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A Reader of Fictions: September 2011

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Perseus Chronicles, Chapter 2

In Which Perseus Goes to War

I have been so bad about posting pictures of my tiny catface who is not so tiny anymore. In the future, I will endeavor to post a picture or two weekly, although your guess is as good as mine as to whether that will happen.

Today's pictures are from when Percy was about 4 months old (he's now about 6 months). These photos highlight the utter feistiness of my little man. This photo series shows some skirmishes in the eternal battle betwixt kitten and sockie. Note the evil/playful glint in his giant eyes. Also, look how big he got in just a couple months!

Emerging from his super secret hideout, Perseus, valiant warrior, espies the enemy, the dreaded and vicious Sockie.

Hark! My foe!

Sockie tries to sock our hero with a shot to the gut, but gets a punch to the kisser instead. Perseus is off to a good start in this epic battle.

This is what is known as a kitch slap.

Perseus has wicked claws, but Sockie has resiliency. Just because he's down, you can't count him out. And just because he's not moving, doesn't mean he's just playing dead!

I'mma bite your head!

Thankfully, our hero knows this and aims to end this battle with the ultimate sockie-killing technique.

Evisceration...no breathing.

Having won this round, powerful Perseus looks around, prepared to face down any other enemies that might be present.

I r victorious! Anyone want to challenge me? Bring it!


Ants Marching - Dave Matthews Band

Everybody Sees the Ants

Author: A. S. King
Pages: 190
ARC Acquired from: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
Lucky Linderman has been bullied by Nader McMillan since they were 7 and Nader peed on his feet in a public restroom. Lucky tried to get help, but no one would act, not his parents, not other student and not the school. Nader's father is a high-powered lawyer and bystanders would rather risk one boy's sanity and happiness than risk a lawsuit. Lucky's parents are distant, his mother retreats to the pool where she does endless laps and his father, a chef, retreats to the kitchen. Lucky retreats to his dreams where he attempts to rescue his grandfather, a POW/MIA in Vietnam. After yet another awful attack from Nader, Lucky and his mom take off to visit his aunt and uncle in Arizona where Lucky will need to do some soul searching.

This is my first experience with A. S. King, whose books I have wanted to read ever since I read a glowing review of one of his books on Presenting Lenore. I can now see why she received such high praise. King does not shy away from confronting seriously tough truths. She captures just how harsh children can be and does not sugarcoat anything.

Bullying: Nader McMillan is a classic bully, the whole school afraid to piss him off. The fact that he has it out for Lucky, for no reason so far as I could tell, means that Lucky cannot really make friends, since no one wants Nader's attention. In fact, others pick on Lucky to earn Nader's approval. Undoubtedly the most intense scene in the book is a memory of what Nader does to snitches. Let's just say that this cannot be explained away with "boys will be boys." Perhaps even more terrifying is that no one will do anything to stop this. Just imagine what an awful person Nader will grow into if he learns that he has the right to do anything he wishes.

Family: Just because your parents give you everything you need physically and do not beat you does not mean that the relationship is healthy. Lucky's parents are somewhat neglectful, trying to recover from their own past damage. They love their sun, but do so completely ineffectually. Much as teens may pull away, parents need to be there for them. King also considers the fact that just because someone is a little crazy does not make them unlovable; nor does the fact that someone acts really cool mean that they're actually a good person. Basically, everything is complicated when it comes to family.

The Vietnam War: This may actually be my favorite aspect of the book. It is rife with statistics on and references to the Vietnam War, which is one of my favorite historical periods to study. Lucky's grandmother, his dad and he himself are all really into the POW/MIA movement, since Lucky's grandfather was one of the men never to return. This element to warfare, all of the families who never know if their father/husband/son is still alive or dead, is one not focused on very often, as authors tend to focus on the more exciting aspects, rather than the effect the war has years down the line.

The Dreams & the Ants: Honestly, the ants were weird. They, along with the dreams of his grandfather, are really strange. The ants are a metaphor for victimization and standing up for oneself, which I get, but I do not really understand why. The dreams are totally magical realism, because Lucky brings something tangible back from every dream.. I love some well done magical realism.

Everybody Sees the Ants is seriously hard-hitting and entertaining. Lucky makes a great main character, growing in confidence and learning to be himself. Plus, he reads Catch-22, which automatically makes him totally cool. If you like dark humor and truly realistic fiction, give Everybody Sees the Ants a read.

"He wakes up in the morning.
Does his teeth, bite to eat and he's rolling

Never changes a thing.

The week ends, the week begins.

She thinks, we look at each other

Wondering what the other is thinking,

But we never say a thing.

And these crimes between us grow deeper.

Take these chances

Place them in a box until a quieter time.

Lights down, you up and die."

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Will I? from RENT

Ashes Trilogy, Book 1

Author: Ilsa J. Bick
Pages: 480
ARC Acquired from: Egmont USA via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
Alex has a monster in her head, a brain tumor that has stolen her senses of smell and taste, along with her memories. Desperate to get away from all of the pitying and relieved (that it's her and not them) glances, she decides that before she's dead, she needs to make the trip to spread her parents' ashes (yeah, her parents died just before the tumor was discovered...this girl just can't catch a break) on Lake Superior. While hiking through the mountains, she meets a grandfather and granddaughter (her parents are dead too). They share a repast and then share some serious pain, as some sort of "zap" attacks their brains. This kills the grandfather, injures Ellie and her dad's dog Mina, and seems to fix Alex's brain, along with giving her a super sense. Now, only really old technology works and Alex has to figure out how to keep herself and this snotty girl alive in the face of some mysterious calamity that seems to have turned most teenagers into cannibals...

