Thursday, April 30, 2015

Fairest - Marissa Meyer

For those of you who don't know, I have been following Marissa Meyers Lunar Chronicles series since 2012, which is when Cinder (the first book in the series) was published.  I started reading Cinder on the recommendation of a friend and absolutely fell in love!  The series is magical, and amazing, and fun.  There is intrigue, and fear, loathing, and anger.  The series is just so much more amazing than I could ever put down in words (and yet I always put it down in words.  I love writing reviews of these books because they are so good!)

So, Fairest, the fourth book in this series, was just published in February of this year.  It is the story of Queen Levana, the ruler of Luna.  It starts with a dream of Levana's childhood, with a fire.  Fire becomes an all to heavy theme in Levana's story - not just for Levana but for Cinder as well.

Levana and her sister Channary are princesses, and near the beginning of the novel their parents die.  So, Channary, being the oldest, is eventually crowned queen (after the appropriate mourning period.)  Levana knows that this is the proper order for things since Channary is the oldest, but Levana desperately wants to be queen.

Channary is, to put it kindly, friendly with the males.  She gets pregnant from some random guy that she's been with, and has Cinder.  Naturally, that means that after Channary dies, Cinder will be crowned queen.  Well, Channary dies sooner than expected - when Cinder is only a year old.  So, now when Cinder turns 13, she will be crowned queen of Luna.  Until that time, Levana serves as the queen regent.

Some other things of importance throughout the novel:
*People on Luna have the ability to use something called a glamour to make themselves look different or more beautiful.
*Levana is deformed because of a fire her sister pushed her into when they were kids, so she uses her glamour all the time to make herself look beautiful.
*When Channary is still alive, Levana admits that she is attracted to (and even thinks she is in love with) a man named Evret, who is part of the royal guard.  After Evret's wife dies giving birth to Winter, Levana starts making herself look like Solstice (Evret's wife) and manipulating Evret to make him think he is in love with Levana.  Then, she forces Evret to marry her because she is absolutely convinced that he really does love her.
*During her time as queen regent, Levana becomes more and more convinced that she should be the rightful queen of Luna, that she is the best queen they have ever or will ever have.  So she plans for something to happen to Cinder (which is what leads to the first book in the series.)

I don't want to give anything else away in case you decide to read this book, so let me tell you what I thought of it. I think Marissa Meyer is a wonderful author. She does a great job in describing the characters and making them distinct from one another with their own personalities.  The descriptions of locations and places throughout the palace and Luna are wonderful, and it was nice to get a bit more insight into Levana's history.

The only things I wondered about were: Since Levana is Winter's stepmom, I wonder how much of what we learned in Fairest will be talked about in Winter.  (After all, I assume that Winter having been raised by her stepmother will have some bearing on Winters story.)  Also, I wondered if the residents of Luna look like humans in their natural form or if they look like aliens.

Other than those two things, I really loved this book.  I like how the author made it seem so real, and brought out each characters personality so well.  Overall, this was an excellent read that I would wholeheartedly recommend to fans of The Lunar Chronicles!  Five stars all the way.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Honey Mustard, VOL. 1 - Ho-Kyung Yeo

This morning, as I was laying awake at 6:30 finishing the tail end of the Dewey Readathon, I read volume 1 of the manga Honey Mustard, by Ho-Kyung Yeo.

The story involves Ara, a high school girl in Korea, who is in love with Jung.  She is scared to tell him, because she is afraid he won't feel the same way.  Ara's friends tell her that she needs to speak up and share her feelings.  Enter Young-woo.  Young-Woo is hiding from a gang who was beating him up.  Ara runs into the room where Young-woo is hiding.  She gets confused, because apparently the one can of beer she drank was enough to inebriate her.

