Friday, August 31, 2012

Follow Friday - Good cover, bad book

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Question: Best Cover? What is the best cover of a book that you've read and didn't like?
This is a GREAT question.  Occasionally books have beautiful well designed covers and the book is just not good.  I'm a sucker for unique and interesting covers.  Sometimes I've bought books I know I shouldn't because the cover is just SO beautiful that it's hard to imagine the contents could really be that bad.

I love the artwork on this cover.  The partial silhouette with satellites, the interesting font that goes vertical rather than horizontal.  This is not your typical YA cover and I absolutely love it.  This isn't just a book cover it's art.

But the book is pretty dreadful.  The characters aren't believable, there's a big dose of instalove and overall it just doesn't make sense.  If you want to know more you can read my review.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Great Roswell Rewatch (episode 1 & 2)

Roswell is the first show that I ever loved.  There was aliens, conspiracy theories, true love and super powers.  As a teenager I never thought of this as a science fiction.  Sure Max, Isabel and Michael are aliens.  But their also high schoolers and it seemed to focus more on the human elements than the science.  It was a blend of "dealing with being alien" and "high school woes."

It is not a show about aliens as much as it's a show about growing up and discovering the world isn't what you thought.  It's universal because even being alien, is a lot like being an outsider and who can't relate to that?

In the YA storytelling world of human/non human relationships, not only did Roswell do it first, they did it better. If you like the character driven fantasy and sci-fi that is so prevalent in YA, then you need to watch Roswell because it's kind of the grandfather of the genre.

Episode 1 Pilot

I fall in love with this episode every freaking time.  Nowadays it seems much more cliched than it did when I was a freshman in high school.  Back then I loved Liz's jeans with the ribbons on the bottom, belly shirts were all the rage and Michael's pointy hair was enough to make a girl swoon.

In case you like random trivia, Roswell was the most highly rated pilot EVER.  I say this to prove I had superior taste, even at 14.

This episode begins with Liz tormenting the tourists who are in town for the annual Crash Festival , offering to show them the prized family "alien picture" and giggling as they believe her.  Pro-tip, high school girls working in a place called the Crashdown Cafe, who weren't alive during an alien crash probably aren't your best sources of information.

This establishs Liz, funny, smart, girl next door and completely likable.  Then like two-second laters she dies.  Except not really.  Because Max Evans, runs to the front of the restaurant, looks into her eyes and saves her life.  Then he breaks a ketchup jar and begs her to keep his secret.

On a totally unrelated note, I always liked Liz's bra.
What comes next is the classic lab partner scene.  How many times have we seen this in YA?  Ever the scientist, Liz takes Max's chewed pencil (ewww alien germs) and looks at his cells under the microscope.  She discovers *gasp* they aren't normal.  Which of course Liz already realized because of the whole "saving her life incident" but she wanted scientific evidence.

So what does Liz do?  Does she mope around wondering what's going on? Nope, she confronts Max.  This is another of my favorite scenes (which you might be realizing is the entire episode) where Liz asks Max where he's from and he points upward and she accuses him of being a Canadian before he admits to being an alien.  Being a Canadian would've totally explained everything too you know.

I have a feeling some Roswell detractors (if you exist I pity you) are going to accuse Liz and Max of Instalove.  But it's not Instalove.  Max has had a crush on Liz for years, but being a poor unfortunate alien he's been afraid to ask her on a date.  So instead, he let's her see into his soul.
"I could feel everything he was feeling.  I could feel his loneliness.  For the first time I was really seeing Max Evans.  I saw me as he saw me. And the amazing thing was, in his eyes I was beautiful."
That's when Liz actually starts having feelings for Max.  Not when he saves her, not when she finds out he's an alien, but when she actually knows him. 

Later in the episode, Liz confronts Max again saying that she's going to go the sheriff if he doesn't answer all of her questions.  Since when do heroines actually talk to law enforcement about their problems?  I thought they always stumbled around putting their lives in danger without ever thinking to call the police.  But Liz doesn't have to go the police because Max tells her everything.  This is also highly abnormal in YA stories.

Even though Max technically saves Liz's life, she's never the damsel in distress.  In the end Liz comes up with the plan that SAVES ALL THE ALIENS, which is pretty awesome in my book.

