Thursday, January 31, 2013

and all the stars

Written By Andrea K. Host
Original Publication Date: 2012
Rating: 3 Stars

Book Notes:
I received this ebook for free from the publisher, via NetGalley.

Toxic ... glitter?

I just spent way too long trying to figure out how these people were flashing their torches.
Torches = Flashlights.  Derp.
Silly Australians.

Firstly, this cover is friggin' gorgeous.  I thought the little thumbnails I'd seen were beautiful, but when I blew it up for this review I realized how much detail I was missing, in the model's eyes, specifically.  and all the stars, obviously refers to the stars under the model's left eye, but honestly the more I look at this cover, the more I like it - it also could have been a reference to the sparkle in her eyes, or even the freckles on her neck.  Basically, the cover art gets a full five stars from me; the photographer in me enjoys all the details.

The books opens on Madeleine, regaining consciousness, in what used to be a train station - used to be.  She's surrounded by rubble, dead bodies, and a bizarre glittery dust is in the air.  All this destruction is caused by giant, featureless towers that seem to have sprouted from the Earth, spraying the strange dust that sparkles.  Finding her way out of the rubble, she is able to call her parents, and make her way to her famous cousin's apartment, where she showers off the glittering dust that she has become coated with.

Watching the news, and her own body, Madeleine discovers that she is turning ... blue.  Some of the population, like her, is turning blue, and some are turning green.  Not everyone is surviving this transformation, however, and soon those that do are seeking each other out to test what other changes this dust has brought to them.

The answer?  Hunger Games for body-hopping aliens!

I must say, I enjoyed quite a lot about this book.  The story was interesting and a bit unique in that it's definitely a post-apocalypse, but cell phones and news networks are still working and running - being taken care of by those that survive.  Usually post-apocalypse stories have a much more pessimistic view of the population, that people would chip in and actually keep things running, even if they're teens?  I don't know if I love it because it's got an optimism to it, or hate it because I'm not sure I can believe that that would happen.  I chose to love it.

I really liked the people that Madeleine teams up with, I find them to be fairly accurate representations of our teenage population.  My problem however, with these people is that they're fairly interchangeable.  They all different skills, but I had a really hard time remembering which one was which person.  It was rather confusing.  

I also found the flow of the writing not quite right.  Personally, I was definitely thrown by the amount of Australian slang, but that wasn't the only reason that I didn't think it flowed well.  Some of the sentences, I read quite a few times and they still didn't make sense, even within the context of the sentences before and after.

My last complaint was the Epilogue.  The book ended in a satisfying way, and then there was this epilogue that felt like someone screaming AND THEY ALL LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER!  THE END!!!  This is a problem I've seen in quite a few YA novels, the authors want to tie everything up, but it doesn't need to be gift wrapped for us.  Nothing wraps up that nice in the real world, and it seems like a cop-out.

In Summary:  Good book, with some problems.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Written By Ellen Hopkins
Original Publication Date: 2008
Rating: One and a Half Stars

I finished this book last night and I'm still not entirely certain what I want to say about it or how I want to rate it.  I wanted to sleep on it, mull it over - I'm still at a loss.  So, I'm just going to start writing and hope that whatever spills out gives me an appropriate star rating.

What the back of the book says: "Kaeleigh and Raeanne are identical down to the dimple.  As daughters of a district-court judge father and a politician mother, they are an all-American family - on the surface.  But behind the facade, each sister has her own dark secret."

First of all, during the entire book, I couldn't remember the girls' names, so I was calling them Twin 1 and Twin 2.  I'm probably just going to continue that into the review, because that'll let me have more of a stream of consciousness, try to get this all out.  

Twin 1 is being raped by Daddy, and Twin 2 wants to be raped by Daddy.  I almost had to stop reading on page 25.  

"...And if Daddy would just stand
still for me, I'd happily tap his core."

I threw the book against the wall at that point and walked away.  I was pissed, and honestly, I still am.  That was a clue that perhaps this book was written for the shock value, and not entirely for tackling the issue.  I know it's a hard issue to tackle, but I've read books with similar subject matters and none of them have left me with a book on the other side of the room and twitching.  Shock value is not synonymous with tackling difficult issues.  One of the reviews I read on Goodreads, that I can't find at the moment - if you find it, let me know and I'll link to it - called this book "trauma porn."  At this point I am inclined to agree.

