Sunday, November 27, 2011

Touch of Power - Maria Snyder

(This cover is my favorite, but you may know Touch of Power by it's alternative cover, seen here.)

Seeing the approval on Netgalley for this book made my week, and that's not an exaggeration. I've been hyped for Touch of Power since I first heard about it, and being as Snyder is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors, you can imagine how excited I was to get my hands on an advanced copy of the first in a new series. And it had better be a series, mind, because I would cry if this book didn't ever get a sequel.

Touch of Power is the story of Avry, a woman with the ability to heal others by taking on their wounds. One would think being such a self-sacrificing being would make Avry loved, but the opposite is true: in Avry's world, the healers were accused of causing and refusing to heal one of the worst plagues in history, one which killed so many people that it completely destroyed all government systems everywhere. Those healers who are still alive are hunted, a bounty on their heads. It would be easy for Avry to stay hidden and pretend that she's normal, but every time she tries, she can't resist healing a sick child, and is forced to go on the run again after the town tries to turn her in. It is after being caught that Avry meets Kerrick, a man who busts her out of prison just before her execution. Kerrick believes that Avry's powers can be used for a good cause, his cause, and is willing to do what it takes to make her agree.

I loved Touch of Power. I just adored it. It's an adventurous, slightly romantic story mixed with a lot of lovely fantasy, amazing characters, and a good dose of humor, and the only bad thing about it is that it ends, in my opinion.

The fantasy aspect is there without being overwhelming, the way a lot of books are. Instead of throwing so much magical jargon at you that you can barely stand, any terms that Snyder uses are eventually explained, and there aren't a million references to keep track of. There's nothing worse than reading a fantasy novel that reads like a DND campaign when you've never played. After the fifth ring of Serrapis or whatever, you tend to lose track of what goes where and what does what, and I love that Snyder doesn't just load her stories up with fantasy just because. There's a good bit of magic and wizards and such, but there's just enough to make the story great without making it complicated.

I adored Snyder's characters in this book. Avry is a the kind of female heroine that I love, a stubborn, strong leading woman who just happens to be completely awesome. She's strong willed without being stupid, she's ethical, and she's no damsel in distress. At the same time, she's not the overly hard butch chick who saves everyone. She's more of a character and less of a stereotype, and I love that. She's not weak, but she's not so strong that there's no point to the story. She needs saving sometimes, but she does the saving sometimes, so maybe, more than saving, she just needs help. She's one of the best main characters I've read about in a while.

Besides Avry, great characters include Kerrick and his band of men, among others. Kerrick is devoted and willing to be cruel for his cause, but too softhearted to actually keep this cruelty going. His men include a street rat, two chivalrous men who would risk their lives to protect others, and a large beast of a man that could easily rival Hagrid in size of form and heart. Even the villain, for all that he's, you know, evil, is pretty well fleshed out. He's honorable despite being cruel, and there's a method to his madness.

If I had to pick out the weakest part of this book, I'd say it wasn't so much the setting that was built, so much as how it was built. The setting itself is pretty cool, and I loved the idea of Death and Peace Lilies, I loved the fantasy-esque setting, and I loved the magic system that Synder set up. But at the same time, I was a little hazy on the details of this universe, and I really hope it's fleshed out a little more in other books in this series, because right now I don't know what to classify it as. It's a gorgeous setting, really it is, but I can't figure out what exactly it is. Sometimes it seems like a glorious fantasy setting full of magic and castles, then the next it seems like it might be not too far from the world of today. I can't tell if the setting of Touch of Power is supposed to be a 'our world after the plague wipes it out' type of world, a 'medically advanced medieval' type of setting, or something like a world that is our own, but in more of a developing nation setting with magic. I just don't know what to think when this fantasy world has characters start injecting people with syringes. It just clashes, in my mind.

Overall, I loved Touch of Power, almost as much as I loved the Poison Study that caused me to become a fan of Synder to begin with. It's a great first book in what I can't wait to become a series, with a main character I can't wait to keep reading about. The book ends at a point that makes me crave the sequel right now, without being such a cliffhanger that I'm obsessing, and it's books like Touch of Power that make me realize that the worst part of being an ARC reviewer is having to wait extra long for the sequel.

I'd recommend Touch of Power to Tamora Pierce fans, first, because Synder and Pierce seem to go hand in hand to me. I'd also recommend Touch of Power to the YA crowd, although it isn't strictly YA based on the characters themselves, just because it has the same feel that YA usually does. And I'd recommend it to anyone who just wants to read an amazing book, whether they've heard of Maria Snyder or not.

So if Touch of Power sounds interesting to you, please pick it up when it comes out in one month, on December 27, 2011!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Iron Knight - Julie Kagawa

I'm not going to lie, when I got this from NetGalley, I kind of squealed and did a happy dance. I'd requested it without noticing the publishing date, and honestly thought that Harlequin was going to despise me for the request. Instead I actually got a copy, which was pretty cool of them, and the most amazing thing to find in my inbox. And the fourth book in the Iron Fey series definitely did not disappoint.

The Iron Knight is the story of Ash, the once knight to the now Queen of the Iron Fey. Shortly after taking the throne, Meghan, the Iron Queen, called on Ash's true name and forced him to leave her kingdom, because she knew that his being there would kill him. The Iron Knight picks up just after this, with Puck and Ash on a journey to find a way for Ash to survive in his love's kingdom. They enlist the help of Grimalkin and set off, with Ash's goal in mind: to claim a human soul, become mortal, and be able to live with Meghan in the Iron realm. But he quickly finds that things are going to be harder than he could have ever imagined.

While I was excited to read The Iron Knight, and I really did like it, I was very unenthusiastic about the idea of Ash as the main character. I love Ash, don't get me wrong, but I love Ash as Meghan's lover and companion. I wasn't half as excited for this book once I realized that Meghan wasn't the main character, or, indeed, present in the majority of the book at all. But Ash makes for just as good of a main character, even if I still wish The Iron Knight had been a continuation of Meghan and the Iron fey, and the sheer number of questions that are answered in this book make up for everything that could possibly have been wrong.

The problem with The Iron Fey is that there is a very key twist to the story that happens very early, and it isn't something I can willingly spoil for you. That being said, it's hard to describe what's so amazing about this book without doing so. Suffice to say, in that regard, that the plot twists and such that appear in this book are amazing. Puck and Ash's interaction is much more advanced and intricate in The Iron Knight than it ever was in the first three books, and the characters are fleshed out amazingly well, particularly the ice prince. There's a lot of issues from earlier books that are explored, and I particularly enjoyed the exploration of the backgrounds of characters, including a newly introduced character that joins our two favorite fairy boys on their quest.

This book is an amazing new chapter in the Iron Fey series, and I honestly can't wait for another. This series makes me feel like a bookish Oliver Twist, begging for more, and while I'm not sure if there will be more to this story, I very much hope there will be. Particularly, mind, after a very interesting scene in The Iron Knight which may or may not have narrated parts of Ash's life with Meghan in the future, but I can't say much more than that.

If you liked the other three books in the Iron Fey series, then you need to pick up The Iron Knight, because it is an amazing continuation, and you'll probably love it. If you haven't heard of the Iron Fey series, then you should go pick it up when you get the chance, because it's a great series, particularly if you're ready to move on to something more than vampires.

The Iron Knight is on sale now, so grab your copy soon and enjoy following our favorite Ice Prince!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fractured Light - Rachel McClellan

Being the complete cover art whore that I am, I'm not going to lie: the first thing that made me want this book was the girl's almost white hair and the sheer shininess of the object in her hands. Then I read the synopsis and found out she had something like a superpower, and I was sold. I was pretty excited when I got the 'yay, you can read this' email from Netgalley.

Fractured Light is the story of Llona, an aura who has the ability to control light. In Llona's world, there are beings of darkness which hunt the aura's down to drink their blood, which gives the dark beings the ability to go out in the light. Or, in other worlds, a race of vampires who can only hunt these very specific people. After her parents' deaths, Llona decides not to follow the typical aura path, but instead chooses to grow up in the regular human world, blending in instead of standing out. All Llona wants is to survive to old age, not to be killed in her prime like her mother. In order to do so, she promised herself she wouldn't make friends, wouldn't stand out in any way. But when she starts to let her guard down, she makes a mistake and begins to feel...hunted. Her only hope is to try and learn to control the power she has, the same power which is to blame for her mother's death.

Fractured Light reminds me of Vampire Academy, if Vampire Academy had taken place when Rose and Lissa had been on the run from the school. Llona, as an aura, should have been placed in the special private school for training her kind. Instead she lives with her uncle, trying to blend into the real world so that the evil vampire-esque creatures can't find her. Fans of Vampore Academy will probably like Fractured Light for just that reason.