Let me begin by pointing out that I have read only amazing reviews of Ashes. Pretty much every blogger I follow raved about its complete awesomeness. Unfortunately, I did not find myself so much in love with it. The story was interesting and, by the end, I was definitely interested in what was going to happen. I even plan on reading the sequel to Ashes, because I cannot just let the story end where it did. Warning: the ending is seriously abrupt. Can you say cliffhanger?

Although I feel really sad for Alex and was exceedingly happy to see her healed, I never really liked her or connected with her. This is really weird, because she definitely knows how to take care of herself and kick ass when she has to, meaning that she's just the kind of heroine I generally love. In some ways, she reminds me of Trella from Inside Out and Outside In, bruised and not trusting. Alex's coldness, though, stems from the fact that she could die at any moment. Why get close to someone when you're only going to leave them or be left by them because they can't stand to watch you die? While I totally get that and would probably be the exact same way, it still makes her hard to get close to even as a reader, for me at least.

Her romances, too, were rather tough for me to accept, what with her being so closed off. There was no guy that I shipped her with and no relationship that seemed like it would pan out in the end. In fact, they seemed borne of stress, fear and proximity. One romance even struck me as little short of Stockholm Syndrome.

Since I don't want to spoil anything, I'm going to be kind of vague about what happened to create the crazy post-apocalyptic world in Ashes. Let's just say that it was pretty stellar. The fact that the event, the "zap" affected people's brains in different ways definitely intrigues me as well. However, I had trouble dealing with teens turning into people eaters. It seemed to lessen the credibility and seriousness of the novel.

What creeped me out in a more believable way was the way that normal people reacted to this calamity, which killed off everyone in middle age and turned most youths into cannibals, leaving only the elderly, young children and a few teens like Alex to keep the world going. These aspects were close to being Witheresque, what with their only being a few women of reproductive age. Plus, with limited resources come unlimited conflicts with other folks only trying to survive just like you are. Mostly, I just feel like the cannibalistic adolescents were unnecessary.

Even though I didn't love this, I do want to know more. Maybe Bick can convince me in book two. Before writing this one off because of my opinion, definitely check out some other reviews, like this one over at Presenting Lenore.

"Will I lose my dignity?
Will someone care?
Will I wake tomorrow
From this nightmare?"

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fool - Marie Digby

Soul Thief
The Demon Trappers, Book 2

Author: Jana Oliver
Pages: 324
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Brief Summary:
In the second installment of the Demon Trappers series, Atlanta, the Trappers Guild and Riley Blackthorne are still reeling from the demon attack on the Tabernacle. Riley's deal with Heaven saved her boyfriend, Simon, but he's different now, blaming her and her father for everything. Well, when God takes a boyfriend, he gives you a sexy mystery guy in the form of Ori, a freelance demon hunter. Hopefully, he can protect her from the geofiend that's still after her, since she's busy worrying about who raised her father, how the holy water scam is being accomplished, what's wrong with Simon, and convincing the demon hunters from the Vatican that she's not in league with Hell.

The Demon Trappers series may not be great literature in any way, but it is super enjoyable so far. Some elements, like her crazy religious stuff, which is getting more potent, annoys me, but I still read along at a swift pace, curious to discover what will happen next.

In its weak spots, Soul Thief reminds me of the House of Night series by the Cast mother-daughter team. This is definitely a bad thing. What saves the book from the horrors of that series is Riley. Although she's not the brightest, she does truly believe in her actions and she does what she can to help others. Unlike Zoey Redbird, she does not screw others over intentionally.

One really good thing that happened here was Simon going crazy. I really don't like Simon. Even at his sweetest, he kind of creeped me out and I never thought he and Riley made sense. I felt so justified when he acted like such a jerk after she saved his life. Beck is my favorite of the guys in her life, I guess, although I don't necessarily approve of his decisions (or his annoying accent). The whole protecting her by telling her what to do business is rather irritating; besides, he ought to know her well enough to know that ordering her around is going to have the reverse effect. Plus, if he really wanted to stop her, why not spend more time with her and less belly up to the bar?

Like the first book, The Demon Trapper's Daughter, this one is a definite thrill ride, filled with romance, betrayal and action sequences. This is a fun ride.

"You laid your trap pitifully obvious
But sometimes a good girl falls through

It's true, I'm not the only one

To fall in love with a fool

I fell in love with a fool

At the end of the hall

In room number 804

Lives the devil himself in his dark kept secret hell

And curiosity grew with every single following day

And I would dream, dream that you're here with me

I hate to say I'm giving in to you"

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The Horror of Our Love - Ludo

Sad Monsters:
Growling on the Outside, Crying on the Inside

Author: Frank Lesser
Illustrator: Willie Real
Pages: 171
Review Copy Acquired from: Plume

This book consists of forty brief vignettes about various monsters, some of whom are, as the title implies, sad. Not every monster cries himself to sleep at night, though; some quite enjoy their lives of monstrosity. Most of them have romantic problems. It's not easy to be a monster on the prowl in the dating sense, what with also prowling in the nomming sense

It may interest you to know that the author, Frank Lesser, writes for The Colbert Report. This sets some pretty high standards for the book to follow. Thankfully, Sad Monsters was just what I hoped it would be. Puns and irony abound, along with some cute postmodernism (ain't that reevaluation of that monster and his secret pain just precious?).

You get a really wide range of monsters in here. Lesser definitely isn't sticking only to the most popular (zombies, werewolves, vampires). Some of my favorite vignettes were Godzilla wondering what the point of all the stomping is (also, did you know that Godzilla likes M*A*S*H as much as I do?), formerly people-munching diets going vegan or carb-free, peaceful zombies being chased by humans, unsuccessful monsters like Count Macula (who just might work at my office) and Igor's résumé. Pretty much each of the little stories will make you bust out laughing, snort, groan or teehee.

