Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fallen [Review]

Title: Fallen by Lauren Kate
Series: Fallen, #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
What They Say:
There’s something achingly familiar about Daniel Grigori.

Mysterious and aloof, he captures Luce Price’s attention from the moment she sees him on her first day at the Sword & Cross boarding school in sultry Savannah, Georgia. He’s the one bright spot in a place where cell phones are forbidden, the other students are all screw-ups, and security cameras watch every move.

Even though Daniel wants nothing to do with Luce–and goes out of his way to make that very clear–she can’t let it go. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame, she has to find out what Daniel is so desperate to keep secret . . . even if it kills her.

What I Say:
Wow. Okay. So I read this one right after I finished with Mockingjay, looking for something mildly interesting to get into. Um. This is one of the first books I’ve read that has literally put me to sleep. Multiple times. It started out as a quiet story about an troubled teen at a boarding school; which was boring, but not so bad. Then, in the last few chapters, it became a completely different kind of story, which was boring and bad. That said…

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Plot: ugh
So Lucinda Price is being sent to reform school. Why? Her parents think she's crazy because she sees dark shadows all the time, and oh yeah, her boyfriend mysteriously combusted one night in the woods. Poor Lucinda thinks it's her fault because this is a teeny novel and therefore the protagonist must be entirely self-centered. So. At the new school, Luce makes a smattering of colorful and crazy friends, including one cute guy (Cam) who’s all charming and wants to get to know her better. Then, because there has to be a love triangle shoved in my face right away, there’s another cute guy (Daniel) who hates her and flips her off the first day. Reading from her Bella Swan textbook, Luce decides she’s going to pursue the boy who hates her, because she feels a mysterious connection to him. Mysterious things happen that don’t necessarily have anything to do with Daniel, but Luce decides they do. So for about two hundred pages we read about Luce going to class, being bored, being socially awkward, and obsessing over Daniel Grigori. Then, suddenly! All this supernatural stuff starts happening for no apparent reason! What?

'Ugh' is right. Had this book been just its first two hundred pages, it would have been okay. Boring, a little bland, but okay. Maybe three stars if I was in a good mood. Luce has friends, has an admirer, and is living her life. Maybe a coming-of-age story? But then, suddenly (and I really mean suddenly) the entire story changes course. (We'll call this The Break for future reference). One minute everyone’s human, the next practically no one is human. Not just that, the author decides that we need to have the climax of the story right now even though nothing has been explained and the reader is like Wait, what…? (And even then, it’s boring). I get that this is going to be a series, and so the author needs some loose ends to hold interest into later books, but this was just terrible. An example: every five minutes Luce mentions her boyfriend who mysteriously caught fire and died, and then there’s a fire at the school (so you think Oh, maybe they're connected?) but then you don’t get a single answer about either of them. Not even a little clue to show us that the author has any idea what she’s doing. Why, then, are these things mentioned at all? It was very frustrating. Maybe Lauren Kate needs to take a class on brainstorming and making those little charts before writing a story, because this was just ridiculous. I saw a comment online by a girl who said this was one of her all-time favorite books (like, OMG yeah!). I wanted to find her parents and bludgeon them to death. I didn’t drop the rating to one star, because this book wasn’t so bad that I actually got angry while reading it, but it did come close.

Characters: meh
So despite being as interesting as a box of rocks (though sometimes a box of rocks can be interesting, if they’re shiny), Luce wasn’t such a bad main character. She fulfilled all the absolutely necessary jobs of a protagonist, including but not limited to: being present in the story, sometimes having an opinion about what’s going on, and speaking on occasion. Other than that, I just wanted to throw a box of rocks at her.

Arriane is my favorite character of the bunch, or she had the potential to be. The first time we see her, she reveals that she wears a tracking bracelet because she’s one of the crazier, more dangerous students at Sword and Cross. I thought, Ooh, she’s gonna do crazy things. Yeah, no. After that scene, Lauren Kate apparently felt she had adequately characterized Arriane and she needed no further substance. She’s the “fun one”, I guess, but she’s just as mild-mannered as the rest of them. Don’t even get me started on after The Break, when everyone decides to just drop their personalities and adopt new ones…

Cam also started out interesting as the Cool New Guy, but once we’ve determined that he wants to woo Luce, he’s just boring and predictable until he’s not (that stupid Break again…)

Was Daniel supposed to be attractive? Or romantic? Or interesting? He was none of those things. Or better yet, he was a little bit of all of those things, but not enough. I mean, he’s supposed to be the main event and yet he doesn’t have a single line of worth for about two hundred pages. At least I can say that his personality doesn’t change with The Break, because he didn’t have much of one to begin with.

Relationships: meh
Luce and Cam - While I noted that this book would have been okay without the Breaky supernatural parts, these two would not have been. Cam may be good-looking, but their “relationship” gets annoying. Cam buys Luce shiny things and almost desperately tries to get her attention, and Luce notices but doesn’t care because she’s obsessed with Daniel who doesn’t even like her (pre-Break). What’s the point of a love triangle when it bores you to tears?

