Thursday, March 31, 2011

Airman by Eoin Colfer

AirmanIn the 1890s Conor and his family live on the sovereign Saltee Islands, off the Irish coast. Conor spends his days studying the science of flight with his tutor and exploring the castle with the king’s daughter, Princess Isabella. But the boy’s idyllic life changes forever the day he discovers a deadly conspiracy against the king. When Conor tries to intervene, he is branded a traitor and thrown into jail on the prison island of Little Saltee. There, he has to fight for his life, as he and the other prosoners are forced to mine for diamonds in inhumane conditions.

There is only one way to escape Little Saltee, and that is to fly. So Conor passes the solitary months by scratching drawings of flying machines on the prison walls. The months turn into years; but eventually the day comes when Conor must find the courage to trust his revolutionary designs and take to the air.


 First Look: ***** It's by Eoin Colfer.  That's the only reason I picked it up.  How can you not love an Eoin Colfer book?  And that is a cool contraption on the cover.

Setting: *****  
I never knew the Saltee Islands even existed until after I read this. Then again, I'm not European.  I like reading books that take place in new places I didn't know of!  It was well-described, but it just lacked the special spark to make me truly love it.  I don't know what the special spark is, but when you come across it you'll know it.

Characters: ***** 
Conor reminded me so much of Artemis Fowl.  He is passionate about his obsessions and tends to ignore just about everything else.  I really felt connected to him.  And the rest of his family, too.  I love the last name--Broekhart.  It's very fitting.  I was not happy at all when Victor *spoiler alert!  Highlight to read* died. *cries*.  I also liked Isabella; she would even be a great main character all on her own.  Even Arthur Billtoe had a well-developed personality, even though I hated him.  But I suspect that was the point. 

Plot: *****
I'm not quite sure what I expected, but it wasn't this.  That being said, it was great!  My only problem was that the inside cover mentioned a conspiracy against the king.  Well, there was a conspiracy, yes, but...it almost ended before it began.  I would've liked to see more of it.  And it's really hard saying this without stepping on a spoiler bomb here.  All I can say is that some of the prose spent on Conor's prison time would have been put to better use thwarting conspiracies.  I still liked it, though.

Uniqueness: ***** 
It was unique!  Especially since it's hard to find a straight historical fiction that's not too old.

Writing: *****  
Well, yeah.  It's Eoin Colfer, ladies and gentlemen.  He's a master of storytelling.  He's one of those authors where you can open up to one of his books without knowing the title and you'll be able to tell.  Just like in Artemis Fowl, he keeps it going at a good pace and switches points of views very clearly.  And he does like to go into some scientific details once and awhile.

Likes:
Castle politics!  Yay!

Not-so-great:
I hated Bonvilain.  Then again, I was supposed to.  He was the antagonist after all.

Total Score: *****
Both fans and nonfans of the Artemis Fowl series will enjoy this.  Eoin Colfer has captured mankind's dreams of flying and put it into a YA book.  It's a great story about both airplanes and family, among other things.  It's even witty in a few places.  Recommended for Artemis Fowl fans, history lovers, or just people who are looking for an exciting story.

PS: "Eoin" is just a funny way of spelling "Owen".

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Scorch Trials (The Maze Runner #2) by James Dashner

The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner, #2)Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. No more variables. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escape meant he and the Gladers would get their lives back. But no one really knew what sort of life they were going back to.

In the Maze, life was easy. They had food, and shelter, and safety . . . until Teresa triggered the end. In the world outside the Maze, however, the end was triggered long ago.
Burned by sun flares and baked by a new, brutal climate, the earth is a wasteland. Government has disintegrated—and with it, order—and now Cranks, people covered in festering wounds and driven to murderous insanity by the infectious disease known as the Flare, roam the crumbling cities hunting for their next victim . . . and meal.

The Gladers are far from finished with running. Instead of freedom, they find themselves faced with another trial. They must cross the Scorch, the most burned-out section of the world, and arrive at a safe haven in two weeks. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.

Thomas can only wonder—does he hold the secret of freedom somewhere in his mind? Or will he forever be at the mercy of WICKED?


Okay.  Now I'm back from my trip (Yes, I had a good time.  Thanks for asking.), I can get some reviewing done.  The review for Airman is coming tomorrow.  Here goes number one...
First Look: ****The cover is cool.  I especially like the back cover, actually.  The big words that say the ominous phrase "The maze was only the beginning..." are very in-your-face.

