Monday, January 30, 2012

Shatter Me (Shatter Me #1) by Tahereh Mafi

Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days.
The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war-- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting as The Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices, Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel—with a paranormal twist—that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel.


First Look: ****It took me long enough to get this. I had it right on my desk, but then it had to go back to the library before I could finish it, and I had to go request it again. Anyway, this looked pretty interesting, so I was eager to check it out.
Setting: *****  It lacked some uniqueness, as dystopian settings go.  Yes, the world was all messed up, presumably because of human warfare and pollution and such.  Apparently the weather was all weird, which might have been interesting, but we never really got to see much of it. 

My problem was: how did it get this way?  When I read this kind of book, I want to know what happened.  I don't want the author to get up and hand it to me this futuristic world and not tell me where it all comes from.  I want to know what happened.  It does get points, though, for not even trying to copy The Giver. 


Characters: *****  I've been mulling this over for awhile, and I still can't figure out if I liked our main character, Juliette.  So we'll start with the love interest: Adam.  On one hand, he had some aspects of likability to him.  We saw how much he cared about his little brother, and how real all that was.  I liked him as the older brother, but on the other hand...  Well, his romance with Juliette wasn't insta-love, nor was it Edward Cullen-style stalking.  But he was Cullen-like in that he was utterly and presumably perfect.  I had a really hard time finding faults with him.  Everything he did was right and justifiable.  He didn't have one selfish moment; it was all either for his brother or Juliette. 

As for Juliette...I don't believe for a minute that she's not crazy.  Though I understand why her mind might be a little off.  I still am having trouble deciding whether I like her or not.  I'm probably leaning more to the "like" side, but I feel like she didn't make enough of the story happen by herself in order to completely like her.  Wow, that was confusing.  To clarify: Some characters let the story happen to them (Let's not name names, but I'm fairly sure you can think of one fairly obvious example for this one...).  And then some characters take action and make thing happen.  That's what I meant. 

Plot: ***** At first, the plot didn't really go anywhere.  She argued with Warner, kissed Adam, got mad at Warner, changed her clothes*, punched a wall, and argued more with Warner.  Yes, she did spent a lot of time arguing with him.  After that, it picked up, which I was glad for.  I liked all the action.  Once they were on the run, I felt like the story had a lot more drive to it, like they had an actual goal that they were working toward.


Uniqueness: *****  I didn't feel like it copied The Giver.   Yes, this is my standard when it comes to dystopians, because let's face it...it's an amazing book, and lots of people like to copy it.  But we don't want that.  All that being said, it really didn't do much to make itself jump out from the crowd, either.  The paranormal thing is about it. 


Writing: ****At first I didn't think I'd like it, but I got more and more into the writing the farther I went.  Some reviews I've seen said the similes were a little overboard, but I liked them.  I liked the flow of it, and especially the crossed-out lines.  Though it seemed like she'd get into crossing things out, then forget about it for awhile, then remember and start doing it all over again.  By the way, Tahereh Mafi's blog is fabulous.  You should check it out. 


Likes: Nothing not already mentioned above. 


Not-so-great: Alright, I've got a few things to address in this section.  1. Apparently, there's a Team Warner thing going on.  Um...someone please explain this to me.  Warner is a psychotic , evil, insane, messed-up person.  How can someone like him? 

2. Where did her powers even come from?  I'm assuming the next book will explain this, but still.  I'd like some idea, because right now it just seems like they appeared out of nowhere.

3. Maintain your purity, please, Juliette.  And Adam. 


Total Score: I enjoyed this book.  I did have my issues with it, but overall, it was a good read.  The writing was very unique and compelling, and the plot drew me in.  The characters were somewhere on the line between so-so and good.  It'll be very interesting to see where Tahereh Mafi goes with this series, because there seems to be a few different paths she could take with it.  Recommended for fans of dystopians.

 

*Yeah.  Sometimes in books, someone hands a girl a dress and says "Wear it."  And then the girls throw a fit because they want to be all defiant and rebellious.  Although this isn't from a book, Elizabeth Swan** comes to mind on this one.  I never understand this.  Why don't they just wear the dress and spend their time thinking of an actual way to be defiant?

