Saturday, December 27, 2014

Book Talk - Evil Librarian

 ***SPOILER ALERT*** You know me, I always give away some spoilers in my book reviews.  So, as always, if you do not want to know what happens, save this review for later.  If you don't mind knowing a few things that happen in the book, read on!

My most current read, Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen, is something so amazing I can barely put my feelings about it into words.  But I will try.  Written for young adults, I would say the novel is most appropriate for kids age 15 and older.  I will try to keep my giveaways about what happens in this book to a minimum, but as I said above, there will be a few spoilers.

The novel is set in an unidentified city, which I like to imagine is Chicago.  The primary location is the high school that main character Cynthia Rothchild and her friends attend – called Central High School.  The novel opens on Annie and Cyn sitting in Italian class, Cyn staring at the object of her affection, one Ryan Halsey.  After their Italian class ends, Annie, of course, gives Cyn hell for her lust towards Ryan, claiming emphatically that Cyn should basically bite the bullet and talk to him.  Later that day, Annie ends up in the library, where she meets Mr. Gabriel, the new librarian.  She is instantly smitten with him, which Cyn claims to understand but really doesn’t, especially after meeting him. 

Almost immediately, Cyn is aware that Mr. Gabriel has something wrong with him, but she can’t quite figure out what.  It is not until he touches her arm that she begins to suspect that he is a demon and has done something suspicious to Annie.  The next couple chapters bring about some major changes in the lives of Annie, Cyn and Ryan.  For one, Ryan and Cyn actually start talking to each other, regularly and much to the delight of Cyn's two other friends Diane and Leticia.  Also, after a crash collision in the hallway, Cyn assures herself that she is definitely in lust with Ryan.  This is what also solidifies their new friendship.  

Like a day after they start talking, Cyn tells Ryan her thoughts about Mr. Gabriel.  When they go to the library together later to find Annie, Cyn's assumptions are found to be true.  (I won't give away to many details on this aspect - let's just say there are wings involved.)  Once Ryan and Cyn realize they are right about Mr. Gabriel, this leads to a whole lot of planning on their part and murder on Mr. Gabriels' part.  

In order to get rid of Mr. Gabriel and save Annie, Cyn and Ryan visit a shop that specializes in demonic stuff and witch craft.  They get some special lights, a few other magic things and end up in the library on a Sunday.  The trip turns into a disaster because of shop owner Aaron, who is in the know about the demon world (because he has a demon mistress.) 

After the failed attempt at saving Annie, a whole shit storm of stuff is opened up.  There are more demons allowed in the school on a pretty regular basis, some more people die, and Ryan and Cyn and the rest of their theater friends pull of a stellar production of Sweeney Todd all while being threatened by Mr. Gabriel and new principal Mr. Kingston.  

Now, I know I said I didn't want to give too much away in this blog post, so now, instead of talking about what happens in the book, I am going to talk about how much I love this book.  A few things that you should know:

1. None of the characters are described in any way.  It is all very vague.  I know that seems weird, but it totally works.  I love that the author chose to do that because it allows us readers to picture the characters anyway we want.  We can imagine them looking any way, and I think that is really nice.  It totally works in this novel.

2.  There is no indication of where this novel takes place.  All I can assume is that it takes place in a largish city in the USA.  I am pretending that it takes place in Chicago, because that seems like a pretty artsy fun place.

So, some things that I loved about this book:

* Theater - As a theater nerd, I can totally relate to the love for theater that these kids have.  I think it is nice that the author included some theater stuff in her novel.  Especially some Sweeney Todd stuff.  Awesome!

*Libraries - Okay, it's no secret that I love books, libraries and librarians.  That is why the main premise of this book being about an evil librarian is so cool to me.  Michelle Knudsen could not have picked a better subject for the novel.  At all.

* The Cover - I absolutely loved the cover of this book.  I know that sounds cheesy, but I just feel like the cover really fit the story.

* The writing style and speed - I loved the humor in the book and the fact that each character was defined and well rounded.  I think the author did a really good job of fitting everything in well even though the novel only takes place over a matter of like two months.  There is a lot that happens in the novels' time frame and the author does a really great job of getting in what she needed to get in.

* The characters - Like I said, I really loved the characters in this book.  I really got the impression that each character was their own person with a unique personality.  That was fantastic!

* The occasional swearing - Yes, this is a young adult novel written for older teens.  But, unlike so many other young adult authors, Knudsen is aware that teenagers sometimes swear, so she's not afraid to have her characters drop the occasional F-Bomb.  I think that's another thing that makes this novel feel so real and well rounded.