Reading Sad Monsters takes somewhere around an hour. This is an estimate, since I read multiple books at one time; suffice it to say that it is quite short. I feel like this is an excellent book to pull out to amuse your friends with or to buy quirky friends for Christmas (don't know what to get them but know they love Colbert style humor?). Plus, how cute is that monster on the cover!?!

"I'm a killer, cold and wrathful
Silent sleeper, I've been inside your bedroom
I've murdered half the town
left you love notes on their headstones
I'll fill the graveyards until I have you.
Moonlight walking, I smell your softness
carnivorous and lusting to track you down among the pines.
I want you stuffed into my mouth
hold you down and tear you open, live inside you -
love, I'd never hurt you.
But I'll grind against your bones until our marrows mix
I will eat you slowly..."

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Top Ten (Eleven) Most Awesome Half Hour Shows

I kind of got really lazy and haven't managed to do one of these in a while, but I thought it was time I get back to it. Today I share my love of television shows. They're great, because they can have so much more story and build on themselves so much more than a movie, but they do so in nice digestable little chunks.

There tends to be a pretty serious divide between the half hour long programs and the hour long ones. For one thing, half hour shows tend to be comedies, whereas hour long shows tend to be dramas. This does not always hold true, but, for this reason, I'm dividing them up into two lists. Well, that and I can honor more awesome shows this way. Also, I couldn't narrow it down any more than 11, so just deal.

Honorable Mentions (shows that are awesome for only so long): Weeds (good for only three seasons), Parks and Recreation (amazing only after two fairly boring seasons - thank you Adam Scott for making me adore this show), 3rd Rock from the Sun (haven't watched all the seasons yet, but I've heard some worrisome things about the later ones, Avatar (took me a while to get super into this and I never liked Aang)

Just fyi, order means little in this list. These shows all rock.

11. Party Down

What makes this show so awesome is the Veronica Mars love. Pretty much every Veronica Mars cast member appears in at least one episode, including the charming Kristen Bell. Plus, the show is funny in its own right, with a cast led by Adam Scott, Jane Lynch and Ken Marino.

10. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

This is a show I expected to hate. Really, I still expect to hate it pretty much every time, because all of the people on this show are completely awful. The show works because it's pretty much pitch perfect; I think it has to be. Also, the friendships between these incredibly terrible people are so real and believable. I highly recommend this to anyone that's not easily offended.

9. Better Off Ted

Sadly, Better Off Ted got only two seasons before getting the axe. This happens to a lot of the best shows (see Party Down and Pushing Daisies) and they're the lucky ones. Better Off Ted has a great cast, including the magnificent Portia del Rossi. The humor is somewhat reminiscent of Arrested Development. This one isn't known too well, but it definitely should be.

8. Arrested Development

Without a doubt, this is one of the best and funniest shows of all time. However, I warn you that it is very different than most shows. The humor is sly, not particularly obvious, and liable to go over some people's heads (thus only three seasons). Plus, it builds on itself, meaning that the first few episodes are not as funny as the others, since you do not yet know the gags and family dynamics. Make sure you give this one a chance before giving up.

7. Community

Community captured my love from its first episode. Who doesn't love watching Joel McHale judge people? No one I want to be friends with, that's for sure. This is another show that's made by the friendship dynamics. Unfortunately, it's not perfect, what with the annoying Britta-Jeff-Annie love triangle and the fact that the writers clearly don't always know what to do with Pierce's character. However, all of that is completely worth it for the friendship between Abed and Troy, perfect moments like the oldwhitemansays Twitter, and paintball episodes.

6. Modern Family

For some reason, I rather vocally decided that I hated Modern Family. I think because I saw part of an episode in the middle of an episode and didn't like it, because I did not know the characters. Everyone's quirky and annoying, it's true. However, they grow on you. I have only watched season one and am pretty much desperate to get through season two so I can catch up. Damn Netflix for raising their prices and making me stop getting discs!

5. 30 Rock

Like with Arrested Development, this is a show that has to grow on you. When I first watched it, I only made it partway through season one before giving up on it. The second time, I forced myself through season one and then suddenly discovered that I adored the show. You're thrown into this weird environment with really strange people and odd dynamics. Only when you get used to them can you really appreciate the humor and charm of the show.

4. Cowboy Bebop

I totally love anime and I doubt whether I will ever love another more than Cowboy Bebop. Honestly, I could love this only for the soundtrack, but I also love it for its dark humor (and sometimes light humor) and its crazy ensemble. I really hope that the rumor of a movie version starring Keanu Reeves never comes to pass.

3. Coupling

When I was in high school, I completely adored Friends, which is noticeably absent from this list. Coupling is similar in some ways, but way better. The Brits are just so funny. How do they do it? My favorite moment is, without a doubt, Steve's rant about cushions. He's right; they are "chubby little bastards."

2. The IT Crowd

Nerd love! From the posters on the wall of their office to, well, pretty much everything Moss and Roy say, the sheer nerdiness of this British sitcom makes me incredibly happy. For example, there's the Dungeons and Dragons episode in the fourth season, which always makes me giggle. I totally ship Jen and Roy. Hopefully, something happens for them in season five, which is to be the last season. Since it's British, there are only six episodes a season, so there's really no excuse for not watching them.

