This Page

has moved to a new address:


Sorry for the inconvenience…

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
A Reader of Fictions: August 2013

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Saturday, August 31, 2013

On My New Arrivals Shelf (69)

Dear friends, I miss vlogging. However, I am too lazy to try my webcam again and have it fail me, because my tears. Also, I'll have to work myself up to purchasing a more costly webcam that will hopefully last longer than a few months. So, enjoy my exposition in word form.

For Review
What Goes Around - Courtney Summers: Check back soon for a giveaway of What Goes Around. Trust me, you want this, because Courtney Summers is DA best. Dear St. Martin's Press, I am thrilled with this omnibus and will be fitting it in as soon as I can!
Antigoddess (Goddess War #1) - Kendare Blake: YES. I totally didn't think I was going to get this, but then it came and I danced around with it. By the way, the feather on the hardback cover feels like a feather, which is majorly trippy. Tor Teen, thank you for this pretty and I am excited to start it this weekend!

Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood - Abby McDonald: Lol, this should be fun, because April put a note on it saying she hopes I like it more than she does and that does not happen all that often. BUT WHO KNOWS, RIGHT? Anyway, thanks April (Good Books and Wine) for sending this one!

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - : Went to Goodwill yesterday and bought books and shirts and a dress. This is such a new one to be at Goodwill, but hurrah for me!
Nothing Like You - Lauren Strasnick: I enjoyed Then You Were Gone, so when I saw this one at Goodwill, I snapped it up.
The Orchid House - Lucinda Riley: Dudes! This one was on my Amazon wishlist, but then I found it at Goodwill in great condition, so winning!


Friday, August 30, 2013

15 Day Book Blogging Challenge, Day 4: The Art of Book Flinging

Okay, so I'm late boarding this train, but I want to be part of the fun too. I asked on Twitter for buddies, so that I wouldn't be alone in taking this epic journey. Thankfully, bloggers are awesome people, so I quickly found three friends to travel with me through the book blogger challenge: Lili of Lili's Reflections, Mickey of I'm a Book Shark and Jessie of Ageless Pages Reviews, so make sure you check out their responses too! We'll be doing one challenge a week every Friday for fifteen weeks. For more information on the challenge itself, go visit Good Books and Good Wine's explanation post here.

Confession: I'm not a book flinger. This is an art I have not mastered. Basically, they have value, and, rather than fling it, I would gift it to an unsuspecting victim so they can also suffer and can commiserate. Clearly, I am a good friend to have.

I do not know why making friends is so difficult when I offer such perks.

Well, actually, I do fling a lot of my books, but not in an angry way, just in a "YAY! I finished you. Now it's time for the next, so please go be on the other end of the couch so I can deal with you later way.

It's like that, but with books across a couch.

BUT the last book that made me angry and made me consider flinging the book across the room was Jay Kristoff's Kinslayer. Oddly enough, this was a 5 star book for me, but ONE SCENE made me seriously unhappy and I definitely yelled out at the book and shook it menacingly, threatening a violent hurling across the room. However, much as damaging property does feel rather satisfying, I prefer it not to be MY property. So there you go. My last ragey feels. Which are also loving feels. Jay Kristoff's books give me a variety of feels.


I'm fairly certain I was supposed to say one that I hated and made me ragey, so I'll do that too. So allow me to introduce The Flame in the Mist, the most boring middle grade ever, which decided to introduce weird incestuous themes right at the end, which had me going WTF EW. That was totally book toss worthy. I posted my ranty review yesterday if you want to see it.

This is why Meeko is my spirit animal.

How about you guys? Do you hurl books with the might of Trunchbull wielding a shot put? Do you toss them daintily? Yell them into submission?


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review: The Flame in the Mist

The Flame in the Mist

Author: Kit Grindstaff
Pages: 464
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Read: August 24-27, 2013
Source: Finished review copy from YA Books Central

Description from Goodreads:
Set in an imagined past, this dark fantasy-adventure is for fans of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass. Features Jemma, a fiery-headed heroine held captive in Agromond Castle, yet destined to save mist-shrouded Anglavia.

Fiery-headed Jemma Agromond is not who she thinks she is, and when the secrets and lies behind her life at mist-shrouded Agromond Castle begin to unravel, she finds herself in a chilling race for her life. Ghosts and misfits, a stone and crystals, a mysterious book, an ancient prophecy—all these reveal the truth about Jemma's past and a destiny far greater and more dangerous than she could have imagined in her wildest fantasies. With her telepathic golden rats, Noodle and Pie, and her trusted friend, Digby, Jemma navigates increasingly dark forces, as helpers both seen and unseen, gather. But in the end, it is her own powers that she must bring to light, for only she has the key to defeating the evil ones and fulfilling the prophecy that will bring back the sun and restore peace in Anglavia.