Thank Gods after that point the I want to fuck Daddy, erotic language was largely dropped, because that's what made it seem like Hopkins was just trying to get a rise out of us.  There were definitely other scenes that I felt were written for their shock, rather than their value, but nothing that got such a disgusted reaction from me.

Twin 1 is the "weak" twin, who can't say no, is the lead in the school play (Grease).  Twin 2 is the "strong" twin, getting stoned daily, sleeping around with her dealers.  Both twins have eating disorders of various types, and deal with their pain in less-than-healthy ways.  Mom is always away, she's running for Congress, only returning for photo-ops.  Daddy's a judge and he's also an alcoholic, control freak.

It was almost a 600 page book, and I had the big twist figured out in the first 150 or so.  I think if I hadn't figured it out, I would have stopped reading.  It made some of the shock value stuff seem less out-and-out shock value.  I'd explain why, but if you still plan to read this, or are reading it and haven't figured out the big twist, I won't give it away for you.

I think that Ellen Hopkins is an incredibly talented author, I actually enjoyed the prose - and I am not a poetry person, not even a little.  What soured this book for me is that I didn't think she was actually tackling the big issue, I think she was writing to get a rise.  And she got one, but not in a good way.

I think that I'd be interested to read Crank, because that was based on her daughter, so it will probably be less shock-value and more actual value.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I Hope You Find Me

Written By Trish Marie Dawson
Original Publication Date: 2012
Rating: 3 and a Half Stars

Riley survives, she doesn't know how or why, but she survives the Red Death.  The rest of the world has been wiped out by plague, her two children, her ex-husband.  She and Zoey, her faithful dog, set out for the city when they run out of water, though Riley doesn't actually know what she plans to do.  What she does know is that before the phones went out, she called everyone she knew and told them that if they made it to her house that she'd leave them a trail.  She leaves notes everywhere she stops, telling the people who she hopes will find her where she plans to go next.

In the city, she meets Conner, who had been in town on business when the plague closed the airport and wiped out everything he loved, across the pond.  He brings her back to the hotel that he's been living in, that has a generator and therefore the food hasn't gone bad and there's running water.  She finds herself drawn to him and stays with him, until someone does follow Riley's notes to them at the hotel.  The new couple of people leave the hotel in the night, and not on good terms with Conner and Riley.

Riley and Conner decide to move on after having an experience in the city with the dead that they cannot explain.  They go into the mountains to a "green" resort, figuring that it would be more likely to be sustainable and still have power. (Considering the world has been dead a couple months, a lot of these places seem to still have hot water)  There they meet up with various people, and what follows makes the bulk of the story.

The book was pretty enjoyable, on readability and flow it gets five stars.  On the creepy dead ghosts, it gets five stars.  On the journey it gets five stars.  Where it loses stars is that Riley must have a goddamned golden vagina.  At one point in the novel, the romance becomes a love pentagram, for Godssake.  Every male who meets Riley, wants her.  Fucking ridiculous, and the romance ended up taking up a bulk of the story, the dead things were creepy as fuck and I wanted to hear more about them, have more experiences with them, anything to do with them, really.

Conner and Riley were sort of an oddball matchup.  I enjoyed it, even though she kissed everyone else, but what I realized is that they're something like if Frannie and Larry Underwood were the main characters in The Stand, instead of Frannie and Stu.

The Stand, this book was not...  Entertaining, however, this book definitely was.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Anna Karenina

Written By Leo Tolstoy
Original Publication Date: 1873
Rating: 1 Star

Book Notes:
It's interesting that Stiva is described as "liked by all," when the first scenes of him are him defending his cheating ass.

So, do you suppose I'm ever actually going to meet Anna?

"... they ought to find out how to vaccinate for love."  This is such a depressing book: so cynical of love and marriage.  There's not a single happy relationship in this book.  And I'm less than pleased of the characterization of people who are faithful to their spouses as stupid.  I still believe in love, sue me.

This is the book that never ends.  Yes it goes on and on my friends.  Some people started reading it not knowing what it was, and they'll continue reading it forever just because ... 
Keep in mind, this book took me almost three weeks to read!  Fucking ridiculous.

I am not going to torture myself and write a real review of this book, it was painful enough for me to read, much less go back and try to deconstruct what I liked and didn't like.  I didn't hate everything in the book, Anna and Vronsky as well as Kitty and Levin were both interesting story lines.  The problem is that every time it switched couples we had to read chapters and chapters and chapters about farming (Levin) or society and politics (Vronsky).  It was godawful boring for 600 pages, and it didn't end when it should have, it went on for another 30 pages, musing about the existence of God!