**Hey, I just referenced two characters with the same last name, in the same post.  See what I did there? 
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

He is the 10%

I don't normally repost things.  If I reposted every single little thing that I came across and liked, you guys would be bombarded with constant randomness more often than you'd like.  Trust me on that.  But sometimes, you come across a photo or something that you just have to share.  This is why I'm postponing my review of Shatter Me:



For those of you with odd browsers, the sign says "I may not be perfect, but I'm happy.  I am God's handiwork and I bear His image.  I am blessed.  I am the 10% of children born with Down Syndrome who survived Roe v. Wade." 

This is powerful.  I can't say anything that would add to this statement.  I highly encourage everyone to post this on Facebook and Twitter and their blogs and Tumblr and billboards and hang it in back of an airplane and fly it over New York City. 

On another note, here's a screenshot I took today:



The second line is ridiculous enough.  But look at the first one.  There is a huge problem here, folks.  This is not okay.  Something needs to be done.... 

Thoughts?

DISCLAIMER: If you can't disagree in a mature way, keep your opinion to yourself, please.
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Monday, January 23, 2012

How To Get Published (The Short Version)

1. Write a really good book.
2.  Find a publisher who really likes your really good book. 

This, my friends, is how you get published. 


Oh, dear.  Yes, I do believe I actually just posted this post. 

PS: Yes, there is a long version.
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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Silver Phoenix (Kingdom of Xia #1) by Cindy Pon

No one wanted Ai Ling. And deep down she is relieved—despite the dishonor she has brought upon her family—to be unbetrothed and free, not some stranger's subservient bride banished to the inner quarters.

But now, something is after her. Something terrifying—a force she cannot comprehend. And as pieces of the puzzle start to fit together, Ai Ling begins to understand that her journey to the Palace of Fragrant Dreams isn't only a quest to find her beloved father but a venture with stakes larger than she could have imagined.

Bravery, intelligence, the will to fight and fight hard . . . she will need all of these things. Just as she will need the new and mysterious power growing within her. She will also need help.

It is Chen Yong who finds her partly submerged and barely breathing at the edge of a deep lake. There is something of unspeakable evil trying to drag her under. On a quest of his own, Chen Yong offers that help . . . and perhaps more.


First Look: *****  I've been going past this in the library for years now.   I've always ignored it for some reason, but I finally decided to pick it up.   I hoped the Asianish setting and the overall story would be reminiscent of Eon and Eona.   And I love that girl's hair.  Seriously*.  I actually made a very brief attempt at braiding my hair like that.  It didn't go well. 

Setting: *****  This was my favorite part of this book.  I felt like the world was very fleshed-out.  I loved all the Asian-inspired mythology.  I could see all the details clearly enough to make the setting a strong factor in the story. 

The other thing I liked was that, with one exception (I'll go into that later), Cindy Pon didn't go all hey-look-I-did-research-and-spend-hours-creating-this-wonderful-fictional-world-so-I-might-as-well-use-all-that-hard-work.  Many authors spend huge amounts of time researching and then developing their world.  This is fine in itself, but then some of them feel the need to use every single detail in the book, whether there's a reason to or not.  Pon didn't do this, which makes me happy. 

Characters: *****  At first, I liked Ai Ling, even if I'm still not sure how to pronounce her name.  She seemed realistic and likable enough.  But after a while, she just started to fall a little flat for me.  Some of her decisions seemed like they were just made to advance the plot, and that's all. 

Chen Yong was interesting.  I wish we could've gotten to know him a little better, instead of seeing just one side of him throughout the whole book.  Actually, a whole book about him would have been cool.  He has such an interesting story.  My major problem was that I really didn't care all that much about the characters.  A major one died, but I didn't care at all. 

Plot:
***** At first, I liked the plot.  It was intriguing, and I cared about what was going to happen.  I liked it for about the first fifty pages, or somewhere around there.  I was okay up to the point where Ai Ling met Chen Yong.