Roswellian Wisdom 

"It's September 24th, I'm Liz Parker and five days ago I died. But then the really amazing thing happened. I came to life."
(For such an amazing pilot its surprisingly short on life advice)

The Morning After

Episode 2

Liz's diary is a compelling narrative.  Despite aliens being essential the plot, this is a human story told by a human girl.  The sci-fi stories we connect with most of not the stories of aliens.  They are the stories of human's who lives are impacted by aliens.  Ender's Game focuses on the humans, not the alien foe. Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness follows the human experience with the Spackle,  and even Dr. Who needs a companion to humanize and interpret the experience for us.  

This episode has so much of the humor I love about Roswell.  In order to discuss aliens publicly, Liz and Maria choose a code word: Czechoslovakians (despite the fact this country doesn't exist anymore, even when the show was made).  When their best guy friend Alex gets suspicious they claim they've been talking about cramps.  You bet that shuts him up. 

This whole episode Liz is freaking out because she thinks the FBI is onto Michael.  But do you know what they've noticed?  Not that he's an alien. That he's skipping a WHOLE lot of school.  Yes I know. A YA story where adults actually notice that the kids aren't going to school.  Crazy right?

Roswellian Wisdom

  • "The guy touched you and you saw into his soul. How do we know what happens when he kisses you?" - Maria to Liz
  • "The eraser room does two things. It cleans erasers and takes our innocence." - Maria to Liz
  • "How am I ever suppose to become whoever it is I'm gonna become when everybody's looking?" - Liz

I like the fact that Liz and Max talk about REAL things.  They're building a friendship not based on scent or smell or destiny, but through more normal methods like talking and dates.  Yes he looked into her soul and she looked into his but that doesn't mean they're going to skip all the normal relationships steps.

I feel like I've seen a lot of versions of classic Roswell scenes in YA books.  A lot of people have thought that Twilight took many plot points from Roswell (different species, falling in love, lab partners, story really starts when he saves her life, family of aliens/vampires).  I hate comparing anything I love to Twilight (sorry fans, I'm just not) but I can see where it comes from with Roswell.  Though I must say, Roswell is better.  Not only was it first, the relationships were healthier and Liz was  both smart and tough when necessary.

Any other Roswellian-esque scenes you've seen in books?  

Friday, August 24, 2012

Follow Friday - Worst Cover

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Q: Worst cover? What is the worst cover of a book that you've read and loved?
Does anyone else feel like the same books always come up in their follow friday answers?  I suppose because it's often best and worst, plus covers have been mentioned more than once. This is literally the third time that I've chosen this book (that should say something about how strongly I feel about it).  But once again, I must go with The Raging Quiet (read my review here).  It's not my typical read, more romantic than what I choose, but came highly recommended from trusted friends.  The book did not disappoint.  I believe it is sadly out of print (though looking at Amazon you can buy it used or even new if you're willing to shell out some BIG bucks).

The Raging Quiet is a wonderful book, built on believable characters that you really root for. It's about friendship that becomes love and understanding those who are different than you.  Honestly I cannot recommend this book enough.  The cover is hideously juvenile and does not do the book justice.

Other Follow Fridays about The Raging Quiet
Follow Friday - Genre Jumping
Follow Friday - Misleading Covers

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Every Day (review)

3.5/5 stars

Every Day by David Levithan is intriguing book but I have a complicated relationship with it.  It's a fascinating and daring premise.  Every day the main character wakes up in someone else's body, treading lightly, trying not to disturb the life their walking in.  The main characters has no parents, body, gender or name of their own.  For the sake of having an identify, the main characters call themselves A. (For the YA readers/TV viewers this may be a poor naming choice).

Then one day, A meets Rhiannon.  She's a beautiful and kind girl.  Suddenly, A wants everything he can never have.  He wants a life of his own, friends of his own and mostly to wake-up and spend every day with her.  This book does have a small case of insta-love.  However, it's unfair to judge it by our understanding of love.  Insta-love is the only kind of love A can ever have, because the next day he's gone.

This book explores Rhiannon and A's attempts to build a relationship while switching between bodies, physiques and genders.  It's really interesting to explore disconnecting the person from the physical aspects.

Yet I feel like Leviathan is preachy about his own beliefs, pushing his viewpoint whether than just letting the reader think.  The lack of understanding that gender might effect Rhiannon's attraction and the implication that she is wrong for that isn't fair.  I'm only attracted to men. Does that make me a bad person? Even though being attracted to one gender is more common, A pushes the idea that it's wrong and judgmental.