* The romantic angle - I think the interest between Ryan and Cyn was obvious without being overwhelming.  I really like that it was apparent that they were attracted to each other, but that it didn't over power the story.  Sometimes, love can be the underlying theme and still be great, as was the case with this novel.

Overall, I absolutely loved this novel.  *I* would recommend it to teens age 15 and older, but if you are a parent who wants to read it first and determine if it's appropriate for your child, go ahead.   I would give the novel an A all the way.

Now, as I said, the author didn't really describe her characters much.  So, I imagined what they characters would look like if this book were made into a movie.  These are the characters I picked out actors for:

 China Anne McClain – Annie: China's personality and attitude seem like the perfect fit to be Annie.  Spunk, happiness and just the right amount of fuck off to get it right.

Chloe Moretz – Cyn: When I saw Dark Shadows, I fell in love with Chloe Moretz.  She has enough spunk and a ton of talent, and I think that she would make the perfect Cyn!

  Principal Kingston - I really couldn't decide who I thought would make a better Principal Kingston.  Both Jesse L. Martin and Sam Waterston have the ability to pull it off and make the character absolutely amazing.

Logan Lerman – Ryan Halsey
Beyonce – Demoness

Mr. Gabriel - I think with Danny Pino's attitude and youthful face, he is the perfect Mr. Gabriel

Leticia - Selena Gomez: With her perkiness and bubbly attitude, Selena Gomez is the perfect Leticia

 Mr. De Luca - Stanley Tucc: I can literally not think of a better person to be Signor De Luca.  Stanley Tucci is amazing and so talented that he could easily pull it off.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Book Talk - The Queen of Zombie Hearts

***Spoiler Alert***
You know me, I always like to talk about things that happen in the book.  So, if you haven't read the book yet and want to be surprised, wait to read this review.  However, if you don't mind a few spoilers, read on!

I *just* finished reading The Queen of Zombie Hearts, the third and final book in The White Rabbit Chronicles, by Gena Showalter.  It was published this year, so I feel like I am actually on top of things, since I haven't been reading a lot of books in the year they are published!

In case you haven't read the first two books in the series (Alice in Zombieland and Through the Zombie Glass) let's refresh your memory of who the characters are:

-Alice Bell: the main female character, the one around whom these stories are based
-Cole Holland: Ali's apparently super hot boyfriend
-Kat: Ali's best friend

And the minor-ish yet still important characters:
-Mr. Holland
-Mr. Ankh

Characters that appear only in this book:
-Mrs. Smith

The book opens on Ali, Mackenzie and Kat sitting at Choco Loco, a chocolate store where they hang out sometimes.  While there, three boys start giving them the eye.  The boys send over these things called mousse shooters, which the girls love.  While they are pretending to flirt with the boys and get Mackenzie some love, Frosty shows up to hang all over Kat.  Even though the two fight all the time, they've been together for a while.  Ali asks where Cole is, and when she's told that he is at a tattoo parlor they often go to, she leaves to see him.  He's not there as promised, but Ali decides to get two new tattoo's while she's there.

When Ali leaves, she goes home and finds Cole at the house.  They start making out - Ali trying to convince Cole to have sex with her already - and then gunshots start going off everywhere.  Ali and Cole try to get out of the room to find out what's happening, but Cole gets shot through the shoulder.  This leads to Ali and Cole searching for their friends because the are told that there has been an attack on every slayer (by Anima) in an attempt to end the slayers.

Throughout the rest of the night they find out that four of their friends are dead and one is missing.  The next day, they have a meeting to try and figure out how they are going to find Justin - the still missing friend.  They are told he is at an Anima warehouse, but when they go to find him, the warehouse is empty sans a bunch of old, collared zombies in the basement.  They fight the zombies - ashing them all.  In the process, they find out that Ali has a new special ability - she can use her arms and lift all the zombies up in the air to get them out of the way of slayers, thus making them easier to ash.

Now, here's the trippy part - Ali gains this power from a woman named Helen.  Helen is what the slayers call a witness.  A Witness is a zombie that has been turned into a spirit and can talk to the living and, in some cases, help them.  But, Helen is not your ordinary witness.  She was a former ally to Anima and, in a real twist, is also Ali's birth mother.  Phillip - Ali's dad - was dating Helen before he met her cousin, who he later ended up marrying.  When he broke up with Helen to date Ali's "mom," Helen was already pregnant with Ali - who we learn was originally named Samantha (nicknamed Sami.)