Personally, I liked the characters a lot. My favorite was May, Llona's best friend, although me going into why I loved her so much would ruin more of the story than I'm willing to. Matt was also a sweet character, and McClellon was pretty good at creating the bad characters too. I kind of wanted to backhand Mike across the room, but that was probably the point. And because of the mystery nature of the book, I can't list the villain by name, but I loved him too. Or, well, I did until he actually came out as the villain and become a crazy nutcase. But yeah, until the crazy, he was pretty cool.

The story of Fractured Light is a little slow at first, and predictable, but it's interesting. It does speed up after Llona becomes a little more open, but it doesn't get really good until later in the book. On the other hand, while it may start out kind of slow, by the end this book sets up for what will probably be a pretty cool series, if McClellan chooses to got that path. I know I'll be picking up any potential sequels, that's for damn sure.

The only real aspect that really bothered me about this book was Llona's powers. Now, don't get me wrong, they're pretty cool and all. I like the idea of a race whose sole purpose is to cause happiness and joy. That's pretty cool. But at the same time, the part of me that remembers learning about light in science classes is kind of just like...what? With light? Really?

As a side note, I would have loved if McClellan had inverted the "good is light, dark is evil" stereotype, but that's another story.

All in all, I'd say Fractured Light is a cute story. It's not likely to be your next 'omgfavoritebestbookever', but it's still enjoyable as a light read. I'd recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the paranormal YA genre, and I'd recommend it to the Vampire Academy crowd for reasons listed above. And to add to the Vampire Academy draw, let me further point out that there are a lot of aspects of the romance between Rose and Dimitri to be found in the romance in Fractured Light!

So if you're a fan of Vampire Academy, or just want to check out a new paranormal YA book, check out Fractured Light by Rachel McClellan when it comes out February 8, 2012.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Skyrim - A Review

Despite the fact that it's not a book, I'm so obsessed with this game right now that it just wouldn't be right -not- to publish a review about it. So like everyone and their mother, I figured I'd post one up once I felt as thought I'd seen enough to have a valid opinion.

Since I started playing Skyrim, and thus spazzing about it at work, I've been asked several times what it's about. And you know what? I honestly don't know the answer. You are a dragonborn, a mortal with the soul of a dragon. Because this is an Elder Scroll's game, the "You" in the summary is pretty much whatever you want it to be, from a magic wielding elf to a rogue cat-person to a facestomping orc warrior. As a dragonborn, in any case, your ability is to learn the magic language of the dragons by absorbing their souls. To absorb their souls, you have to kill them. This isn't all bad, though, because dragons are kind of dicks. They burn stuff and kill things just because they're dragons and that's what dragons do. By killing them you're doing the world a good deed. Past the whole dragon thing, there is no definite answer. You can be involved in a civil war, you can be a master thief, you can be a mage... Depending on your play style, Skyrim can be a game about a wood elf who really likes to wander woods and collect flowers, it can be a game about an orc who makes swords with a dream of one day creating a master sword, or it can be the story of an evil dark elf whose dream it is to kill everyone and everything. Skyrim is what you make of it.

If I had to rate Skyrim, which I usually don't do, I'd give it an absolute perfect score. Obviously there are glitches here and there--consider the people who made it--but I don't feel they detract from the game, and even if they do, they'll probably be patched. And some things, which may or may not be glitches, are so awesome I'm pretty okay with them.

Skyrim starts off with you sitting on a cart, riding off to your doom. As your head lays on the chopping block, blood pressed against your face from the guy you just saw die, a dragon is like 'sup' and burns everything. Then you're released into the world to do whatever. Personally, I went the way of the mage, because the magic system is amazing. The duel wielding spell thing is awesome, and at a certain perk in the destruction tree, you literally turn into a human flamethrower with something as simple as the basic fireball spell. That's without going into the awesome summons, the illusion spells, the manipulation! There's a cool rune system, too, which basically creates magical land mines. Oh! And did I mention that, since the Mage's Guild is demolished by the timeline of Skyrim, that necromancy isn't evil anymore? The game's version of the Mage's Guild has a guy who will just flat out sell you a necromancy spell or two as soon as you're in.

As far as magic goes, my favorite spells at the moment are the ice spike, which is exactly what it sounds like, the simple flamethrower fireball you start with, and a summoning spell for a flame atronach that is so completely pretty that I kind if just stared at it for a while and watched it flip around and float. It's also pretty boss when it comes time to take out Giants, but we'll get to that in a little bit.

I personally haven't explored the melee or rogue type characters to the fullest yet, although I've experimented with a cat long enough to know that the night eye power doesn't make everything blue, but I can definitely say that magic is pretty amazing. The only thing I really dislike is the enchanting system, which requires you to already have enchanted items before you can enchant something else. They're not very rare, but the specific types are hard to get. On the bright side, I've heard that the Azura's Star is in this game, so at least the soul gems are here. Haven't heard anything about black soul gems yet, but here's hoping.

Graphically, I honestly can't say anything bad about Skyrim besides the few glitches that show up. Everything is gorgeous, from the rivers to the trees. There are times where I just stop and kind of admire the scenery, from the moons to the colorful lights, to the water. A lot of the scenes look just like paintings, and I love it.

Speaking of water, the little things in this game are what really make it. Stuff like the water pulling you along, and dropping you over rivers. The fact that enemies will fight each other as well as you, if they happen to meet up. The dragons that will just randomly show up. The fact that people you've killed will have families which will hunt you down with thugs. It's all these tiny aspects that make me love Skyrim so much.

The enemies in the game are amazingly fun. From dragons which can show up out of nowhere to the giants which..kind of just win, I don't think I've found an enemy that wasn't neat so far. There are zombies which can use magic, the typical skeletons, giant mammoths which will charge you, wolves, giants... it's an amazing world. And what makes the world even better is the AI that populates some of these creatures. The wolves will attack you in packs at will, but the stronger creatures will...not. They'll warn you off before they attack. Go near a giant's camp, and you'll see one roar and shake his hands at you. I've seen a polar bear that just roared, then went back to its business after I was sufficiently far away. You know what would happen in any other RPG ever? That stupid polar bear would attack and that would be it. I love this system.

As far as Skyrim goes, my favorite moment so far has to have been shortly after I enraged two mammoths into chasing me with a fireball. As they followed me, I stumbled upon a bandit camp. I wish I knew what would have happened had that been it, but shortly upon finding the camp, I noticed that I was being roasted by fire. In searching for a mage of some sort to take out...I noticed the dragon that just landed a few feet away. I ran to a hunt for cover, and happily watched as my three types of enemies tore each other apart until only a wounded mammoth remained.

My least favorite moment so far was killing my first giant. See, the first time I came upon a giant, I had no idea how strong they were. I was quickly backhanded with a club, killed instantly, and the load screen was up before I landed from the launching. Thus, I made it my goal to kill one just because I could. Took me an hour, more summons that I can remember, and a lot of waiting for him to come in range of my perch above him, but I finally killed a giant. And upon close inspection... I kind of felt terrible. They're so peaceful, and just want to live with their mammoths, and I'm a terrible person. ...of course, then I saw how much loot he gave me, and ended up killing three others, but still.

Overall, Skyrim is just an amazing game. I honestly can't find any real major flaws. If you're anything like me, though, Skyrim will take up your entire life for a good few weeks. And if you're anything like me, by which I mean having a job and school, you'll be pining for this game every moment you're not playing. That being said, it is completely and utterly worth it, and I'd definitely suggest picking it up as soon as you can afford it. You will fall in love with this game.

Modelland - Tyra Banks

The first I heard of Modelland by Tyra Banks was at BEA, when someone else in the line I was waiting in started ranting. The list of complaints ranged from how rude Banks had been to the woman to the fact that she'd been under the impression that she'd get an ARC of some "modelling book", not a sample chapter. I'd been under the impression since that Banks had written a modelling manual or something of the sort. Then I saw this on the shelves of my Booksamillion, and just kind of stared in a vague blend of confusion and horror at the cover. I mean, I'm the type of terrible person who judges books by their cover, and I've always felt that an attention getting cover is a good thing. That being said, I think I could make something better on photoshop. I'm pretty sure someone has.

Needless to say, I wasn't expecting this book to be good. I had no expectations for something good between these covers, and maybe that set me up for what I got. Or maybe I just wouldn't have liked it irregardless.

Modelland is the story of--wait for it--Tookie De La Crème. Tookie is an awkward, supposedly ugly girl who is completely forgettable because she isn't pretty. Her best friend is a crazy chick who lives in a tree house, her sister, whose name is butchering of Miracle spelled more than one way throughout the book, is absolutely gorgeous but dumber than a rock, her mother, Creamy, treats her like crap, and her father doesn't want anything to do with her. Her sister is the apple of her parent's eye, and when it comes time for the newest crop of girls to be chosen to go to Modelland, Tookie isn't expecting to be chosen. Far from it, she's only there because her parents made her help her sister. But Tookie is shocked to be selected, and is taken to a place she never dared to dream about, but which isn't as wonderful as it seems.

