Monday, October 31, 2011

NaNoWriMo Tomorrow!

Hey everyone! So as you hopefully already know, National November Writing Month begins tomorrow! I hope everyone will come out to participate! I know I will. As an avid reader, writing was just the next inevitable step for me as a person.

Edit: Yeah, I totally revamped my story. I'll tell you more about it once I get too far into the plot to really change anything about it! 

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Author: Michelle Hodkin

Rating: 2.5/5 stars 

Part of a series?: First in series
Goodreads Summary: 
Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.
She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.
She's wrong.
2.5 stars

There's this new T.V. show airing that's getting critical acclaim right now. It's called Homeland (I believe it's airing on Showtime). It's part suspense, part thriller, part awesome (I saw the pilot--really good, although I haven't had time to continue with the series). The gist of the show is that an CIA agent gets a tip from one of her sources that an American POW in Iraq has been "turned" into an enemy against the U.S. by Al-Qaeda. At first she doesn't believe her source because she had no idea there were any living POW in Iraq. But a few months later, a recon mission turns up an army sniper who has survived imprisonment by Al-Qaeda for a year(s). The man is welcomed back into America as a hero and icon for the War of Terror. Now you might wonder why I'm starting this review off by telling you about this show. Well first off, the T.V. is great because you don't know if the agent is right or wrong about her instincts when, over the course of each episode, she pops MANY anti-psychotic pills that she hides in her vitamins. So is the agent crazy or is the sniper really plotting an attack on American soil?

The thing about Homeland is that it's perfect for T.V. Suspense + Live Action = Great Show. And I felt like The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer could've been like Homeland. For most of the book, you have to wonder if Mara is actually off her rocker or actually seeing things. But unfortunately, that's about as far as my praise can go...

The book jumps between bipolar schizophrenia and true-blue-paranormal-blah. As much as I tried to enjoy the confusion-causing "mystery," I couldn't decide if this book was supposed to be a paranormal, bump-in-the-night story or simply a tragic tale of a girl gone crazy over killing her friends. What made this conundrum even worse was the half-hearted explanation we get at the very end. Now, I know what "mara" means because of Rachel Vincent's Soul Screamer series, and I had a feeling that her name would have some sort of connection to what was happening to her. But only because I knew what a mara was did I understand why Mara happens to kill things when she gets emotional. The thing about a paranormal book is that you know for sure that the person with the powers probably isn't 100% human. I suppose the fact that Mara didn't even broach the topic of her humanity could be a sign that Hodkin was trying to keep things as realistic as possible...but nahhhh...I'm reluctant to give Hodkin the benefit of the doubt.

As for Mara's hottie boyfriend, this is where the story goes from "Um. Okay. Great. I'm lost." to "Zzzzz...wait. He has magic?". Noah is so cookie-cutter, I want to gag. He's super rich, flirty, hot, multi-lingual, intelligent, alpha-male-ish, etc. The cherry on top is that he's had sex with probably every girl in school, used them for a week or two, and then threw them away like "used condoms." But Mara has to be the one girl he decides he's really in love with. That itself was a sketchy, facepalm move on Hodkin's part. Why can't authors get some originality??? But then...there was this one scene were I literally LOL-ed.

Remember that scene in Harry Potter 7.1 where Ron comes back to Harry and Hermione after leaving them. He tells them that he found their campsite because the Deluminator's glowing light orb called out to him in Hermione's voice then entered into his chest, telling him where to go. Hilarious! And so in this scene, Noah confesses that HE TOO HAS POWERS! He has visions of people dying and can heal the wounded. And he had a vision where he heard Mara's voice before he ever knew she existed. And when Mara came to school, he heard her and had to chase her down because Mara just called to him in his soul! Okay well the last part about the soul was a half-lie, but you get how cheesy the whole thing was.

I was feeling very...allusiony today. So anyway, the book was just bizarre. Mara's powers get little to no explanation aside from that she kills people when she PMSes, and Noah apparently isn't too Gary Stu either because he can heal people...yay. I'm disappointed because the cover was so gorgeous...


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review: Leaving Paradise

Title: Leaving Paradise 

Author: Simone Elkeles 

Rating: 3 stars out of 5 stars 

Part of a Series?: First in series 

Goodreads Summary:
Nothing has been the same since Caleb Becker left a party drunk, got behind the wheel, and hit Maggie Armstrong. Even after months of painful physical therapy, Maggie walks with a limp. Her social life is nil and a scholarship to study abroad—her chance to escape everyone and their pitying stares—has been canceled.