Luce and Daniel - This book is the gold standard of Fast-Forward Romance. These two go from being outwardly indifferent to each other (if you discount Luce stalking him on the internet and dreaming about him all the time, and Daniel hating her stupid guts) to suddenly in love. They don’t even have a full normal conversation before professing this undying love. What the hell?

Special Features: meh
I was impressed when Hush, Hush did fallen angels (not a spoiler: the book’s called Fallen, what do you expect?), not because they’re crazy-amazing or anything, but because it fit the story and added a unique supplement to the average teenage relationship. In this book, it’s like Lauren Kate got writers’ block after her forbidden love story got boring and decided Hey, let’s throw all this other angel-y shit in there and see what happens! Word of advice to writers: just because the formula doesn’t blow up and singe your face when you add your crazy new plot device to it, doesn’t mean it isn’t a bad idea. Shame on you, Miss Kate (if that is your real name).

Parting Quote:

The only way to survive eternity is to be able to appreciate each moment.
Oh, gag me with a spoon. I beg you. I need to go wash my hands and read an awesome book to wipe my memory of the likes of this.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mockingjay [Review]

Title: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Series: Hunger Games #3
Genre: Science-Fiction
What They Say:
Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.
It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plains — except Katniss.
The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panen. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay — no matter what the personal cost.

What I Say:
So I finally sat down and read the last installment in Suzanne Collins’s series about our crapsack future where the government puts kids in an arena to kill each other every year. This was a long-awaited read, filled with danger, adventure, and a good hard look at the idea of power and the people fighting over it. That said…

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Plot: wow
(Because of how highly-anticipated this book is to readers, I’m working harder than usual to keep from spoilering all over the place. Though I might do a Spoiler Post later to discuss the story further, later this week.)

So Katniss’s war has started, and Katniss is finally getting to see it. She’s been the face of rebellion for over a year, and now she needs to be the voice as well. But can she live up to the hype, or will she crash and burn like when Ke$ha sings live? District 13 is real and it’s safe, but will she be able to put her trust in the new leaders of the fight? Will she be able to survive Peeta being in the hands of the Capitol? Will she be able to survive Gale being back in her own hands? Will we ever find out if President Snow is a vampire?? So many questions! (This is the best I can do without giving anything away, haha. I’m so sorry.)

If this were Catching Fire (the second book in the series), I would have given the plot a 'WHOA'. Because that book was amazing all over. While Mockingjay brought the story to a close and tied up loose ends, after the first hundred-fifty pages, something begins to happen to it. This is where most of the action begins, but in the battles and telling of events, I became a bit less invested in the meaning of the plot. I still wanted to know what happened in the end, but once Collins got the setup out of the way, the innards of the story began to weaken. A good example of this comes from the climax, which is written in such a way that it comes and goes and leaves you wondering Did I miss it? The event happens, but there’s no particular point or meaning to it. And then another climactic event occurs, and there seems to be no point to that either. The rest of the book passes in an odd daze, as if Collins finished her social commentary and made her point forty pages from the end, and the rest was just ending credits. I think my biggest disappointment is that we see the “end”, and then we don’t even get a little peek at what happens next. Well, we do, but…

Characters: wow
I love how in the “What They Say” section, it says that to save the rebellion Katniss must "put aside her feelings of anger and mistrust," because that never actually happens. She’s pretty angry and distrustful the whole time. For good reason. My only issue was that she never expressed it properly. She’d think, “Oh, I hate so-and-so”, but treat them professionally, and then she’d think, “Oh, I love Peeta I love Gale”, and treat them like shit. Often. Also, all her passion is gone in this book. Once she “gets with the plan” of the story, she totally clocks out. She plays their puppet and thinks like one, too. Not gonna spoil, but I will say that I’m disappointed with how things turn out for our heroine. It’s just, I don’t know, very un-Katniss.

So Gale and Peeta were little assholes in this book, haha. That’s not always a bad thing, though. I lumped these two together so I wouldn’t be tempted to spoil with details. So maybe Peeta being alive is a spoiler, but nothing you couldn’t guess. I suppose Gale can’t help being a dick, because there’s a war on and he’s spilling testosterone out his ears. I guess Peeta can’t help it, either. Though at least Peeta didn't make me want to kill all his little brothers and sisters.

Not sure I’m highlighting the most important characters here, but Finnick is absolutely amazing, so he’s going into this review. This book flips the coin, showing us the inner-Finnick and leaving the rest (suggestive eyebrow waggle) to the imagination. He and Katniss forge an unlikely bond, and thank god, because this story needed him. He’s definitely the only character who didn’t annoy me in this one, the main reason the characters section gets a ‘wow’.

What’s this? Annoying whiny sister Prim grows up? So proud! Really, though. At thirteen years old, Prim has seen all the horrors of her world and taken it in stride. She doesn’t get too much mention in this one, and never gets a real chance to show how she’s grown, but you can just tell. I liked her better than Katniss, at least.

Relationships: ooh
Katniss and Gale - Hey, Katniss. There’s a war on and everything’s going to shit, but I’m still going to put you in awkward situations and make you feel guilty for not jumping all over me. Hey, Gale. I know we’ve been close since childhood, but I’m going to be petty and blame you for things out of your control so we’ll be fighting all the time.