After almost three fucking weeks, I was thrilled to finally finish the damn book:

Now back to your regularly scheduled "real" reviews.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Jenny Pox

Written By J.L. Bryan
Original Publication Date: 2010
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Book Notes:
As of this moment (01/06/2013 10:10pm), this book is available for free for the Kindle.

Morton.  That's an appropriate name.

You know, not a single popular girl in my high school was involved in her church, and certainly not in a manipulative sort of way.  I am not pleased by this church-going-manipulative-abstinent-bitch-popular-girl trope, not at all.  I hate it in Glee, I hate it here.  Though I think that's a rant for another day, because I liked this book too damned much to bitch about that ... much.

Jenny Morton is for all the world a normal girl.  Except she's not, not even a little bit.  Jenny can't ever touch another person or living creature without killing them of disease.  The book opens on a very young Jenny having the "don't touch anyone" rule being reiterated by her father.  She had picked up a snake that had erupted in disease and died on contact.  A fairly minor incident with kids on the playground leading in only a breakout of some sort of pox, but no death leads us to where the bulk of the book takes place.  Jenny is now 18 and wears long sleeves, long pants, and gloves at all times in public.  This reduces her risk of touching anyone at all, but has earned her the cruel nickname: Jenny Mittens.

Jenny's biggest enemy is a girl named Ashleigh.  Ashleigh is also 18, she is active in her church, running an abstinence program, is captain of the cheerleaders, is running for class president, and is generally loved by everyone who comes into contact with her.  When it comes to Jenny, however, Ashleigh has a dark and cruel side, which is helped not at all by the fact that Jenny isn't madly in love with her like the rest of the town.

Things get a little better for Jenny when she's going for a run, and meets up with Seth, Ashleigh's boyfriend, over the broken body of her dog - which had been hit by a car.  Jenny discovers that she can touch Seth and they strike up a friendship.  The obvious happens, and they fall in love, leading Ashleigh to hate Jenny even more.  This "school girl rivalry" is brought to an epic height in the ending of the novel, but you'll just have to read it to find out what that is.

One of the best parts of this novel?  People actually die.  We're not talking tame-ass young adult, "oh no they died, we're so sad," kind of death.  We're talking people melting and exploding and bleeding profusely.  They die horribly, and it is wonderful.  It's a story about a girl who brings death with her touch, it's nice that the author doesn't shy away from the kind of reality that it would bring.  It's actually one of the only times in the novel that the gender of the author shines.  It's strange to find a male author that does YA  fantasy like this well.  Fuck, it's strange to find a female author that does YA fantasy of this sort well.  There's something about the "Paranormal" genre (which I think was made up for marketing piss-poor fantasy romances, but that's a whole different rant) that usually drives me crazy.  It was really, really, nice to read one that was not only a good novel, but a good novel where the romance is secondary to the meat of the mythology created for the series.  I love a good Fantasy YA novel, and I think this was it.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Brightest Kind of Darkness

Written By P.T. Michelle
Original Publication Date: 2011
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Book Notes:
As of right now, 7:54pm on 01/03/2013 this book is free for Kindle.

I feel a YA love-interest rant.  I don't think P.T. Michelle deserves it any more than most YA authors, but I've had it up to here with this kind of love interest.

This asshole had better not be a vampire or a werewolf.  I was enjoying this book.

Okay, that's less annoying than being a vampire, but I still don't understand the 'leaping fences in a single bound,' thing.  It's a bit baffling.

Nara (legally Inara) has had a gift for most of her life.  Well, she seems to consider it a gift, I'm not sure I would - it sounds terribly boring.  Every night she dreams how her day will unfold in the coming hours, from beginning to end.  Due to an event from when she was a child, she doesn't like to change the timeline because she can't see (or always understand) the fallout.  That all changes when she dreams of her high school getting bombed; she cannot just sit back and watch, so she makes an anonymous tip to the police from a Wal-Mart.  This good deed throws her life into chaos.  Her powers seem to have mostly disappeared (except sporadically), and she doesn't know how to live her life in the real world without the precognition that's known for so long.  Even though that was boring to her, this is terrifying.