After a year in juvenile jail, Caleb’s free . . . if freedom means endless nagging from a transition coach and the prying eyes of the entire town. Coming home should feel good, but his family and ex-girlfriend seem like strangers.

Caleb and Maggie are outsiders, pigeon-holed as "criminal" and "freak." Then the truth emerges about what really happened the night of the accident and, once again, everything changes. It’s a bleak and tortuous journey for Caleb and Maggie, yet they end up finding comfort and strength from a surprising source: each other. 

 As far as chicklit goes, this is pretty good but I've read better. Overall, the general problems I have from chicklit apply to this book to; there is an excess of angst, forced plot twists, cookie-cutter stereotypes, etc., etc., etc.

First off, I think that Elkeles needed to focus a little more her originality. Maggie and Caleb get put together in these really cliché scenarios, like coincidentally working together for Mrs. Reynolds. Also, their respective backstories just are so...depressing. 99% of Americans DO NOT have family problems like Maggie and Caleb. But that's really the problem I have with most chicklit. All the characters, in order to give them a little more depth, try to have "unique" backgrounds like the divorced-single-parent-with-a-husband-who-doesn't-keep-in-touch story line or the perfect-family-that-really-isn't-so-perfect-on-the-inside.

Also, the progression in general was too fast. Maggie and Caleb got chummy very quickly, and everything after that happened too quickly. I wish that Elkeles had taken her time with developing the story. Maggie and Caleb had a few hot encounters and then suddenly were best friends. And I don't really think that Elkeles hinted very well at what really happened the night of the accident either. I know the book isn't supposed to be a mystery novel, but I think the truth that Leah was the one who ran over was revealed too suddenly. Then the ending rolled around, and I just wanted to hold up my hands and say, "STOP ONE SECOND! SLOW DOWN!" I wished Elkeles had made the book 100 pages would've really helped.

I did like the story. It was cute. But in general, it was an average read...meh.


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Tamora Pierce Author Signing

Last night, my friends and I (yes, the same friends that accompanied me to the James Dashner signing) went to the Tamora Pierce author meet-greet-and-sign. She was promoting her newest book Mastiff , which is part of the Terrier series following Beka Cooper.

First off, I have to say that Tamora Pierce will forever be my favorite author of all time. There are people that come close like Suzanne Collins and J.K. Rowling, whose books I could die for. But Tamora Pierce's stories have this special place in my heart. I read Alanna: The First Adventure when I was in 3rd grade (I've been told that I was a little young to read it, but I've always been rather mature for my age. And since my sister, who was in 6th grade then, read it first, I had to compete with her and read it myself), and it was that book that pulled me into the world of books in the first place. I've read EVERY book published by Pierce, and Alanna remains as my favorite heroine.

Anyway, the author signing started out with a bang...or not. Pierce started to read a passage from Mastiff in a completely zoned out, this-is-going-to-be-a-long-hour sort of way. Although I worship the ground she walks on, I was a little hesitant to stay if Pierce spoke that way normally. But Pierce fooled us! She read that way on purpose. And then the questions began. Through the Q&A, I realized that Pierce 1) doesn't write with a coherent outline through the entirety of her stories, 2) uses old city maps and baby names for inspiration, and 3) has wicked awesome tattoos on her arms. Unfortunately, I was too star-struck to say anything to her when she signed my book (with a hilarious "girls rule" side note). But it doesn't matter that I didn't speak to her personally. I was two feet away with my childhood hero!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review: Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning

Shadowfever (Fever, #5)Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think, in general, this series was alright. It wasn't anything special that made me go bananas, frothing at the mouth. It was just average. It had some high points and some low points, which basically averaged out to an okay adult paranormal series. I probably wouldn't personally recommend it...but I wouldn't discourage reading it either. Bah, I'm really torn.

I guess this is a review for the entire series and Shadowfever. In general, I thought the book's highest points were the mystery and world building. First off, Moning took some risks in centering 5 entire books around a few blocks of Dublin. Also, we have to take into account that she actually DARED to end EVERY SINGLE BOOK on a F-ING HUGE CLIFFHANGER. I'm just glad I read this series when after all the books were published, or I think I might've exploded with the sheer need to read these books. I don't know what about Moning's writing makes her stories so addictive, but no matter how frustrated I get with the characters, I just have to keep coming back for more. Ugh. She had a whole lot of questions but perhaps not enough answers. Needless to say, I was quite disappointed at the ending to the last book in the Fever series because it just didn't deliver a satisfactory ending.