Setting: ***** 
Dystopian settings are rarely ever disappointing, and this one is no exception.  I could almost feel the intense heat of the desert.  I could see the ruined city.  It was all nicely described.  By the way, ruined cities always make awesome settings.  Just saying.

Characters: *****  
I loved all the Gladers.  Minho is honestly one of my favorite characters I've had the pleasure of reading about.  Teresa and Aris were very flawed, making them seem even more real.  But, as you can see, there's only one star over there.  Mistake?  I think not.  The reason I give this only one lonely star is because of the most important character in the story, the MC (that's main character, for all the non-writers/non-frequenters of the Inkpop forums).  Thomas was just...I don't know where to start.  I didn't like him at all.  I couldn't even figure out what his personality was.  The author relied on other characters to make vague statements about Thomas' personality that gave no insight whatsoever.  I never cared about him, never felt like I knew him, never felt like he was a real person.  Not good.

Plot: ***** 
Yes.  Many sequels can't keep up the same intensity level as in the first book, but this one did.  The ending really makes me want to read more.  The action sequences were exciting!  I'm really not sure what else to say without either giving away too many spoilers or making no sense to anyone who's never read the book.

Uniqueness: ***** 
It was very similar to The Maze Runner.  :)

Writing: *****
I like James Dashner's writing style, especially since the majority of recently published books are in first person.  It's nice to read some of my favorite: third person past tense (And yes, I do have a preference.  While 98% of people wouldn't notice or care, I'm part of the 2% that does.).  The thing that bothered me to no end, though, was the lack of a comma after the last item in a list.  Like this: pineapples, robots and bludgers instead of pineapples, robots, and bludgers.  You don't want to know how high that is on my list of pet peeves.

Likes:
Everything of note has been mentioned above.

Not-so-great:
Same.  I think everything's already been said.  My main two dislikes are the comma thing and the fact that Thomas was flatter than Flat Stanley.  I also didn't see what Brenda's point in the story was.

Total Score: *****
This was a good follow-up to The Maze Runner. It was exciting and full of action. Yes, there were character development issues, but it was still a worthwhile read. I liked it. I didn't love it as much as the first one, though, but it'll satisfy fans of the series. Hopefully The Death Cure will be back in the five-star range.

Reviews of other Maze Runner novels:
The Death Cure  (The Maze Runner #3)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Childhood Favorites

Today I thought I’d share a few of the books I loved when I was younger.  I was reading these books when I was around second, third, fourth grade probably (the pre-Eragon days).  You don’t want to know how many times I reread some of these.  I should have just bought them.  Here goes, in no particular order:

Cleopatra VII: Daughter of the Nile, Egypt, 57 B.C. (The Royal Diaries)Cleopatra VII: Daughter of the Nile (Royal Diaries) by Kristiana Gregory (historical fiction)
I read this over and over.  I’m not sure what I found so awesome about it.  Probably something to do with the fact that I want to visit Ancient Egypt.  Even then, I liked court intrigue in books.  Ha.









The Black Stallion (Black Stallion Series, Book 1) 


The Black Stallion by Walter Farley (realistic fiction)
You’ve probably heard of this book.  Or seen the movie.  The movie doesn’t even begin to do this book justice.  I love horses, and this is a great survival story about a boy and a horse.  They help each other and become friends.  The main reason I loved this was probably because of the horse, Black.  He’s the kind of horse I dreamed of (wait…past tense?  Ha, I still do!): big, handsome, black, smart, and wild.  And the rest of the series is great, too.





Knights and Castles: A Companion to The Knight at Dawn (Magic Tree House Rsrch Gdes(R))Knights and Castles (Magic Tree House Research Guide) by a few people
This is nonfiction.  Why did I love it?  That has everything to do with my wish that I could have a time machine so I could go back and live in medieval times.  Seriously.  And then there’s that one page in the middle.  I particularly liked it because it had a picture of a girl that looked eerily liked me, surrounded by all kinds of signs that read “Annie for president!”.  Open the book to that page a few times, then suddenly you’ve got a book that opens to the exact same spot every time you pick it up.  Awesome, right?

Molly Saves the Day: A Summer Story (American Girls Collection) 





Molly Saves the Day by Valerie Tripp (historical fiction)
The reason I loved this book was because it was basically one big game of capture the flag.  I’m not sure why I find that game so interesting.  If I could play capture the flag Camp Half-Blood style, I would in a heartbeat.  And Molly just looks so much like I used to.