First Sentence: "'Help me—help!'"

Middle grade novels are such a delight for me and such a nice break from YA, with an increased focus on family and a lack of romance. In general, I've been so very lucky picking middle grade books, so I guess it was inevitable that I would finally pick out a clunker. Friends, I do not say this often, but almost nothing in this book worked for me, sad though I am to have to say it. The Flame in the Mist was an over-lengthy, boring disappointment. Also, be warned that this review will contain  SPOILERS.

The cover, which I do like, does largely accurately represent the contents of the book, only it wasn't ever exciting, for reasons I'll explain later. The concept had a lot of promise - a ginger raised by an evil family who discovers they're not her real parents and she must defeat them to save the kingdom from the enveloping mists. Totally legit premise. And yet. The only aspect that I liked were the two golden rats, shown on the cover. Noodle and Pie are great animal companions, so thank goodness for that small mercy. Also, I know most people hate rats, but one of my friends had some in college and they were really nice.

The main reason that The Flame in the Mist flopped is that Jemma utterly lacks agency. Our so-called fiery heroine almost never makes any decisions for herself and is, essentially, lead through the entirety of the prophecy. Calling Jemma the heroine or the savior of this piece is like giving the blindfolded person all the credit for completing a complex maze, when it was all due to the directions given them by their partners. Sure, she muddled through at their bidding, but, other than the fact that she is speshul and has the needed magic, anyone could have done this better than Jemma.

At the opening of the novel, Jemma turns thirteen years old, which sets wheels in motion. She must either join the family who raised her on the dark side or search for the light and her birth parents. Shockingly, she chooses to escape to the light, conveniently overhearing several infodumps as she snoops around the castle. She also just happens to take not only her stone, which gives her power, but some crystals from her mother's room, which will be totally important to the plot. She's handed a magic book and cloak by her supporters in the castle and sent on her way.

Though thirteen, Jemma seemed more like eight years old to me. Her reasoning skills are limited solely to anagrams, which I'll admit she's rather good at. She has to be told everything multiple times in order to perform an action. Once outside the castle, she walks in circles without realizing. She never would have escaped without being saved by a continuous stream of creatures: Noodle and Pie many times over, bats, spiders, a guy who might have developmental issues but conveniently knows medicine, a little boy with a crazy mom, Digby (a boy whose dad makes deliveries to the castle who she's crushing on), a street urchin in a town, and on and on. Despite this constant aid, Jemma continually makes obviously wrong decisions (falling for blatant traps) and fails to show initiative (she carries that damn magic book for a week and never reads it, and, surprise!, it's full of a ton of helpful information. Unsurprisingly, she has to be TOLD to read the book.

By the novel's conclusion, she starts showing some glimmers of thought, and, for a moment, I thought she'd actually had a plan all on her own and a good one too. Then, right after this, the truth came out: "The chaos couldn't have worked better if Jemma had planned it." Now I do realize this is a common phrase, but Jemma should have planned it. She had intentionally made note of disagreement in the ranks of her enemies, as though thinking she could make use of that, but then does so accidentally. Light forbid Jemma ever act like she has braincells.

Even in the freaking final showdown, Jemma collapses like five times. Her rats have to help prod her into continuing. The old drudge who makes Gollum sound like Henry Higgins reveals that he's her ancestor who has been waiting hundreds of years for this moment, so that he can help her fulfill the prophecy. Because for some reason he can't do it, even though he basically does, considering that he has to tell her multiple times to say every single line of a song that will banish the evil demon thing. I wish I were kidding. There you have the plot.

The writing does not please me either. For one thing, I find it overly simplistic. The childishness of the dialog especially adds to the feeling that Jemma and Digby are under ten. Grindstaff also takes too much relish in the use of ellipses and emdashes. Turn to a page, any page, and odds are that you will find at least one ellipsis, probably more. I just played this game and found 9 ellipses and 5 emdashes on one and 1/5 pages (since it just happened to be the end of the chapter). Every page isn't quite that bad, but it is a serious problem nonetheless. Furthermore, Grindstaff's characters use a hodgepodge of accents, all conveyed through the use of dialect, that I found frustrating. There are simply too many different accents. It seems as though each character had their own. Jemma uses standard language. Digby has one dialect, Marsh another, Drudge another, etc.