1. M*A*S*H

This is a comedic classic. M*A*S*H perfectly balances some seriously tough messages about war and completely hilarious goofball comedy. The cast truly makes this. The beginning cast is great, but some of them get replaced as the show moves along. At first, I was skeptical of each, but, ultimately, the show actually got better with the addition of B.J. Hunnicut, Colonel Sherman Potter and Charles Winchester III. So much love.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Seers Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to Audrey of Bibliosaurus Text for winning an ARC of Seers. I hope you enjoy it. The book will be sent by the publisher.

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway!


When You Believe from The Prince of Egypt

The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Fire and Thorns, Book 1

Author: Rae Carson
Pages: 432
ARC Acquired from: HarperTeen via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
Elisa has some serious self-confidence issues, despite being chosen as the bearer of the godstone. She is the princess of her country, bartered off to marry the king of a neighboring country's king in exchange for an alliance. Her older sister, Alodia, is perfect and she is not. She suspects her future husband took her because he could not have Alodia. Not only is Alodia queenly, she is also beautiful and slim, unlike Elisa, who never lets a tasty treat pass her by. Her only hope is that her husband will be old and ugly...no such luck, though, since he's the most beautiful man she has ever seen in her entire life. How will she survive this marriage and fulfill her service?

I've been on vacation in New York this past weekend, thus the no posting. I had a great time and I finished this book. Sadly, this book, which I was really excited about, proved rather disappointing. The cover promised fantasy in the vein of Kristin Cashore or Tamora Pierce, but it did not deliver.

For one thing, Elisa is not their kind of heroine. Pierce and Cashore write about extremely strong girls, the kind that, even when completely downtrodden, remain strong and determined. This, Elisa is not, although she does eventually gain in strength and confidence. At the end of the book, she is more like one of their heroines, but, in so many ways, she just does not bring them to mind at all.

I liked that Elisa was not the typical heroine at all, at least if I couldn't have my Cashore-esque heroine. Elisa is overweight, lacks confidence and hopes to be able to marry an ugly man. It's nice to read about someone so atypical sometimes. However, as has been pointed out by others, why would you represent her by the waif on the cover. Sure, the cover drew me in, but it now pisses me off. I mean, who is that? For one thing, she probably ways about 90 pounds soaking wet and, for another, she does not look particularly Spanish, as the character names suggest she should. Fortunately, the cover seems to have been changed for the published version. Good call.

The story kept me fairly interested, but I never felt particularly invested. The godstones always seemed weird and I found their ultimate use pretty dang lame. For those who like fantasy stories, unconventional heroines and don't mind some serious religious content, this is worth a try. If you're expecting something like Kristin Cashore would have written, go reread Graceling or fervently prey for the publication of Bitterblue. However, I know that lots of people have loved this, so go check out some of the high praise by authors before dismissing it completely.

"There can be miracles
When you believe
Though hope is frail
It's hard to kill
Who knows what miracles
You can achieve
When you believe
Somehow you will
You will when you believe"

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

United States of Eurasia - Muse

Variant, Book 1

Author: Robison Wells
Pages: 220
ARC Acquired from: HarperTeen via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
Benson Fisher has grown up in and out of various foster families and schools. They all vary greatly, but all share one quality: they suck. Finally motivated to do something about his situation, he applies to a boarding school. When he gets in, he is sure everything will finally be different. And boy was he right, just not the way he thought. Maxfield Academy turns out to be a trap. There are no adults and no ways out. The kids have formed gangs and terrorize one another, some supposedly at the behest of the mysterious force ruling the school.

Variant is like a cross between Lord of the Flies and Winter's End, a less well-known dystopia by a French author that has a school setting like this. Having finished it, I'm not entirely certain how I feel about it. The story definitely left me with more questions than answers (typical) and somewhat frustrated. However, the whole thing was completely engaging and thrilling. Wells definitely had me flipping pages, reading as fast as I could to figure out what the heck was going on this frackin' creepy school.

There is something about schools that makes them perfect settings for horror, maybe the fact that, with boarding schools, you have very few rights. Or, maybe it's the fact that there are so many children; nothing is more terrifying than a creepy child. You expect adults to be jerks, but you hate to such betrayal and evil from younger individuals, perhaps because it hints at the evil in human nature.

Benson, despite his stupid name and the fact that he is a bit of a jerk, is a good main character. He thinks about himself first, something the others constantly rag on him for, but, really, who wouldn't be focusing on getting themselves out of such a weird place? My one criticism for him is that he does some stupid things in trying to escape, but, hey, I knew from the beginning that he was smart, but not insanely so.

Variant definitely is not the most pertinent dystopia for our lives, but it is a thrill ride from the first chapter. If you like action, mystery and twists, you will not want to miss this. I know I won't miss book two!

"You and me fall in line
To be punished for unproven crimes

And we know there is no one we can trust"

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Seers Blog Tour: Guest Post & Giveaway!

As one of the last stops on the Seers blog tour, I have author Heather Frost here to talk about her choice of subject matter. Also, check out the end of the post to enter to win an ARC copy of Seers. Without further ado, here's Heather:

Why the Afterlife?
I had a couple reasons to make the afterlife a great focus in my book, “Seers”. For one reason, it's something that everyone wonders about, no matter their race or religion, thus it's a great element to incorporate in a story if you want a universal audience. Is there really life after death? If so, what's it like? “Seers” explores a possible explanation of what the afterlife could be like, and I think it does a good job. “Seers” contains the usual preconceptions: that even after death, the soul continues on—for both the good, and the evil. That there is progression. Basically, that death is not the end. In addition to some of the more popular ideas about life after death, I have also woven in some of my own. Without giving away too much, I can say that when you die you're faced with a choice, and that choice will change your entire existence, and there's no going back. I can also say that immortality comes with several other quirks in addition to eternal life, including invisibility.