In the interest of full disclosure? I made myself keep reading past the point I would have quit, before I couldn't handle anymore. I couldn't finish this book. I mean, the only reason I picked up Modelland is because Elixir, by Hilary Duff, was a good book and I was curious to see if another celebrity could pull a book off. Tyra Banks, in my honest opinion, needs to stick to TV.

First off, in Modelland, you know what puts the 'super' in supermodel? Superpowers. I wish I were joking. If you're selected at the end to become one of the special seven intoxibellas, then you get a shiny gold belt and freaking superpowers. And I don't even mean awesome superpowers, like laser beams or something. I mean the ability to make people want to buy stuff, or to live life never turning 30, but instead reaching 29 and then waking up as a teenager again. The only really neat power is the ability to change your shape. Personally, if I become an intoxibella, though, and one of my friends had the ability to change into whatever, and all I could do was make people want to buy wrinkle cream? I'd be pissed.

Speaking of superpowers, one of them is called, and I quote "Seduksheeon". Yet another moment where I wish I was kidding. One of the annoying things about this book is Bank's name choices. Take the above, or Tookie's sister, Myyracle. Why couldn't she just have spelled seduction or Miracle? Really? Am I allowed to call Banks out for doing that stupid name thing, where all you do is take a word and butcher the spelling? Because it's frankly absurd. At this point, I'm not sure if I care, but I'll give props to Banks one name, Ci~L, isn't pronouced See-squigle-el, in the vein of La-a being La-dash-a. Even the names that aren't horribly mutilated are still just flat out ridiculous. Examples, you say? Tookie. Creamy. Theophilus. ZARPESSA ZARIONNEA. All I have to say is just...REALLY? My spell check is going crazy right now.

But let's say that the names aren't vomit inducing story-breakers. Let's say we replace every name in the book with something that doesn't completely trash the story flow. Lets move on to characters! There is nothing redeemable about Tookie, to start. She is a dull, completely unlikeable character and I honestly did not give a damn what happened to her. Her mother is a complete witch of a woman, and as far as Tookie's relationship with her family? It read like something out of a crappy Harry Potter fanfiction. Tookie's father is a dick, her sister is a stuck up and self absorbed moron, and her best friend is a nutcase.

A lot of the situations were completely unrealistic, too. Tookie lays down in the middle of a hallway at school and everyone just ignores her, at one point, because she's SO unimportant and nobody cares except this one guy who offered to help her up and became her prince charming and fajdflahjslkfjaskfasdf. No. BEYOND THE REALMS OF PLAUSIBILITY, BANKS!

Oh! And on a final note, did I mention that the first part of the book, and every chapter, is a fourth wall breaker that calls the reader Dahling and is basically a huge info dump so that Banks didn't have to explain as much in story? Yeah. There's that too.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that Modelland has a great moral behind the story, likely akin to 'every girl is beautiful'--unless you don't shave, anyway, since Tookie bags on a classmate who is against razors, but that's another story--but a good moral doesn't make for a good story, and she should have just written a manual for models, as I originally thought she had, because it would have been a better contribution to society.

I read this because Elixir gave me hope for celebrity authors, and I chose Modelland specifically because I'm a dystopia girl. That being said, any hope that Elixir gave me for celebrities was dashed to the rocks by Modelland. The fact that Modelland is the first in a series is vaguely horrifying, and it kind of infuriates me to know that this book is not only published, but will and has sold, and will have a series to follow. Not, mind, because it's actually a good book; any success Modelland has will be because Tyra Banks has fans willing to buy her stuff.

As far as recommendations go? Don't bother with Modelland. Save your time and money for a book that's worth reading.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Avatar: The Last Airbender -- The Promise, Part One - Gene Luen Yang

I requested this galley from NetGalley more out of hope than any actual belief that I might get access to it. I usually only get the lesser known titles on NetGalley, since I'm still relatively new at all this, and most requests I put in for books I recognize by sight are either denied promptly or never responded to at all. That being said, I squealed and did a happy dance when I realized I'd been approved for this book.

Avatar: The Last Airbender --The Promise, Part One, is the first in a small series of comics that continue from the very moment that the Avatar animated series ends. The series is supposed to create a bridge between the end of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the soon to come Legend of Korra. This comic being so short, I can't go into the plot without ruining things, but I'll say that this book starts out with Zuko becoming the firelord, Toph continuing to be awesome, and Katara and Aang making out. Well, not literally. . . .actually, no, that was a pretty literal scene.

A lot of favorite characters from the series show up in this first volume, including a trio of characters at one point which I know I should recognize, but for some reason don't. I assume I'll figure out who they are later, but for now all I know is that one of the people introduced with Toph in this volume reminds me of every emo kid in the history of ever. It's awesome.

Obviously, as the Legend of Korra's synopsis includes her being trained by the son of Katara and Aang, our favorite avatar and water bender hook up, and this book starts to go into that lightly, mostly with the liberal use of the word 'sweetie'. I think I can accept this, however, because let's be honest: it may be sappy, but I was waiting for this from the first episode of the series and it's about time!

My favorite part of The Promise, Part One so far is the fact that it goes into the idea of cross-bender relationships. I won't go into this too much in this review, because I really don't want to spoil anything for you, but it's a pretty awesome subject to get into. I'm sure fanfiction readers and writers around the world will be waiting with baited breath to see if the child of two benders can bend more than one element.

I guess in conclusion, I can say that the part of me that loved Avatar: The Last Airbender is still squealing in bliss that there is going to be a comic series of whatever length they choose that I can follow until Korra comes out next year. This first taste has been hyped beyond belief, and when The Promise comes out in January 2012, you can bet I'll be there to buy my own copy with the rest of my fellow fans.

So if you liked Avatar: The Last Airbender animated series, you need to go pick this volume up when it comes out in January, because this comic gives back the hope for Avatar that the movie-that-shall-not-be-named stole from us. Three cheers for more Avatar: The Last Airbender!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Elixir - Hilary Duff

When I think Hilary Duff, there's still this part of me that can only remember her from my childhood as Lizzie, or occasionally, by her voice on my first ipod played several million times. As a kid, I loved her. I had most of her music, the Lizzie McGuire movie was my favorite for months, and I just liked her. That being said, there was a part of me that resisted the idea of looking into what one of my favorite childhood stars has been up to, because, let's be honest, my favorite childhood stars don't have a good track record. How many times has Lohan been locked up?

At the same time, though, this cover is gorgeous and I've been hearing some good things. I figured I'd jump on it when I had the chance.

Elixir is about Clea Raymond, the daughter of a famous politician mother and an archeologist father. After her father and she bonded over photographs before he died, Clea has always loved taking them, and goes nowhere without her favorite camera. But after a trip spanning several countries with her best friend ends, Clea looks at the photos she's taken and notices something strange: in a number of the pictures, the same guy can be seen in the background. In fact, in one picture this guy is seen floating in midair. He's the man of her dreams, and that's a literal fact: Clea has drempt about him dozens of time, always with her in the role of one of several women throughout history. Except, and here's the thing...those dreams always end with the horrifying and gruesome deaths of the women.

I honestly wasn't expecting much from Elixir, so I was happy to realize I was enjoying the book. The story is interesting, if a little simple, and some of the characters are amazing. I loved Clea's best friend, Rayna, and her fascination with the idea that every guy might be her soul mate. Clea herself was actually a pretty cool character, one that I thought was interesting and decently fleshed out. I loved her photographer persona, and felt that was a really cool point to add.

The story is fast paced, something new always happening and dragging me along so fast that, when I hit the last page, I kept waiting for more story to show up. Needless to say, there's definite room for a sequel, one I hear came out pretty recently and that I'll probably grab when I get the chance.

I will say that this book isn't fantastically perfect; the romance is a little lacking and rushed, as is much of the plot. I feel that, had the book been longer and had more room for everything to develop, it would have been ten times better. It also would have probably read like a stand alone book, rather than give off the strong 'I'm a set up for a series" vibe that Elixir gives. But even with the slight rush, I still think Elixir is a good book, certainly worth reading.

When I think about Elixir, the books that come to mind in comparison, for some reason, are Evermore and the other books in The Immortal's series by Alison

Saturday, November 5, 2011

United States of Tara - Season One - Showtime

I usually pride myself on not watching TV that much, but a few months ago I found this series OnDemand, and I eventually couldn't resist finishing it. And since I just finished the season, I figured there was no reason why I shouldn't a bibliophile can't like other things too, haha, so why not review it?