Finally, there's the romance aspect. While romance doesn't take up much time in The Flame in the Mist, you are definitely meant to be shipping Jemma with Digby. This I do not do, because 1) they lack any real personality and 2) they act like they're 8, until they kiss at the end of the book. Still, this is mostly tolerable. What I drew the line at was when Feo (who has been raised as Jemma's brother, mind) reveals that he has feelings for her and wants her to stay with him forever. It was creepy and a bit rapey, especially since he commented on her dress that had been torn by his sister, Shade, earlier. Also, while they're not related by blood, I find the incestuous vibe highly unsettling in a middle grade novel. Perhaps more worrisome, I think the encounter is meant to endear Feo's character, as he also reveals that he does not like being evil, as he tries to get Jemma to love him. However, he may always have known they weren't related, but she just found out a WEEK AGO. It's creepy. It is creepy and not okay, and I will not like him, especially since he immediately got jealous about Digby and left her to be sacrificed. So just no to that whole unnecessary, shudder-inducing plot point.

Rarely does this happen, but I really cannot in good conscience recommend The Flame in the Mist. The plotting, characters and writing all fell short, and the weird incestuous element was the final nail in the coffin. Based on reviews, this book does work for some, but it didn't work for me to the degree that I cannot fathom why. If the book interests you, do feel free, as ever, to seek other opinions, as this is merely my own.

Rating: .5/5

Favorite Quote: Nope.

Labels: , , , , ,

Cover Snark (69): The One Which Will Scar You for Fairies

Welcome to Cover Snark, where the people are snarky and the covers quiver in fear. Since I don't write many snarky book reviews here on A Reader of Fictions, Cover Snark is my outlet. If you click on the title of the book, where possible, I've linked to Goodreads. Clicking on the cover itself will show you the cover in a larger size, in most cases. Feel free to love covers I hate and vice versa. Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Shiny and New:

1. World After (Penryn & the End of Days #2) - Susan Ee

2. Without You (Stripped #1.5) - Brooklyn Skye
Thoughts: If she were in the world of Frozen, would she hire people to tear her hair out for her? Curiosity aside, she found her clothes!

3. To Steal a Highlander's Heart - Samantha Holt
Thoughts: I'm pretty sure the key to stealing a highlander's heart is hidden somewhere in her hair piles. Also, I have so read this abduction romance plot set in Scotland before. Does it bother anyone that stockholm syndrome is a popular romantic formula? No. Okay then.

4. Chasing Before (The Memory Chronicles #2) - Lenore Appelhans
Thoughts: Dang, I hate it when I put on so much mascara I can't lift my eyelids to see how it looks. Even worse when I walk into my floating lamps. CURSE YOUR SUDDEN BUT INEVITABLE BETRAYAL, FLOATING LIGHTS.

5. Beautiful Beginning (Beautiful Bastard #3.5) - Christina Lauren
Thoughts: So she's a princess now? Or she's such a bitch she wears a tiara all the time to show how superior she thinks she is.

6. The Clockwork Wolf (Disenchanted & Co. #2) - Lynn Viehl
 Thoughts: This dress comes with the Anne of Green Gables stamp of approval.

7. Lawful Interception (Little Brother) - Cory Doctorow
Thoughts: The cover art for an e-novella. Matches the series, while also managing to suggest this is about Spider-man. Note the web-like cracking, the bridge from which innocent people are probably hanging in a bus needing to be saved, and the classy blue and red outfit.

8. In Control (The City #2) - Crystal Serowka
Thoughts: Text on the cover I can actually read! I approve! And a POC. Woooo.

9. The A-Word (Sweet Dead Life #2) - Joy Preble
Thoughts: ASSHOLE is always going to be the first word to come to my mind. Title fail.

10. Love Untouched (Unexpected #3) - Anne Leigh
Thoughts: A young woman falls in love with two swimmers at the same time. Ian is sweet and supportive, but a bit boring. Michael is a dick, but there's something about him (perhaps his dick? or his monkey face?) that she cannot resist. Camilla doesn't swim and, in fact, cannot get within thirty feet of a pool as she cannot walk without falling down even when there ISN'T water on the floor. They both love her passionately. What's a girl to do? Give them an ultimatum, of course: whoever will wear their swimsuit bottoms with one side pulled up too high for the longest loves her the most. Obviously.

11. The Harlem Hellfighters - Max Brooks

12. Ten Days - Olivia Mayfield
Thoughts: Apparently this is based on an E.M. Forster short story which is boss. But that is not the cover. I don't have much to say about the cover, though. Hmmm. City floating over model in building has never been my favorite design, but whatever.

13. Annihilation (Southern Reach Trilogy #1) - Jeff VanderMeer
Thoughts: Something tells me a lot of people will have trouble making those four lines of letters into a word.

14. Slightly Spellbound (Southern Witch #4) - Kimberly Frost

15. Since You’ve Been Gone - Morgan Matson
Thoughts: Okay, cover. It is your fault that I'm going to go watch Pitch Perfect again. Also, I need an ice cream cone. WHO'S WITH ME? I also approve of the fact that, rather than moping about a person being gone, she went and got her bestie and some ice cream. This is how the coping happens.