Speaking of the characters, I'll just say this: Moning has confused me, and I'm glad for it. At first, I hated Mac. She was the epitome of the kind of girl I hate; shallow, stupid, and blonde (just kidding on the last part, but she did act like a Barbie). She got herself into all kinds of trouble and then went blame everyone else. She almost made me stop reading. I'm just glad that Moning created a mystery that grabbed onto my conscious and wouldn't let it go until I stopped. Because in the end, I'm glad I stuck through with Mac's character. By book 5, Mac developed into a strong, self-confident protagonist I could actually kind of like. But I'm still a little torn on Barrons. Sometimes he just bugs me. He's animalistic because...well, he's an animal. But gahhh! He and his cohorts just kill me with their... misogyny. I know, I know, this is supposed to tug at the heartstrings of every woman who wants a territorial man to guard you in your sleep. Still, it pissed me off that Barrons would toss around phrases like "I own her" so lightly. *sigh* and yet, I still think he is one sexy beast. :P

Overall, it was an average series that had some high moments. But overall, the characters and ending were just not up to my expectations.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Book Trailer Tuesday: City of Bones

So I've decided to post a weekly book trailer that I've come across on Youtube. These book trailers don't necessarily have to be of a book I've enjoyed, but they have to be good. Also, take note that these are not the official book trailers produced by the author and the publishing companies. These are all fanmade, which means the editing shouldn't be expected to be top notch.

This week's book trailer if City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. I know Clare's books have gotten a lot of heat--people either love them or hate them. Me? I lean more towards the love. But let that not distract you from the trailer. For a fanmade trailer, I thought this was pretty good. For one, the maker actually stuck with the same actors/actresses throughout the entire video. Also, the scenes just worked. As I've read City of Bones, I could easily match up the clips to the scenes in the book. What I didn't like about this trailer was the overuse of music and underuse of dialogue. When you see a movie trailer, there is always someone talking, either in a voice over or directly through clips of interacting people. However, this trailer was just full of music meshed together into one long stream, and I found that the music often times didn't fit with the scenario on screen.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Review Archive: Mistborn

Title: Mistborn: The Final Empire

Author: Brandon Sanderson

5/5 stars

Part of a Series?: First in series

Goodreads Summary:
Brandon Sanderson, fantasy's newest master tale spinner, author of the acclaimed debut Elantris, dares to turn a genre on its head by asking a simple question: What if the hero of prophecy fails? What kind of world results when the Dark Lord is in charge? The answer will be found in the Mistborn Trilogy, a saga of surprises and magical martial-arts action that begins in Mistborn. 

For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the "Sliver of Infinity," reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler's most hellish prison. Kelsier "snapped" and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark. 

Kelsier recruited the underworld's elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Only then does he reveal his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot. 

But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel's plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she's a half-Skaa orphan, but she's lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets, and gotten it. She will have to learn to trust, if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed. 

This book blew my mind. I'm going to recommend this to ANYONE. 

I had high hopes for Mistborn, and I wasn't disappointed. I'd read the Goodreads reviews, and they promised a great high fantasy novel reminiscent of Lord of the Rings mixed with Harry Potter on steroids. That's exactly what I got. And more. 

I loved the setting of Mistborn. You always read those books about the chosen hero who eventually saves the world from destruction, but this book spins that around and gives us a world where the chosen hero FAILED. Sanderson created such a vivid setting-- the ashfalls, skaa-ridden city, the mists...all of it drew me into the depth of this book. I could see myself standing on top of the rooftops with Vin and Kelsier, surrounded by the swirling mists of the night. Also, the magic in this book was incredibly unique. Allomancy seems like such an interesting concept--no one has really created anything like this. I love the idea of manipulating metals as magic. As this is a major aspect of the story, not only does Sanderson provide extensive detail on Allomancers but he also does it in a way that doesn't seem patronizing (as many fantasy stories tend to do these days, I'm afraid) to the readers.

The characters are what really brought this book to a 5 stars for me. I fell in love with every single person in this story. Sanderson wrote in a third person omniscient form that switched between Vin and Kelsier. Thus, we got to see how each person viewed himself/herself and how he/she was viewed by others. It was a beautiful way to flesh out the two protagonists, giving me much more perspective on how Kelsier and Vin (and Elend, once) think and the motives behind what they do. I felt Kelsier's ambition, pain, loyalty, and his protectiveness over his crew and Vin. Vin also resonated with me because she wasn't some weak, abandoned girl. She actually came into her own as a true Mistborn as the story progressed. They, along with the other ensemble of skaa rebels, brought this story to life for me. I could feel their chemistry oozing out of the text. As a side note, the romance wasn't bad either. I was glad that Elend and Vin's relationship wasn't the keystone of the story because it would've only dragged the story down. 