United States of Tara is a series on Showtime about a woman who suffers from extreme dissociative identity disorder, complete with a range of alternate identities who include a 16 year old girl, an ideal 50s housewife, and a redneckish guy who is convinced that the reason he doesn't have boy parts is because they were blown off in the vietnam war. I could sum up the rest, but that's pretty much the big draw of the show, and while it sounds like it shouldn't be interesting for that long, it kind of is.

I kind of loved this show. Maybe it's just that part of me that loves crazy people (my mother, my grandmother, my boyfriend...Monk), but it became my favorite pretty fast. I think I literally loved every single character on the show. The gay, nerdy son, the supportive husband, the vaguely slutty daughter with the creeper boss at work....the entire cast just made me happy, and that's without going into the Alters. Buck, the guy alter, was my favorite. He was just completely awesome, from his backstory to his bowling skillz.

I honestly don't think that there was anything about this show that I didn't like, but it definitely isn't a family friendly show. Or, rather, it is except for two episodes where a major plot point involves Tara's sisters boob job, which...sounds a lot worse than it is, actually, but still involves the flashing of bare chest. Needless to say, I almost choked, particularly considering that I was watching in a public place.

I'd recommend United States of Tara to pretty much anyone, because, you know, I love it. And I hope you will too, which is why you should try it! Pick it up on Netflix, try the first episode, just give it a shot. If you liked Monk, this might be your next following. Hell, if you just like the synopsis, try it! It only gets better the farther you go.

And remember: no matter how broken hearted you are, we never light buildings on fire. It's not okay.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Merchant's Daughter - Melanie Dickerson

When it comes to books, I rarely pay attention to publishers before I read them. I know a few out of repetition and BEA booths, but otherwise I rarely take notice. In the case of The Merchant's Daughter, it's probably a good thing I don't. When I requested the book from NetGalley, I went entirely off of the synopsis, and had I known anything about the publisher, Zondervan, I likely wouldn't have touched it. Christian Fiction isn't something I'm usually a fan of, but The Merchant's Daughter surprised me.

The Merchant's Daughter is the story of Annabel, who, after her family is found guilty in court and given the choice of paying a fee that would take their home or sending someone to work as a servant for 3 years in the lord's home, flees in the night to become the servant and save her family. As the servant to the lord, Annabel is expected to do hard labor, something that she has never done due to her father's wealth when she was a child, and her mother's insistence to their town that, even after her father died, their family didn't need to help with the harvest. It's the reason why her family was in court to begin with. Annabel's only sorrow is that, with the loss of her father's wealth when he and his ships sunk, she will never be able to afford the fees to join a nunnery and gain the right to read the bible, which has been her dream for years. But she is fine with doing the work to earn her place, even if her new lord is scarred and cruel. Except that she's quickly finding, to her surprise, that he isn't as cruel as he seems.

The easiest way I can sum up The Merchant's Daughter is that it's Christian fiction for someone who doesn't like Christian fiction. In a time when most YA books tend to be gritty and real, and when most romance books tend to involve the main characters jumping into bed within the first half of the book--and in graphic detail that makes reading outside of the home mortifying--it's really nice to read a book where the story is just...nice. I know that sounds really bland, but that's the best word for it, I think.

Annabel's story reads like a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and it's a very sweet telling at that. The lord is gruff and ugly, scarred down his face from a wolf attack and hardened against women thanks to hardships in his past. Annabel is sweet and pretty, a young girl who has never done work willing to give herself up so that her family doesn't have to lose their home. I love the characterization in this book, from the main two characters to the absolute vileness of Annabel's selfish, spoiled brothers. There were flaws, and I feel that the vile characters were somewhat flat, but at the same time I liked them that way. Part of me kind of missed books where the bad guy was the bad guy was the bad guy, rather than the bad guy whose secretly good pretending to be bad while he does some really good things, like..saving the main character's life. Frequently.

The book wasn't perfect, obviously, but then again, what book is? Personally, I really liked The Merchant's Daughter, and kudos to Melanie Dickerson. It's not a life changing book, or the next big thing, but it's simple and it's sweet and for someone who wants to read something where a duck is a duck not a shapeshifter trying to take over the world or something, it's a nice change. I'm not sure who I'd recommend this to specifically...but if the synopsis seems interesting to you, even if it's not your usual book fare, then pick up a copy of The Merchant's Daughter when it comes out December 1, 2011. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fads and Trends - A spazzing out by a bibliophile

Every once in a while, some book or movie succeeds so well that it starts a craze for the same type of book or movie. If you don't know what I mean, you probably haven't been paying attention to the same book shelves as I have, and haven't noticed the vampire craze that Twilight started. Some of these fads I love, some I hate, and there are some I just want to happen. Here's my top three lists for book trends and fads.

Top 3 Book Fads That Make Me Hate Books
  • Vampires - Now, don't get me wrong. I used to love vampire fiction. I read Twilight back when it first came out, before it became a goddamn cult for tweens and unhappy housewives, and I didn't hate it. My favorite books for the longest time were Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series, which revolve around vampire-esque beings, and I like the Sookie Stackhouse books and a lot of other vampire books that have come out. But I'm getting really sick of picking up the same goddamn books rewritten almost every time I pick up a YA book with vampires. So maybe I should say that I'm more sick of YA vampires, not vampires as a whole. I mean, damn. Can I get a little originality, please? At least Twilight did something new, even if it was just body glitter.
  • Love Triangles - Has nobody else noticed this annoying trend? You get this great book, with an awesome female main character whose strong and absolutely badass--until it comes to these two guys, where she's like a bubbleheaded Beverly Hills barbie. "Oh, I can't pick which one I want. They're both so special and amazing and sexy, and sure I've been with this one guy forever, but this new one is so sparkly and neat!" I swear, it seems like some authors only do this to get their fans into shipping wars. Obviously, some authors do it well. Others, however, completely fuck up a plot that could have been great by making it all about some stupid girl who can't pick a boy and, in some cases, cheats or kisses both or something because she's so 'helpless to resist her feelings'. It makes me hate the characters, and sometimes, it makes me hate the books. What the hell happened to female characters who were strong and confident and not confused sometime-sluts who can't make up their minds between the footballplayers/werewolves/vampires/nerds/badasses/bestfriends/etc
  • Dystopia - It started with Hunger Games. Well, really it started with Battle Royale, and the Giver, but nonetheless, Hunger Games set this off. Now, if you actually read my reviews, you're probably surprised to see this on the list, because I think I've stated my preference for Dystopia fiction a few million times. But here's the thing about fads: no matter how good the original idea is, and how amazing a few of the books come out...there's always a sudden rush of books that shame the entire subgenre, and get published just because they have the theme that's popular. I'm not going to list any names, because you can probably think of two or three on your own, but if you've been reading any of the new dystopia books lately, you've probably noticed at least a few that had a great idea but were pretty much terrible in practice. As much as I love Dystopia, I am not looking forward to what this subgenre becomes in a year or two.
Top 3 Book Fads That Are AMAZING
  • Werewolves - I know, I'm probably a hypocrite for hating the vampires and loving the werewolves, but I can't help it. I've always loved the idea of shapeshifters, and I adore how the werewolf genre has evolved. It's one of the things I give a happy nod to Twilight for, even though I hate what the book has done to vamp fiction. Liar, Raised by Wolves, Blood and Chocolate, etc.Wolfs, and shapeshifters in general, just make me happy, and I'm loving the flood.
  • Dystopia - I know, it's on both lists. I have a love hate relationship with this book trend. On one hand, yeah, I'm hating how the average quality of a YA dystopia book is declining. On the other, I'm loving the sudden vast influx of stories with the themes I love. I loved Dystopia back when the Hunger Games idea was still just Battle Royale, and I'm loving the new ideas that keep springing up. A lot of them have flaws, but then you get books like Divergent, which I adored, Uglies, Unwind, Inside Out, Jenna Fox... I mean, yeah there are some bad ones that annoy me, since I get excited to read them only to find out I've wasted my time...but at the same time, I'm loving that I suddenly have so many choices, and there are such amazing gems that its' worth it.
  • Real Life Grittiness - Maybe this isn't really what you can consider a fad, but I'm loving the sudden influx of the really gritty, dark stories. I love a good fluffy story, and I reallllyyy love when the main character pretty much just kicks everyone's ass out of sheer awesome, even if that does make me a sue lover....but goddamn, I am liking these stories where I get to LEARN when I read. You know, books like...The Chosen One, say, or anything to that effect. Stories about the stuff from real life or that could be real life, but not MY real life. Angsty stories, gritty and real stories, stories about sex or rape, murder, the gay kid's rebellion, the skinny barbie who suddenly gets fat (My Life In the Fat Lane, anyone?), nerds, polygamy, cults...I love it. I love when a good fictional story still gives me stuff that I get to learn about. I love reading about angst and terror and confusion and learning and awesome and yes. <3

