitive and keeps her head on her shoulders. Lucy could not have been a better fit for this story; I really would love to be her (except I don't think I could do the ghost thing very well). Anthony Lockwood, meanwhile, reminds me of what Jackaby would have been like as a kid. I have no idea how old Lockwood is supposed to be; he's a kid still, but he acts quite a bit older. This is not a complaint. A personality like Lockwood's simply cannot be assigned an age. Lockwood takes care of his team, and he needs his team to take care of him, because he forgets to. He's a character of mystery, hilarious, and - well, just awesome. Is it wrong to have a Character Crush on a character who is probably most definitely younger than yourself? ;-) Let us not forget George! George was. . . .interesting. He wasn't quite what I was expecting, but I still loved him. He's the cautious, plan-first-action-later part of the team. He's also quirky in ways Lockwood and Lucy aren't, and they're quirks that you'll just have to read about, because I can't describe them.

The Romance: There isn't any!

Plot: Something happened. No one knows what. But it was something big, and it's caused ghosts of every kind to spring up all around the U.K. The problem? The ghosts aren't typical nice ones, and they can kill people. Even worse, kids are the only ones who can see the specters, as they are much more sensitive to supernatural activity. Everywhere, businesses have sprung up specializing in exterminating troublesome specters, and the streets of any village - the more rich in history, the worse it is - have become dark, dangerous places. Lucy Carlyle, an especially ghost-sensitive girl, has come to London looking for a new place of employment. She eventually stumbles over Lockwood & Co., a business solely run by kids, with absolutely no adult supervision. After a series of not-very-smooth missions, including one that ends in their customer's house burning to the ground, Lockwood & Co. is experiencing a low time in their business. They are facing complete shutdown when a mysterious benefactor hires them to clear out the most haunted mansion in all of England. Many, much more prestigious, ghost hunting companies have tried to clear Combe Carey Hall, and they have all died in the attempt. Now, Lockwood, Lucy, and George must spend one night in the house and not only solve the mystery of the screaming staircase and the Red Room, but survive it as well. And their client isn't making it easy for them. For a Middle Grade novel, The Screaming Staircase was surprisingly creepy. It has a very healthy dose of humor - as only Jonathan Stroud can do it - and I was laughing as much as I was cowering under my blankets. From Chapter 1 to the very end, there are a lot of hair-raising, spooky moments that made me question whether or not I still needed a night light. These ghosts aren't your run-of-the-mill poltergeist (though they have a few of those, too). They are tortured souls bent on murder and revenge. Reading this book on a sunny day didn't even lessen its creepiness. The pacing itself worked really well. The first part of the book follows the present circumstances - which is an ongoing investigation that acts as catalyst for the preceding events. The next part flashes back to how Lucy came to be employed at Lockwood & Co., while also simultaneously giving a bit of history on the Problem. And then it flashes back to current circumstances. It did surprise me how long it took to get the actual Screaming Staircase. In fact, the Red Room seemed to be a bigger deal. But I promise you: the setup is all extremely important, not at all boring, and when you finally do get to the Screaming Staircase, it is so worth the wait.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: First person, past tense. In both current circumstances and flashbacks. The Author has a very, very nice writing style; surprisingly sophisticated for Middle Grade stories. And it's very British, so if you're looking for that classic humor, you won't be disappointed. He's also amazingly good at creating the desired atmosphere for his book.

Content: Spooky ghosts and manifestations. Yes, some of it is disturbing and dark and really, really creepy.

Conclusion: The climax totally delivers. Including a villain! Who, yes, monologues, but you know what - it somehow amazingly worked really well. I cannot wait to see what Book #2 brings - especially with the hints and foreshadowing this book ended with. The Screaming Staircase was a faith-buy - I have never read Jonathan Stroud (though I do have almost all of the Bartimaeus books) and I knew nothing about this book, other than it sounded interesting. So glad I went with my instincts, because it was amazing! Funny and well developed, awesome characters and a totally spooky atmosphere. It's one of my new faves!

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, twelve-and-up, fans of supernatural mysteries and British authors.