And then it just got weird.  Suddenly, there were all kinds of odd spirits and goddesses and mythical creatures everywhere.  It was incredibly disorienting.  I thought I understood the setting, but then all this stuff came in and I was confused.  The magical elements just didn't feel like they fit.  At first, Ai Ling was just trying to save her father and bring honor to her family (cue Mulan song).  Then she was trying to save the world from some hugely powerful (apparently--we never got to see these powers in action), villainous spirit.  The two pieces of the plot just didn't seem to fit together.

And then we had Chen Yong's story, which didn't seem to fit, either.  I thought it his backstory would be interwoven with Ai Ling's, but it just stood there on the outside all by itself. 

Uniqueness: ****I couldn't find much in the way of non-unique elements, though I did get the impression that the author has seen Mulan a few times.

Writing: ***** 
I've never said this before, because I've actually  never had a reason to say it.  I actually felt that this story would have worked better in first person.  There, I said it.  I think that the voice in first person would've been stronger.  It would have eliminated the times where I became disoriented because both Ai Ling and another female character were being called "she", and I couldn't figure out which one was which. 

Likes:
The braid.  And the title. 

Not-so-great:
What's with all the food in this book?  Wow.  Cindy Pon really, really liked to write food descriptions, it seems.  There was never a "and then they ate lunch".  There was always at least one rather blocky paragraph dedicated to that food.  And I don't know about anyone else, but almost nothing bores me more than descriptions of food. 

Total Score:
I had hoped that this would be a lot better than it actually was.  But the characters just weren't likable enough for me.  The plot didn't work out, either, and it lacked the epic tone it could have had.  I'm rather torn about the rating, because it was an okay(ish) read, but I had too many problems with it to give it three stars.  So 2.5 it is, but I'm rounding down because I can't bring myself to round up. 



*Ahem.  Sorry for being such a girl (nope, actually, not at all).  But just look at that braid!  It's gorgeous!  Okay, I'm done.
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Something Worth Rereading

Last year, my speech coach gave me a piece of wisdom.  It went something like this:

"When you read a book for the first time, you read to experience the story.  The second time, you read to experience the plot again, even though some of the magic is gone.  After that, you read simply because you love the characters and want to be with them.  Good characters are what cause readers to return to your writing again and again."

That's not exactly how she said it, but it's the general idea.

Let's all meditate on this, shall we? 

The first time you read a fantastic book, it's exciting.  You get to experience a new plot full of new characters, and you don't know how any of it turns out.  The second time, it's still exciting, but much less so.  Much of the suspense is gone, because no matter how much you enjoyed the story, you know how it ends.  And that takes a lot of excitement out of it. 

But the third and fourth times...you know the plot by heart.  You know almost exactly what is going to happen, what the people will say.  And yet, you still read it.  The plot may hold some interest to you still.

In reality, though, it's all about the characters.

You had to read that book again not because you missed the plot, but because you missed the characters.  That first time around you grew to love them.  You enjoyed experiencing the story with them.  They became your friends. 

And what good are friends you never hang out with?  If you enjoy someone's presence, but you never hang out, never talk, never email, never be with each other, then you aren't really friends, are you?  

Therefore, when you reread a book that you've read a few times before, you're simply keeping up with old friends.  You're enjoying their presence.  You're just "hanging out". 

You want people to love your book so much that they keep returning to it, over and over and over.  You want someone's copy of your book to be worn out, to be falling apart from use.  You want that copy to have been read countless times.  You want to make your book something worth rereading.

Doesn't this say something about the importance of character development? 

This is how important character development is.  This is why you cannot have a good story without first having well-developed characters.  This is why agents sit at their computers and blog for hours about character development. 

So, if you want your book to be worth rereading, then take this post to heart.  Remember how the characters define the story.  Remember how much you love the characters from your favorite book. 

Let's write something worth rereading.

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

This Dark Endeavor (The Dark Endeavor Chronicles #1) by Kenneth Oppel

The purest intentions can stir up the darkest obsessions.

In this prequel to Mary Shelley’s gothic classic, Frankenstein, 16-year-old Victor Frankenstein begins a dark journey that will change his life forever. Victor’s twin, Konrad, has fallen ill, and no doctor is able to cure him.