Top 3 Book Fads I Want To Happen
  • The Fae - The Fairy, Fairies, Faeries, what have you. The Iron Daughter, Meredith Gentry, Tithe, Valiant, I LOVE THIS AND WE NEED MORE. Obviously Meredith Gentry isn't YA, but still. I love the dark, evil fairies, the twisted tinker bell. I love the Sidhe and Unseelie and the brownies and trolls, the summer kings and wow. I am so hoping this becomes something big, very soon. I would be so hyped for this. It seems like it might be on the cusp of becoming popular, and I want it to. Now.
  • Time Travel - I always used to love reading fanfiction, and my favorites were always alternate universe, dimensional travel, time travel, etc. And I want that to become something big in my fiction. I want that now. I want modern day girl forced to live in ancient times, I want the future girl who can't function in today's society messing up and struggling. I want the YA version of the highlander being sent by magic into the future, and attacking a car. I want a HUGE flux of time travel and awesomeness.
  • Super Powers - This seemed like it was getting popular for a while, then suddenly the trend was all about dystopia instead. I want more of the super powered fics. I want more Hero, more Shatter Mes. I want flying and fighting and the coolest powers ever. I want this to become some awesomely popular thing, so the part of me that still squeals in glee over the new batman game can squeal in glee over books that don't have pictures.

What about you? What book trends do you hate? Love? What would you like to see as the next fad, if you have a choice?
And hey, got any good suggestions for my favorites? <3
Let me know!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hehe, Template Change

Yeah, in case you're a regular and think you've happened upon the wrong site, you haven't. Changed the site template out of boredom, and this was the one that fit the cover of Raised by Wolves best, so I kind of just went for it. Hope you like the darker theme; I personally think it's easier on the eyes, but if you disagree, or preferred the other one, feel free to tell me.

Thanks, and have a great day. <3

Raised By Wolves - Jennifer Lynn Barnes

One of the many books I took home with me from BEA was Trial By Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, what was the second in a series I'd never read. I hadn't planned on getting it, originally, for the sheer fact that the line was horrifyingly long. However, my party eventually decided to head for it when it had gotten shorter, towards the end, and I figured I'd need to pick up yet another book when I had the time.

Raised by Wolves is the first book in that series. It's the story of Bryn, a human girl who, after a werewolf attack claimed the lives of her parents, was literally raised by wolves--or werewolves, at least. After saving her from the Rabid, the term used to describe the wolves who attacked humans, the alpha of the local pack took her in and Marked her as one of their own. Because of the mark, Bryn has the capability to do everything with the pack, from running with them when the others are changed, to connecting to the pack through the pack bond, a type of telepathic connection all members of the pack share. However, she is still very much human, and is treated as the fragile being she is. Until the day she meet's Chase, a boy in her Alpha's basement that's kept in a cage. Chase changes everything, cracking the very foundations of what she knows.

This book is definitely well thought out, I'll definitely say that. The first few chapters are pretty much a giant dump of backstory and explanation, and it all makes a lot of sense. A lot of it is really cool. That being said, a giant info dump wasn't the best way to give that information out. It was boring and slow, and while the story sped up later and got interesting, I honestly wasn't sure if I was going to bother finishing the book, at first. It just starts too slow, and it drags. I'm happy I did keep with it, because the end was neat enough to make up for it, but the beginning of this book is far from fantastic.

Characterwise, Bryn is...meh. She's a lukewarm character, I guess, if anything. Pretty much the entire book reads as her doing really stupid shit out of stubbornness and...well...stupidity. I swear, half the book happens because someone tells her no. I kind of wanted to backhand her a few times. That's not to say she's all bad, obviously. She's loyal, smart, and pretty strong. She's awesome, in a 'sue' kind of way.

I feel like I'm painting a terrible picture of this book, but it's honestly not a bad one. Raised By Wolves is actually pretty neat, it just has some flaws. It's very far from perfect, but it's not bad at all. The world building in this book is fantastic, even if it's delivered in a less than amazing way, and I really liked the fact that, in Bryn's world, werewolf packs actually act like PACKS. Not like a bunch of people who happen to be all werewolves and are kind of assholes to each other, but are actually animalistic packs: loyal to each other, but still reflecting their animal counter parts. The wolves are awesome.

The plot itself gets pretty neat, after the first half of the book. Everything comes together amazingly, and there is a perfect setup for a sequel. Even thought I wasn't amazed at this book, the ending is so perfectly set up for it that I can't NOT read the sequel, which was probably the point. The very end sections of this book were the best, which means, to me, that the second book is likely to be a few dozen times better than the first.

So while, if I had to give this book a rating, it would only score a 3/5, I'm still going to be jumping into Trial By Fire as soon as I finish this review, and I'll still recommend it to anyone who'd still be interested, knowing that the first half isn't fantastic. This book kind of feels like an RPG manual to me; although it's kind of boring, you have to learn the rules of the universe so you can get into the awesome stuff, and then it's just fantastic.

If you're into the YA wolf paranormal craze, pick this book up and you'll probably love it despite the flaws, for the sheer fact that the amazing wolf aspect of this book will absolutely seduce you. Fans of the Anita Blake series, particularly the aspects of Anita being the one human among the paranormals, will love this book as long as you weren't into Anita for the adult aspects. In fact, I'd almost say this book is the YA counterpart, or it at least has the high potential to become so, and I love it for that fact, and I hope you will too.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fire Study - Maria Snyder

As expected, it took me less than a day to finish Fire Study by Maria Snyder, the last book in the Study series and I'm pretty satisfied with the series as a whole. I'll probably end up buying copies of the books for my shelves, so I can reread them whenever.

Fire Study picks up with the end of Magic Study, with Yelena in Sitia still trying to help take out the warpers and keep the Sitia from going to war against Ixia. Cahil has begun to follow the warpers, believing they can help set him on the throne, and to make matters worse, the warpers are trying to release a new threat: a fire elemental like being known as a fire warper, one of Yelena's worst fears.

I liked Fire Study a lot. Not as much as I loved Poison Study, but definitely more than I liked Magic Study. With Magic Study, it seemed like the plot was being dragged on without actually being concluded at the end, whereas Fire Study had some of the same plot, while having the conclusions that Magic Study demanded. Fire Study is a fantastic ending to a really good series, and I'm happy with the way it everything ended up. I adored the way Yelena's powers developed, although I won't go into details about them for risk of spoiling the story, and I loved the way Snyder chose to close the story.

The book, and indeed, the entire series, seemed like a great mix of all the aspects of a good book. There was a good story, good characters, and a romance that was interesting without taking up the entire goddamn book, like so many YA books seem to. I'm glad to finally find a good YA book that doesn't seem to turn into 'wow, which of these gorgeous perfect devoted guys should the main character end up with' instead of the original story. *coughFracturecough*

That being said, if you read Poison and Magic Study, you probably don't need me to tell you that you need to pick up Fire Study. And as always, a specific recommendation to fans of Tamora Pierce~! If you haven't read Poison and Magic Study, I'd recommend it to all fans of the fantasy and YA genres, although I hope I haven't spoiled the first two books for you in this review!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Enclave - Ann Aguirre

I found Enclave on a Goodread's YA dystopian fiction list a few weeks ago, and finally got around to reading it today. I'm definitely going to be paying attention to these book lists, whoever puts them together is pretty awesome.

Enclave is the story of Deuce, a girl who lives in the underground community of the College enclave. In Deuce's community, you are given a gender and a number at birth, and don't earn a name until you reach 15. At 15 you're granted a position as one of the three classes, a breeder, builder, or hunter, and are marked to show your position in the community at the same time as you are given your name. Deuce has trained her entire life to be a huntress, one of the men and women who leave the community to find meat to feed the children, called brats, and the other members of the community. Being a huntress is dangerous, not because of the hunting, but because of the other beings who haunt the underground tunnels. Called Freaks by Deuce's community, these beings are humanoid beasts with claws and fangs who are single minded in hunting for meat. Although they usually eat carrion, Freaks are more than happy to hunt fresh meat, given the chance, and humans are just that.
But when Deuce is given the position of Huntress, she's also a assigned a partner. The partner she's given, Fade, was adopted into her community, but originally came from the tunnels outside the settlement. He isn't trusted by the other hunters, and because she's his partner, Deuce quickly finds that neither is she. But working with Fade, Deuce is quickly finding that that things she's been taught aren't as solidly true as she used to believe, and when one of her best friends is framed for a crime in order to keep her quiet, Deuce takes the blame and is forced to try and survive in exile, in a world where Freaks aren't the only danger.