16. Luminary (Anomaly #2) - Krista McGee
Thoughts: What does that connect the dots W mean? I bet it's science and EVERYONE knows but me. This is clearly my thing of the week.

17. Z 2135 - Sean Platt & David Wright
Thoughts: No idea what this is about, but I do like it. Is it about 2135 zombies?

18. Armada - Ernest Cline
Thoughts: I am thinking of Atari. Boop.....boop.

19. All the Colors of Love - Jessica Freely
Thoughts: Love it! Gay superhero will spread the rainbow!

20. Better off Friends - Elizabeth Eulberg
Thoughts: This really doesn't click for me as a whole, but I do love the swings.

21. Steampunk Darcy - Monica Fairview
Thoughts: If that's Darcy in the bow tie, then I must go weep. According to the summary, it's a descendant of THE Darcy, but still no no no.

Cover Battles:

1. Unbreakable (Legion #1) - Kami Garcia
US vs. UK: US for being more original and the orange, I guess, but I don't really like the floating head with one eye or the U. So. Yeah.

2. A Different Kingdom - Paul Kearney
Old Version vs. New: The new one stands out way more. The other is indistinguishable from most old school fantasy. Person on a horse in a cloak = THE MOST FANTASTICAL.

3. Precious Things - Stephanie Parent
Original vs. Traditional NA vs. New: Oh hey, I approve of this redesign. How cute is that new model? Generally, I think it just looks a lot more professional. However, I don't mind the original either. Mostly, I just loathe the "sexy" one.

4. Lost Lake - Sarah Addison Allen
Take 1 vs. Take 2: WAY better than their first attempt. Now THIS looks like a Sarah Addison Allen book. Don't like how large the author name is or the title treatment, but I still want to go to there.

WTF of the Week:
WTF of the Week began as a special category for one cover I saw, but was so popular it became a recurring feature. Here, I highlight covers, both new and old, that I've found, which, upon viewing, made me either snort or say something along the lines of "Dear God, what is that thing?" If you would like to be part of the fun and have spotted a truly hilarious or horrifying cover, submit it and your snark to cynicalsapphire@gmail.com and you might be included, though I will filter through submissions and limit the number of entries per week.

1. Bump in the Night - Rachel Haimowitz, ed.
Thoughts: Thanks to Nafiza for spotting this beauty. You can guess what they mean by "bump" in the night. *cue George Takei* (Also, make sure not to miss the ghost hands.)

2. Teach Me Love - S. Moose
Thoughts: When you're asking a mannikin to teach you love, it is too late. (Her skin is gray! I call mannikin. Two living models are just too costly.)

3. Saving Alexander - Susan MacNicol
Thoughts: What really cracks me up about this one is that it looks like Lady Gaga's Alejandro music video got mixed up with her Paparazzi video.

4. Strange Angels - Andrea Speed
Thoughts: I call statutory rape. HANDS OFF, YOU CREEPY MERMAID ANGEL WITH LIGHTNING WINGS. Props to Experiment BL626 for your current need for brain bleach.

5. The Goodreads Killer - Dave Franklin
Thoughts: You're braver than I am if you accept THAT review request. Thanks to Shae for spotting this creeper!

6. Call of the Piss Fairy - Lee Allen Howard
 Thoughts: I cannot add to this.

Outstanding Cover of the Week:
Nothing inspired huge amounts of love this week. Plenty that I liked, but nothing mind-blowing.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Review: The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection

The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection
Jessica Darling's It List, Book 1

Author: Megan McCafferty
Pages: 240
Publisher: Poppy
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Read: August 25, 2013
Source: ARC from BEA

Description from Goodreads:
Move over, Dork Diaries! Jessica Darling, star of Megan McCafferty's bestselling Jessica Darling series for adults, is back in a hilarious new series perfect for tween (10 to 14) girls.

I hadn't even gotten to homeroom yet and I'd already discovered five hard truths about junior high:

1. My best friend had turned pretty.
2. She didn't know it yet.
3. It wouldn't be long before she did.
4. That knowledge would change everything between us.
5. And there wasn't a thing I could do about it.

It's the first day of seventh grade. Is Jessica Darling doomed for dorkdom?

New York Times bestselling author Megan McCafferty's hilarious series opener will have you laughing, cringing, and cheering for Jessica Darling as she learns that being herself beats being popular, pretty & perfect any day.

First Sentence: "What happens when EVERYTHING you know about ANYTHING is ALL WRONG?"