Kaya's Escape!Kaya’s Escape by Janet Beeler Shaw (historical fiction)
It’s got Native Americans.  An escape.  A horse (and an Appaloosa, at that!).  Need I say any more?  I have the doll version of that horse, by the way.  I will get that horse in real life someday.










Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess--Russia 1914 (Royal Diaries (Audio)) 
Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess by Carolyn Meyer (you guessed it...historical fiction)
I love the story of Anastasia.  I don't know why.  I guess I watched the cartoon movie when I was really young and loved it, and it just kept going from there.  So naturally I liked this book.  It's actually very historically accurate.










Haunted Castle on Hallow's Eve (Magic Tree House, #30) Haunted Castle on Hallow’s Eve (Magic Tree House #30) by Mary Pope Osborne (fantasy)
This is about as epic as you could get when I was this age.  Combine adventure, awesome characters, a magic tree house, some books, and a healthy dose of Arthurian legend.  What do you get?  Magic Tree House!  This book is by far the highlight of the series.  The Arthurian aspect of it has started to really come into play.  Plus, it’s set in a medieval castle.  With ravens.  I’ve probably read this book more times than Randy Jackson has used the word dawg on this season of American Idol.

Last but certainly not least.  I need to read this book again.   I've probably forgotten others that deserve mention, but...oh well.

Over to you, Oh Blog Followers of Awesomeness.  What were some of your childhood favorites?



Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In Loving Memory

RIP Zazu. 
We'll miss your beautiful chirping, singing along with the piano, the radio, and the vacuum cleaner.  I hope the broccoli is unlimited in Bird Heaven.

(And yes, this is who he was named after.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2) by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

First Look: ***** Well, I loved The Hunger Games, so naturally I assumed this would be just as good or better.

Setting: ***** 
I loved it.  Again.  Especially since all the tension in District Twelve is rising.  I loved the arena, too!  The clock thing was genius, and the whole thing had a Lord of the Flies-style island feel to it.  And then thinking of LOTF just upped the intensity level.

Characters: *****
  Again, we have the super-likable protagonist who crushes the very idea of damsel-in-distress into dust.  Katniss' reactions to everything seemed realistic.  Unlike some other books I've read, her extreme self-sacrificing behaviors were believable *coughHarryPotterwhat?cough*. I've actually discovered that I don't think Haymitch is a disgusting, worthless alcoholic.  I can respect him now after learning more about him.  Finnick was just...himself, and what's not to love about that?  And now Peeta and Gale are basically against each other, and...yeah.  Okay, I'll stop now.

Plot: *****  
It started out slow, but it still gets the full five stars because once it picked up, it completely made up for any lost time.  And wow, what a ride!  Twists and turns and bears, oh my!  (Actually there were no bears.  I just needed to finish out that phrase.)  I honestly thought this second book would be so much less intense because they wouldn't be in the arena, but Suzanne Collins surprised me and pulled it off.  *applauds*  And the cliffhanger ending means that the library request system better hurry up!

Uniqueness: ***** 
It was very, very similar to The Hunger Games.  Oh, right.  Same series.  And no, that really wasn't supposed to be that funny; it's just because it's very unique and there's not much to say.

Writing: *****
I have to admit, present tense just plain bugs me sometimes.  And I did catch at least two errors.

Likes:
There were many times where I really wanted to give Katniss a high five.  I wanted to applaud her sheer nerve, especially in the training center with the dummy.  That is definitely an epic win.

Not-so-great:
It really didn't take much to stir everybody into rebellion, did it?  This might just be me, but I could have used a bit more convincing that the Capital really was the center of all evil.

Total Score: *****
Recommend it? YES! This is a magnificent sequel that will satisfy all fans of The Hunger Games. It's intense. There are a few epic twists. Unpredictable and thrilling.  Better than the first book?  I'm not sure about that, but this was still great. The characters are the kind that you really want to root for. Suzanne Collins, I sure hope the finale lives up to this!

Reviews of other Hunger Games novels:
The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1)
Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Firelight by Sophie Jordan

Firelight (Firelight, #1)A hidden truth.
Mortal enemies.
Doomed love.