Others in the Lockwood & Co. Series:
1)The Screaming Staircase
2)The Whispering Skull

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: City of Ashes - Cassandra Clare

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
Series: The Mortal Instruments #2
Genre: YA, paranormal
Published on March 25, 2008
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Pages: 453
Read From: 9.25.14 - 10.1.14












SYNOPSIS
Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what's normal when you're a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who's becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn't ready to let her go - especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary's only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil - and also her father. 
To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings - and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

Review

Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I love the shiny-ness of these covers, but am not a fan of the body shot. At least this one has a shirt on. . . . ;-)


Characters: Oh, where to start with the characters? For the most part, I am still indifferent to pretty much everyone. I neither hate them nor love them. But with certain situations, I began to form a more solid emotional opinion on some of them. Clary still isn't a bad protagonist, though I wish someone would just sit down and train her, rather than going on about how she can't do this and that and that she's not a proper Shadowhunter. I feel sorry for Alec; he's a really nice, shy guy. And Isabelle still somehow manages to have attitude without being annoying. But Jace. . . .I liked Jace in City of Bones. I didn't really think he was a jerk; just really sarcastic. Well, I don't like him anymore. Jace is all attitude and pouting and sulking and taking things personally. I can't stand that. Simon is sad and adorable; I do really like him. The more secondary characters - Luke, Magnus, et cetera - are still pretty cool. Valentine isn't the world's greatest villain. He's scary in the sense that what he's doing he 100% believes is the right thing. But he talks too much and is extremely cliche.

The Romance: So the love triangle is super awkward. Simon likes Clary, Clary is trying to convince herself that she can feel the same way for Simon. Meanwhile, she's also trying to deny her feelings for Jace, and Jace is pouting because he doesn't understand why they can't just ignore convention and be together. Never mind they're related. Yes, it's weird - even though I know "the twist" it takes later that makes it a little less so. It's still awkward and weird. There's also the fact that Clary has this to say about her feelings:

She wondered for a moment if he might actually spring at her, what it would be like if he struck her, knocked her down, grabbed her wrists even. Fighting to [Jace] was like sex to other people. The thought of him touching her like that brought the blood to her cheeks in a hot flood. (pg. 223)

So, Clary wants an abusive relationship. Abuse turns her on, does it? O-kay. Clary and Jace's relationship isn't the only awkward romance. There's also Alec and Magnus. For the most part, I'm actually not all that bothered with Alec being gay. It doesn't feel like it's being shoved down my throat. And Magnus is just a weird dude - I wouldn't be surprised if he was bisexual. However, the way Alec behaves around Magnus doesn't feel like a healthy relationship. He acts like someone who is being molested. He gets super quiet and confused and awkward, and avoids Magnus's touch. If I saw those two together, I would think that Magnus was molesting him.

Plot: It's the aftermath of City of Bones. Clary's mum is still in a coma, Valentine is still out there with the Mortal Cup, and everyone is in emotional upheaval. Especially Jace, who's just Mr. Moody and Grumpy now; who won't communicate to anyone what he's doing. And when Downworlder children start dying, of course Jace is blamed, and of course everyone starts saying that he's in league with Valentine because, y'know - like father, like son. So of course instead of cooperating and working to prove his innocence, Jace starts going off on his own, goes to suspicious locations, doesn't tell his friends anything about what he's doing. In short, kinda creates his own problems. The Inquisitor, I'll grant you, wouldn't listen anyway; she's made up her mind a long time ago. But Alec, Isabelle, Clary - talk to them!! Then the Soul-Sword goes missing, and that's super bad news. 'Cause now Valentine has both Mortal Instruments and can cause all sorts of havoc. As soon as he completes some complicated rituals. But he's a little too busy listening to his own voice to do that. Okay, enough sarcasm. I did like the plot. It was exciting, there was lots of action, there was more world building, I like the Author's twist on werewolf, vampire, and faerie mythology - it's awesome. There's just. . . .holes. Holes that could have been fixed just a bit more if characters had communicated more.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. Extremely movie-ish - especially toward the end, during the action sequences. The Author breaks off in the middle of intense moments to go follow another intense moment, then breaks off again to follow another and another. Very much like scenes in a movie.

Content: 2 g--damns. Lots of blood and gore. Awkward romance.

Conclusion: At least the characters don't think that Valentine is dead. It may be because I wasn't able to read the climax just straight through (I kept getting interrupted), but it felt way too drawn out. So much so that I actually started getting kinda bored. [Spoiler] And maybe we were supposed to be feel super bad for Clary when Jace declared they should just be friends, but that's when I started liking Jace again. [End spoiler] As a whole, I liked City of Ashes. It had some great twists and exciting moments. The romance is just not for me.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, eighteen-and-up, fans of paranormal.

Others in The Mortal Instruments Series:
1)City of Bones
2)City of Ashes
3)City of Glass
4)City of Fallen Angels
5)City of Lost Souls
6)City of Heavenly Fire
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