After A, breaking his own rules, leaves one borrowed body parked on the side of the highway, when the real person returns he remembers what happened to him.  Because Nathan lacks any explanation, he jumps to the conclusion that he was possessed by a demon.  Then apparently hoards of Christians jump on this bandwagon.  I'm sorry, but I'm not sure when the last time demon-possession was in vogue.  I cannot actually believe that Evangelicals whole-heartedly supported this claim.  Demon-possessions are not really anywhere on the evangelical radar.

I'm bothered by the stereotypical, one-sided almost caricature of evangelicals.  It's not fair and it lacks an understanding of the complex relationship between the bible, faith and what you experience in life.

The concept of this book is interesting, but overall it's a romance.  It carries all the cheesy declarations of loves that come with that.  If the book had focused less on the romance and been more well-rounded in it's portrayals of different belief systems it would've probably rated higher for me. It seems to want people to understand different viewpoints without fairly attempting to understand theirs.  Faith being portrayed so inaccurately is very frustrating, especially when it's also unnecessary.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Forsaken (review)

2/5 stars

The Forsaken has a great dystopian idea, a prison island where those who fail a behavior test are sent.  That has some of the essential ingredients for a great dystopian : 1. Controlling government 2. Disenfrantized citizenship 3. Lack of control over own life.  And the book starts strongly, with the main character going through the test then waking up dazed and confused in the middle of the jungle.

Sound greats right?  Unfortunately from there the book just goes wrong.  Quickly Alenna, moves into a village where she discovers the "normal" teenagers are doing battle with the "drones," a group of teenagers devoted to someone they call the Monk.  Immediately, Alenna is accepted into the core group, involved in important plans, told how pretty she is and flirted with. Totally believable right?

The romance in this novel makes absolutely no sense.  It has zero development.  The two characters feel a "connection" and then start kissing, even though Alenna has no experiene with boys.  Later they discover they knew each other as babies and apparently that's suppose to explain away the insta-love. "Oh I met you when I was one. Falling for you in less than a day makes sense now!" No, it doesn't. Still Insta-love.

None of the friendships or relationships account for the fact they live on island filled with battles and death.  There is no accounting for the distrust or inability to build stable relationships that their living situation should cause.  Any pyschological effects of living on a prison island where people die daily are glossed over. One guy has nightmares and is mean to prisoners, so apparently that covers all the deep pyschological damage these teenagers should experience.

However that is not even my biggest complaint about this novel.  The biggest problem is the best-friend character Gayda.  She is so obnoxious and simplified.  This character is like INTERNET CAPS LOCK only on a prison island.  She's constantly shouting, short-fused with everyone.  But she's not a villain, just a sidekick to the main character.  She gets angry about Alenna stealing the boy she likes (shocker), their best friend Rika not bidding them farewell (because she was HELPING SICK PEOPLE) and pretty much anything that doesn't go her way.

Alenna, on the other hand, believes everything you tell her.  When she first wakes up on the island, there's another prisoner named David.  Without any real build-up, she trusts everything he says.  Then when she joins the villagers, she trusts them.  She never once questions what is happening around her.  She just follows along, joining on their "Operation Tiger Strike," even though she is in no way qualified for a military mission.  (Luckily they didn't actually have a plan, despite weeks of "planning" and debating).

Overall this book is just sloppy.  Sometimes authors have great ideas.  Dystopian prison island, yeah!  Then they have no idea where to go with that idea.  They have a beginning (which was strong) and an end in mind, then they meander through meaningless nonsense to connect the two.  The characters are underdeveloped, the world building and science weak, the romance hastily thrown together and the end result is very disappointing.

The only really positive thing I can say, is that the cover is absolutely beautiful.  It's graphically interesting and actually connects to the story.  Excellent design work, unfortunately gracing a shoddy story.

I received an ARC copy of this book through Southern Book Blogger ARC tours.  If you live in the South and haven't joined SBB you should definitely check them out.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Follow Friday - Blogs that "inspire" me

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
What blogger inspires you?  It can be any kind, it doesn't have to be a book blog.
That's a hard question.  Inspire is a big word with lots of meaning.  Inspired may be too strong of a word for me to describe my relationship with any blog (sorry friends).

However, there are lots of blogs that helped grow my budding blogger aspirations and that I hold in great esteem.  So I'm going to give you that answer instead.

The first blog I ever loved was Forever Young Adult.  FYA is fun, silly, honest and there's lots to drink.  It doesn't just review books, it does weekly recaps of television show, has choose your old adventure games, drinking games, etc.  It's a blog that doesn't take itself too seriously, practices YA-evangelism and thinkings outside the box about what a book blog should be.