Marked as special at an early age, Jacinda knows her every move is watched. But she longs for freedom to make her own choices. When she breaks the most sacred tenet among her kind, she nearly pays with her life. Until a beautiful stranger saves her. A stranger who was sent to hunt those like her. For Jacinda is a draki—a descendant of dragons whose greatest defense is her secret ability to shift into human form.

Forced to flee into the mortal world with her family, Jacinda struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. The only bright light is Will. Gorgeous, elusive Will who stirs her inner draki to life. Although she is irresistibly drawn to him, Jacinda knows Will's dark secret: He and his family are hunters. She should avoid him at all costs. But her inner draki is slowly slipping away—if it dies she will be left as a human forever. She'll do anything to prevent that. Even if it means getting closer to her most dangerous enemy.

Mythical powers and breathtaking romance ignite in this story of a girl who defies all expectations and whose love crosses an ancient divide.
 

First Look: ***** What is it with YA covers lately?  It seems like most of them have some form of this picture: a partial view of a girl's face.  But that's another rant for another time...  I was afraid this would have too much romance for my taste.  The only reason I picked this up was because I love dragons.  A lot.

Setting: ***** 
I wanted to learn more about how the pride lived and what kind of society they had, but Jacinda was whisked out of there way too fast for me to find out.  Other than that, a lot of it took place in a high school.

Characters: ***** 
Jacinda couldn't really decide what she wanted, or so it seemed.  One minute she wanted something, the next it seemed she wanted the opposite.  And she put up a bit of a fight when her mom wanted to kill her draki, but...honestly.  She's trying to kill it.  I would start an all-out war if someone did that to me.

Plot: ****
I loved the concept, and it followed through throughout the book.  There are a few pretty good twists.  It had a little too much romance for my liking, though.  I loved the cliffhanger ending, and now I have to get my hands on the sequel!  But it's not out yet... *headdesk*   

Uniqueness: ***** 
Awesome.  The romance parts weren't cliched (for the most part).  And there aren't too many recent YA books with dragons, or draki.

Writing: *****
I liked it, but the fragments were a little too much for me.  Sometimes using a partial sentence in narration is okay for dramatic effect, but Sophie Jordan overused it.  Otherwise it flowed very smoothly.  Better than expected, actually.

Likes:
Draki.  YES!  I liked the fire breathing, and how it affected her relationships within the pride.  I liked the fact that Will was a hunter, and had *spoiler alert--highlight blank part to read* draki blood. I thought that was a nice twist.

Not-so-great:
After reading this, I'm still not exactly sure what a draki looks like.  Is it just another name for a dragon that can morph into a human, or is it something different?  I googled it, but all I got was a picture of a baby chick.  I really don't think that's what they look like.  I'm also annoyed that this is going to be a movie.

Total Score: *****
What's with all these negative Goodreads reviews?  I very much enjoyed this!  It'll satisfy both supernatural romance fans and dragon lovers.  I wasn't expecting much from this, but I was pleasantly surprised and will definitely be reading the sequel, especially with that kind of ending.  A few parts could use some fleshing-out, but it was worthwhile anyways.

Monday, March 14, 2011

55 Word Stories (55oWriMo)

Here's a fun writing activity I learned in eighth grade.  It really makes you work hard to say a lot with very few words.  All you need to do is write a simple little story using 55 words, not counting the title.  No more, no less.  Bonus points for a cool twist at the end.

My example (which I'm particularly proud of, by the way):

Time Machine

“Next stop: the year 3000!”  Jimmy turned several dials.
“Here we go!” Mark shouted.
The machine shook, then stopped.  They stepped out.
“The future looks awesome!” commented Jimmy.
“Uh-oh…”
“What?”
“The machine is malfunctioning!  We’ll be stuck here forever!”
“Oh, well.  That was great anyway.  I haven’t played in a cardboard box for ten years.”

Notice how I used the title to my advantage.  The story hasn't even started, but you already have a sense for what's going on, leaving more words open for the actual story.  The key here is being concise and using each word to your advantage.  Good word choice is your friend.

 You may be thinking along the lines of Well, this is just poetry!  Easy!  No, it's not poetry.  Unless it's in dialogue, you have to use complete sentences and the general format must be the same as a normal story would be.  It's just a very short story. 

Just think.  You could write 909 of these babies instead of doing NaNoWriMo.  Someone should really do that.