While Ara is hiding in this room, she thinks that Young-Woo is Jung and kisses him, but not before vomiting all over him and passing out for a few minutes.  Right before she kisses Young-Woo, Ara tells him she loves him.  Of course, he freaks out because he can't figure out why some random girl is making out with him.  Then, Ara's headmistress catches them in this room together, and she freaks out.  She believes that teenagers should remain completely and totally innocent, naive, and pure forever.

There is a whole lot of other crazy shit that happens in this manga, including a fight between Ara and her stepmother, where her stepmother tries to kick her out of the house (because she kissed a boy!), and a scene where Young-Woo's grandpa tells Young-woo he has to marry Ara because they kissed.  One time.

Well, one thing leads to another, Young-Woo proposes to Ara, and she says yes. This seems very strange to me, since they have only met one time.  (Well, they meet again, but I'll let you discover the whats-its about that situation!)

I can honestly say that I don't know if I will read the rest of this series.  I understand that different cultures have different customs, and maybe it is common in Korea to have 18 year olds get married after kissing one time (and that time having been the first time they ever met!)  To me, it seems strange.  There are, after all, many things that go into creating an effective, life long relationship (like emotional maturity, honesty and communication, trust, sexual compatibility with and attraction to your partner, actually taking time to get to know your partner so you know if you have anything in common.)  Without taking the time to figure any of this stuff out, how can Ara and Young-Woo every have a successful relationship?  I guess I'll never know!

I would give this manga a D (or 2 stars.)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Hour 11 Update

It's hard to believe we are in hour eleven already!  Wow!  I am slowing down a little - so I made myself another cup of coffee to get my brain kicking again.

Here's my update:
Pages read: 639
Books Read: 3
Books Titles:
*Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
*Somebody's Dreamers, Volume 1
*Poisoned Apples (A book of poetry)

I am also halfway through Lips Touch Three Times, which I am loving.  Not only is the artwork incredible, but I love the writing!  I'll write more about it when I complete it.

If you are reading, I hope you're doing well on your stack!

Update Time - Hour 6

It's halfway through hour 6 of Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon.  I have finished 2 books to far (yeah!)  I would be into book three by now, but I had to take a break to shower and do some dishes.  Here's what I've done so far:

Page Count: 469
Books Read: 2
Book titles:
*Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
*Someday's Dreams, Volume 1

I always love to read a Harry Potter book or two during the readathons, because I am super familiar with them, and can get through them pretty quickly.  A few things I love about The Chamber of Secrets:

*When Dobby dropped the pudding on Aunt Petunia's pristine kitchen
*When Lockhart is trying to run away, and Harry and Ron force him into the Chamber.
*When Fawkes catches on fire and Harry thinks it's his fault.
*When Fawkes comes into the chamber with the sorting hat, and Harry is able to get the Sword of Gryffindor
*When Dumbledore was re-instated as the headmaster
*When Lucius Malfoy was sacked as one of the governors of the school

I could go on and on, but those are some of the highlights.

This was my first time reading Someday's Dreams.  I like the magical aspect of it and I think it was a good thing to read right after a Harry Potter book.  I'll have to put the rest of the series on my reading list!

Next up I am going to read Lips Touch Three Times.

Getting to Know Me!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? - I am in northwest Minnesota - the town of Moorhead!

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? - I am really looking forward to reading The Cuckoo's Calling.  I love J.K Rowling, and I think it's great to see her expand her writing horizons.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? - My big bowl of popcorn I'm going to make tonight! 

4) Tell us a little something about yourself! - In addition to reading, I also love to knit, crochet and make things out of paper!  Also, I love romantic comedies, vegan food, and the color purple! 

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? - It's been a while since I've done a read-a-thon.  I think the thing I will do differently during this one is to visit more readers blogs, and also make sure that I am changing my reading positions more so I don't fall asleep halfway through!

Good Morning, Read-A-Thon!

Now, just imagine the title of this blog post being drawn out like the way Robin Williams shouted out his well know line, "Good Morning, Viet Nam!"  I'm excited!