I think watching Nara trying to adjust to her powers being gone could have been a novel in and of itself.  It's fascinating.  It is really like she lost one of the major senses that she had used to understand her world.  With it gone, she's thrown into utter confusion.  Of course, she'd get used to it, but it's tantamount to someone losing their hearing or their sight; she's at a total loss when it disappears.

While all of this is going on, Nara is also navigating high school.  Her soccer team-mates are less than understanding when she stops blocking every single goal that comes her way.  Her best friend starts dating a douchenozzle and pulls away from her.  On top of this, she's falling for the new kid who is considered dangerous by almost everyone she knows.

Here is my love interest rant:  Ethan is taller than her, muscular, with long dark bangs and blue eyes.  He has a mysterious past.  He's been expelled from his last school.  He doesn't have any friends in this new school.  Her friends warn her about him continuously.  He draws dark things in his notebook and is tattooed.  Of course, you know he's just misunderstood.  He had a reason to do whatever he did at his last school.  And of course he falls madly and quickly for the heroine, doing whatever it takes to protect her.  Because all heroines need protecting, obviously.

Young Adult authors need to come up with a new love interest.  Fucking pronto.  You could transplant Ethan into any number of YA novels and nothing would need to be changed.  He's the generic "bad boy."  The problem is he's not a bad boy.  He's a troubled kid with no distinguishing characteristics from other troubled kids written into YA in the history of the genre.  I'd blame Twilight but really this problem preceded that piece of garbage.  However, I must say that Ethan was so much like every love interest since Twilight that I really was afraid that the guy was a vampire.  I would have stopped reading.

Please, please, please, I beg of you, please start thinking of new male love interests for female heroines in Young Adult Literature!  I'm on my hands and knees here.  I like YA, but I'm sick of reading the same exact love story over and over again.
/love interest rant

What is most interesting about this book is that even though it started a pretty basic YA fantasy, moved into annoying Twilight-zone, it ended in a very interesting Final Destination type of story-line.  Fate plays into it and is less than pleased with Nara and Ethan.  Everything is a domino effect in this novel, starting from the very beginning and it actually caught me off guard a little.  I probably would have picked up on it sooner if I weren't so focused on how much Ethan better not be a fucking vampire, damnit.

I ended up very much enjoying this novel.  I was pleasantly surprised by how it ended, honestly.  While nothing was really wrapped up (it the first in a trilogy) it was a unique sort of ending.  The personification of Fate was really well done, in my opinion.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Written By Seth Grahame-Smith
Original Publication Date: 2010
Rating: 3 Stars
Book Notes:
Page 32
"'I have since learned to distrust such stillness,' Abe wrote in 1852, 'as it is always, always prelude to some great calamity.'"
Unfortunately often true, even without vampires.

Page 41
Sarah Bush Lincoln?  I wonder if her maiden name was Bush?  Evan (my boyfriend) says that our past president Bush (and Bush) have traced their lineage back that far.  I wonder if it's true.

Page 114
"If we are to enjoy the bounty of the Mississippi, it shall need to be greatly improved, so that steamboats may navigate it freely."
There's some sort of parallel to the slavery issue here that I can't quite put into words.  Free a choked river for the bounty; free slaves for the bounty of a country.

Page 37
"I wept, for each of these boys was Willie.  Each of them had a father cursed as I am cursed; a mother weeping as Mary weeps.
I'm trying to imagine any modern president be so involved in the losses involved in war.  I can't.  We're so desensitized.

Abraham Lincoln was so damned cool in reality, that the story of his true life that went on behind the added Vampires actually overshadowed the Vamps!  Honestly what this book did was whet my appetite for a good ol' fashioned Abe Lincoln biography.  I want to know how much of what was said of Abe was truth.  I honestly think it was most of it.  I know that Lincoln kept obsessive journals, I don't know why I never thought of the fact that that would make him an exceptional president to write post-mortem bios about.

The vampires were a fun add-on to the Civil War, but as I said Lincoln's life was simply so interesting that they were unnecessary!  I found myself looking forward more to the parts of his life that didn't involve the vampires.  His relationship with his father.  The pre-Mary love story triangle.  The kids.  The emotion he showed.  Those were the things I loved about this novel.  The vampires were almost boring compared to the man that Lincoln was.

Shortish review today.  I finished this book on New Years Eve, and then proceeded to get shit faced, so any really sophisticated thoughts I had have disappeared.