I'd love to hear how this went for you, if you try it.  Post yours in the comments below!  Who knows...if I really like it, maybe you'll get a prize.  Like an iPad.  Or a virtual muffin.  Or maybe I'll just feature you on the next blog post.  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith

The Marbury LensSixteen-year-old Jack gets drunk and is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is kidnapped. He escapes, narrowly. The only person he tells is his best friend, Conner. When they arrive in London as planned for summer break, a stranger hands Jack a pair of glasses. Through the lenses, he sees another world called Marbury.

There is war in Marbury. It is a desolate and murderous place where Jack is responsible for the survival of two younger boys. Conner is there, too. But he’s trying to kill them.

Meanwhile, Jack is falling in love with an English girl, and afraid he’s losing his mind.
 

Conner tells Jack it’s going to be okay.
But, it’s not.

Andrew Smith has written his most beautiful and personal novel yet, as he explores the nightmarish outer limits of what trauma can do to our bodies and our minds.
Note: When I first posted this, I had technical difficulties.  Now I got the picture and summary up, but I'm leaving my own descriptions because they amuse me.  Anyway, look at the cover.  How's that for a welcome-to-my-blog-hey-look-a-creeper?
*Technical difficulties*
I can't get the cover to come up, so I'll just describe it.  It's very creepy.  There's a dark-tinted picture of a boy wearing a very odd set of glasses (think: a set of goggles straight out of Leviathan).  One lens has a guy reflected in it, and the other has this weird fiery red thing (think: Mad-eye Moody, sort of).
*More technical difficulties*
The summary won't come up either.  Basically, it's about a boy named Jack who takes a trip to London with his best friend Conner.  On that trip, a stranger gives him a pair of glasses.  Through the glasses he can see a world called Marbury, where a war is taking place.  Action, mystery, and romance ensue.

First Look: ****The cover is kind of creepy. Okay, not kind of creepy. It is creepy. Very steampunk-ish. And I've also learned that reading the Goodreads reviews before I start the book is not a good idea.

Setting: ***** 
Marbury was so vividly described. I felt like I was there, no matter how much the idea of actually going there makes me shudder.  Wow, what a place.  I love how the author left me wondering about it. The transitions between Marbury and London were done very nicely and smoothly.

Characters: ***** 
They were awesome. Jack went through a lot of turmoil from beginning to end, physically and mentally, and the way it wore down on him was completely realistic. The way he reacted to the kidnapping was so believable. Conner was an awesome friend, too. They both just seemed so...real. Nickie, on the other hand, drove me nuts. I don't think she added anything to the story besides the fact that she was Jack's love interest. She fell flat for me, and she seemed to think that she could seduce Jack into getting help for himself.

Plot: ***** 
Um, I'm still trying to figure out what I just read. I loved, loved, loved the way the author never says whether any of it was real or not. Part of the reader wants to think that it really happened, but the other part wonders whether it was just the mental aftereffects of a traumatic experience. This book had lots of twists to it. I loved how Seth's story was woven into Jack's. There were parts that were extremely creepy and scary.  I will warn you right now that this is not light reading.  The Michael Grant review on the cover doesn't lie (Michael Grant is amazing, by the way.  I can't wait until his next book comes out!).  That being said, don't let the Goodreads reviews scare you away.

Cliché-ness: ***** 
I've never read anything like it, and probably never will again.

Writing: ***** 
The number one reason to love this book is the writing.  It's fantastic.  The repetition of the lines Freddie Horvath did something to my brain and You haven't gotten away from anything, Jack really added a lot to it.  Then the narration would be going along and you'd see the Roll.  Tap.  Tap. and know exactly what was coming. 

Likes:
Again, I love how the ending makes the reader wonder whether it was real, or whether it all came from Jack's mind.  And besides, I love stories about alternate/parallel dimensions.

Not-so-great:
I wish I had a quarter for every time either Jack or Conner (or both at once) dropped an f-bomb.  Seriously, can't they think of anything better to say?  Also, they were way too okay with underage drinking.  About halfway through there's a part (the train part) that would be creepy enough without some of the extra detail.  Then when he went on the real train and saw all the same living people...well, that was...um, creepy.

Total Score: *****
There was one point where I was seriously about to stop reading. Not because it was boring, or the writing was bad, or the characters were annoying. No, it was just creepy. But I stuck with it, and I'm glad I did. This is an exciting book that makes you think. The characters are brilliantly real, and hey, a pair of glasses takes you to another dimension. How cool is that? (the concept, I mean. Not the actual act of going to Marbury, because that wouldn't be fun.)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan--What Can You Do?