I thought I would shoot off a quick blog post as I start reading.  I've got my breakfast and my morning cup of coffee!  I'm ready to go!

I'll be starting with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - always a good read-a-thon book in my opinion!

I did also decide to check out some manga for when I get tired or want something quick to read!  I got:

*Suki: A Like Story, Volume 1
*Honey Mustard, Volumes 1-2
*Someday's Dreamers, Volume 1

Now - off to read!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Dorothy Must Die - Danielle Page

SPOILER ALERT: This blog post does have a few spoilers, so if you decide you want to read this book and don't want to know what happens, save this review for later.

One day, while I was browsing around Barnes and Noble, I saw this book sitting on the shelf.  It looked intriguing.  I love just about anything that puts an alternative spin on the land of Oz.  The premise of the book is that, as stated on the cover, Dorothy Must Die.  Sounds pretty straightforward, right?  Here's the thing, though- the story never actually gets to the point where Dorothy dies.  That's right - in a book dedicated to the death of Dorothy, Dorothy.  Never.  Dies.  

The story opens with Amy Gumm being sucked up into a tornado and dropped in Oz.  Her mom is out at the bar when this happens, and arrives home to nothing because their trailer got sucked into the tornado as well.  So, Amy is now in the land of Oz, which is completely different than the Oz depicted in The Wizard of.  The villages have all basically been destroyed, now only inhabited by a few munchkins that could be considered rogue.  They don't want any part of Dorothy's Oz. 

As many of you might remember, Ozma eventually became the ruler of Oz (since she was the rightful princess after all.)  In Dorothy Must Die, the story is that Dorothy came back to Oz because, after the first time, she missed the magic.  She became corrupt (as many are likely to do when exposed to magic or powers they are unfamiliar with) and used her magic to sort of enslave Ozma and make Ozma more of a figurehead.  Dorothy then stole a bunch of magic from other areas of Oz, which is why Oz is suffering so much.  We discover throughout the novel that the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow, and the Lion have all been corrupted as well because of the gifts they received from the Wizard.  

So, now, there is a small group of people who are dedicated to bringing down Dorothy and restoring Oz.  Amy meets these people by happenstance when she is rescued from prison by Mombi.  Mombi brings Amy to a cave where Amy meets:

*Glamora: Glinda's wicked twin sister
*Nox: A young boy who assigned to teach Amy how to fight. 
*Gert: An old witch who can read minds

The people that Amy meets imply that they have one month to get Amy ready to fight and kill Dorothy.  They tell Amy that she is basically their only hope for taking down Dorothy, because like Dorothy, Amy is from Kansas.  So, Amy has one month to learn some manners for meeting royalty and to learn some mad fighting skills so she can kill Dorothy.

Here's the thing: This novel starts off with a great idea, and quickly falls into a mediocre story with weak writing.  The premise is quickly lost when, after a twenty-eight chapters, we readers still haven't actually met Dorothy.  We have no idea where she is.  There is no move to actually kill her.  The entire novel revolves around just training Amy.  Training.  That's it.  Even though the title of the novel is Dorothy must Die, and the back of the novel cover says "Then: Dorothy Must Die," and the last sentence of the novel is "Dorothy was going to die."  

The entire novel is just setup to the big event - that never actually happens!  I mean, if you are going to write a book titled Dorothy Must Die - let's have less setup and more of Dorothy actually dying!  I found the whole thing to be poorly written and executed, and I am not sure that I will continue with the rest of the series, because I was just so disappointed.  Surely, there are better books I can spend my time on!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Read-A-Thon Time

This Saturday, April 25, it is once again time for Dewey's 24 hour read-a-thon.  In case you've never heard of this event - it occurs twice a year in April and October.  This is not my first read-a-thon, but it is the first one I have done since 2013.  I love these events, but as I get older (hahahaha) I find it more and more difficult to stay awake for 24 hours straight.