As a huge fan of the original Jessica Darling series, or, at least, as huge of a fan as one can be while intentionally deciding not to finish said series, I was super curious about Megan McCafferty's prequel. I mean, more Jessica Darling is pretty much always acceptable, except for the fact that I had my reasons in stopping after two books, but that's an issue from another time. Anyway, now we can see Jessica tackle junior high, and McCafferty brings Jessica's trademark wit, observational skills and honesty to middle school.

Middle school Jessica does have a lot in common with high school Jessica, which is probably not all that surprising given that they are the same person separated by some timey-wimey stuff known as life. McCafferty does a good job making the narration similar but a bit different than that of the original series. This Jessica does come across a good deal younger. She's not got as impressive of a vocabulary, though she's starting to build it because she's discovered that her English teacher will really raise her essay grades for each thesaurus phrase substituted for a normal term. Plus, middle school Jessica is a lot more naive and less confident than high school Jessica.

By high school, Jessica Darling has pretty much comes to terms with her role in the social hierarchy and that she will never be the most popular girl in school. In middle school, Jessica's still trying to be what she's not. The series title, Jessica Darling's It List, is actually a bit misleading. In fact, this is Bethany's It List. Jessica's much older sister Bethany, in a rare instance of sisterly feeling, has decided to help Jessica avoid the curse of dorkdom by passing down the patented method for achieving popularity. Unsurprisingly, the It List does not work so well for Jessica.

See, Jessica, intelligent though she is, does not excel at pretending to be something she is not. Her half-hearted attempts end up fooling no one. Jessica's a bit of a dork and a teacher's pet, and there's no changing that. If she doesn't care about boys, she won't pretend to and she has trouble caring about her friends' woes over such things either. In fact, her biggest seventh grade fails occur when she stops being Jessica, like when she signs up for CHEER TEAM!!!, which she does not have the spirit for.

Megan McCafferty totally captures all the awkwardness of middle school. The romantic awkwardness, like how the boys chant at Bridget on the bus, like hooting like a pack of monkeys is really endearing. Or how Aleck (aka young Marcus Flutie) flirts with a "wear her down" annoyance tactic. The friendship awkwardness, which is pretty much encapsulated by Bridget becoming gorgeous just in time for seventh grade, leaving Jessica to be a normal. The middle school years especially are a time of transition where friendships come and go, and many BFFs are actually trying to climb on top of one another up the social ladder. Then there's the budding friendship between Hope and Jessica, who any readers of the original series know will be besties eventually, bonded by their judgment of everyone else's stupidity and ridiculous social rituals.

The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection is the middle school version of Mean Girls, I swear. I can even cast them for you. Bridget would be the obvious choice for Regina George since she's the prettiest and most popular seventh grader, but she's actually more of a Karen Smith, because she doesn't really know what's going on a lot of the time and is very easily led. Manda is the Regina. She even makes up slang (mondo) and decides when it's over. Sara, though she wants to be a queen bee, is Gretchen Wieners, a born follower, who does everything Manda says and always will, even though she resents Regina's treatment of her. Jessica's the Cady and Hope is Janis/Damian, only they could never care enough to make Jessica into the evil popular girl, and Jessica would never want Burke Roy, the Aaron Samuels figure. Also, I'm sure you all didn't need to know all of that, but, whatever, THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION.

Though it's been too long for me to say with any assurance how well the occurrences here mesh with those of Sloppy Firsts, The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection does stand very nicely on its own. McCafferty's depiction of middle school cliques, awkwardness and romance shines with her trademark humor.

Rating: 4/5

Favorite Quote: "I really hate awkward silences. The only thing I hate even more than awkward silences is my unstoppable urge to fill them."

Labels: , , , , ,

Review: Starry Nights

Starry Nights

Author: Daisy Whitney
Pages: 288
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Read: August 25-26, 2013
Source: ARC from BEA

Description from Goodreads:
Seventeen-year-old Julien is a romantic—he loves spending his free time at the museum poring over the great works of the Impressionists. But one night, a peach falls out of a Cezanne, Degas ballerinas dance across the floor, and Julien is not hallucinating.

The art is reacting to a curse that trapped a beautiful girl, Clio, in a painting forever. Julien has a chance to free Clio and he can't help but fall in love with her. But love is a curse in its own right. And soon paintings begin to bleed and disappear. Together Julien and Clio must save the world's greatest art . . . at the expense of the greatest love they've ever known.

Like a master painter herself, Daisy Whitney brings inordinate talent and ingenuity to this romantic, suspenseful, and sophisticated new novel.A beautifully decorated package makes it a must-own in print.

First Sentence: "The padlock glistens with rain."

At first, I totally thought this was going to be one of those times where I really like a book that most of my friends did not. The early reviews were discouraging, but it was a 4 star book for the first 75 pages or so. From there, things slid downhill. My hopes were high for Starry Nights, but, sadly, a highly original, creative, beautiful concept turns into a cheesy pile of instalove. Be warned that this review does contain some spoilers.