Furthermore, the way the plot unfolded was amazing. The politics and scheming skaa and nobles wasn't boring at all, thanks to Vin's sarcastic wit that carried me through the rather boring dinner parties. 

Basically? I loved this book. I will definitely read the sequels. THIS IS A GREAT STORY! :D


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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Review: Bloodfever

To see my review of Darkfever, the first book, click here.

Title: Bloodfever

Author: Karen Marie Moning

3/5 stars

Part of a Series?: Second in series

Goodreads Summary:
I used to think my sister and I were just two nice southern girls who'd get married in a few years and settle down to a quiet life. Then I discovered that Alina and I descend, not from good wholesome southern stock, but from an ancient Celtic bloodline of powerful sidhe-seers, people who can see the Fae. Not only can I see the terrifying otherworldly race, but I can sense the sacred Fae relics that hold the deadliest of their magic. 

When my sister was found dead in a trash-filled alley in Dublin, I came over to get answers. Now all I want is revenge. And after everything I've learned about myself, I know I have the power to get it....

MacKayla Lane's ordinary life underwent a complete makeover when she landed on Ireland's shores and was plunged into a world of deadly sorcery and ancient secrets.
In her fight to stay alive, Mac must find the Sinsar Dubh-a million-year-old book of the blackest magic imaginable, which holds the key to power over both the worlds of the Fae and of Man. Pursued by Fae assassins, surrounded by mysterious figures she knows she cannot trust, Mac finds herself torn between two deadly and irresistible men: V'lane, the insatiable Fae who can turn sensual arousal into an obsession for any woman, and the ever-inscrutable Jericho Barrons, a man as alluring as he is mysterious.
For centuries the shadowy realm of the Fae has coexisted with that of humans. Now the walls between the two are coming down, and Mac is the only thing that stands between them...
*Slow claps* Better, Moning. Much better. It's still not quite up to the level I expected, but I'm optimistic that this series now has somewhere to go from this point on. This book wasn't perfect--it wasn't even close--but it certainly was a giant improvement from its predecessor. Bloodfever is more coherent, intriguing, and generally less annoying. 

Moning's first book in the Fever series, Darkfever, suffered from first-book-itis. While its world building was impeccable, the characters pissed me off to the point where I had this permanent frown etched onto my face while I read. With no incentive to go forward (e.g. no past books to maintain my hopes for a better future for the series), I seriously considered dropping the book right then and there. My main complaint was Mac. She was the most frustrating character in the book. She constantly put herself in the damsel-in-distress situation while simultaneously complaining about how uncouth Dublin was in comparison to the genteel South. It grated my nerves. 

But Bloodfever stepped everything up to a new level. Barrons and Mac continue their search for the Sinsar Dubh. And this time, Mac is no greenhorn with a manicure. She carries her spear (which now is pretty badass, I admit) in a cool holster and knows enough about Faeries to act appropriately (e.g. She doesn't freak out and lose her cool when the hallway outside her bedroom becomes infested by Shades and Barrons isn't around to save her butt). Her character development was the greatest part about reading this. And keeping with the first book, Bloodfeverdoesn't really have the individual book plot that supplements the series--think Harry Potter. So, I did find this book to be a little slow going. It continues to add onto the mysteries established at the beginning of Darkfever, like who is the Lord Master, who is the cranky old lady, and how Unseelie can break into the human world. Since Mac isn't filling up each page with stupidity, I could actually enjoy the story. Still, there was just something missing. Even though I could enjoy the book more than I did last time I picked up Moning's series, I still felt sort of detached from everything that happened.

So yeah, I'm starting to enjoy this story, but it still has a long way to go to get up to the 5 star rating I was expecting.


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Upcoming News and Reviews

As of today (2:50 a.m. on October 23rd), I've finished Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning. For anyone who hasn't read the Fever series, I think it's definitely worth checking out. In all honesty, the first book was a nuclear disaster. But this definitely surprised me at how better the whole thing was.

So I'll be getting the review for that up and going soon...and I've started The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by  Michelle Hodkin. Unfortunately, my friend just reviewed Variant by Robinson Wells and gave it a 2 star rating, so that's going to be put on hold for me until I run out of things to read. I bought the hard copy so it'll come up eventually.