Anyway, I plan on just having fun, and if I stay up all night, yeah, and if not, I will just read as late as I can!

I have been thinking for a few days about what I want to read during the event!  This is always a challenge.  I usually pick a few books I've read before, and some I haven't read yet but have been wanting to read!

This time a round my list includes:

*Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
*Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
*Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian (Never Read)
*Lips Touch Three Times (Never Read)
*The Cuckoo's Calling (Never Read)

I am going to add some manga to the list as well (for when I get tired or it's late at night!)  I'll let you know which manga I choose :)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Land of Stories - The Wishing Spell: Chris Colfer

I had heard about The Land of Stories series from a local librarian.  Her daughter loves the books, and since I love books that have magical things in them, I thought they sounded cool.  So, I checked out The Wishing Spell and started reading it.  I was only 100 pages in when I realized that the book is not all it's cracked up to be.

These books are written by Chris Colfer, the kid who played Kurt on Glee.  Now, I think Colfer is a good singer, and a decent actor, but I don't think he has the skills to write good stories.

Let me give a little background about the book.  The two main characters are Alex and Conner Bailey, twin 11 year old kids who are about to celebrate their 12th birthday.  About a year before the novel starts, their dad died in a car accident, leaving Conner, Alex and their mom behind.  Their father's mom travels a lot for in her retirement (supposedly to help people) and so they only see her a few times a year.  She surprises them the day before their twelfth birthday by showing up at their house with tons of food, and a bunch of birthday presents.

One of the birthday presents that grandma gives to Alex is a book of fairy tales called The Land of Stories.  The book contains stories from a "make-believe" land.  The fairy tales are about people like Snow White, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and other popular fairy tale characters.  In a twist, the book comes "alive," humming and glowing at various times throughout the days after Alex receives it.  One day in class, the book starts humming.  Alex freaks out and asks to be excused to the bathroom, bringing her backpack with her.  She sets the book on the sink, looking at it.  Conner barges in on her, and later that evening at home, they get sucked into the book.

Throughout their time in the book, they meet many different fairy tale characters, who all live in a land separated into different kingdoms.  Alex and Conner discover that in order to get home, they must solve something called the wishing spell.  In order to complete the spell, they need items from several different places throughout the Land of Stories.  I won't give away everything that happens - so without further ado, let's talk about what I thought about the book.

I found the writing in the novel to be clunky and awkward.  There were many times throughout the book where I almost felt like I was just stumbling over the sentences and paragraphs.  The book was also not nearly as descriptive as it should have been, especially for a kids book.

A few examples of some of the clunky writing and poor descriptions are:

Pg. 1: The dungeon was a miserable place.  Light was scarce and flickered from the torches bolted to the stone walls.  Foul smelling water dripped inside from the moat circling the palace above.

Pg. 3: She journeyed through a longer, darker hallway where a series of bars and barriers were raised and then lowered after she walked past them.

Pg. 29: It was a lovely home, painted blue with white trim, and had several windows.  The front yard was landscaped to perfection; it had just the right amount of grass, patches of colorful flowers, and a large oak tree ideal for climbing.  (There has got to be a better way to describe what their old house and yard looked like.  How much is the right amount of grass?  What types of flowers are in the yard?)

Pg. 35: The Bailey's house was cozy but cluttered.  They had more furniture than they had room for, and none of it matched the house because it was never intended to.  Even though they had lived here more than half a year, unpacked boxes were still lined up against the walls.

Pg. 222: "What's the game plan for tonight?" Conner said.  "It'll be the first time we'll ever be breaking and entering anywhere, so I'm extra anxious."  (Really, Conner?  Are you extra anxious?  Perhaps this should be SHOWN to the reader instead of told.)