I liked the idea behind this book, and while I'm glad I read it, it wasn't without its flaws. Overall, it's definitely a book worth reading, especially if you like dystopia, which we all know I do. The plot is interesting and relatively engaging, the setting seems well thought out, and I'm a pretty big fan of the way the dystopia aspect is presented, particularly Deuce's community. I see a lot of potential in the ideas behind the book, and if there's a sequel I'll definitely pick it up when it comes out to see if that potential is realized.

But this book is far from perfect. Like I said, the ideas behind everything have a lot of potential, but so far, that potential is far from having been realized. A lot of the characters are very vague and dull, because character development doesn't seem to have been prioritized. I can think of at least five characters who were just overall boring and undeveloped. That's not to say that they all are, but for the most part, Aguirre's characters aren't amazing.

Part of the reason Aguirre's characters aren't so great is the fact that many of the themes that could have been explored in the story simply weren't. In fact, there are a lot of potential themes that should have been at least mentioned, but seemed to have been brushed over and ignored. Death seems common in the story, and both Deuce and Fade, as huntress and hunter respectively, cause much of this death. At the emotional maturity of a 15 year old, you'd think this aspect would be at least mentioned, but it's as if it doesn't happen at all, except with a single occasion early in the story. Even that occasion, however, didn't involve Deuce's direct involvement, and one would think that killing with your bare hands would affect you somehow, at least at first.

Besides the characters, the story is a little rushed, and there isn't a lot of development in general. Enclave is one of those books that has so much going on that it could easily be the size of, say, Clan of the Cave Bears by Jean Auel, or maybe the fourth Harry Potter. Because it's not, it seems condensed. The story jumps a lot, and a lot of explanation just isn't given, so it seems like the pace moves too fast for the amount given. I think, had Enclave been separated into more than one book, it would have been better. In fact, there is a very definite part of Enclave that could easily have been the separation between two different books, and by cutting this one book into two, and fleshing the two parts out better, Enclave could have been amazing. But, sadly, it wasn't.

I'm not saying that Enclave is a bad book, don't get me wrong. I liked it, and I'll probably end up reading it again some day, as well as reading any potential sequels, since the book definitely ended on a cliffhanger. But it's not the next Harry Potter or Twilight or Hunger Games or whathaveyou. It's a good book, and it's a book worth reading, but it's not anything more than that. As long as you go into Enclave without expecting something phenomenally fantastic and view changing, you'll probably like it. But if you read the summary and get your hopes up that you're going to find your next favorite book, you might be disappointed.

I would recommend Enclave to fans of the dystopia YA subgenre that's become so popular lately. If you liked Wither by Lauren Destefano, you might like Enclave, and I'd suggest it if you're on the fence about whether or not to get it. But Wither is also a good indicator otherwise, and if you didn't like it, or particularly if the underaged breeding system just rubbed you the wrong way, I'm going to say that you're not going to want to even touch Enclave. Keep in mind that, at 15, there are people in Deuce's community who become Breeders for the community, after all. Fans of Inside Out by Maria Snyder will probably like this book, and fans of Hunger Games looking for something new to try should definitely pick up Enclave next time they get the chance, no questions asked.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Magic Study - Maria Snyder

Wow, I'm really in a Snyder phase at the moment, haha. But I figured I'd finish the Study series before I move on, and I'm trying this whole review every book I touch before I touch another one kind of thing, so here we are. I'll probably end up doing Fire Study at some point soon, too, haha. That being said, onto the review!

Magic Study is, as you may have figured out, the second in the Study series by Maria Snyder, and the sequel to Poison Study. If you haven't read Poison Study yet, you might want to skip past this review until you're done, because I'm probably going to ruin it for you otherwise.

Magic Study continues Yelena's story after she's forced to leave Ixia for being a magician. After leaving behind everything and everyone she knows and loves, Yelena heads into Sitia with Irys and the other children from her orphanage, all of whom are believed to have been originally kidnapped from Sitia's magic families. Yelena meets her family, finds out she has parents, a brother, cousins, and more family in general than she can remember the names of, and goes on to study her magic. But having grown up in Ixia, Yelena's ways clash up against many of the Sitian customs, and seems to gain more enemies each day she remains in Sitia. And to make things worse, she comes to travel and study with a young main who claims to be the rightful prince of Ixia, and who is involved in a plot to get himself back on the throne.

I can't decide how I feel about this book. On one hand, I really wanted something more like Poison Study, and this book kind of takes Yelena's story in a completely different direction. On the other, I kind of like the new direction, too. Poison Study had more of a theme of rebellion, which I loved. I loved the idea of Ixia's command, I loved the setting, I loved the people, I loved Yelena getting stronger, and the love building, and I just loved it.

Magic Study is less about Yelena growing and rebelling and her relationships, and more about traveling, trying to prove that she isn't a spy every 5 minutes, and exploring her magic. Well, that last one makes sense, given the title, but still. Without being in Ixia, there's no real rebellion to be had, the setting changes frequently, with none of them as likeable to me as the Ixia castle was, and, while many of the characters from the first book are present, the relationships are already built with them, so it just isn't the same. There are new characters, obviously, but few of them are very likeable, since this book kind of revolves around Yelena's enemies and clashes in the new culture. That isn't to say there isn't good relationship building, so much as it's just different.

Just because the stories are different doesn't mean this one isn't good, of course. There are a lot of new aspects to Magic Study that I like. Yelena explores her magic, which leads to some pretty awesome developments, not to mention her family and the school. I won't say too much, to keep from spoiling this story for you, but I thought it was still an excellent book. But personal preferences in mind, Poison Study was spectacular, whereas Magic Study is just good.

If you liked Poison Study, then you should obviously check out Magic Study. They're not the same, but if you liked Poison, then you probably want to follow Yelena, haha. And if you like Tamora Pierce, I'd once again recommend both Magic and Poison, because they're definitely in the same place, I think, as far as genre and such.

Check back, and I'll probably have a review up for Fire Study soon, the next book in the Study series.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Teeth: Vampire Tale - Edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

Teeth is a YA anthology of unusual stories about vampires written by many a famous author. The goal of every story is to bring something new to the vampire subgenre, and almost every story in the collection does what it is meant to do.

I could easily go into each individual story and tell you my opinion of them, but I'd rather not ruin the entire collection for you, so I'll try not to get too in depth about any of the stories. As far as trying to bring something new to the vampire subgenre, I definitely think the majority of the authors succeeded. In this collection, there are stories about vampires from Asia, territorial issues and manipulative games involving them, and a particularly memorable story regarding the 'coming out' of vampires, complete with a high school assembly. Some of the ideas are amusing, some are sweet, some are romantic, and, yeah, some of them could have been better, but the best part about this collection is that each story is so short that the good ones tend to have amazingly leading endings, and the bad ones are over so fast they barely phase you.

Of the stories, my favorite was probably "Why Light?" by Tanith Lee, a story about a vampire who can survive the sun, and her arranged marriage to a vampire who can't stand a minute of it. It was a sweet, slightly romantic story that I thought was pretty fantastic, and I'd love to see a full book version, rather than a tiny short story. "All Smiles" by Steve Berman was a close second, and is the story of a gay boy in a type of military camp who runs away, tries hitchhiking, and gets way more than he expected when he gets a ride. Like Lee's story, "All Smiles" could easily make a fantastic full book, and this short story almost reads like the first chapter in what would be a book I'd pick up in an instant.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, I was not even vaguely interested in Neil Gaiman and Emma Bull's contributions to the collection. Don't get me wrong, I like poetry, which is what these two decided to contribute. I like poetry a lot. But when I'm reading short stories, I want to read stories, not poetry. If I wanted poetry, I would be reading a collection of poems. I mean, the poems weren't terrible, but they weren't so amazing that I could forgive them for taking up a slot in the book instead of an awesome story, which I know these two could have done instead, and done well. One of the reasons I wanted to read this was Gaiman's name, and to find out that I get a poem instead of a cool story was just disheartening.

On the bright side, though, a lot of the other author contributions more than made up for those two poems, so I'd say that Teeth is still a cool book. I wouldn't read it all at one time, though, because the stories do tend to blur together. It's a perfect book for reading just before bed, or while you're waiting for an appointment or bus. It's not a 'sit down and make hot chocolate and read for two hours' kind of book, so much as it's a 'hey, I've got time to blow in this waiting room' kind of book.

If you like the usual vampire fiction that's so prevalent on the YA shelves, you'll probably love Teeth, and you should pick it up. If you like any of the authors who contributed, you'll probably like this too. If you're still raging at Twilight for starting this vampire craze, well, you probably weren't interested in Teeth to begin with.