Katniss and Peeta - Hey, Katniss. I know I’ve always thought you were flawless and beautiful, but I’m starting to see that you’re kind of a heartless bitch. Hey, Peeta. I know it isn’t your fault that ohspoilershmmmhuh? happened, but I’m going to be petty and blame you for things out of your control so we’ll be fighting all the time. (See a pattern here?)

Special Features: WHOA
I. Love. Dystopia. I don’t quite know why, but it’s just so much fun to read about. Especially when it bears eerie similarities to our own world. I mean, after all, the Hunger Games are just like Survivor (with an admittedly different goal, but still), and we watch that on TV. Well, maybe around 2002 we did.

Parting Quote:
    “You be nice to her, Finnick. Or I might try and take her away from you.” It could be a joke, if the tone wasn’t so cold. Everything it conveys is wrong. …
   “Oh, Peeta,” says Finnick lightly. “Don’t make me sorry I restarted your heart.”
See? What did I tell you? It’s asshole fever in District 13.

Anyway, since we're talking about the Hunger Games and mentioned the likes of Ke$ha, to check out this very cute Catching Fire parody of Tik Tok, click here. And if you like Mike Posner, here's a Mockingjay parody of Cooler Than Me (click here).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Weekend Rec #2

Album: Can't Stop Won't Stop by The Maine
So The Maine are this rock band from Tempe, AZ. Their lead singer, John O'Callaghan, is amazing, and the whole band is pretty damn adorable.
Who Might Like It: Those who like upbeat, summer music (i.e. All Time Low, We The Kings)
Why Check It Out: This is their first full-length album, and it's so fun and light -- easily makes this band one of my favorite bands.
Listen to a track: "Everything I Ask For"

If you've heard these guys before, be sure to leave a comment with your opinon!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Vampire Academy #4-5 [Review]

For the review of Vampire Academy books 1-3, click here.

Title: Blood Promise and Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead
Series: Vampire Academy #4 and  5
Genre: Urban Fantasy
What They Say:
How far will Rose go to keep her promise?

The recent Strigoi attack at St. Vladimir’s Academy was the deadliest ever in the school’s history, claiming the lives of Moroi students, teachers, and guardians alike. Even worse, the Strigoi took some of their victims with them. . . including Dimitri.

He’d rather die than be one of them, and now Rose must abandon her best friend, Lissa—the one she has sworn to protect no matter what—and keep the promise Dimitri begged her to make long ago. But with everything at stake, how can she possibly destroy the person she loves most?
What I Say:
You know how they say “The plot thickens” as a series continues? Well, in this case I feel like the plot thins out as the series progresses. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good thing. The fourth and fifth books in the Vampire Academy series (well, at least the fifth) were more enjoyable because they had straight-forward stories. Here, our pool of characters tightens to around five main guys rather than the million being introduced every other page in the first two, and we continue the Darkening and Edgifying that began in book three. That said…

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Plot: wow
Book 3 - Oh nooo, Dimitri’s been turned into a Strigoi vampire and it’s up to Rose to stake his ass out of love. So off to Russia we go for three-hundred-or-so pages. Rose lurks around bars until she meets an Alchemist (kind of like a supernatural janitor?) who leads her to Dimitri’s family in Siberia (because for some reason, she thought that after becoming an Evil Demon of the Night, Dimitri would want to visit his mommy). So after an irrelevant fifty pages, by some crazy coincidence she finds Dimitri! But (big surprise), things don’t turn out the way she planned. Meanwhile, back at school a completely different - but equally irrelevant to the series - story is unfolding. Lissa has a new party-girl friend. Could it be that this binge-drinking risk taker is a bad influence?

Book 4 - So Rose is back at school and the last book becomes nothing more than a sad, boring nightmare. Forget about the fact that Rose dropped out of school, she gets to graduate anyway! She’s finally getting over her evil lost love and starting anew with Adrian the alcoholic angel. Except that she’s totally still obsessed with Dimitri and pulls a slew of crazy stunts in order to ohspoilershmmmhuh? (You’ll see.) Some very powerful people get royally pissed (see what I did there, "royally"? Ha!), and while her tomfoolery gets her the miracle she wanted, she’s going to need an actual-grownup-problem-fixing miracle to get out of the trouble she’s in now!

So, while I didn’t love book four, book five made up for it. I’m sort of proud of how this series has progressed (or maybe I just like it because the Royal Court reminds me of Alicante in the Cassie Clare’s City of Glass). Also, ever see I Am Legend? Strigoi-Dimitri reminds me of this guy. Also, in book five Richelle Mead finally learns the value of having relevant information throughout the whole book! No more nothing-matters-but-the-climax storylines! So proud!

Characters: wow
Oh Rose. While book four put me to sleep from time to time, I was so happy that Jerkass Rose was gone. So happy. Then she goes back home and leaves her maturity in Russia. That said, I have to admire her spunk. At least she means well these days and doesn’t randomly hate people anymore. Baby steps, Rose. Baby steps.