Unwilling give up on his brother, Victor, his beautiful cousin Elizabeth, and best friend Henry begin a treacherous search for the ingredients to create the forbidden Elixir of Life. Impossible odds, dangerous alchemy, and a bitter love triangle threaten their quest at every turn.

Victor knows he must not fail. But his success depends on how far he is willing to push the boundaries of nature, science and, love -- and how much he is willing to sacrifice.
First Look: ***** This looked pretty interesting.  The "bitter love triangle" thing made me pause at first, but I decided to give it a try.  I like books about twins anyway.  Don't know why; I just do. 

Setting: *****  I liked the historical aspects of the setting.  I got a good sense of the time period, and the culture associated with it.  I also liked the mansion, and the spooky secret passages.  I like secret passages in books, and I could really picture this one in my head while I was reading.  I could picture all the other settings very well too: Polidori's shop, the forest, the cave, all of it. 

Characters: *****
The characters were very realistic.  They reacted to situations just like real people react.  I had no trouble believing any of their characteristics and actions.  Konrad, Elizabeth, and Henry were very likable.  I liked the sibling-like interactions between them.  I liked Henry, especially.

And then we have Victor, our main character, our protagonist.  He was real enough, yes, but...  Well, I liked him at first.  But then, when he started getting involved with Elizabeth, he just became a total jerk.  I couldn't stand him.  I just wanted him to go jump back into that pit where the fish almost ate him.  He redeemed himself a little at the end, but not completely.  The author did a good job with him, though, because I felt for him even when I thought he was a jerk.  However that works.  Oppel pulled it off somehow. 

Plot:
***** I very much enjoyed the plot.  I appreciated how it didn't try to be "big", didn't try to be world-shattering.  And yet, it was still compelling.  Victor wanted to save his brother.  The world didn't hang in the balance.  Don't get me wrong; I like that kind of scale.  But sometimes it's nice to have a break from it, too. 

I really wasn't bored during any of it.  It moved along at a good pace, and it kept me wanting to know what was going to happen.  And then, the end came along...  I won't spoil it, but I have to say: "KENNETH OPPEL, HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO US?"  It's an "Oh, good, wait, WHAT JUST HAPPENED?" sort of ending.  I suppose I should've seen it coming, but still.  Nice twist, and nice shocker.  I even had a little bit of Mockingjay Syndrome going on. 

Uniqueness: ***** It's not trying to be something it isn't.  I really like that in a book.  And it's not the standard YA love-triangle-for-the-sake-of-a-love-triangle kind of thing.  This time, it actually contributed to the plot.  (*gasp*  I know, right?)

Writing: ***** To tell you the truth, I don't remember much about the writing in this book.  Which is a good thing, actually.  It wasn't amazingly gorgeous or spectacular, but it told the story well.  There was nothing about it to distract me from the actual plot.  I think there might've been one typo, but I don't quite remember.  Oppel had neat, tight prose,  the kind that gets in, tells the story, and then gets out before you even know it's there. 

Likes: The ending!

Not-so-great:
The ending!  Yes, I know.  I both like and dislike it. 

Total Score:
I really enjoyed this book.  It's fairly short compared to most books I read, but it was still an engaging read.  The characters were believable and likable (okay, except when you're wanting Victor to go away and never come back).  It's historical, but with just enough science fiction elements to keep sci-fi and fantasy lovers happy.  Recommended!


PS: Have I heard about all the Goodreads drama?  Yes.  Will I dedicate an entire post to it?  No.  Why?  Well, a) it's immature b) it's immature, and c) it's immature.  I only have three things to say about it:
1. These authors have just done a really good job of ensuring many people won't read their books.
2. If I ever behave like that as a published author, I give my characters full permission to shun me until J. K. Rowling starts writing Amish romance stories.
3. Just...really?
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Friday, January 13, 2012

The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking #2) by Patrick Ness

The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking, #2)We were in the square, in the square where I'd run, holding her, carrying her, telling her to stay alive, stay alive till we got safe, till we got to Haven so I could save her - But there weren't no safety, no safety at all, there was just him and his men...

Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor's new order. But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer? And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode...

"The Ask and the Answer" is a tense, shocking and deeply moving novel of resistance under the most extreme pressure. This is the second title in the "Chaos Walking" trilogy.

 I'm going to come right out and ask a question: Why on earth wasn't the first book this amazing?

Seriously.  The first book was pretty good, but I didn't love it.  But then this second book came along, and totally blew me away.  It's not often when a sequel does that.  Usually the second book of a trilogy is my least favorite anyways. 

This book was much more compelling than the first.  I was sucked right into it.  There was a lot more action, and so much more emotion.  At first I thought I wouldn't care for the split narrative all that much, but I ended up liking it.  It was never hard to tell whether Viola or Todd was the one narrating. 

While I'm talking about writing, I'd like to point something out.  Ness's writing style is so unique, and so different.  The writing itself is awesome.  But then, sometimes, the text alone isn't enough for him.  Where most authors would just write a paragraph about an explosion, Ness does this:


Now, I'm not saying that everyone should do this.  If everyone did, it would just be annoying.  But Ness does it, and it actually worked.   

There's just so much to like about this book.  Even if you don't count the 100-something-point font.  Even without that, I loved it.  So much better than the first.  I don't know how the third can top that, but I really hope it does.


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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Year of Blogging

One year ago today, I sat down and made a blog.  I didn't have any plans for it.  I knew essentially nothing about blogging.

But I did it anyway.

Now, one year later, I have 45 followers and almost 8,000 pageviews.  I've had 165 comments. 

So I think I've made some progress, no? 

What really interests me is looking at the most popular posts.  It's interesting to see which posts people find most helpful, most interesting.  Here they are, starting at the fifth most popular down to the top post.

5. Eragon (Inheritance #1) by Christopher Paolini  53 pageviews
4. A Villainous Post 60 pageviews
3. Top Ten Books of 2011  61 pageviews
2. Just a Little Inheritance Hype  84 pageviews
1. How to Finish a Book 111 pageviews

Now, of course, there are always a few posts that never quite get the attention you think they deserve.  Here are some of my favorites that I feel are worth reading (no particular order):

So You Think You Can Write (Have Fun With That)
Why Your Horribleness Doesn't Matter
You Know You're a Writer When...
Working With Microsoft Word
Care and Keeping of the Fictional Horse


I've also accumulated an interesting list of keywords people search that led them to this blog. My personal favorites are "Eragon vs. Murtagh", "Bobby Pendragon's relation to astral projection" (what relation? There is no relation.), "Narnia Risk game" (It exists! I had to look this one up myself, but it's out there!), and many variations of "epic awesome random".

*Inheritance spoiler in this paragraph only* "Galbatorix's death explosion" also deserves mention. I was both confused and amused when I saw that someone had searched that.

I've estimated that this blog contains over 111,000 words, with an average of about 600 per post.  Now, if only I could write novels that fast....

Recently, the reviews page recieved a somewhat major facelift.  It now looks like this:



Now, instead of just having a huge list of books sorted by genre, I made a cooler list, sorted just like it would be in a library.  It's nicer looking, methinks, and a little more...interactive.  What do you think?

Also, what do you think of the blog in general?  What kind of posts are your favorite?  What do I need more of?  What's your favorite post?

Here's to another fabulous year of blogging!
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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Some HTML Basics

Blogger is nice.  It has so many handy-dandy buttons, so most everything is just click-and-drag.  Or just click.  But, if you have a blog, there's a good chance you'll have to use some HTML at some point.  Now, I'm no master, but I can at least get you this far.

HTML is basically made up of these things: < >.  You put things inside of them, like <b>.  This is called a tag.  The tag tells the web page what do do.  You tell it what you want it to do, with this kind of tag: <b>.  Then you put your text or picture or whatever after it.  Then you close it off with an identical tag, but with a slash.  Like this: <b>La la la. </b> 

<b>Doing this makes your text bold. </b>  Like this.

<i>This makes your text italic.</i>  Like this.