Anyway, after I finish up The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and the Fever series, I think I may take a trip down to the local bookstore and pick up The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson. He's another kickass high-fantasy writer, and I fell in love with the first book of his Mistborn series.  

And finally, I am super excited for Tamora Pierce visiting for an author signing this Friday. I hope I'll be able to go to hers as I did with James Dashner because, if anything, Tamora Pierce is my favorite author of all time. No one will ever surpass her in my mind. She's also coming to promote her Terrier series and her new book so I'm super excited about that! YAY! 

P.S. Keep an eye out for some new articles I'm going to be pushing out (like a literary baby, I swear) in the next couple of days.


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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review: The Taker

Title: The Taker

Author: Alma Katsu

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Part of a Series?: Individual

Goodreads Summary:
On the midnight shift at a hospital in rural Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is expecting another quiet evening of frostbite and the occasional domestic dispute. But the minute Lanore McIlvrae—Lanny—walks into his ER, she changes his life forever. A mysterious woman with a past and plenty of dark secrets, Lanny is unlike anyone Luke has ever met. He is inexplicably drawn to her . . . despite the fact that she is a murder suspect with a police escort. And as she begins to tell her story, a story of enduring love and consummate betrayal that transcends time and mortality, Luke finds himself utterly captivated.
Her impassioned account begins at the turn of the nineteenth century in the same small town of St. Andrew, Maine, back when it was a Puritan settlement. Consumed as a child by her love for the son of the town’s founder, Lanny will do anything to be with him forever. But the price she pays is steep—an immortal bond that chains her to a terrible fate for all eternity. And now, two centuries later, the key to her healing and her salvation lies with Dr. Luke Findley.
Part historical novel, part supernatural page-turner, The Taker is an unforgettable tale about the power of unrequited love not only to elevate and sustain, but also to blind and ultimately destroy, and how each of us is responsible for finding our own path to redemption. 
I thought this was a pretty good book. There were definitely places it could've been improved, but I don't think I've ever read something quite like this. The Taker is a fascinating fusion of historical fiction and fantasy. Katsu parallels the present day story line with the 19th century story line, and the result is a puzzlingly, addictive book.

Lanny's story is the most obvious highlight of the book. It takes up 80% of the story. And I was pleasantly surprised by Katsu's effort to keep the story as historically accurate as possible. History buffs will enjoy this story for the author's honest attempts to stay as true to Puritanical Maine as possible. But there is also this unique aspect of fantasy. Lanny is an immortal, and her story is a lot about how she came to be that way. But the fantasy isn't like the vampires and werewolf kind of fantasy of YA fiction. The fantasy of The Taker has this touch of realism. There are no flashy battles between good or evil or stories of forbidden, interspecies love. Moreover, I just enjoyed the plot progression in general, with emphasis on the character development. Both Lanny and Jonathan grow into unique and mature characters. This is an adult novel, so the characters, while teenagers, aren't juvenile. They don't whine or mope around--I partially attribute this to the fact that both Lanny and Jonathan were raised with the "Puritan work ethic." Anyway, it was truly amazing to read how effortlessly Katsu wove Lanny's past with Luke in the present. Just because the focus was on how Lanny eventually came to where she is, I still wanted to know more about Luke. He had a past that I wanted to know more about.

And that's where I think the story faltered. While Katsu did an excellent job in giving each character depth, she teased us with details that could've been explained more. For instance, Luke has an ex-wife and two kids. I didn't get why Lanny could have entire chapters dedicated to her life when Luke barely got a paragraph about his family. Furthermore, specific story lines seemed to drop off into nowhere. I don't know if I wasn't reading carefully or what, but Katsu ended some plots too abruptly for my taste, leaving me with endless questions. How exactly did Lanny figure out Adair's secret? What happened to Adair? What happened to Alejandro, Dona, and Tilde? Who were the men Lanny "married" in her lifetime? Why does Lanny think the curse will "break" just because she's trying to make amends for her sins? And finally, my last frustration with this book was the copious amounts of passages on sex. Sex took up half the book. Adair is a sadistic sex-addict, granted, but Lanny, IMO, is all too willing to play along. I got really frustrated because Lanny took all of Adair's "punishments" without actually fighting back. Sure, she had these internal monologues where she said how much she deeply hated Adair. Yet in the end, she was all too willing to play along. And between Lanny and Jonathan, the sex just seemed like an excuse to put more sex into the story. I mean, seriously. I'm usually okay with a few sex scenes as long as it doesn't take up the entire story. But this book tested my patience...