Adrian! I’m so glad he’s a main character now! You can tell because I’m using exclamation points!! In a nearly-hilarious case of irony, he becomes Rose's voice of reason in these books. Also, he’s bleeding money out of his ears and omgheissototallycute. Honestly, I think Mead wrote him into the story just as a personal favor to me.

I would talk about Lissa and Christian, but they haven’t changed much from the first three books. Still cool, just static.

Relationships: wow
Rose and Adrian - Giggle-squeak. These two are what Rose and Dimitri could be if they weren’t angsting it up all the time (and if Dimitri were cleverer). Poor Adrian has to deal with Rose pining over her lost lover all the time. He’s too good for her. Despite the fact that, being a YA book series, Rose is doomed to end up with the First Guy She Liked, I still have hope that she and Adrian will grow old together and have a whole litter of “Little dhampirs”.

Special features: ooh
I like me a royal court, at least when it isn’t full of Queen’s English-speaking assholes. Lissa being the Dragomir princess and Rose being a pawn (let’s face it, she’s a pawn), we get to see both sides of the system, and how people with power like to screw with people; or do they? (see Mysterious Motives).

Parting Quote:
"Yeah, that's exactly what I want. To help my girlfriend get her old boyfriend back." He turned away again, and I heard him [Adrian] mutter, "I need two drinks."
If Adrian took a drink every time Rose was a little brat or spat on his feelings, he’d die of alcohol poisoning. True fact.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hush, Hush [Review]

Title: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Series: Hush, Hush #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
What They Say:
For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her...until Patch comes along.
With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment, but after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is far more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.
For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.
What I Say:
Because of its ALA Teens’ Top Ten nomination, its sequel coming this October, and the fact that I’m waiting by the mailbox for Mockingjay to get here, I though I’d review this one today. People like to compare this book to Twilight, and I admit there are some weird similarities (Biology Partner of Death, anyone?), but this book brings fantasy and reality together in a way than Stephenie Meyer just couldn’t figure out. You know, like a protagonist who didn’t just step out of an Austen novel? That said…

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Plot: wow
So Nora Grey and also-conveniently-short-named Vee Sky are best friends. When their seats get moved (horror of horrors) in biology, Nora gets a new partner: mysterious new badass Patch. Nora is deeply offended by Patch’s impressive handle on sarcasm and suggestiveness (that’s a word?), so she hates him. Meanwhile, there’s another mysterious new guy (two in one book? This is a first!) Elliot with his mysterious best friend Jules. Charismatic and cute, Elliot is much better match for Nora, or is he? Mean-meanwhile, Nora’s being terrorized (sort of) by a dangerous hooded stalker who’s making her think she’s crazy. As Nora tries to solve Patch’s mystery and Elliot’s mystery and the stalker mystery (so much mystery!), she has to bring all the facts together before she finds herself in grave danger. (Spoiler: she finds herself in grave danger anyway.)

Once this story broke away from its Twilight similarities, I really got into it. If Fitzpatrick does anything, it's keep you interested by adding more and more story elements, not lingering too long on any of them. If you're trying to figure out what's what, you can't really get bored, can you? I'm not sure how the story lends to a sequel, though there is one character left unaccounted for at the end...

Characters: ooh
While I applaud Fitzpatrick for giving us a female protagonist who isn’t a starry-eyed waif or age-inappropriately-poetic, we sometimes fall to the other end of the spectrum with Nora. She’s smart and determined, but she gets all fired up about petty things (like getting her seat changed in biology. Like, calm down!) and acts all superior around Patch without even knowing him (in that preppy-snob way, ehh). However, once we pass that I-hate-you-Darcy! stage (does every little romance have to start like this?), I really like her. She doesn’t whine, she can handle herself, and she’s a pretty genuine teenager. Being a believable protagonist made it easier for me to believe the fantastic parts. Much appreciated.

So I love Patch. Why? First off, he’s a fallen angel (this is only a spoiler if you ignore the front and back cover of this book, my friends). He is the Snark King. Archduke of Snarkland. Head of the mon-snarky. Just because Nora can’t appreciate that doesn’t mean I can’t. And finally a stalker who is actually a stalker. Not just in that Are-you-following-me? way, but in that How-were-those-two-cups-of-OJ-I-saw-you-drinking-this-morning-while-hiding-in-your-bushes? way. I am impressed. Also, finally a guy who calls himself a bad person and is actually a bad person! It’s great! Only thing: I get that Patch is a nickname, but really? It’s kind of terrible. I have yet to meet a Patch that I like (that isn’t, like, a teddy bear with a missing eye).

Vee is our cliché boy-crazy, clothing-obsessed, going-to-have-to-save-her-from-danger-at-some-point sidekick. That said, I like her. She wasn’t exactly comic relief - because she wasn’t exactly funny - but she brought a lightness to the story, which it needed from time to time. And what’s the point of having Supernatural Secrets and Lies if there’s no painfully human best friend to lie to?