Pg. 412: They were so exhausted that they slept until mid-afternoon the next day.  It was strange for them to sleep apart from each other.  Alex and Conner both woke up ever hour or so, each looking for the other, and had to remind themselves where they were and that they were finally safe.  (Okay, so are they so tired that they sleep well, or are they so anxious that they keep waking up?!)

This book was also littered with examples of writing that should not be included in a book written for 10 to 12 year olds.  Some examples:

Pg. 13: "The only exposure to the tales some children acquire are versions bastardized by film companies."

Pg. 300: "Wooo!  It's so cold, I think we might be twin sisters now," he said through rattling teeth.

These are just some of the things that make the book hard to read and more appropriate for older readers.  (Of course, that's my opinion.  Parents should decide for themselves if they think this book is okay for their kids to read.)  I think that the occasional swear word in a book written for teens 15 and older is alright.  In a book for 10 to 12 year olds, there shouldn't be any adult language.  Also, there should be more description in the book, because it really helps the story come alive and can make it easier to imagine what the Land of Stories looks like.

Colfer needed a better editor for the novel as well.  It could have helped him get the book cleaned up so that it was better written.  I know everyone thinks that Colfer is golden because he can sing, and is an alright actor, but that doesn't mean he's a good writer as well.

If I were to give this book a letter grade, it would get a D.  I don't know if I'll make it through the rest of the series.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Book Talk: The Theory of Everything - J.J. Johnson

I recently finished reading The Theory of Everything, by J.J. Johnson.  I can't help but wonder how Johnson chose the title for her work - as it is the same name of a movie about scientist Stephen Hawking.  This fact kept making me think of Hawking every time I looked at the book cover.

Anyway, this book was a YA novel about a young woman learning to heal from the death of her best friend.  Sarah, the main character, lost her best friend Jamie during a freak accident in their school gymnasium.  Even though it has only been a year since Jamie died, everyone keeps acting like they expect Sarah to be "over it."  They treat her like there is something seriously wrong with her because just didn't put it behind her right after it happened.

Throughout the novel, Sarah gets almost hit by a deer in her school gym (because the deer broke through a window), gets bit by her no-vicious rescue dog Ruby, finds said deer in a shed (where Ruby starts chewing on it), works at a tree farm, makes up with Jamie's twin brother Emmett, works at a tree farm, and becomes friends with Rosemary. 

Although not technically poorly written, I feel like this book was missing something.  It just seemed to wander though the events of Sarah's life without having much of a plot to speak of.  Sure, some of the events in the novel were interesting, but they would have been even more interesting had their been more of a structure to the book.

Also, I felt like there was no real resolution to certain things at the end.  Sarah and her boyfriend Stenn got in a huge fight the night they were supposed to have sex for the first time, and he maybe broke up with her.  Sarah spent all of about three pages wondering if Stenn had actually broken up with her, and that was all we heard about it.  For the rest of the book.  The only thing that really did get taken care of was Sarah finally telling Emmett *how* Jamie died in the gym that day.  (Nope, not giving it away!)

Overall, if I were going to give this book I grade, it would be a C-.  Well-written, but needs better direction.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Just One Night - Elle Casey

I don't know how many of you have heard of Elle Casey, but you need to go read some of her books.  (And by some, I mean all of them!)

Just One Night is a serial romance that Elle Casey published last year.  The premise of the serial novel is that Jennifer, a recently dumped real estate agent, is looking for one night of harmless, no strings attached fun.  She wants to hook up with a random man, have sex, and never see him again.  What she doesn't figure into the plan is that she will actually like the guy she meets.

In Part One, Jennifer sends out her advertisement, against the advise of her friend Mia.  William's secretary finds the ad and takes it upon herself to clip it and give it to William.  At first, William doesn't want to respond to the advertisement.  He figures there is no way that Jennifer could possibly be serious about not wanting a one night thing.  He finally changes his mind, calling Jennifer and inviting her to a charity event for breast cancer that he attends annually.