Unless you live under a rock, you've probably heard everything that's gone on around the world in the past 24 hours.  Earthquakes, tsunamis...

But you can't do anything.  You're not directly involved (or at least I hope), so what's the use?  You can't make a difference.  Just go on with your life.

Ahem, ahem, people.  *cues epic fail music*  You have answered incorrectly.  Try again.

There is something simple you can do.  It doesn't even involve donating money, though that wouldn't be unwelcome.  There's a one syllable verb that you can do in a heartbeat, and your voice will be heard.

Pray for them.  It's that easy.


    And here's an amusing unrelated flair, to lighten the mood.

Note: If you're an atheist...just deal with it.  Please.  I'm not trying to start debates here.  If the Inkies can handle a similar post, so can you.  :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices, #1)Magic is dangerous--but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by--and torn between--two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.


First Look: *****  I like the cover.  I also think the title is awesome.  Just so you know, I've never read The Mortal Instruments, so I won't be able to make any comparisons.  FYI: The Infernal Devices is a prequel series to The Mortal Instruments.

Setting: *****  
Yay for 19th century London!  An awesome place to set a book, in my opinion.  I've never been there, but I liked how Cassandra Clare created the atmosphere.
 

Characters: ***** Tessa was...okay.  Will was the one I really connected with.  I feel like he kept the story moving a bit more than Tessa.  Plus, he was more mysterious, and I found him hilarious.  I also liked Jem and Sophie.  Nate just made me angry.  I won't say why, for fear of spoilers...

Plot: *****  
It was awesome! I loved the dropoff ending. There were so many twists that I never saw coming.  It was exciting all the way through.  My only problem was that these people were Shadowhunters, and their lives are dedicated to hunting demons, but...the reader gets to experience very little demon hunting.  Hopefully the sequel will do a better job.  And I found a plot hole!  At one point in the story, I'm pretty sure it mentions that Jem's cane broke.  Later, he's back with the same cane.  What?
Cliché-ness: ***** It didn't really remind me of anything at all, except I do think fans of the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud will especially enjoy this.

Writing: *****
The writing was the only thing that bothered me.  Cassandra Clare is very guilty of the block character descriptions thing.  What do I mean?  A character would be introduced, and she'd immediately spend a paragraph or two describing their appearance, instead of creatively weaving it throughout the narrative.  She did the same thing with rooms, actually.  It followed a pattern, and it bugged me.
 
Likes:
I loved the poetry at the chapter beginnings.  I'm a huge fan of starting chapters with quotes, Inkheart-style.  I think it adds a lot to the story.  I also like stories with Nephilim for some reason.  After all, they actually existed!  (Yep.  The Bible says so.  Check Genesis.)  How cool is that?

Not-so-great:
The character and room block description thing, mentioned earlier.  That's about it.

Total Score: ****
This is great.  It's an exciting story about how supernatural creatures clash with one another.  It's also got a tinge of romance.  And magic, and politics.  Recommended for fantasy fans, especially steampunk and urban fantasy lovers.  It's not to-die-for amazing, but I enjoyed reading it.

Reviews of other Infernal Devices novels:
Clockwork Prince (The Infernal Devices #2)
Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices #3)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Series Spotlight: Pendragon by D. J. MacHale

The Merchant of Death (Pendragon, #1) Pendragon: Journal of an adventure through space and time (and sheer amazingness)

 Bobby Pendragon is a seemingly normal fourteen-year-old boy. He has a family, a home, and even Marley, his beloved dog. But there is something very special about Bobby.
He is going to save the world.

And not just Earth as we know it. Bobby is slowly starting to realize that life in the cosmos isn't quite
what he thought it was. And before he can object, he is swept off to an alternate dimension known as Denduron, a territory inhabited by strange beings, ruled by a magical tyrant, and plagued by dangerous revolution.

If Bobby wants to see his family again, he's going to have to accept his role as savior, and accept it wholeheartedly. Because, as he is about to discover, Denduron is only the beginning....


I think it's safe to say that Pendragon is the best series out there for young adults.  It's just that amazing.  There are so many things I love about it...where do I start?