Oh, and thank you to Alma Katsu, her publishers, and Goodreads for providing me with a free copy. 

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Top 5: Books to Movies

In general, whenever my bookworm friends and I discuss book to movie translations, the argument goes like this:

"Books are better than the movies."
"No way! Movies are great!"
"But you can't beat the original."
"Yeah, but movies help you visualize the book."
"I don't need to visualize it."
"C'mon. What about Harry Potter? Those were some good movies, and you got to see the actual spells."
"The books still win, though."
"NO! The HP movies were incredible!"
"The first and second ones were--"
"Alright, fine. Those ones sucked. But the rest were really good!"
"You're unbelievable..."
"I try."
Silence falls for a moment before the inevitable.
"I know! Four words: Lord of The Rings."

And so the conversation always ends with Lord of The Rings. Personally, I was never fond of the books, but the movies were definitely a piece of cinematic genius. Now a lot of movies out there are based on books I've never read. But for me, the movies were simply perfect. I haven't read some of the books on the list, but I know the movies are genius. Now that I think about it, the list could really be called "Top 5: Best Cinematic Translation."

5. Aladdin

4.  Forrest Gump

3.  Lord of the Rings; Return of the King

2. The Shawshank Redemption

1.  The Princess Bride
In my defense, it was a hard pick between #1 and #2. I love The Shawkshank Redemption. Morgan Freeman is one of my favorite actors, and his acting abilities really shine in this movie. However, The Princess Bride won out in the end because 1) I've read the book, which turned out to be a major disappointment and 2) While The Shawshank Redemption will remain a classic movie for years to come, it doesn't quite make you want to watch it over and over again like The Princess Bride does. For its source material, The Princess Bride came out on top in this list. But then again, this is my opinion. Feel free to comment on what your top 5 movies are--because even though this is a book blog, movies are stories too.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review: Betrayal

Title: Betrayal (Descendents #1) 

Author: Mayandree Michel

Rating: 1/5 stars

Part of Series?: First in series

Goodreads Summary: 
Where there is love and power, there is always... betrayal.

At seventeen, Cordelia is an ordinary teen with an extraordinary and frightening secret. A secret that induces vivid dreams which she not only experiences true love, but crippling fear while barely escaping with her life each night.

After a life altering event, Cordelia has an unexpected encounter with Evan, the mysterious boy from her dreams, who reveals who and what she is, a descendant of the Greek gods. At that moment everything she knows of her world is a lie, and she must leave the present and go into the past to assume the role she was put on this earth for, safeguarding her ancient empire amidst evil forces that toil hastily to destroy it.

In a race against time, Cordelia must decide if she is truly a part of this dangerous world, or risk defying the gods, and ultimately lose the boy who has put a claim on her heart.

"This was the worst book I've ever read." When people say that, they're usually exaggerating. But in this case, when I say, "This was the worst book I ever tried to finish but couldn't," I'm telling the complete, 100% truth. Betrayal sits in this rare bookshelf on my Goodreads account for all 8--now 9--books that I couldn't finish. To Mayandree Michel, the self-published author of this...thing, please go take an English class. Please. 

I'm not saying my own writing is perfect. But I acknowledge my errors while Michel is under the illusion that she is a good writer. Betrayal is a combination of 1st grade grammar, misplaced grammar, ridiculous description, and a WTF-what-is-going-on plot. Do I need to describe how much I hated this? No, I think I can just show you what I spent the last two nights trying to get through. 
Finally, Mr. Clarkson and I began closing up. Tonight that consisted of Mr. Clarkson locking my cash drawer away in the safe, and me aligning the greeting cards, again
Yes, that is exactly how the passage was written in my ebook. I was willing to maybe overlook a comma or two because ebooks often come with some grammatical errors. But not this. This was just something I couldn't overlook. I mean, what the hell?
While Evan spoke, his eyes penetrated mine, and drew me in the way they had in the dream. I found myself wanting to trust him.
Oh, darn those penetrating eyes.
How could I get hurt in a dream, and have the wound when I woke up? As I stared at myself on the hot asphalt stained with my blood, I resisted what the chorus of sorrowful voices surrounding me stated.
What exactly did this chorus "state"?
“This is so bizarre… every window smashed.”
“How bizarre….the piercing sound hurt my ears.”
“How could this be… it’s bizarre.”
It's bizarre that she thinks people actually talk like this. And the best one yet? Read on...
Something dashed right through me. Right through me! The vapor I’m composed of now, sensed the being that penetrated me. This person went through my phantom body, with only one desire, reaching my crushed and lifeless form. The person was wracked with agony yet it wasn’t the cries that demonstrated this fact, but the torment they left behind that mingled with my mist.
Now imagine reading passages like this for 60 pages. Then realizing there are 600 pages of this left to go! I couldn't finish the book, needless to say. Besides, I would much rather read something that has passed the inspection of professional editors. always, please check me out (follow me, if you so desire) on

Monday, October 17, 2011


So, my readers (whoever you are)...what do you're bookshelves look like?