Part Two opens with Jennifer feeling bad about herself because it has been a week since her one night fling with William and she got attached to him.  So, she is sitting in her apartment, drowning her sorrows with orange juice, when her best friend Mia comes over, convincing Jennifer to come to one of Mia's work events.  When they arrive at the event, Jennifer is surprised that Mia's clients are William and his brother.  Mia and Jennifer end up at a club with William and Edward, where Jennifer and William have sex in a dark hallway.

Part Three involves Jennifer's ex, Hank, coming to work at Jennifer's realtor company as the new broker.  He brings his new girlfriend along as the receptionist (new girlfriend being the one that Hank cheated on Jennifer with).  Jennifer quits, then realizes the is totally screwed without that job (because I guess she can't be an independent realtor).  Mia convinces Jennifer to call William and propose a working situation together since William is a broker.  When Jennifer arrives at Willliams office, she meets Ingrid (who owns the building, AND the night club where Jennifer and William did it).  Ingrid and Jennifer both arrive at Williams office at the same time - Jennifer for the presentation and Ingrid to try and convince William to go on a date with her (because she already made dinner reservations without asking him first).  Well, William turns Ingrid away, of course, and after the not presentation with Jennifer, they end up having sex in a conference room chair.

Part Four starts getting all manner of ridiculous in it.  Edward breaks into Ingrid's office at the club, attempting to steal a thumb drive (which is a sort of USB drive).  Ms. Meechum, William's assistant, proves to be rather useful when she hacks into Ingrid's computer and erases the sex video from Ingrid's hard drive.  Ingrid convinces Jennifer to leave the conference room and cancel her date with William (by lying and implying that Ingrid and William are in a serious relationship).  Then, when Jennifer gets home, she runs into Hank, who has been waiting outside her apartment building.  He follows her into her apartment even after she tells him to leave (which is really creepy) then sits there talking to her like he didn't cheat on her and like they are best friends. After he leaves, Mia comes over, talking to Jennifer about William.  Then William shows up to talk to Jennifer.  She tells him, in spite of her attraction to him, that need their thing to have just been one night.  So, William leaves, and Jennifer has another break down.

Part Five opens with a discussion between Mia and Jennifer regarding William's having quit his fathers company.  In an interesting turn of events, William ends up moving in with Jennifer, and they promise to keep the relationship purely platonic (yeah right)!  Over the course of part five, William and Jennifer get things really rolling on the business they've started together.  Of course, things are still weird with Ingrid, the woman who thinks she's all that and the bag of chips.  I don't want to give everything away, but let's just say there's a huge fight you don't want to miss.

Part Six - the final part of the series - gets even more crazy.  It starts with Jennifer waking up in the hospital, which surprises her.  While there, she gets the surprise of her life.  (Nope, I'm not telling!)  The events of this part go pretty quickly, AND there's a wedding. 

So, here's a little rundown of the characters:
Jennifer - the main character and the one who wants the one night stand.
William - a British business owner who responds to Jennifer's ad (via his secretary)
Mia - Jennifer's crass, secretive, well meaning best friend. 
Ms. Meechum - William's severely ditsy receptionist.
Edward - William's cad brother
Frank - William's father.  About as much of a player as Edward is.
Ingrid - Business owner and landlord.  Trying unsuccessfully to snag William.

Overall, the series was okay.  The writing is decent, and the characters are all distinct from each other.  There were some moments where I laughed really hard.  There were definitely some surprising moments in the series, which is always good.  I do think that Ms. Meechum was one character who was almost over the top ridiculous, though.  She was portrayed as being incredibly daft and stupid.  I highly doubt that someone who is as productive as she is at work could really be that dumb and ditsy.

I found myself genuinely sick of Ingrid by the end of part three.  Her relentless blackmailing of William and her refusal to listen when people tell her no made me want to hunt her down and punch her in the face.

This was my first dip into reading serial fiction, and it was interesting.  I would give this a solid B overall.