Relationships: ooh
Nora and Patch - After the Darcy phase, Nora and Patch are pretty good together. I won’t spoil anything, but when he tells her about the actual events leading up to their almost-first kiss, ohh boy. That's a dark romance, right there. I found it extremely refreshing that, while they have a relationship, they don’t fall in love on fast-forward. In fact, they don’t fall in love at all! It’s great! I didn’t roll my eyes even once; that must be a record!

Special Features: wow
Angels? Awesome. I mean, obviously we’ve all heard about angels before, but I’ve never read a novel with an angel as a main character. At least, not a badass angel. We only get a peek into the whole system in this book, but I’m hoping we’ll see more in the sequel. One thing that bothered me: what the hell does the title “Hush Hush” have to do with this story? I spent maybe an hour thinking about this. It makes absolutely no sense. Is it because she’s keeping a secret?

Parting Quotes:
"You possess other people's...bodies."
He accepted that statement with a nod.
"Do you want to possess my body?"
"I want to do a lot of things to your body, but that's not one of them."
Sometimes these quotes have meanings. Sometimes they just make me laugh, haha.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Vampire Academy #1-3 [Review]

Title: Vampire Academy, Frostbite, and Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead
Series: Vampire Academy
Genre: Urban Fantasy
What They Say:

St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger. . . .
What I Say:
It could get confusing and wordy, trying to fit three books into one review, but we’ll see how this goes (no big high-quality-review guarantees, haha). I guess you can say the reason I've only just started reading this series is because I was avoiding it. Like, actively avoiding it. Why? After Twilight spawned a billion other vampire novels, TV shows, etc, the idea of reading another vampire series became a bit of a turnoff. A few days ago, however, I opted to try it. I was impressed by some things, and it didn’t put me to sleep or make me gag or overuse synonyms of the word beautiful. That said…

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Plot: wow
So there’s this girl, Rose, and her best friend Lissa. They’ve just been caught by school officials for a serious case of truancy (two years, count 'em) and are back at St. Vladimir’s Academy for their senior year. What’s weird about that? Lissa (short for Vasilisa) is a Moroi princess, Moroi being vampires in that they drink blood and sleep during the day, but different in that they’re alive and can use elemental magic. Yeah. Rose is a Dhampir, or guardian to a Moroi, and she’s pretty much human if you discount her superior strength and battle training. At the academy, misadventures ensue, Rose is getting all up close with her mentor (Dimitri), and Lissa has a thing for mysterious bad boy Christian - whose parents were evil Strigoi vampires before they were killed.

Huh. There must be a simpler way to do this. Let’s go one book at a time:

Book 1 - So everything’s dandy at the academy, except there’s this snotty girl trying to ruin Rose’s life, Lissa’s beginning to use her mysterious power and it’s making her emo and crazy, and someone out there wants that power for his/herself. Oh noes!

Book 2 - Moroi royal families are being killed left and right by Strigoi (the big-bad-actual-vampires), so the academy is holding Christmas vacation at a ski lodge and everyone’s invited! Really. Rose is still all over her mentor, but he’s (gasp!) possibly all over someone else? There’s also a Christian-being-jealous-of-Lissa-talking-to-a-hotter-guy storyline, but that doesn’t matter because when Mason (Rose’s boyfriend?) runs off to kill Strigoi - and Rose and Christian follow - all kinds of shit goes down and everything before that becomes obsolete.

Book 3 - So the first two-thirds of this book pass and then are rendered obsolete by the shit-going-down part. (Seeing a pattern here?) Main idea: Rose is seeing ghosts and going insane, or is she? Also, a new elite cult club is starting up at school, and they want Lissa to submit her will join. Also, the vampire queen (there’s a vampire queen) is stirring up trouble for our unlikely lovers.

Okay. That’s done. Re-reading this, it was hard to summarize seriously, but not because it wasn’t good. It was pretty good, interesting stuff, trust me! But when you go back and try to remember everything happened, you realize that a lot of stuff happens, some of which has nothing to do with the “big picture” and ends up sounding silly. I did like that I never got bored by details, didn’t have to suspend my belief that much (there weren’t any What? No way is that possible! moments). I just plain enjoyed it. Maybe not on a deep, dark, serious level (though it does get darker and edgier in book three), but it was fun to read. If I have to note anything in particular, it’s that there seems to be a One Character Dies Per Book rule in place here. Also, a First Two Hundred Pages Are Filler rule. Not bad rules, per se, but they don’t help the unpredictability thing.

Characters: meh
So I used to think I thought Bella Swan was annoying, but I think I actually hate Rose. At first I thought, Nice, an edgy character for once! but (at times) she can be so whiny, bratty, needy, immature, hating-people-for-no-reason and getting-in-people’s-faces-at-inappropriate-times that I wanted to hit her in the face. Repeatedly. How can Dimitri stand her? Sure, there are whole chapters where she’s pretty cool, level-headed, and badass, but god, she’s one of the most obnoxious characters (not in a parody or satire) that I ever read.

Lissa was better. Not painfully interesting, but more down-to-earth than Rose. Being part of the Hoi Moroi (haha, I’m clever), she’s reasonable and calm and all that. A bit dramatic and angsty, but with good reason (see Magic Crazy-Making Powers).