This series has an insanely awesome cast of characters.  There's...
Raven RiseMark Dimond, the nerdy best friend, Spader the fun-loving water guy, Siry the pirate, Nevva Winter the Severus Snape wannabe, Loor the warrior who could beat Chuck Norris any day with her eyes closed, Uncle Press the obnoxious info-withholding uncle that we all wish we had, and more.  And of course we have Bobby Pendragon, all-purpose hero, basketball star, and sometimes quite idiotic teenage boy.  And we can't forget Saint Dane, the ultimate in irony, the very guy who's trying to destroy everything that has ever existed.  Did I mention the robots?


It also has lots of variety with settings.  Sick of Denduron's snowy primitiveness?  No matter--the next book will take place on a completely different dimension!  Examples: a not-too-distant future where everyone is absorbed in their own virtual utopia, a world ruled by...felines (kitties for Keaton!), a water wonderland, 1937 New York, and more!  


And then there's the action and sheer epicness.  I mean, Bobby's trying to save everything that ever existed.  That's around 14 on the epic scale of one to ten.  Nonstop action.  Fight scenes.  Fight scenes with robots.  Fight scenes with shapeshifters.  Fight scenes within fight scenes.*  Oh, did I mention robots yet?  Suspense?  Check!  Will you be attacking the library to demand the next book in the series?  Of course.


And on top of all that (It can get better?  Whoa!), there's the quotes.  Hilarious quotes.  Quotes like:
"I'm the terrorist.  Do what I say or I'll terrorize you."
"I'm sorry I hurt your hand with my face."
"Note to self: stop thinking."
"There are two kinds of people in this world: those who fear clowns, and...clowns."

The Quillan Games (Pendragon, #7)So, my question to you is...what on Earth  on Second Earth  in Halla are you waiting for?  Go get the first one now!


The series: Click here for the Goodreads info.
1. The Merchant of Death
2. The Lost City of Faar
3. The Never War (epic title, right?)
4. The Reality Bug
5. Black Water
6. The Rivers of Zadaa
7. The Quillan Games
8. The Pilgrims of Rayne
9. Raven Rise
10. The Soldiers of Halla
11. *sob*


And so we go.  This is the way is was meant to be.  Is anyone else hungry for some gloid and sniggers right about now?

*Not really.  I don't think that's possible.  I was just on a role.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Everything I've Ever Written

I like making word clouds.  They're cool and amusing.  I'd love to make Harry Potter into one...

So today I copied and pasted every single short story, novel, and novella I've ever written into the box.  This is what came out.

(click to see it full-size)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Thank You, Captain Obvious

Today's writing post concerns something that you think would be obvious, but obviously it isn't: stating the obvious.

What do I mean by this?  Well, if something is obvious in your writing, there's no need to say it!

Examples:
"Her heart pounded in her chest."  No duh.  This drives me nuts when I see this.  Where else would your heart pound?  In your foot?  Unless you've got Jack Sparrow's jar of dirt, that is...
For a less wordy sentence that's just as powerful, try "Her heart pounded."

Are you getting my point?  Here's another example.
"I waved with my hand."  No way!  What else would you wave with?

"She blinked her eye."  Again, she used her eye?  Good to know!

So basically all I'm trying to get across here is this: if your readers will know perfectly well what you are talking about without the extra words...cut them out.  Less is always more.

Friday, March 4, 2011

What You'd Never Find in the Hunger Games Arena

Inkpop posed me this challenge today: What wouldn't you find in the Hunger Games Arena?  I just had to respond.

What you wouldn't find in the Hunger Games Arena:

1. Ghandi
"Be the change you wish to see in the Hunger Games arena" just doesn't flow nicely.

2. A The Hunger Games for Dummies manual.
That would just be way too easy.

3. A diary
"Dear Diary: Today I tried to shoot a kid, but he shot at me instead and barely missed..."

4. Gollum
Because he fell into a pit of lava, duh!  Also because the Gamemakers would be creeped out after he had hissed "My precious..." for the thousandth time.

5. Cheerleaders
How annoying would that be?  You're about to attack someone, and then you hear a bunch of blondes in miniskirts chanting, "H-U-N-G-E-R G-A-M-E-S!  That's what we call the Hunger Games!"

6. Jack Sparrow
He'd win way too fast, or he'd just run around with his jar of dirt.

7. Inkpop
Who has time to swap when you're running for your life?

8. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
For obvious reasons.

9. A massage chair
And after you're done attacking people, you can sit back and relax!


So, there you have it.  Anything I missed?