Another reason I decided to focus on the afterlife is harder to write about. I lost my youngest brother in the spring of 2008, and though it took me until the summer of 2010 to get the inspiration for “Seers”, I'd known since his death that I would like to write about the afterlife. I am a deeply religious person, and I have my own beliefs concerning the afterlife. But if the world and ideas I created in “Seers” can help bring even the slightest comfort to someone who has suffered the ultimate loss, I'd consider the whole project to be worth it.

Choosing to write about the afterlife just made sense for me, because you have to write about something you're interested in. That guideline is so basic it's probably not even considered a guideline—it would probably fall under the category of common sense, AKA, the “well, duh” category. Also, as stated in the very beginning, the afterlife is a universal topic, potentially making “Seers” more appealing to a wider audience than some stories in the paranormal genre. And though it's important to have a specific audience in mind, there's nothing wrong with an author incorporating a universal element into their story. And, at the risk of sounding horribly morbid, what's more universal than death?

Enter the giveaway for an ARC copy of Seers by filling out the following form. The giveaway is open to the US and Canada, and will be closing next Tuesday at 5 PM. The book will be sent to the winner from the publisher, Cedar Fort. Thanks for entering!

This giveaway is now closed.

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Never Say Never - The Fray

The Seers Trilogy, Book 1

Author: Heather Frost
Pages: 325
ARC Acquired from: Cedar Fort via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
Kate has been different ever since her near-death experience in the car crash that killed her parents. Of course, that experience would change anyone, but, for Kate, it had more than the usual repercussions. Now, she can see people's auras and read their emotions. Apparently, she can also see invisible (dead?) people too, because she stopped her car to avoid hitting someone no one else could see. Turns out her new power, which has its perks (like the hot new Irish guy from Ireland who seems oddly interested in her), but there are also downfalls (like bad guys who are interested in her).

From the beginning, I was quite impressed with the writing, which is rather better than a number of YA novels, especially those in the paranormal romance genre. Given the author's youth, this is doubly impressive. There were, in the ARC at least, a few grammatical errors, which have hopefully been removed from the final version, such as a "must of" (instead of "must have" on page 250.

The plot is fairly standard YA paranormal fare. You have the beautiful girl with new powers and some sadness. Add in two attractive guys who both treat her like princes. Then throw in a dash of menace in the form of some evil demons. Stir in a quirky best friend and you're ready to go! For those who enjoy this genre, Seers will definitely satisfy. I know I enjoyed it, especially since one of the guys had a delightful Irish accent! Also, props to Frost for not writing his dialogue in dialect and letting people fill that in with their imaginations.

Kate was fairly likable for most of the book, given that she was in a weird place following her parents' deaths. However, by the end, I wanted to give her a stern talking to. If you don't like your boyfriend anymore, you should probably stop dating him. Leading someone on or sticking it out because you're afraid you'll end up alone are not acceptable responses.

All in all a great beginning to a paranormal romance series from a first time author. I will definitely be checking out the rest of the trilogy, since I expect Frost to just get better from here.

"I will be your guardian
When all is crumbling
To steady your hand

You can never say never
While we don't know when
Time, time, time again
Younger now than we were before"

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Horror Movie Psycho Killer - Humungo Ginormous

American Psycho

Author: Bret Easton Ellis
Pages: 499
Publisher: Vintage Books

(Seriously) Brief Summary:
Pretty much everyone already knows what this is about, thanks to Christian Bale. If you don't, it's about a filthy rich yuppie in the eighties who gets his kicks killing people in really icky ways.

What do three young, female librarians choose as the first title for their book club? Why, American Psycho, of course. This is not your average book club. I just wanted to share our uniqueness with everyone. Now to the review.

I really wanted to read this book, even though I hated Less Than Zero, one of Bret Easton Ellis' other books. Lord save me from the privileged and their issues. I definitely liked American Psycho better, but I wouldn't say that I liked it. Nor did I hate it precisely. However, I would be skeptical of anyone who loved it.

Here's the thing. On one hand, this is fairly well done, in the sense that Ellis is definitely getting his point across about American society in the 80s and what all of the materialism does to people. On the other, it is really hard to read and not even because of the gory bits, which are really gross and hard to read, but do not expect those for a hundred pages plus.

The real difficulty for me, the thing that made this book such a slog to get through, was his repetitiveness. You can count on hearing about what Patrick Bateman and every other person he sees are wearing, every visible item and their designer. People are constantly mistaken for one another. Bateman constantly asks about his hair. There are inevitable descriptions of overpriced restaurants and their tiny food, along with the disgusting amounts of money spent there (hundreds of dollars for one meal....in the 80s). And, don't forget, that Bateman needs to return those video tapes. And those are just a selection of the topics you can expect to read about in almost all of the many chapters.

At least, the repetitiveness does get to his character, vanity and completely fatuous lifestyle. The worst parts, the ones I deem entirely unnecessary to the flow of the story, are the chapters on popular musical artists in the 1980s. Genesis, Whitney Houston, and Huey Lewis and the News are the folks so honored. Why? No clue. To show that he's obsessed with music? I already got that from his constant, repetitive mentions of music. I recommend skipping these, as they do not advance the plot one whit.

The best part of this book was how outdated it now is. Patrick Bateman constantly brags about how he owns all of the coolest tech, but since it's the 80s that means top of the line in music was...the walkman. Seriously. He argued with some other yuppie scum about how his walkman was better. Hilarious!