From here, there are many sub-characters, and it’s difficult to tell which are most important. Christian may not be the most crucial to the plot, but he’s my favorite. He was my main source of non-bratty snark, which was refreshing. He’s the black sheep of the Moroi, despite being one of the royals, because of the parents-going-evil thing. It makes him the most grounded of all of them, the least clueless, and who can resist a black sheep? I mean, seriously. He’s Christian the atheist. I love it. How can Rose hate him? I have no idea.

Or is Adrian my favorite? Not sure where he came from, but he’s the college-aged Moroi who just shows up at random times during the second and third books. All he does is smoke and drink because of those Magic Crazy-Making Powers, and he’s only more snarky than Christian because he’s a little lady-killer, too. Why can’t this be the Christian and Adrian series? How can Rose hate him? I have no idea. (Seeing a pattern here?)

Relationships: ooh
Do random hookups count as relationships?

Rose and Dimitri - I don’t entirely understand how this relationship works. Sure, I get the whole forbidden love thing, but why choose Rose? Really, Dimitri? Sometimes, it’s fun to read about (especially around book three, hehe) but it’s mostly Nooo-this-is-wrong! Or Nooo-you’re-too-young! Or Nooo-it’s-unprofessional! See, kids? Grown-ups can be whiny and angsty, too.

Lissa and Christian - I actually like this couple. Mostly because of Christian, but Lissa actually grows a little spine around him. The reader doesn’t see much of these two, because Rose is the main character and the universe revolves around her, but (so far) they’re the most normal part of the series. And who doesn’t love that couple everyone disapproves of? Power couple, indeed.

Special Features: ooh
I really was interested by the vampires in this series. The different groups, the social structure, the royal families, the Romanian thing: nothing I’d heard a million times before. Though some of the Dhampir mentality seemed a bit brainwashy at times, which I was glad got some mention in book three. Vampires aren't my big thing, so I was glad it didn't, like, suck. One feature which I felt needed to be addressed are this series’ covers. They’re kind of gag-inducing. I see them and think, Bad bad bad paperback novel, which is sad. They deserve better.

Well, isn’t this the longest post ever? Phew. I pulled an all-nighter reading book three, so you’re welcome, haha. The rest of the series to follow next week (or the week after, we'll see).

For the review of Vampire Academy books 4-5, click here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Up & Coming Monday: Mockingjay Predictions! [Guest Post]

Guest Post by Irene @ mywelshrabbit.

With only one day left until Suzanne Collins's Mockingjay hits shelves (and hopefully my mailbox!), there’s been a fair amount of buzz about what might happen. There are so many possibilities, you know? So, I wanted to share my little opinions. I’ve put the main topics of the third book into questions, so you can answer them too!

What is in District 13?
POWERFUL MAGIC! Aha, just kidding. Katniss has heard graphite (boring). The exiles say “nuclear weapons” (WMDs anyone?). We don’t really know what District 13 made, but would the Capitol really destroy a necessary district? They destroyed 12, but don’t need coal production if they can use electricity and wood, both from other districts. Wouldn’t the Capitol freak out though, if say, they destroyed District 1? Where would they get their pretty shiny things from then?

I think it doesn’t matter what was in District 13, but what’s there now: I’m thinking mockingjays. And not only mockingjays, but jabberjays and muttations; all these animals that have been cast aside by the Capitol. I bet the rebels have found ways to use them for their cause.

Where is Cinna?
Dead. I really think he’s dead. I’m so, so sorry.

Oh wait, no, I think he’s an Avox, because he’d make a pretty one (sorry) and also be a constant reminder of what happens to those who try to fool the Capitol. The Capitol likes their constant reminders, I mean look at their Hunger Games!

Which minor character will have an impact in the end?
Madge. For sure. I think she knows through the pain of her mother how messed up the Hunger Games are. After all, she was the one who basically forced Katniss to wear the mockingjay pin, and we all know how that turned out…

Will there be a “final battle”, or something like it?
No, I think after two books set in the arena, there will be a very creative and strategic (and ultimately heartbreaking) final conflict.

Will Mockingjay feature another Hunger Games?
I think there will be some mention but no action will ever get to take place in the arena. Since the Hunger Games began because of the rebellion nearly a hundred years before, I bet President Snow will make lots of threats to the Districts along the lines of more severe games in the future. 

Who will Katniss end up with (if anyone)?
She owes Peeta a lot, and since she doesn’t like being in someone’s debt, she will choose Peeta. It won’t be a hard choice, since she’ll come to appreciate and love him in the end.

I don’t know how long that marriage will last, however…

So, what do you all think? What’s are we all going to see when we crack open our copies of Mockingjay this Tuesday??

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Candor [Review]

Title: Candor by Pam Bachorz
Genre: Science-fiction
What They Say:
Oscar Banks has everything under control. In a town where his father brainwashes everyone, he's found a way to secretly fight the subliminal Messages. He's got them all fooled: Oscar's the top student and the best-behaved teen in town. Nobody knows he's made his own Messages to deprogram his brain. Oscar has even found a way to get rich. For a hefty price, he helps new kids escape Candor, Florida before they're transformed into cookie-cutter teens. But then Nia Silva moves to Candor, and Oscar's carefully-controlled world crumbles.