Ali was forced by Helen to undergo all sorts of tests held by Anima.  Helen was responsible for the death of Cole's mother, as well.  When Ali was 5, Helen brought her to Phillip, finally telling him that Ali was his daughter.  Phillip took Ali in, renaming her Alice Bell.  Phillip and his wife raised Alice as their own, all the while knowing that she was not her "mothers" daughter.  Before Ali went to live with her family, Helen performed a memory wipe, covering her memories prior to age 5.

Ali is the only slayer who can see Helen now, and Helen makes it obvious that she doesn't want anyone else to see her.  When Cole hears about Ali being able to see Helen and talk to her, he gets very upset and forbids Ali from talking to Helen again.  Ali doesn't listen, of course, and it leads to a lot of mistrust between Cole and Ali, who both hurt each other because of the lack of faith they have in each other.  They realize after fighting about it major that they do trust each other after all and are willing to put Helen to the side, but it takes Ali almost dying to realize it.

And speaking of Ali almost dying, let's talk about Camilla and Juliana.  Juliana is Veronica's younger sister.  Camilla is River's sister.  Now, a little story about Camilla and River - Cole's gang meets them when they are trying to fight Anima.  They go to River's house, Ali fights some zombies in a pit in the ground, and Camilla realizes she has total lady wood for Cole.  It doesn't matter to Camilla that Cole is with Ali and very obviously in love with her.  Camilla wants Cole to herself.  So, she devises this plan to get Ali drugged and kidnapped by Anima.  Anima had originally wanted to trade Ali for Justin, but all of Ali's friends said no, not going to happen.  So they came up with another plan.  They were going to try and trick Anima so that they could get Justin back and keep Ali.  But, then when Ali and Cole were fighting, he told her to make the switch.  He realized how stupid that was later, and they went back to their original plan.  So, they came up with a plan to get Justin and screw Anima, but while they were doing that, Camilla was planning  a way to trick and drug Ali so that Anima could take Ali and Camilla could have Cole all to herself.

While they were at the warehouse trying to fight zombies, Anima was waiting outside.  Camilla told Ali that they had Kat.  Ali, being a very protective best friend, rushed out, only to be hit by Anima and almost dragged away, all while being drugged.  Ali managed to reconnect her body and spirit, then ran back inside, telling Cole, River and everyone else what had happened.  Camilla fessed up to what she did, begrudgingly, and River held a gun to her chest and told her he was going to kill her.  Ali could have had every reason to let River kill Camilla, but instead she tells River that she can wipe Camilla's memory.  This is exactly what she does, which leads to Camilla not remembering anything about who she is or what she's done.

After Camilla's memory has been wiped and everything at the warehouse is sorted out, everyone splits for their own places.  Ali and Cole spend the night in Cole's room, him healing Ali through the night with his fire.  Just as things seem like they are looking up, Ali notices that Helen is outside and two Hazmats are trying to close in on her and take her.  Apparently they think Helen is a flesh and bones human, not spirit.  As Ali is watching this, there are exploding noises all over the house.  Ali and Cole run from their room to find that bombs are exploding and destroying the Ankh's house.

Ali and Cole make it outside in time, where they find some of their friends waiting.  They start searching for people who are missing, and find Mr. Ankh dead.  They keep searching for Kat, who they eventually find buried under a pile of rubble from the explosions.  She dies shortly after being found.  Ali is immensely crushed by this death and without even telling anyone, she walks away from the wreckage, surrenders herself to Anima and meets the infamous Mrs. Smith.  Ali gets taken to an Anima facility, where she finally finds Justin.  She gets locked in a cage next to his, but is somehow able to open the cage and free Justin.  He leaves to find his friends and Ali locks herself back in her cage.

While in this testing facility, Mrs. Smith - first name Rebecca - wipes Ali's memories so that she believes she is still Sami.  Ali is used as a test for zombies over and over again.  The zombies are put in a cage with her, where they bite her and are turned into witnesses.  This goes on and on until finally Cole and friends break into this facility and find Ali.  They are able to free her and wipe Mrs. Smith's memory.  Cole and his gang spend time trying to recover Ali and get her memories back.  The cover on her mind finally breaks when she and Cole are in her room, and he refuses to leave.  He is touching her, kissing her, trying to be with her and her cover breaks.  The next day, at Kat's funeral/celebration of life, Ali sees Kat and Emma's spirits and is finally able to gain some closure.