The opening of this novel is so strong. Whitney's a talented writer, and the concept is gorgeous. At the outset, we have Julien, an artist of limited talent, whose mother runs a Parisian art gallery. He does tours and generally loves art of all forms, music, paintings, sculpture, dance, etc. At night, Julien wanders the halls and sees the art come alive. The subjects pop out of their frames, Degas' dancers performing ballets that only he can see.

The imagery of this, the idea that the paintings have lives of their own within the museum after dark, is stunning. While, yes, there are all sorts of reasons this is unlikely, it's beautiful magical realism, and done very well. At least, until it ceases being magical realism and turns into a paranormal/mythological plot.

While I wasn't a fan of this plot twist where the story went for the mythological rather than the subtle beauty of magical realism, which is one of my favorite things right now, I still admire the originality of the world building that Whitney devises. She's built a novel around the Muses, which I've not personally seen done before. On top of that, she brings in a look at the evolution of art, the way it went from being something done solely by educated men to something that can be created and appreciated by anyone. These are powerful themes, and I still think she handles her concept well. Though not quite what I wanted, her Muse mythology is fascinating and meaningful.

Where Starry Nights flops is the romance. It's a classic case of instalove, complete with the relatively flat characters so typical of this romantic "arc". Even before that, though, I have issues with the romance. She's a girl in a painting and he's a person, so their options are pretty limited, and, though I do sometimes go for weird ships, they didn't have enough of a connection for me to root for them in the face of odds where she's not even a real person. Sure, she likes to eat and he brings her food. They both like art. Wow, do they both like Breakfast at Tiffany's too? There wasn't any real verve or banter in their conversations which are largely boring, and I personally thought he and Emilie, who's in a total of three scenes, had a lot more chemistry.

This is the dog version of: "Is this a kissing book?" *groans*

Julien and Clio, the girl in the painting, fall in love pretty much immediately. In a rather classic Romeo & Juliet scenario, Julien is just out of a bad breakup. Clio, on the other hand, has been in a painting for over a hundred years in a private home, meaning that she hasn't seen ANYONE BUT HIM. He is literally the only boy she's seen in hundreds of years. Instalove is bad enough when there are options, but, when it's "I love you because you're the only person I've literally ever been capable of loving," to me that's not romance but desperation. Part of love is choosing that person over other people, not being cornered into it by circumstance.

Then, there's the ending, which is completely cheesy and convenient. The book could have at least ended in the expected heartbreaking place, but, oh no, this is paranormal romance world and there just HAS to be an HEA, even if it makes no sense. Let's nurture the concept that manicpixiedreamgirls will literally step out of our pop culture to love us. Yeah, that's healthy. Well, good luck to you, Clio and Julien. Two people with no marketable skills who got together when one was on the rebound and one had never spoken to another boy. I'm sure this will end well.

All told, I do think there is a good framework to Starry Nights, but the instalove killed it. I'm left feeling not angry, but disappointed. This could have been a thoughtful, slow-paced, magical novel, but instead went the way of paranormal romance tropes.

Rating: 2.5/5

Favorite Quote: "'All artists are a little bit insane. I was hoping that was your crazy.'"

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Review: The 100

The 100
The Hundred, Book 1

Author: Kass Morgan
Pages: 277
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Read: August 24, 2013
Source: ARC from YA Books Central

Description from Goodreads:
In the future, humans live in city-like spaceships orbiting far above Earth's toxic atmosphere. No one knows when, or even if, the long-abandoned planet will be habitable again. But faced with dwindling resources and a growing populace, government leaders know they must reclaim their homeland... before it's too late.

Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents are being sent on a high-stakes mission to recolonize Earth. After a brutal crash landing, the teens arrive on a savagely beautiful planet they've only seen from space. Confronting the dangers of this rugged new world, they struggle to form a tentative community. But they're haunted by their past and uncertain about the future. To survive, they must learn to trust - and even love - again.

First Sentence: "The door slid open, and Clarke knew it was time to die."

The 100 has been billed as Battlestar Galactica for teens, and, for once, I totally agree with the marketing. Of course, it's very much season 3 Battlestar where things started going a bit off the rails, with some people on planet in weird costumes and Gaius Baltar becoming some sort of religious figure on the ships. I mean, not exactly, but that's the level of quality the book has. It's not the first season of awesome, and it's not quite the ending where I didn't know what the fuck was happening anymore. What it comes down to is that The 100 is a highly entertaining drama-fest set in space, but not especially deep.