What I Say:
I like me some science-fiction and I love me some utopia (though on a small scale here), but I must say I like it even more in a contemporary setting. What's creepier than a community of brainwashed teens that could possibly exist? It's great. I grabbed this book from the library at random, but it was definitely a good choice. That said...

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Plot: wow
So there's this boy, Oscar. He lives with his father, the mayor of the little town of Candor, Florida, an idyllic little community where everything and everyone is perfect, for a price. Everyone listens to these music CDs packed with subliminal messages to control their behavior, but being the son of the mayor, Oscar discovered the secret long ago and has been unbrainwashing himself by rebrainwashing himself with CDs of his own (fridge logic is telling me this is probably not good for a person's brain. Just sayin'). So the kids in town are loaded (the real estate in Candor is just through the roof), and Oscar earns a shady living helping kids escape before they're completely brainwashed. When badgirl Nia moves to town, Hot New Girl Syndrome kicks in and Oscar totally loses his shit.

I was going to say I liked this plotline for its originality, but that's not really the right word. It kind of took elements from other works (Stepford Wives, various "escape-from" stories, even a bit of The Giver) and molded it into something new. I could still guess what might happen here or there, but not until maybe three pages before it did. The way it was written, you really wanted to the characters to make it out (though maybe not Nia).

Characters: meh
So Oscar was the mastermind behind the whole story, after his evil overlord dad. He was a good narrator, and really carried the story, seeing as outside of him and Nia, none of the characters had any depth (zombieville, remember?). Having to deal with bratty rich kids at his "job", I can understand why he often turns up the jerkass. Also, he has some issues of his own: how do you cry over your dead brother and runaway mom when you're being brainwashed to forget? Side note: I don't really like the name Oscar? Like what is that? I have yet to meet an Oscar that I like.

I should be objective about Nia, but god she annoyed me to death. For the first half of the book, I actually liked her. She's original and clever in a town of two-dimensional clones, she likes art, she's kind of nice. I like her better when she and Oscar get together (always a plus). But then Stuff Happens and I want to bludgeon her the next 200 pages. Not just because she loses all her good qualities, but it kind of bends up Oscar's head (and does he need any more mental problems?)

Relationships: meh
Oscar and Nia - Like I said, it started out good. But then, you know, the Spoilery Stuff happens and it gets all angsty and awkward and obsessive. But the change really drives the story, because it gives Oscar reasons to actually hate the town. In fact, it makes the reader feel exactly how Oscar feels (frustrated, hopeless, etc), which is actually really good writing! But yeah, not a good relationship.

Special Features: wow
Lovelovelove the utopia angle. I don't know what it is, but I just love reading about it. All the little things that make them "work" (the weird rules, the weird social structure, the weird this-and-that). It fascinates me. Also, I loved the cover. I mean, that boy is seriously good-looking. Set the tone for the whole book, haha.

Parting Quote:
"In a few minutes nobody will know what I did. Everything will be perfect again. Except for my life."
I had to return the book a while ago, so I sadly couldn't flip through for my favorite quotes. But it's creepy ones like this that keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time. Oscar's ability to brainwash people himself starts to give him this crazy feeling of ultimate control from time to time, kind of like (gasp!) his father. (Man. I have to read this book again!)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Weekend Rec #1

It's Saturday, and while I lovelovelove books, I also lovelovelove some other things. I thought it would be a good idea to set aside one day a week to focus on a particular favorite thing (music, film, person, etc.) So that's the main idea behind the Weekend Rec. So here we go!

Music Rec:

Album: Cycles by Cartel 
Cartel are a rock band from Conyers, GA you may have heard of (they sang  "Honestly" back in two thousand-something and I heard it on the radio maybe a million times, so maybe you did, too). Their lead singer, Will Pugh, is occasionally gorgeous.
Who Might Like It: Those who like a little rock and alternative, a good beat, amazing lyrics, and squee-worthy vocals.
Why Check It Out: I got this CD last October, and it became my autumn soundtrack. It's just... so good. When I visited France on an exchange, I gave a copy to my host-family, haha.
Listen to a track: "Faster Ride"

Film Rec:

Film: Heathers (1989)
You know the scheme-queens of Gossip Girl? Well, these girls were being bad and looking good when we were all learning to dress ourselves (or, in my case, not even yet born). Heathers follows Veronica, a popular girl who turns to the mysterious new bad boy at school for a change of scene. If murder is a scene... 
Who Might Like It: Those who like snark (guilty!), dark comedies, teen dramas, and valleygirl-speak "What is your damage, Heather?!"
Why Check It Out: Your mileage may vary, but it's kind of hilarious and Christian Slater is actually good-looking in this one (good-looking being a tiny understatement). In fact, I think I'm going to go rewatch it right now.

Soo, that's all for this week. If you've heard/seen these before, leave a comment with your opinion!