<u> This underlines your text. </u>  Like this.

<font color="green"> This changes the font color.  </font>  Like this.

<font color="red"><b><u> And then you can mix and match!</u></b></font> Like this!

<marquee>This makes the words slide across the screen. </marquee>
It's rather annoying, but quite fun.

<center> This centers your text. </center>



Like this.
 

Want an image?  Simply type: <img src="IMAGE URL HERE"> 
You can find the image url by right-clicking an internet picture, clicking "properties", and copying the url from there.
So if I wanted to use this picture:










The code would look like: <img src="https://encrypted-tbn2.google.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRDEN6KTNEfCTTIax2nPkhBlGDo7kzewwWFrK085vusUkVMV9MaIA"> 

You can then take the same picture and edit it in various ways.





As you can see, I've added a border, centered the image, and made it a little bigger. 
<center><img border="5" height="250" width="250" src="https://encrypted-tbn2.google.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRDEN6KTNEfCTTIax2nPkhBlGDo7kzewwWFrK085vusUkVMV9MaIA"  /></center>
 
If I wanted to create a link, I would type: <a href="URL HERE">Text to click here.</a>
And it would look like this: Click here!

Now, you can combine these two and make a picture that links to a website, I simply add the a href code into the image code.  Like this:
<a href="URL THAT YOU WANT TO LINK TO" img src="IMAGE URL HERE"></a>
And it would look like this:


Don't foget to add the </a> at the end of each link!  If you don't, everything you type after the a href tag will become a link, too.  And that would be annoying.


Again, Blogger tends to have buttons to do this whenever you need it, but sometimes it's just easier to type it yourself.  If you have questions or need clarification, just let me know!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Knife of Never Letting Go, Witch and Wizard, and Starlighter Reviews

For a variety of reasons, I am still very behind on reviews.  It is looking more and more like I'll never get them done if I don't do something about it now.  Instead of my regular reviews, I'm just going to post three shorter reviews.  These books deserve better than that, but at least it's better than no review at all.

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1) by Patrick Ness

Prentisstown isn't like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee -- whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not -- stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden -- a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.

But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?


I had heard so much about this book, and it looked interesting, so I figured I'd give it a try.  It actually turned out to be a lot better than I thought it would.  Todd was such a strong, believable character.  The setting was scary and real, too, and didn't try to copy The Giver.  (Because that's what I look for in dystopian books now.  Does it copy The Giver or not?)

The writing, though, was my favorite part.  It took me a little bit to get into the dialect thing, but once I got used to it I really enjoyed it.  It didn't feel forced at all; it felt very natural.  I loved how Ness wrote, in general.  I especially like how he uses his words in ways that force you to read faster, or slower, and you really can't help it at all. 

Overall, I liked this book.  It was a unique and exciting read, as well as having fantastic writing.


Witch and Wizard (Witch and Wizard #1) by James Patterson

The world is changing: the government has seized control of every aspect of society, and now, kids are disappearing. For 15-year-old Wisty and her older brother Whit, life turns upside down when they are torn from their parents one night and slammed into a secret prison for no reason they can comprehend. The New Order, as it is known, is clearly trying to suppress Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Being a Normal Teenager. But while trapped in this totalitarian nightmare, Wisty and Whit discover they have incredible powers they'd never dreamed of. Can this newly minted witch and wizard master their skills in time to save themselves, their parents--and maybe the world?

One big thing that really kept me from enjoying this book was the sarcasm.  I felt like it was all added just for the sake of having sarcasm.  It really wasn't all that entertaining either, or realistic.  It just felt...forced. 

The plot was okay, but I just couldn't get into it.  I think this was mainly because of the characters.  I couldn't really connect to either of the main characters.  I didn't think they were three-dimensional, and I couldn't bring myself to care about them.

But there was a Percy Jackson reference.  And an Eragon reference, I'm pretty sure.  And a Coldplay reference. 

Overall, this was an okay book.  I wasn't too impressed with the characterization and the plot was a bit too fast, but it wasn't horrible either.