P.S. The actual high point of the book is when someone mistakenly refers to Bateman as Batman. I cannot tell you how I awesome I find this and I really hope it played some part in Bale's career choices. Also, for those who are curious, the movie adaptation is pretty much spot on. Additionally, I am realizing how freaking weird it is that I saw that movie on a date...

"Let me chop in half
Let me bite him in the back

Horror movies, I adore 'em

Always laughing at the gore."

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Art School - The Jam

The Unwanteds
The Unwanteds, Book 1

Author: Lisa McMann
Pages: 390
ARC Acquired from: Simon & Schuster GalleyGrab

Brief Summary:
In Quill, only the Wanted and the Necessary are kept around. Why waste limited resources on people whose skills run to things that do not help people survive or prepare for war against nebulous enemies? Who needs artists, musicians or actors? Not Quill, that's for sure. Once a year, the kids of age 13 are evaluated as Wanted (heading into the Quillitary), Necessary (work the farms and other work that must be done) and Unwanted (heading for death at the Lake of Boiling Oil). Alex is Unwanted; he's known that he would be for years, unlike his perfect brother Aaron. Turns out, though, that the Unwanted don't die like they're supposed to; instead, they live in a secret, magical paradise called Artimé.

Anyone who knows me well probably knows that I'm not a big fan of Lisa McMann. All of her prior books sounded good, but then were utter disappointments, largely because of the rather uninspired writing. I didn't even want to read this one, but felt compelled to because of its dystopian nature. Well, I am happy to report that McMann can actually write complex sentences. Hurrah! Now I am curious why she writes real sentences for a middle grade book, but not for young adult ones. Does she think teens will refuse to read anything that puts a subject and a verb in the same place?

Ranting over. This was a really fun read, very much unlike any of her previous books, both in style and tone. There are some dark aspects, but, for the most part, this is a story of a magical world that any kid would love to live in. I mean who doesn't want to go to a school where your room is made for you and full of stuff you love, where you can travel anywhere by tube, where you can eat whenever you want, where you take classes only in the arts and where you get to learn magic spells? I would still prefer Hogwarts, but Artim
é is pretty cool.

My favorite character by far was Lani. She walks everywhere with her nose stuck in a book...what's not to like? Most of the others I didn't particularly bond with, but they were interesting. Actually, the one I disliked the most was Marcus Today, founder of Artim
é. The problem is just that he kind of creeped me out, although I'm not really sure why. I think he reminds me a little bit of Willy Wonka that way.

The dystopian elements are pretty minimal, mostly just in the first chapter or two, so if that's what you want, you probably be disappointed. If you're looking for a fun story that glorifies the arts or you just love stories of magic, give this one a try, even if, like me, you were unimpressed by McMann's previous efforts.

"Anything that you want to do, anyplace that you want to go
Don't need permission for everything that you want
Any taste that you feel is right
Wear any clothes just as long as they're bright
Say what you want, cause this is a new art school"

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Do What You Have to Do - Sarah McLachlan

Dark of the Moon

Author: Tracy Barrett
Pages: 309
ARC Acquired from: Harcourt Children's Books via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
Ariadne is Krete's She-Who-Will-Be-Goddess, trained to become the Goddess' representative on earth when her mother passes on. While this is a great honor, it is terrifying and lonely. She cannot interact with the people like another girl; her childhood friends now avoid her. Theseus, on the other hand, never had childhood friends; he had bullies. Everyone mocked him for her mother's crazy claims that he is the son of a God. Well, turns out she was wrong. Still, he is the son of a king. Unfortunately, said king is going to sacrifice Theseus to the Minotaur in Krete.

Greek myths ftw! I have always loved Greek mythology, so you're going to have to let me squee like a fangirl about the awesome job Tracy Barrett has done playing with an old familiar story. While she kept some of the basics about the myth, she changed other things, but she did so with flair and authenticity. She draws on the way that history alters truth and creates a really interesting variation on the original tale.

This myth was never my favorite (hello, where are the horses?), so I think I may actually like this variation better. At any rate, I love the postmodern re-evaluation of who was good and who was bad. Like Elpheba in Wicked, you get to see a different view of the Minotaur and an explanation for why he did some of the things he did. He totally reminds me of Lennie in Of Mice and Men.

Although I did not really grow close to any of the characters, the story held me fascinated, because I could not wait to find out what Barrett would do with the myth. Theseus, though I sympathized with him as a youth, lost my support when he took up with completely obnoxious Prokris. Ariadne was too far into her belief system for me to really want her to get things her way, which would involve blood sacrifice and all sorts of unpleasantness.

Anyone who finds Greek mythology should definitely try this awesome revisionist view of the story of the Minotaur! This song, which is totally not supposed to be about this but whatever, is about Ariadne's relationship with her brother, as well as the story of his origins.

"What ravages of spirit
Conjured this temptuous rage
Created you a monster
Broken by the rules of love
And fate has lead you through it
You do what you have to do"

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Human - The Killers


Karen Sandler
Pages: 370
ARC Acquired from:

Brief Summary:

Kayla and Mishalla are GENs, Genetically Engineered Non-Humans. They are essentially slaves. When people left Earth to begin living on this planet, the wealthy purchased their places and poorer people agreed to a temporary servant's status so that they could go. When the high status people did not give those of low status their freedom after the stated time period, riots began to break out. That's why GENs were made. The GENs take comfort in their religion, in which they were specially crafted by the Infinite and especially beloved. Being a GEN basically sucks, only now it seems to be getting worse...

Today is my birthday. Hurrah for me! I am so glad to be able to share such an awesome book on my special day. Let me apologize for the rather uninspiring description. The backstory might be helpful, even if it's not the most scintillating. It was awesome!