As far as blogs that I love and bloggers who have helped me, the list continues:
The Midnight Garden
Great Imaginations
Typing Tiara
Magical Urban Fantasy Reads
Southern Book Bloggers

Honestly the list of bloggers who have encouraged me, especially when I was just trying to figure out how to grow an audience, and befriended me is much longer than that.  Unfortunately I need to head to work in a few minutes so I cannot give everyone the credit they deserve.

By the way, as long as you're in a follow mood why don't you visit me on twitter.  Always looking for new tweeps.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Unnaturalist (review)

3/5 stars

Some books don't seem to know their priorities.  There's an interesting world, potential death looming, but they linger lazily in subplots and potential romances.  That is the case with The Unnaturalists.  It's not that it's a bad book, exactly, but it's a book that doesn't move forward with any urgency.

Vespa's father is the head of the Museum of Unnatural History in New London, a steampunk influenced alternative relativity where science has somehow become the state religion but the world operates on the power of myth.  More than anything in the world, Vespa wants to be a scientist at the museum like her father.  But that is not a lady's work, much to Vespa's chagrin.

From there the book seems to meander.  There is a lot of danger, someone stealing souls in a jar and a potential apocolypse looming.  Yet Vespa finds herself staring at a particular gentleman's mouth and thinking about kissing him more than trying to figure out how to save her own life.

Then there is a whole unfortunate wedding subplot that feels very forced.  The wedding feels like its solely orchestrated to put all the main characters in one location.  It is not a very well developed subplot yet it takes up a huge portion of the book.

One good thing I must say about this book is that things that seemed insignificant in the beginning came back to play a larger part in the end of the novel.  The world was also interesting, if not fully fleshed out.  This book unfortunately doesn't quite reach it's potential.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Palace of Stone (review)

4.5/5 stars

To me, Shannon Hale's books always feel like fairytales.  They aren't re-tellings or remakes, but stories in their own right.  They are deceptively simple and surprisingly deep.  Palace of Stone is no exception.  I was a little nervous.  The Princess Academy was so wonderfully perfect that I wasn't sure how she could continue the story.

But Hale did something smart.  She waited before writing a sequel, not just immediately writing her first idea but letting the story of Miri grow.  She waited for the right story and you can tell that this is not some hastily thrown together sequel, but a fully realized novel of it's own.

In this sequel we find Miri and the academy girls spending a year in Asland to help prepare Britta for her wedding.  They're surprised to discover that all is not perfect in Danland, but there's poverty and starvation everywhere.

But even more important than that, there are whispers of revolution.  Miri, while attending Queen's Castles to become a scholar, meets some of the would-be revolutionaries.  She discovers that she agrees with a lot of their ideas like equality and representation for commoners, but finds herself stuck between her princess best friend and the growing discontentment of the poor.

The Miri of Palace of Stone is more grown-up than the Miri of Princess Academy, but she's just as charming.  She studies ethics and rhetoric, then makes goat jokes with the others from Mount Eskel.  She's still the same Miri, but discovering more about herself and Asland.

This is a worthy sequel to Princess Academy.  The book is sweet, even while dealing with the threats of revolution and assassination, it maintains the fairytale like quality that we've come to expect from Shannon Hale books.

An advance reading copy was provide by the publisher through Netgalley for an honest review.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Follow Friday - If I had to start blog again

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Question: What would you do over if you were to start your blog again from scratch?
Actually I've thought about this before.  When I started blogging it just kind of happened.  I didn't have any sort of game plan until probably a year or two after I was already blogging.  In hindsight, I really should've started with an organized plan, posting schedule and all those things.  Then again, if I'd realized there was so much work to blogging I may have never started at all.

Another thing I would change is I probably would've teamed up with another blogger rather than striking it out on my own.  But back then I didn't even really understand the concept of co-bloggers and I've gotten used to doing everything (and consequently always being behind).

I know it's not much, but I really like my blog and what I've built.  There are things I would do differently and things that I'll probably add in the future, but blogging is a constant learning process and you're never actually "done".

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Glacier Day 2 (photos)

With great sadness we say goodbye to my vacation.  Or am I the only one completely heartbroken?  Yes I've been in the real world for a couple of weeks now.  But looking back and selecting pictures to share on my blog was almost like pretending I was on vacation.  These are from my last day in Glacier.  I highly recommend this park to anyone who likes nature and beautiful scenery.  It's a must visit!  Hope you haven't minded the non-book posts and maybe I've inspired you to take a trip of your own.

It was kind of creepy walking around Lake McDonald.
There was a forest fire a few years ago &
it felt a bit like a tree graveyard.