If you want something light, quick, and easy to read while still being entertaining, grab a copy of Teeth when you get the chance!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Poison Study - Maria Snyder

Shortly after finishing Inside Out, I couldn't help but grab the first in Snyder's Study series, especially when the Glass series was only a spin off of it. After reading, I can easily say that Snyder is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

Poison Study is about a woman named Yelana, who, at the start of the book, has been tried and confessed to killing the son of her benefactor, and is about to be executed. Shortly before her execution date, however, Yelena is offered a second option: as the next person to be executed when the military dictator of the country's food tester has died, she is offered the position herself. Given the choice between dying on the noose and living for just that much longer, Yelena accepts and begins training to detect all manner of poisons, kept loyal through the use of a continual poison she is tricked into taking the first day, and the antidote she must take every morning to keep it's effects prolonged.

Poison Study was not at all the book that I was expecting, which has a lot to do with the fact that, much like Vampire Academies and Bloodlines, I read the spin off series before I read the main series. Lucky me, I once again knew more about the main character that this book even touches on. Because of that, though, this book was completely new to me, besides the names of a few key characters. And even though it wasn't what I was expecting, it was still very good.

I love Snyder's characters. There's no way I couldn't. Her main character is amazing and has depth, the love interest is amazing and has depth, even the side characters, like the military commander whose food she tastes and the cook in the kitchen, are amazing and have depth. Everyone in the book has their own special story and background, and it's frankly amazing. I think I may have loved a few of the side characters more than I loved Yelena, and that's pretty hard.

The plot was pretty awesome too, I've got to say. I was expecting magic and Yelena kicking ass and taking names, from the glass series, and instead I got a country that abhors magic, Yelena being a poison tester(but still awesome), backstabbing, betrayal, love, and hope. This book is definitely one of my new favorites, and I'll be getting a copy for my bookshelves when I get the chance.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy. Fans of Tamora Pierce will probably love Yelena's story as well, as she often came to mind when I was reading Poison Study and the Glass series. There's also a kind of dystopia feel about this book and setting, without it actually being real dystopia, so fans of the genre might want to pick it up as well, just to try it.

Poison Study is out now, and is the first in a series, so if you think it sounds interesting--or if you agree that the cover is gorgeous--, grab a copy next time you get the chance. You won't be disappointed!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Inside Out - Maria Snyder

I actually met Maria Snyder several months before I'd even touched one of her books, after the lovely Zenita D and I went to her book signing to support a friend who helped put it together. She was signing Inside Out, and I didn't make the connection between her and the other series of hers that I read last year, the glass series, until Zenita pointed it out to me a few months ago. When I saw Inside Out again recently, I couldn't help but pick it up in the hopes of it being as good as the glass series. I'm really happy I did!

Inside Out is about Trella, who is a member of the low class in the Inside. Note the capital I. The inside is a huge structure that is made of metal and interwoven with hundreds of pipes and vents. As a member of the lower class, called the scrubs, Trella's entire life consist of mind numbing work, in her case that of cleaning the small pipes that only she and those of her size can fit into. Other scrubs do everything from fixing the parts of the Inside to doing the cooking or tending the hydraulics, and all scrub grow up taken care of by Care Mothers, never knowing their parents or siblings. Scrubs are ruled over by the Pop Cops, who are part of the upper class, and who ensure that the scrubs follow the rules and can't rebel. Trella is the Queen of the Pipes, meaning that she considers scrubs useless, and spends most of her time sleeping and hanging out in the pipes themselves. This changes after her one friend, whom she grew up with, Cog, finds a prophet. Prophets are common, always preaching about a mirror of Christianity, and how one can go Outside if they are good during their lives Outside. Trella has never given into them, until the newest one that Cog finds happens to ask for her by name. And more than that, he may have physical proof of the exit of Inside. It's up to Trella to find out if he's telling the truth, and if so, escape.

I actually really liked this book. As always, I'm a massive fan of any kind of dystopia stuff, which Inside Out reeks of. Anything that reminds me of The Giver or anything like it makes me happy, which means that in today's YA world, I'm a pretty damn happy camper. That being said, Inside Out was good for more than just the setting.

The plot of Inside Out was really good, and Snyder is really good about foreshadowing and providing just enough hints to make the reader think without giving away the entire story. I honestly thought I knew how this was going to end from the very first few chapters, only to get to the end and be pleasantly surprised, which isn't something that happens very much, anymore. Everytime I though I knew what was going on and what was about to happen, it seemed, something else that I hadn't considered would just show up.

As far as characters go, I have to say that I'm a fan of Trella, too. She's a complete badass, which I like, without being the typical 'mary sue' boringly perfect character who just kicks every one's ass and is awesome and unbeatable. She has her flaws, she has her problems, and she actually becomes aware of these.

Overall, I have to say that I really, really liked this book, and I'll probably be grabbing the sequel, Outside In, very soon. It's a nice blend of sci-fi, fantasy, and dystopia all in one, and I'd definitely suggest it. If you're a dystopia fan, pick up Inside Out soon, and tell me what you thought. If you like books that let you think and try and puzzle out the story before you finish it, pick up Inside out and you won't be disappointed. If you're just looking for a new book and you like sci-fi and awesome, grab Inside Out next time you're at your local library and bookstore!

And if you like Inside Out, keep watching, and I'll probably have a review of Outside In sometime soon!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ultraviolet - R.J. Anderson

Ultraviolet was a book I was granted access to just before the fire, and so this review has been about a month in coming. Since I just finished managing to get internet installed and set up last night, I figured I'd start work on this as soon as possible. So here I am.

Ultraviolet is about Alison, a girl whose special talents include seeing sounds and hearing colors. Oh, and apparently managing to make girls shatter into a million pieces and vanish, making everyone think she was murdered, but that's only happened once. After that, however, Alison's mind simply shatters, and her mother has her put into a mental home, where Alison finds a researcher who diagnoses her strange talents as synesthesia. Soon Alison and the researcher begin to bond as he teaches her about her unique views on the world. But Alison's new friend has a lot of secrets, including knowledge about what, exactly, happened to the missing girl that Alison destroyed.

I'm not going to lie, pretty much the entire draw of this book for me was the main character's synesthesia. The actual plot didn't really interest me all that much, besides the usual 'oh, she has powers! let's read!' draw that I usually get. I wasn't really expecting much from this book, which might be why I actually liked it.

I was looking to read about her synesthesia, which should tell you right away that it's one of my favorite things about the book. This book kind of reminds me of The Chosen One, because the sole reason I read it was because of a specific aspect of the setting/character, rather than the plot. It was an interesting look through the eyes of something that isn't usually written about, and I probably would have marked this as an okay book just because of that aspect of Alison's character.

As far as the plot goes, I'd say it was decent. This book certainly isn't going to be my next favorite, nor will I be going to get a paper copy just to put on my book shelf of 'the best', but it wasn't bad. The plot twists are just twisty enough without being M. Night level freakishness, with a good amount of foreshadowing that, while tying everything together, doesn't completely spell out the entire ending like so many others.

I enjoyed Alison's characterization, although I wasn't particularly interested in any of the other characters. None of them really stuck out besides Alison and her mother, and her mother only interested me in a 'god, she's a bitch' sort of way that doesn't really say very good things.

All in all, I'd say Ultraviolet was a pretty good book for what it was, and it's a nice addition to the YA bookshelves. It's not spectacular, but let's be honest: not everything can be the next Harry Potter. As far as recommending Ultraviolet, however, I am honestly not sure what it appeals to. Fans of typical YA asylum books such as Suicide Notes by
Michael Thomas Ford or It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini may find Ultraviolet interesting, but because the book seems to be more mystery and sci-fi, I'm not sure if Ultraviolet can just be chalked up to 'another crazy teenager book'. At the same time, Ultraviolet may appeal to fans of powered up teenagers, like Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi or Hero by Perry Moore, but since Alison has synethesia more than actual powers, I'm not sure if Ultraviolet fits this niche either.

So for once, I'm at a loss for who to recommend a book for specifically. If you're interested in a light, YA read about mental homes and synethesia, Ultraviolet might be for you. If you're just looking for a YA mystery with some sci fi and romance mixed in, pick up Ultraviolet. And if you want to try a book that's a little hard to classify, then I'd say you should find a copy of Ultraviolet when it comes out on September 1st.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Vampire Academy - Richelle Mead

If you've been following my twitter, you may have heard that I'm dealing with the aftermath of a housefire. Mix that with my work schedule, and I haven't had much time to write my reviews. But I never stop reading, so expect further reviews for the Lords of the Underworld series, Ultraviolet, and the Vampire Academy series, plus a few others that are probably escaping me, at the moment.