Tankborn was definitely another reminder to me not to judge books by their covers, which I will undoubtedly continue to do ad infinitum. Still, I know I shouldn't. The only reason I requested this on NetGalley was because of the golden word dystopia in the description. If it says dystopia, I will read it. So yeah, the cover's not the best (and, yet again, does not seem to depict one of the main characters), but don't let that stop you.

The characters and the story both intrigued me right off. It took a few chapters for me to get completely absorbed, because you're dropped into the middle of this completely unfamiliar landscape and have to get used to how things work there. Once I did, though, I could barely put the book down, except for having to work and sleep and feed the cat and all of that.

My one complaint, and it's pretty mild, is that I would really like to know more about why they left Earth. What happened there? There really wasn't too much said about that and I can only hope that there will be a sequel that might delve into some of that, and tell more of Kayla's future.

The lessons this book conveys about racism and religion are really well done, not so much lecturing as raising an ethical point and getting you to really think about the philosophical and theological leaps needed to support certain ways of being. This might make an excellent book club read for that very reason.

If you love dystopias, you will not want to miss Tankborn. It's going on sale tomorrow, so go get it!

"I did my best to notice
When the call came down the line
Up to the platform of surrender
I was brought but I was kind"

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Sabbath Prayer from Fiddler on the Roof


Author: Christina Shea
Pages: 256
ARC Acquired from: Grove/Atlantic via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
Beginning in WWII and ending in the early 1990s, Smuggled tells the life story of Eva Farkas, and the story of Hungary and Romania under communist rule. Eva was smuggled out of Hungary thanks to her wealthy father; her mother, his mistress, was Jewish, making Eva a possible target. Eva is sent to her father's sister and her husband in Romania. Thanks to forged papers and a talent with languages, she is able to survive the war and get an education. Her story doesn't end there; nor does life get much easier after the war.

What drew me to this book was the WWII setting. This era has long been my favorite historical time period to read about and study, perhaps surpassed in recent years by the Vietnam War era but perhaps not. Anyway, the WWII aspects, primarily of Eva's smuggling, were definitely really interesting. Even more intriguing, though, was reading the story of her life in Romania, of the myriad terrible things she had to do to survive.

Although the first third of the book details Anca's childhood, this is most definitely not a book intended for young readers. The themes are dark and only get darker as Anca grows up. Speaking of that, be forewarned that this story is gritty and painful and violent at times. It involves scenes of rape and prostitution. History isn't always pretty, which, I think, people generally know, but this is a side that isn't always as focused on. Eva/Anca (her Romanian name) has such an amazing spirit to have made it through all that she did. Despite all of the awful things she goes through, she retains the ability to trust and to love, which is incredibly inspiring. Nor does her character seem at all fake or overly optimistic; she's just a really strong person.

If you love books about the war or about life under the Soviet regime, you should not miss this one. It's beautifully written and completely fascinating from the first pages.

"May the Lord protect and defend you.
May the Lord preserve you from pain.
Favor them, Oh Lord, with happiness and peace.
Oh, hear our Sabbath prayer. Amen."

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite - The Beatles

Wisdom's Kiss

Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Pages: 284
ARC Acquired from: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley

Although not obviously apparent for most of the book, this is actually a reimagined fairy tale. The whole thing does read like a fairy tale, with princesses and betrayal and cats and magic. What makes this book really stand out is the method that Murdock uses to tell the story. Most of the plot unfolds through characters memoirs written ex post facto, diary entries or letters written to others. There are also little snippets of plays interspersed between the other formats. These generally depicted a scene that had been already described but in extra-dramatic Shakespearean style. I thought this way of telling the story showed ingenuity and was surprisingly effective.

The characters, however, did not meet with similar satisfaction. So many of them were incredibly dumb, including the poorly-named wisdom. Really the only one I liked at all was Trudy, who had a seriously awkward ending. She's the first character you meet, but her story is rattled off like a note in the end credits. The Queen Mother, who I believe is Ben from Princess Ben, one of Murdock's earlier novels that I have not read, is awkward. If her young character is anything like this crazy grandmother, I'm not sure that I want to read that book. If young Ben is not this way, why would you do this to her? And what happened to her husband?

My only previous experience with Murdock was Dairy Queen, which I did not like. For one thing, I have no interest in football. For another, the main character was not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, which, since the story was written in first person, meant that the writing was not particularly good. Plus, she was a serious jerk to her best friend when the friend confessed that she was a lesbian. The writing in Wisdom's Kiss was, for the most part better, although Tips' letters drove me crazy.

All in all, this is a very odd book, but it was rather amusing and constructed in a unique manner. I enjoyed reading it and my opinion of Murdock has improved slightly, but she's still not going to be a favorite author.

Oh, and there's a circus. Just imagine that instead of Mr. Kite, it's Felis el Gato.

"Having been some days in preparation
A splendid time is guaranteed for all
And tonight Mr. Kite is topping the bill"

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Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor - Bach (Performed by Julia Fischer)


Author: Jessica Martinez
Pages: 288
ARC Acquired from: Simon & Schuster GalleyGrab

Brief Summary:
Carmen, at 17, is one of the most talented young violinists in the world, as evidenced by her place in the Guarneri competition. She has been soloing for orchestras since she was 9 years old. In short, she's incredible, a virtuoso. Unfortunately, she fears she has an addiction to a supposedly non-habit-inducing drug that keeps her stage fright at bay. She is also losing some of her passion for the violin. Not to mention her somewhat unhealthy obsession with one of her rivals, Jeremy King, who just happens to be her biggest competition and really cute AND British.