Avalanche Lake is one of the busiest hikes I've ever seen.
As you can see, it's totally worth it. Incredible place.

This is my new thing.
Doing handstands in famous places.

I have no idea who these people are but this is one of my favorite pics.
Except that lady in orange. Why'd she have to move?

Enjoying the cold water at Avalanche Creek.  

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Throne of Glass (review)

3/5 stars

I don't know if I have ever been so underwhelmed with a book that had so much promise.  Throne of Glass sounds like a book I'd love. Young female assassin pulled out of prison and given the chance to compete for her freedom.  It has promises of a strong heroine and lots of fighting! What's not to like?

Unfortunately the book seems to lose that focus.  As soon as the "Dear Reader" section (hey editors maybe you shouldn't spoil your own book) mentioned a love triangle I knew I was in trouble.

The first half of this book was quite enjoyable, almost enough to make me forget about the looming love triangle of doom.  There were training montages, fighting with other criminals and lots of weapons.  The heroine was tough, jaded and snarky, some of my favorite qualities in a main character.

But the second half got mired and lost in the love triangle.  It went from moving along at a fast-paced, to crawling at a snails pace.  More time was spend developing the love triangle than advancing the plot.

There were also several logic fails that would've made Celaena a dead-assassin.  The book said she fixed the door so that it would make loud noises whenever it was opened.  Then the two love interests kept sneaking in her room without her waking.  For an assassin, this deep level of sleeping doesn't seem like a safe quality. Never mind that they also snuck up on her when she was awake.

The book was also ridiculously repetitive in details.  At the 99% mark in my ebook, it continued to repeat the the prince's eye color was sapphire.  There comes a point in the novel where you stop using identifiers like "his sapphire eyes" because the reader already knows and doesn't need the reminder.

It saddens me how even a strong heroine, which Celaena is no doubt, can be ruined by a love triangle and all the illogical details thrown in to advance the romance.  When I think about this book my feelings are very "meh" but maybe the Twilight-crowd will like it.  As far as heroines and healthy male/female relationships, this book is much better than a lot of popular YA.  Part of me hopes the Twilight-lovers will gravitate towards it because Cealena is much preferable to Bella. I'm not sure that's much consolation, it's like the loser's bracket of a tournament.   Either way it's not a compeition I really want to read.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Follow Friday - Reads based on moods

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Question: Do your reading habits change based on your mood? Do you read a certain genre if you are feeling depressed or happy? 
Of course my reading habits change based on my mood. Everything changes based on my mood.  Whenever I feel like I'm in a rut (usually a reading-rut but sometimes a life rut) I tend to turn to the same books over and over.  Song of the Lioness Quartet has been my go to "get-out-of-a-funk" series for years and years.  When I find myself needing the perfect book, I turn to reliable authors and stories that I know won't disapoint.

My mood probably effects more what I don't read than what I do.  When I'm feeling unhappy I try not read depressing books, no matter how good they are.  So if someone died I wouldn't follow it up with The Fault In Our Stars because I would never stop crying.  If I'm stressed or really busy I tend to like fluffier books like the Hex Hall series.

When I'm happy I just read everything.  All the books!  (Except for things I know I won't like).

As long as you're in the following mood (since it is follow friday and all!) why don't you follow me on twitter as well.  And for the record I don't always tweet about the Olympics...only during the Olympics (and the trials...and...).

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Glacier National Park Day 1 (pictures!)

Sorry for all the non-book posts everyone. But my Montana vacation was pretty much AMAZING.  Seeing Glacier is something I've dreamed about for years. Sadly I saw such a small portion of the park that I NEED TO GO BACK already.  But seeing Glacier National Park while there are still glaciers was so cool.  I love reading about adventures but I also love having adventures of my own.
"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." - St. Augustine.

Our campsite at Fishcreek Campground in Glacier.
Actually it's a really nice cozy campground.

We were amazed watching the clouds roll over the mountains.
The Going to the Sun Road actually went through that cloud.

On the side of the Going to the Sun Road. That's SNOW!
There was a sign that warned that it was dangerous & unstable.
I wanted to play in it anyways but behaved.

Going to the Sun Mountain. I wanted to keep this one.

Saint Mary's lake is the coolest blue-green color.
That's not a camera trick. Me & my friends hiking.

St. Mary's Waterfall. The 6+ mile trail we hiked had 3 waterfalls.

Sun Point. Described by the ranger as,
 "The most beautiful piece of real-estate" in the whole park.