Word on the street is that The 100 is set to be a show on the CW. Now, I don't know if it's for certain yet or not, but I can see this making a really great teen show. The reason I'm starting this book review with this particular comment is to help you understand whether you'll enjoy reading the book. If you enjoy CW teen programming with a little bit of a plot and a big heaping helping of teen angst over the top, then The 100 is a good choice for a quick, entertaining read.

Morgan uses four third person limited perspectives in The 100: Clarke, Wells, Bellamy, and Glass. Just try and guess their genders based on their names alone! Hint: the first and last are females. Actually, speaking of gender, that's one of the things that I think The 100 did fairly well. Women are not entirely marginalized in this futuristic society, which is a nice change from so much science fiction and dystopian stuff out there. Clarke's actually one of the stronger characters and Glass, though I didn't like her, does make choices for herself.

Anyway, these teens live on a spaceship and things are kind of a hot mess on board. There are rules about who can have kids, and capital punishment is really popular with the government. All four of the main characters, except for Bellamy, are Confined, basically imprisoned until their eighteenth birthdays which are rapidly approaching. At that point, they're to have a retrial, but that's just a formality, because no one's being found innocent at retrials anymore. Harsh, man.

So the point is that 100 of the teens from Confinement are going to be put on a ship and sent to earth to make sure it's habitable again (more on that later). Then there are some shenanigans and Glass ends up staying on the ship, allowing the reader to find out about all of the drama happening there, and Bellamy gets himself onto the prison ship. The ship goes down to earth and the rebellious teens start in on the romantic drama and trying to set up a rudimentary society, only they're a) rebellious and b) basing their knowledge of how society works off of the ship. All of this means things get pretty serious fast and it's totally a popcorn read.

What saves The 100 from being merely a surface read and builds out a bit of depth are the flashbacks in every chapter. These flashbacks show how the teens ended up in Confinement, and slowly reveal how desperate the situation on the ship had gotten. They really raise the stakes and the intensity, as you realize how far each one of these teens is willing to go.

As much fun as The 100 is to read, I had some issues with the world building, in that I would like more of it. I mean, the reader does learn that there was some sort of nuclear something or other and Earth is now irradiated. While they're waiting for the radiation to dissipate, they're chilling on this ship. Supposedly the radiation is maybe down to livable levels. What I want to know is roughly how long they've been on the ship and how they got there. Was there a plan in place to escape before things went haywire like in Phoebe North's Starglass? There's really no inkling of that.

Also, most of the characters are pretty terrible people, which means that I really don't care if they live or die. Even the nicest of them is such a terrible judge of character that I don't really care what happens to him either. I still had fun reading about them, but there's definitely no emotional investment here.

The 100 is the bookish equivalent of a teen TV show, complete with romantic drama, shirtless boys and action scenes. It's fun and a nice choice for when you don't want to have to think too hard, and sometimes that's just the kind of book you need, you know?

Rating: 3/5

Favorite Quote: "Anyone who wanted to eat vegetables probably had little, mushy white brains themselves."

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Top Ten Secondary Characters Who Stole the Show

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

Warning: This list will include fangirling, more than 10 characters, disorder, and spoil a couple of character deaths, but only ones you should know by now. The sneaky ones will remain in wait.

Humanoid Companions
This category consists of humans. Well, mostly. Humanoid because of that one pesky robot. Otherwise I would have had to make a FIFTH section, and that would just be silly.

Colonel Fitzwilliam from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Colonel Fitzwilliam is just the best, and I would totally ship him with Lizzie if she and Darcy were not MTB and everything. He's a great friend to Lizzie and Darcy both. P&P would not end happily were it not for his existence, I feel. And Lady Catherine's. Mwahaha. Oh, also, I approve of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries version where he's gay. That SO works. Anyway, just love him.
Finnick from Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins: Here's the beginning of them breaking my heart. A lot of my favorites die. HOW DO THE AUTHORS KNOW? HOW? *coughs* Excuse me. Also, before you yell at me, you should have read the books and not waited for the movies. This is your own fault.
Miss Honey from Matilda by Roald Dahl: Do not even pretend that after you read this book you didn't sort of wish you had evil parents so that Miss Honey would adopt you.
Uncle Mort from the Croak trilogy by Gina Damico: I can has? Uncle Mort is hilarious, incredibly brilliant, sarcastic, hot and totally of an age where I am legitimately allowed to give him book boyfriend status. He has a sort of long distance girlfriend, but I'm sure I can take care of that.
Hamlet from Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde: Now, he MAY be a main character somewhere else, but who cares about that? Hamlet, the fictional character, is all meta and running around London. He's basically hilarious. He does things like going to critique all performances of Hamlet and having a meltdown trying to order a coffee because there are SO. MANY. CHOICES. As we all know, Hamlet and decisive do not go hand-in-hand.
Mahir from the Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant: Okay, so I basically love Shaun and Georgia's whole team, but I have a special spot in my heart for Mahir. He's just so classy and intelligent. I basically picture him like THIS.
Michi from Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff: Badass lady who is awesome. Would have a lady crush on her, except that Kat Kennedy totally called it first, and I am NOT getting in Kat's way. She is Australian and would no doubt sic spiders and kangaroos on me.
Nehemia from Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas: A YA best friend who does not hate the heroine for being more beautiful? A friendship based on shared interests and mutual respect? WHUH. Basically, I friendship Celaena and Nehemia really hard.
Tom from Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry: Hot Asian. With abs. And not a teen. Also, he is awesome at zombie-killing, which comes in handy. Basically, Tom's a really good guy, and he takes great care of his brother even though Benny's sort of a snot for much of the beginning of the series.
Iko and Captain Thorne from Scarlet by Marissa Meyer: THESE TWO ARE THE BEST. I ship them a lot. Even though Iko's a robot and currently a spaceship, and Thorne is human. DETAILS.
Elend from Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson: Okay, so, I'm cheating a little (Does this surprise you? If so, REALLY?), but Elend really isn't a major player in the first book. He's OBVIOUSLY going to be the love interest/a main character later, but in Mistborn he's secondary, but PRIMARY IN MY HEART.

