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.