Until next time...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson [Review]

Title: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan 
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
What They Say:   
One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.
What I Say:
Okay. So I'm not gonna lie and say I'm a totally unbiased reviewer. John Green is kind of my hero, so I was psyched to hear he was working with David Levithan (Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List) on his next project. That said...

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Plot: ooh
So, the Will #1 (for the purposes of this review) story: boy lives near Chicago, has ultragay best friend (Tiny Cooper), and a crush/non-crush on his only friend-girl (Jane). Throughout, Tiny is putting on the world's most awesome school play ever, the friend-girl is back with her ex-boyfriend ("Douchepants McWater Polo"), and nobody has time for poor Will #1, especially after a chance meeting with his name-twin one night. The Will #2 story: emo boy lives in suburb, has clingy-friend-by-default (Maura), and a crush on his secret internet friend-boy. While his meeting with Will #1 isn't what he expects, big surprise it turns out okay!

So okay, while this wasn't the most unpredictable story I ever read, I could still OD on the awesome  enjoy this one. I never got bored, didn't have to suspend my belief (as I sometimes have to when it comes to crazy coincidences), and I was impressed with how the two stories came together.

Characters: wow
I was easily impressed by Green's Will Grayson, despite the similarities I saw with the protags of his other works. Will #1 was meek, indecisive, and a bit whiny, but he was also clever, determined, and (one of my favorite characteristics) full of snark. He lives in the shadow of Tiny Cooper, and yet he holds his own and eventually learns to stand his ground. Sure, we've heard this story before, but Green's talent for writing genuine characters like Will was definitely a highlight.

I haven't read as many of Levithan's other books, but I've caught on his knack for collaborations and the alternating-point-of-view thing. His Will Grayson drowned in his own depression and was probably putting Fall Out Boy's kids through college, but was a pretty resilient, non-whiny kid, thank god. While I knew where the Will #1 story was going, I was always unsure on what Will #2 was going to do next, which kept me interested. (I probably would have set the book down and come back later if it had just been the Will-and-Jane story, haha).

Oh, Tiny Cooper. I would go for a bearhug here, but I might get crushed. Full of pizzazz and around just enough that he didn't get annoying to the reader (though Will #1 would say otherwise). I felt, though, that his character was only there for the others' development. Like, need a revelation about friendship? Here's Tiny with the word! Need a static character to rid you of your nihilistic world-view? Here's Tiny on a swingset! Though, I have to say, I would have paid big bucks to see Tiny Dancer on stage. My god, it even rivaled A Very Potter Musical in awesome. And that is saying something. 

Relationships: ooh
Now, I feel like saying who's-with-who doesn't count as spoilering, unless there's some kind of crazy twist at end. So.

Will #1 and Jane - I liked their snarky banter, their science-related conversations, and their Ten Minutes of Truth. It kind of bored me how they didn't get together until 2/3 through the book, and even then their relationship doesn't change at all. Maybe they hold hands somewhere in there, but that's it.

Will #2 and "Isaac" - Now children, what have we learned about meeting random guys we meet on the internet in Chicago porn stores? Oh boy. Big surprise that didn't work out. Plus, Will was kind of obsessed with him, which is probably unhealthy.

Will #2 and Tiny - I liked this one better (obviously), though it was a little cheesy at times, like they were both suddenly four years younger and a lot whinier when they got together. The ending, though, was pretty squee-worthy, thanks to these two.

Special features: WHOA
If you don't already know. My favorite One of my favorite things in the world is snark. (Which I don't think works as a noun, but suck it, Merriam-Wesbter). Fast-talking, at-times-bitchy, zinger-loaded characters? That's where it's at. For the most part, if I'm thinking it and he just said it, I am sold. Should we get married now or later? I'll buy the flowers and the hotel room. I was glad that in this book, the snark was evenly spread, making every character awesome rather than just the sidekicks (which sometimes happens). There was Will-snark, Tiny-snark, Jane-snark (or, smart-snark), and Will #2-snark. Which brings us to our last section:

Parting Quote(s):
"Being gay is not an excuse for being a dick."
This, my friends, is a fundamental truth. Oh my god, if I could paste this on certain people's foreheads. I would.

[The problem with finding awesome quotes to quote is that there are SO MANY that I'm flipping back through the book entirely unable to choose just one more]

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Well hello there...

As the pile of books in my bedroom starts to get ridiculous, I'm thinking I should put them to good use. Sooo it is my honor to share with you the joy of YA lit through reviews, opinions, and general snarkiness.

How, you ask?

(You're so clever to ask.)

Here's the system: let's call it the YAB Scale of Awesome.

* - "Who's up for a book burning? I'm not even kidding..." 
** - "Well, that's six hours of my life I'll never get back."
*** - "Ooh, that was good. Sequel, yes yes?"
**** - "Holy hot damn, that was great."
***** - "WHOA; my life has just been made, thisauthorismynewgod, and... I just crapped my pants."

So you have the general idea. For various sub-sections (plot, character development, ending...), we have a simpler scale: ugh, meh, ooh, wow, and WHOA. Simple stuff.

From time to time, expect to see a giveaway (I need to get rid of some of these books before I'm off to college, haha), sooo keep your eyes open!