I've been browsing some forums on Goodreads, and one discussion I came across asked people how they organized their bookshelves. Emphasis on "organized." Am I the only one who really just stuffs her books into her bookshelves? Now, I don't dedicate each shelf to my books. I have two tall, wooden bookshelves from Ikea, but about 2/6 shelves are dedicated to misc. junk. So I'm kind of running out of space on them.

The most I can say is that I generally keep series of books together. However, their place on the bookshelf in general doesn't really have any special importance. Fantasy books are mixed with bibliographies and chicklit and children's books.

I wish I was a more organized person. But unfortunately, I have no aptitude or patience to go through and sort out all my books by name, author, genre, color of cover, length of book, hard/soft back, date of author's birth, etc., etc., etc. But you know, I think my shelf has character. I'm sorry about the quality of the photo. Unfortunately, I lost my digital camera on a trip to Australia last summer (and I've yet to make the trip to Best Buy to buy a replacement -- you can tell I have an incredible drive, huh?) so I had to rely on Photobooth. Anyway, as you can see, I have various books shoved into my shelves, all jumbled together. But it's an organized mess; I know where everything is. Plus, I've given a home to my little figurine animals! :D

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Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door

Title: Lola and the Boy Next Door

Author: Stephanie Perkins

Rating: 3/5 stars

Part of Series?: Companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss

Goodreads Summary: 
Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.
When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.
This is why I don't like spin-offs. And yes, I classify Lola and the Boy Next Door as a spin-off of Anna and the French Kiss; technically Perkins defines it as a "companion novel," but IMO, it's the same thing. Good spin-offs (e.g. Tamora Pierce's Tortall series books) can attach the reader to whoever the main character of the series is, no matter how much the author dangles the previous series' protagonists in the reader's face. Each new main character has enough vibrancy to surpass his/her predecessor. And unfortunately, I'm not sure if the eponymous Lola was able to do that.

In my defense, I read Anna and the French Kiss and then Lola and the Boy Next Door back to back, so the first book was fresh in my mind to make comparisons. And maybe, I'm just a sucker for Paris. It's a beautiful city (and I could totally recall climbing up to the top of Notre Dame AND the Arc d'Triomphe in one day--painful but nostalgic). But for some reason, I just couldn't get as attached to Lola as I was with Anna. I'm not sure why...I mean, I have a few guesses, but who knows?

First off, I want to say that Perkins is amazing in creating character depths. I thought I had each character pegged into the typical chick-lit stereotype by the second chapter, but Perkins just continued to weave each character's personality until the very last moment; none of it seemed OOC either. Example? Calliope. I love her name, but at first, I hated her. She was the snob of the book. But apparently, she has a heart after all. Also, I was definitely interested in how Perkins portrayed Lola's parents. Her two gay fathers were definitely relatable. And Norah came out and surprised me in the last few chapters. Again, bravo for the characterizations because it could've been really easy for Perkins to take the easy road and give Lola's parental figures skin-deep personalities. However, for Max, I'm not sure if I really liked how his story turned out. I felt like Perkins sort of jumped the shark with him. His character turned out to be suckish (big surprise there) in the end, but in this case I couldn't shake the idea that Perkins sort of twisted his character into the evil guy just to force a love triangle. Did I see him as the jealous type originally? Nope.

With regards to the two main characters, I felt a little bored. Usually I don't like characters like Lola who just are bedazzled inside and out. But I wasn't bothered by her costume-fetish. In fact, I was sort of apathetic towards her. She was a little too emotional, like a lovesick teenager. She reminded me of why I don't like chick-lit too much in the first place. The main characters usually get into these problematic, usually self-induced, romantic situations, and then they spend several tumultuous chapters doing next-to-nothing about it. Anyway, Cricket was okay. I could tell Perkins really tried hard to give Cricket some appeal. But compared to St. Clair in the last book, Cricket seemed a little washed out. Again, this is my biased opinion based on my general dislike of spin-offs. For me, Anna and St. Clair's cameos just made it a little more obvious that I like Paris better than San Francisco. Basically, when I was supposed to be sympathizing for Lola, I really wanted to know how Thanksgiving went with Anna and her hot, Euro boyfriend.