Animal Companions
Furry creatures (or sometimes scaly) are some of my favorite characters in fiction. I mean, when a person dies in my book, I'm like OOOH. When an animal dies, I weep and yell at the book and it's a whole emotional mess of a thing.

Rex from the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich: Rex is Stephanie's hamster, and he is adorable. He's super chill and loves all food ever and lives in a tomato soup can. I think once he was in danger and I was SO CONCERNED.
Buruu and Daken from Stormdancer and Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff: BURUU MADE ALL CAPS AWESOME AGAIN. Daken is a cat and he is awesome.
Igor from The Year of Shadows by Claire Legrand: Another cat. This one might talk like Cary Grant.
Wolf from Winter Omens by Trisha Leigh: Such a wonderful doggy companion. Warm and snuggly and sweet and catches food for youuuu.
Ramoth from Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey: How much did I want to live on Pern and have a dragon best friend? SO MUCH. (Also, you get to have strange but really hot our-dragons-are-into-each-other sex. This could get problematic fast, but whatevs ignore that.)
Manchee from The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness: MANCHEEEEE! This puppy has such a rough life, but he is so sweet and determined and would never leave your side.
Hedwig from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: I loved a lot of the animals, but Hedwig has been with you for seven books. I cried BUCKETS of tears when she died. ROWLING, HOW COULD YOU? (Again, if you haven't seen the movies OR read the books, you deserve this spoiler. OWN IT.)
A-Through-L from The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente: A dragon who is also half of an encyclopedia. He's part library. I mean, come on. Clearly, he is the best companion ever.
Ampersand from Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan: Generally, monkeys aren't my favorite animals, but Ampersand is fabulous.

Best of Both Worlds
Can't decide between a human companion and one of some other sort of animal variety? I have you covered. You may also choose one of the rare shifter models. With them at your side, you're ready for anything!

Rory from the Spiritwalker trilogy by Kate Elliott: Rory is the main character's brother and he's half cougar. Also, he's a HUGE flirt and acts like such a cat even as a human. He's hilarious and ridiculous and I love him.
Orma from Seraphina by Rachel Hartman: Orma is a grumpy old man/dragon, and it's fantastic. One of my favorite quotes was one where he was talking about how much he hates kids. Love it!
Hatsuharu and Kureno Sohma from Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya: Since I couldn't just be like EVERY CHARACTER FROM FRUITS BASKET, I limited myself to my two favorite non-MC Sohmas. Hatsuharu is, honestly, just kinda hot, but, on top of that, he's very loving and devoted. Kureno has a really compelling story ARC and he's this really nice, selfless guy, which I usually do not go for, but love here.

Sassy Grandmas
Finally, I noticed a trend in fiction that grandmothers are often the best. Thus, I want to highlight some books with wonderful, sassy grandmothers. Since these are mostly YA and the MC isn't going to call grandma by her first name, they're pretty much all Gram or Grandma, so I'm just putting the book. Sorry, Gram. I also won't break these out individually, but these are the grandmas who are bossy, say hilariously inappropriate things, and always have your back. I know I'm forgetting some but still, a respectable showing!

Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriell
Famous Last Words by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
The Bookie's Son by Andrew Goldstein
The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Delcroix Academy series by Inara Scott

That was closer to thirty than ten, but I have no regrets. Do you love any of these characters? If so, FLAIL WITH ME!