Starlighter (Dragons of Starlight #1) by Bryan Davis

What if the legends are true?
Jason Masters doubted the myths that told of people taken through a portal to another realm and enslaved by dragons. But when he receives a cryptic message from his missing brother, he must uncover the truth and find the portal before it's too late. At the same time, Koren, a slave in the dragons' realm, discovers she has a gift that could either save or help doom her people. As Jason and Koren work to rescue the enslaved humans, a mystic prophecy surrounding a black egg may make all their efforts futile.

In Starlighter, bestselling author Bryan Davis masterfully weaves fantasy and inspiration into a captivating novel for young adults.

I recieved this as a Christmas gift.  I loved Bryan Davis's Dragons in our Midst/Oracles of Fire* series, so I was excited to get into another dragon series by him!

The premise of this book was really unique.  The setting was strange, but I liked it.  I also liked how Davis wove together the stories of Jason and Koren.  Speaking of Jason, he reminds me very much of Billy Bannister from DIOM.  Hm....  I liked the characters, as a whole.  They were very well-developed, and I actually cared about them. 

Overall, this was an exciting read that I really enjoyed.  I need to read the next one, now!

PS: Have you seen my new reviews page?  Shiny, no?  I'd love to know what you think of it!
 *I refer to both series as a whole.  Though they are techincally separate, Oracles of Fire uses many of the same characters and settings from Dragons in Our Midst.  It's basically a continuation of DIOM.  Except for the first OoF book, which happens before DIOM.....
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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Why Can't I Live in a Snowglobe This Year?

Last winter was wonderful.  We had heaps and heaps of wonderful sparkly white snow.  Heaps of it.  There were piles in my backyard that went up to my thighs.  It was gorgeous. 

This year?  Not so much.  We've had barely any snow.  And what we've had is mostly melted. 

I want this:


When it snows like that, I'm like a little kid holding her first snowglobe.  Except I'm living in the snowglobe. Well, since the snow isn't coming, I think I'll just head back into Narnia for awhile.  They never seem to have a snow problem.

(All pictures taken by me.  Don't steal, please.)

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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Writer vs The Food Network

The thing about staying in hotels is that somehow, I inevitably end up watching The Food Network with my family.  It's something new for us, as we only get a few channels at home.  None of this "I have forty-two million channels!" kind of thing.

Now, I'm not a huge cooking person.  I'm not really into food all the much.  I mean, chocolate is good, and so is Chinese food, but food does not fascinate me like it obviously fascinates some people.

This kind of talk amused me to no end:
"This sauce is so colorful and layered!  The cilantro really brings out the taste of the tomato.  They compliment each other like two peas in a pod, but the garlic is very overwhelming.  It masks all the other wonderful flavors and leaves much to be desired in terms of balance. Overall, though, the taste is very blustery and whimsical." 

Before a few days ago, I would've sat there, trying not to crack a smile at this.  But this time around, I realized something. 

The Food Network people and I are not so different. 

Food is to the FN people as writing is to me.  Their art is just a bit more...consumable.  For them, the food is everything.  It's what they are.  They create food.  They take simple ingredients and stir, bake, and blend them into something spectacular. 

A writer is what I am.  I take 26 letters and twist, bend, and shape them into something spectacular.  It's really not that different at all. 

I realized that I shouldn't make fun of the FN people when they say things about food that sound utterly ridiculous to me.  Because if they heard me talking about books, they'd probably think I was equally ridiculous.

"The aromas of this soup add wonderful layers to the entire entree!"
"This character development adds a nice amount of tension to the story!"

"This cake is so whimsical!"
"This writing is so rich and effortless!"

"This salad makes me think of home....and hope....and nice warm places."
"After reading this story, all I could do was sit there and think deeply of myself, and humanity, and society's future."

"The grill marks on this steak leave something to be desired."
"I really can't connect to this character.  I can't feel for them."

"This cake is just so fabulous and amazing.  I will love it forever."
"I love this book.  A lot.  A lot of a lot.  'Till death do us part."

This is why I can never laugh at the Food Network again.  Writers can sound just as ridiculous. 

But do any of us care?  Of course not. 
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