PS: Ghandi actually was a contest winner.  

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Like Whatever

Here's a poem I read today in English.  I agree completely and thought I should share it here.








Like Whatever
Taylor Mali

In case you hadn't noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you're talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you're saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)'s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren't, like, questions? You know?


Declarative sentences — so-called
because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true
as opposed to other things which were, like, not -
have been infected by a totally hip
and tragically cool interrogative tone? You know?
Like, don't think I'm uncool just because I've noticed this;
this is just like the word on the street, you know?
It's like what I've heard?
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions, okay?
I'm just inviting you to join me in my uncertainty?


What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?
Have they been, like, chopped down
with the rest of the rain forest?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?
Has society become so, like, totally...
I mean absolutely... You know?
That we've just gotten to the point where it's just, like...
whatever!


And so actually our disarticulation... ness
is just a clever sort of... thing
to disguise the fact that we've become
the most aggressively inarticulate generation
to come along since...
you know, a long, long time ago!


I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too.



What do you think, Oh Loyal Blog Followers of Awesomeness?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Winter's End by Jean-Claude Mourlevat

Winter's EndIn a gripping dystopian novel, four teenagers risk impossible odds to fight against tyranny in a world of dangerous choices — and reemerging hope.

Escape. Milena, Bartolomeo, Helen, and Milos have left their prison-like boarding schools far behind, but their futures remain in peril. Fleeing across icy mountains from a terrifying pack of dog-men sent to hunt them down, they are determined to take up the fight against the despotic government that murdered their parents years before. Only three will make it safely to the secret headquarters of the resistance movement. The fourth is captured and forced to participate in a barbaric game for the amusement of the masses — further proof of the government’s horrible brutality. Will the power of one voice be enough to rouse a people against a generation of cruelty? Translated from the French, this suspenseful story of courage, individualism, and freedom has resonated with young readers across the globe.
First Look: ***** I honestly thought this would be a remake of The Hunger Games.  The premise was so similar.

Setting: ***** 
It was actually kind of...bla. The whole creepy wow-this-could-be-us-in-a-century dystopia thing just wasn't there. I could barely figure out what even made it a dystopia at all. Every single place was drab and none of it stood out.

Characters: *****
They weren't likable at all. I was never cheering them on. There wasn't anything special about them to even try to make me like them.  They made decisions that no *sane, common-sense-using* human would make.  They felt sad at the smallest things, but were strangely emotionless when it really mattered.  Helen and Milos, and Bart and Milena fell in love way too fast.  It was kind of like, "Wow, I haven't seen a teenage boy in years!  You're my only only option, so I guess that means I'm madly in love with you!"

Plot: *****
It was very slow. The jacket promised me a tyrannical government I would hate, an exciting resistance movement, and more, but I didn't feel like any of it was there. The characters kept going on about how the government was bad, but yet...there was nothing to back that up. The so-called tyrants never actually did anything wrong, from what I can tell. So why does everyone hate them? The resistance was really more of a large group that liked to complain. And by the way, you can't overthrow an entire government system by gathering a bunch of people, swarm a city, and yell. It just doesn't work in real life.
Cliché-ness: ***** The tyrannical government, the Severus Snape-like teachers, the oppressive boarding school...and unless you can be unique, they've been overused.

Writing: ***** 
At first I was thinking that some of the writing quality got lost in translation, but then I remembered that the same translator worked on Cornelia Funke's books, and those were amazing. So there's no excuse here. I can't count the number of times my mind was screaming Show, don't tell!

Likes:
I do really like the name Milena. It's pretty. Other than that, not much.

Not-so-great:
I hate it when a book's jacket promises excitement and intensity and just doesn't live up to it. This book had so much potential, but I had to force myself to get through it.  And, speaking of Snape, was that what the author was going for with Van Vlyck?  A sort of I'm-evil-but-I-love-her thing?  It didn't work for me.

Total Score: *****
This book could have been so good. It had all the right ingredients for an awesome, The Giver/The Hunger Games epic dystopian novel. In the end, it was a flat, dull read. I wouldn't recommend it at all unless you really, really want to read it. But I can't see why anyone would.


Note: When I said Severus Snape-like, I mean that the teachers were mean and nasty (use both meanings of that word).  Those teachers didn't have the awesome three-dimensionalness as Snape.  I honestly think Snape might possibly be the most well-developed character of all time.
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