That being said, I finally have the time to write up a quick review, and today I figured I'd start my special Vampire Academy readthrough series of reviews. For those of you wondering why these particular reviews are special, the answer is that unlike the majority of Mead's fans, I did not read Vampire Academy first. Rather, I got ahold of a Bloodlines ARC--which you can see my review for here on this blog--and read that before I was asked to do a Vampire Academy series review. That being said, let me begin my review of Vampire Academy, through the eyes of a Bloodlines' fan.

As someone who read Bloodlines first, let me start by advising everyone to not make the same mistake. Bloodlines is the first book in a series that, while being a spinoff, is still a series that can standalone. This means that the story is a huge spoiler for, let's face it, pretty much everything in just the first book, and several major points that I assume show up later. If you don't like your books spoiled, don't touch Bloodlines until after Vampire Academy.

But even with the spoilers, I still enjoyed Vampire Academy--although I'll admit that I'm enjoying the following books a lot more. In Vampire Academy, you follow Rose and her best friend, Lissa. After running away two years ago from the academy meant to train living vampires--Moroi--to live in society and use their elemental powers, and dhampires--half human and half vampires--to be able to be guardians that protect the Moroi, the two girls are suddenly caught and sent back, where Rose faces expulsion and separation from Lissa if she steps out of line even once. The only reason she is even allowed to stay is the mental bold formed between the girls that makes Rose the perfect candidate to be Lissa's guardian after graduation. But before they can graduate, the pair have to survive their final years of training, dealing with the rumors and aftermath of their escape, and the dead animals that keep appearing in Lissa's things.

Vampire Academy is a decent book that I probably would have enjoyed more if I hadn't already spoiled most of the plot. I particularly enjoyed the types of vampires that Mead has created, and her twists on the race and myths. I love the academy setup, too, which is probably the influence of my inner Harry Potter fangirl. But what's really great about Vampire Academy is that, while there is the typical romance you associate with a YA book, nowadays, VA isn't at all Twilight-esque like so many paranormal YA books tend to be, nowadays. There's a great plot, strong female characters, and and the romance is light and -not- the entire reason for the book.

The only bad thing I can say about Vampire Academy is that it's a little slow, in comparison to the later books in the series. That being said, if VA isn't your favorite book when you're reading it, I'd still suggest finishing it and going on to the next book in the series before you give it quits.

Vampire Academy is a promising start to a new series, and fans of books like the House of Night series or vampires in general will probably really get into it. If you're a paranormal YA fan, you'll probably like Vampire Academy too, and I'd definitely suggest picking it up at your local library or bookstore.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Darkest Night - Gena Showalter

Note: The Lords of the Underworld series is an adult book series. It contains elements of violence, language, gore, sex, and whathaveyou that YA readers may or may not be comfortable with. Please keep this in mind, should you decide to read this review and/or the books.

Romance novels are my dirty little secret, as you may or may not know. That being said, I recently got the urge to read Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld series, a series from which I vaguely remember reading one of the books when I was younger, but can't remember much about. Being as Showalter is a favorite author of mine, when I can get a hold of her books--and a really nice person, for that matter, as I met her at BEA this year--I was pretty hyped to start. This review of the first book in the series, The Darkest Night, begins a series of reviews I will be posting as I do a full series read through.

The Darkest Night is the first book in the Lords of the Underworld, and it introduced the world of the series. In this world, Pandora was not only a real person, but she was a female guard of the gods chosen from a number of other guards to guard a box that contained a multitude of demons. Pandora, however, was not the one to open the box. Rather, her fellow guards became enraged with jealousy that Pandora, a woman, had been selected instead of them to guard the box. They released the demons, intending to show the gods that they had been wrong in choosing Pandora. Instead, however, the gods took these guards who had betrayed the cause and bound them to the demons that escaped, so that each being was mix of immortal guard and demon.

In The Darkest Night, Maddox is the guard who is bound to the demon of Violence. Having been taken over by his demon after they were bound together, Maddox was the one who killed Pandora after the demon release and because of this has been cursed by the gods to be killed in the same manner she was, every night, to spend the night in hell, and to be reborn every morning. Ashlyn is a woman seeking the help of the 'angels' that she's heard the town people talking about. She is gifted, or perhaps cursed, with the ability to hear every conversation that has ever taken place where ever she stands. However, upon meeting Maddox, Ashlyn realizes that the voices are quiet so long as she is around him, and she's willing to do anything in her power to keep the voices quiet.

To put it simply, I liked this book. It wasn't exactly what I'd call 'cute', but it was cool and I simply enjoyed it. That's not to say that I omgloveadored this book, because I didn't. It's not exactly the next big thing, but it's definitely something I consider worth reading, if you like paranormal romance. It's a good first book, and as far as being an introduction to a new series, The Darkest Night did its job: it made me want to read the second book in the series.

I love books with mythology heavily influencing the settings and story, and if you're a mythology nut too, you're probably going to like The Darkest Night. If you like adult paranormal romance, you should at least look at The Darkest Night. And if you liked Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series, or any of Showalter's other books, you've probably already read this book. But if you haven't, it's available at most book stores, and I'd definitely suggest you pick it up.

Review Schedule and Updates

When I posted my review of Bloodlines, I received a request to do a read through of the Vampire Academy series. Thanks to my dear friend, Zenita, I have my hands on the series and will be commencing the read through, with reviews posted as I finish each book. I should be starting this soon, as a side project.
I'm currently in the midst of a first read through, this one being the Lord of the Underworld series by Gena Showalter, a favorite author of mine. It's an adult series, not YA, for those of you keeping track, and the first book's review should be posted in a few hours or less.
That being said, I'll still be posting sporadic reviews of other books as netgalley decides if I am worthy or not, as well as tackling the occasional BEA arc that I've still got sitting around.

On a random note, dear readers, if someone could tell me an estimate of how much it would cost to...oh, I don't know, ship Bloodlines across the country, I'd be grateful.

Thanks, and have a great day, guys.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Guantanamo Boy - Anna Perera

First off, let me start by saying that it took me several attempts before spell check even recognized my mangling of the word Guantanamo to fix it. Never actually needed to spell that before. Anyway, got a hold of an ebook copy of this book from the amazing site that is NetGalley. Needless to say, Guantanamo Boy isn't exactly the sort of thing I normally go in for. There's no fairies, vampires, magic, telepathy, or even trashy romance. But when I read what it was about, I honestly couldn't exist. I love getting my daily dose of learning through fiction!

Guantanamo Boy is the story of Khalid, a British born and raised Muslim boy whose religious dedication doesn't go much farther than a prayer on Fridays. Shortly after 9/11, Khalid's grandmother dies and his family goes to Pakistan for the holidays so that his father can see that his aunts are taken care of. After his father vanishes shortly into the stay, Khalid goes hunting for him and ends up being pulled into a demonstration on the streets. Afterwords, when he can't find his father, he goes back to his aunt's home and plays the alpha version of a computer game his cousin, Tariq, designed: Bomber One. It's while he's playing this game that men break into the house and kidnap him, taking him away from his family and putting him through a series of humiliations, tortures, and various prison bases, before Khalid finds himself in Guantanamo itself, where nobody believes he is a innocent 15 year old boy.

Reading the story of Khalid was a strange experience. He's young, school aged, enjoys playing on the computer and playing games. He could be any random kid playing Call of Duty today. That's what makes the fact that he's taken so horrifying. No matter how reasonable Khalid explains who he is and what he's doing, nobody cares. No matter how much proof he gives that he's only 15, that he really is from the UK, that he's innocent, those in charge just keep asking him the same questions. Reading through his eyes, experiencing every humiliation and injustice as he told it, infuriated me. This book managed something that few books seem able too, anymore: it made me, as the reader, feel what the main character did. It made me furious to read how badly Khalid was treated. The writing of Perera is particularly descriptive at times, to the point that even Khalid mentioning the dinner he was served could turn my stomach.

Despite the fact that the writing was enticing and involving, I honestly can't say whether or not I liked this book. I'm not entirely sure if "like" is really the right word to even use. To me, liking a book is enjoying reading it. Liking is reserved for books that make me feel excited, books that make me want to read them over and over again, and I most definitely do not ever think I will touch Guantanamo Boy ever again. This book is informative, and I'm sure it's a very interesting look into the true stories that it's based on, but that being said, I did not exactly 'like' it. For all that I'm sure it's a 'good' book, it's a good book in the same way that I feel To Kill A Mockingbird or The Chosen One are good books: they're good for the first read, but after that they feel dry. You already know what's going to happen, you've seen the peak into the life or event that the books represent, but there isn't much of a reread value.

If you like books about the injustice of humanity, well, you'll probably adore Guantanamo Boy. If you like books that open up windows into strange lifestyles and retell horrifying events, you'll probably like this book. And most importantly, if you want to read a tale about the events following 9/11 from the side least represented, I'd suggest you pick up Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera when it comes out August 2011.