At first, I was not sure how I was going to feel about this book. The prologue (not called that, but I don't know what else to call the abbreviated first section) certainly grabbed my attention, but it also made me worry that this might not be a good book for me. Carmen does not come off as too smart or likable in this brief segment, but, when you finally catch up in time to this moment, you totally get why she was going crazy.

Once I got into the flow of the book and managed to somewhat calm down my intense curiosity to know the resolution of the opening scene, I got completely sucked into this book. I loved the focus on music, as well as the serious moral dilemmas that Carmen had to face. In some ways, it reminded me of Where She Went by Gayle Forman and, in it's lighter moments that focused on the rivalry and relationship of Carmen and Jeremy, of Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund.

The coming of age aspects of the story also rocked my socks. Carmen, though in some ways very mature, given that she's traveled the world and won a grammy and plays a 1.2 million dollar violin, is also, as her mom tells her, naive. Because of her virtuous status and tour schedule, she has been home schooled and has little experience interacting with others. This is partly why she has so much trouble understanding Jeremy and trusting his motivations. She is so used to being told what to do by her mother and her teacher that she really has to learn how to be herself. Of course, the fact that she was often drugged did not help. Carmen's drug addiction, whether mental or physical, was a scary thing, particularly as she had been encouraged in her dependency by people she should be able to trust.

I really loved reading this and rather hope that there might be another book on Carmen's adventure, as the ending totally makes it possible. This story was beautiful, heartbreaking and powerful. The cover's awesome too.

P.S. There was a reference to Amy Winehouse in here. I wonder if it will be in the finalized version or if it will be removed because it's too soon... The main characters mentioned her and said that they hoped she was in rehab. Unfortunately, she said "no, no, no."

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Someday We'll Be Together - The Supremes

Firelight, Book 2

Author: Sophie Jordan
Pages: 304
ARC Acquired from: HarperCollins via NetGalley

It's late and I'm feeling lazy so there's no summary for this one. Vanish is the sequel to Firelight, which I had high hopes for and was exceedingly disappointed by. At the end of my review of that one, I declared my distaste for it and had no intention of continuing on. Still, when I saw Vanish come up on NetGalley, I couldn't resist it.

Suffice it to say that Vanish fits with its predecessor. I will not harp on the problems that remain from the first, because I already knew they would be there and that's my bad. Overall, I think I liked this one better, probably because I knew to lower my expectations considerably.

The one thing I really need to point out that's unique to this one is that Jacinda is really dumb. She's in trouble and has a chance to save herself (by pointing out to Severin how she can maybe save someone else)...but she doesn't. Also, why can draki not shift at will? Some are tied up in draki form at one point, which could probably be escaped easily by shifting...only they don't. Why not? Because of plot points?

Another problem: I'm totally starting to ship Cassian with her rather than Will. She and Will are just too gross together. Although Will is maybe getting more interesting...which bodes poorly, as I will probably read the next book too, wondering why I've done so the whole time.

"You're far away
From me my love (say it, baby)
And just as sure my, my baby
As there are stars above
I wanna say it, wanna say it, wanna say it

Someday we'll be together
Oh, yes, we will, yes, we will
(Say it) Someday (some sweet day) we'll be together
I know, I know, I know, I know

My love is yours, baby
Oh, right from the start (baby, honey)
You, you, you posses my soul now, honey
And I know, I know you own my heart"

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Special - Better Than Ezra

Paranormalcy, Book 2

Author: Kiersten White
Pages: 352
Publisher: HarperTeen

Brief Summary:
Evie's back, armed with Tasey (well, only sometimes, what with going to a real high school with lockers and all) and loving her boyfriend Lend. Unfortunately, Lend is off at Georgetown, where Evie desperately wants to go, meaning she only gets to see him on weekends. High school isn't as fun as she thought. Nor is her job at the diner, for which she has to wear a cow patterned skirt. Yeah. Even worse, there's something weird happening in town; a lot of unfamiliar paranormals have been showing up and they seem really interested in Evie.

Supernaturally definitely fulfilled expectations as a sequel to Paranormalcy. Like its predecessor, it is silly, funny and enjoyable. White does something that too few other paranormal romance teen authors are afraid or unwilling to do: laughs at the whole thing. She doesn't take all of the drama too seriously most of the time. Evie laughs at some conventions, but is laughable herself, as well, which I believe is intended.

The drama is still totally present, though, in the form of Evie deciding to endanger her healthy relationship in classic style by not telling the truth/keeping secrets from her true love. Oops. Let me give you all some love advice: be honest. People don't like being lied to, especially if they expect you to trust them. The fun of the novel outweighed this needless drama for me, thankfully.

A new character is added, in the form of Jack, a cherubic boy, a year or so younger than Evie. Jack can open gates and navigate the faerie paths, because he was kidnapped and raised by the fey. As you might have guessed, he's a little bit crazy. I am not a fan of Jack; he's just too strange to be likable. Even though I tend to want to ship an underdog character with the heroine (if only to subvert expectations), I just could not warm to this guy.

We get some more explanations of how the paranormals came about in this one, too, which is both cool and a bit confusing. For example, there was one creature created by a male fairy impregnating a human woman. Wouldn't there be more of these creatures around? This doesn't sound like a difficult thing to have happen. Do the fairies have trouble reproducing? (I wonder this same thing every time I read LOTR...haha)

I still recommend this series to people who like a humorous, light read. It's perfect for vacation, the beach or a break from heavy study materials. Also, I love that it looks like they may have used the same model on both covers. I hate when it's obviously the heroine on multiple covers in a series but she looks wildly different every time.

"I was pulling far away.
You were begging me to stay.
And I thought I was losing you.
Funny, how the opposite was true."

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