Overall, the book was cutsie and sweet. It definitely had some romantic, toe-curling scenes. But I found myself too distracted with comparing it to the previous book. If Lola and Cricket had come in a completely stand alone novel, maybe I would've been a little more receptive to the story.

Goodreads Review link: Clicky
Thanks for reading this review! I'm onto Betrayal by Mayandree Michel. I've heard horror stories about this one...we'll see...we'll see...

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Upcoming Reads 10/16/11

Here are some titles that you can look forward to in my reviews. OR, you could totally hate me for even considering them (because I know I'm grimly anticipating Mayandree Michel's book):


As for my excitement scale, I'd put Variant and The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer at the top with a good 8 stars of anticipation, The Faerie Ring somewhere in the middle with a shoulder shrug, and Betrayal with a shuddering "I don't want to, but I'm going to anyway." My friends read Betrayal, hated it, gave it scathing reviews, and left me to wonder what all the fuss is about. I have that issue where, if someone tells me they have a secret but can't tell me what it is, I must know immediately. Have you ever gotten that feeling before? 

Anyway, please leave a comment! Thanks! - Shelby

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James Dashner Book Tour and Signing

James Dashner is a cool man, I will admit. I didn't really know what to expect from the guy. Yes, I'll admit. This signing that I went to was my first ever book signing in my entire life. I'm such a literary noob, aren't I? But I didn't know what to expect.

I got to the bookstore early, so I wandered around along with two of my close friends (and Maze Runner enthusiasts) the place aimlessly looking for the YA section. When 7 p.m. rolled around, we all headed to the back of the store and took our seats around a podium. Then, BOOM! James Dashner appears and begins to present a Powerpoint filled with humor and good cheer. I was stunned. For one, Dashner is a natural speaker (or at least, he is a natural liar). He interacted with the crowd and answered our questions with a quick wit and comfortable smile. Now, as a writer myself, I was impressed by his ability to work the crowd of 30. I find writing to be a natural way to express myself, especially since my conversational skills rival a tongue-less hobo with Alzheimer's.

Anyway, Dashner answered questions and then got to signing books. Needless to say, I got several pictures with him. And of course, I made a complete fool of myself because I, for the love of God, couldn't manage a coherent sentence in front of one my favorite dystopian authors. Poor, poor, Shelby.

Oh, by the way, here is my review for the book he was promoting, The Death CureClick Me Usually, I won't reference my old reviews onto the site, but this is an exception. As a reminder, I got my copy as an ARC from Goodreads. It was a blast to get an early look into the book.

Book Reviews

While it would be fantastic to be able to repost all my book reviews from my Goodreads account, the fact is that it's just not feasible for me to try. I don't have the time or attention span to copy 63 reviews and post them back onto this site. From now on, I'll be posting book reviews onto the blog from this point forward. In this case, the book I'm reading now is Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins. I'll post the review up when I'm done.

Furthermore, I'll also talk about the author signing I went to for James Dashner and his new novel, The Death Cure. The Maze Runner series is amazing, and I definitely recommend it. Dashner is an awesome guy, and he was so cool to talk with. I personally had the opportunity to get an ARC copy of the novel from Goodreads as a giveaway prize (THANK YOU!), so getting him to sign my copy was just peachy.


Hello, everyone. I'm just starting out as a book blogger. So I want you guys (whoever you are) to know a little bit more about me. I'll update this blog whenever I can. I also post to my Goodreads account:

My name is Shelby, and I'm an avid reader. My favorite genre is high fantasy and paranormal/urban fantasy. There's something about the process of coming to terms with whatever world the author created that fascinates me. In my deepest opinions, I truly believe that there is nothing better than finding yourself chin-deep in a book. I also dabble in dystopian and chick-lit books, although they don't usually catch my attention as often.

I use Goodreads as much, or maybe even more so, as my email and Facebook. In fact, whenever I start up my browser, the first three tabs I automatically set up are: Gmail, Goodreads, and Facebook--in that order.

Apart from blogging, I'm an aspiring writer, major history buff, and obsessive TV/movie enthusiast. For some reason, I have this need to remember actors and directors. Favorite actor/actress? Tom Hanks, hands down. Favorite director? Probably Christopher Nolan. One thing you have to know about me is that I'm a sucker for the here-and-now. Classics are great, but they aren't my cup of tea.