Now, overall, I think this is a great book.  I think that each character was really well-rounded and distinct.  They each had their own personalities and attitudes.  This book was definitely much, much better than the first book in the series (which was still good!)  I loved the tension between Ali, Camilla and Juliana.  I loved watching Ali develop her relationship with Cole and get to know who she really was.  I especially loved that when Juliana admitted that she and Camilla had put the bombs in the house to try and kill Ali so that Camilla could really get to Cole, Cole kicked Juliana and Veronica to the curb and told them never to come back.

BUT, there was one thing that bothered me - Cole kept acting like he was in control of Ali and kept threatening to spank her if she didn't listen to him.  This just about ruined the book for me.  My thoughts are - no man should ever be in control of the woman he is dating or even threaten to hit her in any way, shape or form.  There is no reason for a man to act like that towards a woman.  That aspect of this book could have easily been removed entirely (and in fact should have been.)  Other than that, I say give the book a read - Gena Showalter doesn't disappoint.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Book Talk - Septimus Heap: Magyk

If you think you might want to read this book, but don't want to know ANY spoilers, then save the reading of this review for later.  If you don't mind a few spoilers: read on!

So, I told you I was reading the Septimus Heap books.  Well, I finished the first book in the series - Magyk - so let's talk about it.  The series was written by Angie Sage, who, I must say, has a way with words.

The story opens with Silas Heap, the father of the Heap family, walking home to the Heap room in the Ramblings.  His wife, Sarah, has just given birth to their seventh son, Septimus.  On his way through the woods, Silas sees a bundle lying on the ground.  Picking it up, he realizes it is a baby, roughly the same age as their new baby.  Silas decides to take the baby home, but not before being confronted by ExtraOrdinary Wizard Marcia Overstrand, who tells him he must never tell anyone he has this baby.

When Silas returns home, he is met by the nanny sweeping out of the house with Septimus.  Silas is told that Septimus has died unexpectedly.  He and his family have no reason to believe otherwise because, as it appears to them, he is dead.  Over the years, the family learns to cope with the loss of Septimus and also raises the found baby as one of their own. 

When the book comes to the current year, Jenna - the found baby - is 11.  The Heaps and their noisy room are in full swing of learning and being boys.  Everyone adores Jenna and takes care of her splendidly.  On her 11th birthday, however, it is found out that she is the long lost Princess.  Marcia Overstrand has known this all along, and has arrived to tell the heaps that Jenna has been recognized and now the Assassin, obviously, wants her killed just as her mother was many years ago.

Marcia, in an effort to help save Jenna, takes Jenna to her room in the wizards tower.  When they arrive at the tower, they find a young boy about Jenna's age collapsed and freezing outside.  He is called, we later find out, Boy 412.  Jenna and Marcia bring the boy inside to warm him up.  While there, Silas and Nicko arrive, and everyone finds out that DomDaniel, former ExtraOrdinary Wizard and current Necromancer, is on his way.  They escape by riding down the rubbish chute, where they are almost discovered by several different people. 

Eventually, Marcia, Jenna, Silas, Nicko and Boy 412 end up at the Heap's Aunt Zelda's house.  This is not before outwitting the Hunter - who has been charged with finding them and killing Jenna.  They use many methods to outwit the Hunter, including an almost impenetrable fog and a mirror spell of their own boat.  Once they arrive at the Marsh, the group meets the Boggart, who leads them up to Aunt Zelda's home.  For a while, they are safe.

Throughout the rest of the novel, there are many things that happen that should be known for future reference in the other books:

* Three of the younger Heap Boys attend a witches party in the woods with their father and end up going wild and living in the woods. 
* Boy 412's true identity is revealed
* Simon Heap, the oldest child in the family, becomes jealous at the revelation of who boy 412 is and also at the fact that boy 412 is named the apprentice to Marcia Overstrand.  Simon had been under the impression that he was going to be named Marcia's apprentice.

There are just a few things about this book that were of a bother to me:

1. Jenna finds a rock and names him Petroc Trelawney.  Rang of Harry Potter to me.
2. This story also has a Boggart.  This one is different than the ones in Harry Potter, but still.  I feel the author could have used a different name.
3. I personally felt it was blaringly obvious who Boy 412 was.

Overall, however,  this is a great book filled with magic, mystery and lots of fun!  Kids and adults alike are sure to enjoy the entire series.