Sunday, October 30, 2011

Persy -- The Vanishing Sculptor by Donita K. Paul

Welcome to Chiril, a fantasy land of dragons, parrots, seven low races, and seven high races. It's surprisingly complicated. And then the wizard and the librarian show up and everyone's off on a quest to recover missing statues. Don't worry if you're having a hard time following, you're not the only one.

Tipper Schope has gotten used to responsibility ever since her father, the famous artist and sculptor Verrin Schope, disappeared about ten years ago. Her mother, Lady Peg (who is technically a princess, but was banished by her parents), has just about lost her mind, so maintaining the estate is left to Tipper. Luckily, she has her father's dear friend Sir Beccaroon, a grand parrot of the Indigo Forest, to help. But that doesn't make anything easy, and Tipper has to start selling her father's old pieces of artwork.

Imagine her dismay when her father miraculously returns (sort of) with Wizard Fenworth and his librarian Librettowit all the way from Amara, a distant country. When she confesses to selling Verrin Schope's statues, she discovers things are worse than she thought. Apparently, there was this block, a kind of cornerstone of the world, that fell through a portal into Verrin Schope's studio. Naturally, he carved it into three statues. But when the statues were separated, the world began to unwind, and now Verrin Schope, Fenworth, Librettowit, Sir Beccaroon, and Tipper, along with the help of a pretentious artist named Bealomondore, must recover the statues before the world, and Verrin Schope, disintegrate!

But before they do that, Fenworth and Verrin Schope decide they need a better means of travel than a rickety old carriage (for one thing, it's not fast enough, and for another, it's uncomfortable), so they go hunting for the major dragons. But people don't ride dragons in Chiril, most people never even see the big ones (the minor dragons are more like pets or servants). But befriending the dragons may be harder than they think, especially since they're in the care of a mysterious Dragonkeeper...

The biggest problem with this book is that Donita K. Paul doesn't find it necessary to explain her world at all. You're reading along and the book casually mentions the dragons and a parrot and emerlindians and tumanhofers and never tells you what's going on. Her writing style also isn't the clearest, which only adds to the confusion.

And the worst of it is, it's actually a very simple plot with rather simple, 2D characters. The writing is just so elaborate that you don't always notice. You're too busy figuring out what a tumanhofer is to care about said tumanhofer.

If you can figure it all out, then it's actually a pretty good fantasy quest novel. It's more centered on the questing and adventuring than the characters, so their flat personalities can be excused. Wizard Fenworth is easily the best character, with lizards and bugs and leaves always falling out of his beard and robes (he's a bog wizard, after all).

Another thing that rather bothered me is Wulder. This is Christian fantasy, and in this world, Wulder is the equivalent of God. Except in Chiril, no one knows about Wulder. But Fenworth and Librettowit come from Amara, where he's well known. So amidst the questing, there's lots of talk about Wulder and how Wulder will help them and it will all turn out according to Wulder's plan, whatever it may be. Which is all fine, but the way they presented Wulder made me dislike him. A Christian book that makes me dislike the God figure isn't a good thing. Donita K. Paul does get better at this, though.

If you're wondering why the picture has "Dragons of Chiril" as its title, its simply one of those stupid deals when a book is published under two names (why why why do they do that?). I believe it was first published as The Vanishing Sculptor, and that's what my copy's called, but was later rereleased as Dragons of Chiril, probably to match the other titles in the Valley of Dragons series. And I don't even know why it's called that, because it's not really about the dragons.

Speaking of the series (which is a prequel series to Miss Paul's DragonKeeper Chronicles), I'm currently reading the second book, Dragons of the Valley, and so far I'm enjoying it much more than the first book.

A few things you should know before starting The Vanishing Sculptor: there's an appendix in the back. There are seven high races and seven low races in the fantasy world, emerlindians and tumanhofers are both of the seven high races. Minor dragons, while not all over the place, are fairly common to the wealthy (though no one except the Schopes seem to have any). There are also grand parrots in the fantasy world (though we never see one besides Sir Beccaroon).


You might like this if you like: Christian fantasy; adventure/quest fantasy; the Dragons In Our Midst series by Bryan Davis; fantasy akin to The Ratastrophe Catastrophe by David Lee Stone; or if you have suspicions that the world is unraveling but you don't know why.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wednesday Scrolls - Literary Heroines Who Don't Suck, Fantasy Arena

So we've completed the four lists of Literary Heroines Who Don't Suck, but the show's not over. I know, you're probably sick of these lists already, and you've got to be wondering if I have anything better to do, and I really do...but this is much more fun.

Here's how the Character Arena (as I'm dubbing it for future battles) will work: to make things as fair as possible, we'll first have the chars in one genre/list battle each other. For instance, the top six Fantasy heroines will be set one-on-one until there are only three left. There will then be another battle for Urban Fantasy, then Classic/Historical, etc. etc., until there are only three heroines remaining in each category. They will then battle each other. All opponents will be chosen at random. The champion will earn her novel a reread, and the second and third place winners may as well. Fourth place will recieve a brief moment of honor. Don't worry if you don't understand, it should make sense as we continue (hopefully).

Contestants will recieve points in 5 categories: Personality (because that's obviously imporant); Fighting Talent (because it IS a battle); Romance (because they ARE girls and there are girls in literature, there's romance); Friends (you are judged by the company you keep); and one last category specific to the genre.

This week is the Fantasy Heroine Arena. To refresh yourself on the heroines, check out their post. Only the top six will be battling in the Arena.

And the first couple is... Sophie Hatter (Howl's Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones) vs. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling)!

Category One. Personality.

Sophie's got personality down. She's wise beyond her years (ha) but still loves to have fun, and she has a good heart.

Hermione's got a strong personality, a bit bossy and a show off, but she grows out of it. She develops firm beliefs and is someone you don't want to piss off, and manages to keep her femininity throughout it all.

Winner: Hermione Granger. Mon Dieu, the first round and it's already intense. But Hermione's still arguing long after Sophie's scowled and dozed off.

Category Two. Fight!

Sophie may be trapped in the body of an old woman, but she's still got fight. Especially when it comes to dust and tantrum-throwing men.

Not only does Hermione have a mean right hand, she can just as easily curse you with her wand, though she's not the best at dueling.

Winner: Hermione Granger. After a long, drawn out duel, Hermione finally hits Sophie with a stunning spell, but not without recieving quite a few cuts and bruises.

Category Three. "Kiss me, you fool!"

Sophie and the wizard Howl...she turned into an old woman, he with no soul...*SQUEE*

Hermione and Ron, friends forever.

Winner: SOPHIE!! Her love story definitely fascinates more listener's than Hermione's.

Category Four. Friends.

Sophie has the aforementioned crazy wizard, the fire demon, the tiny apprentice wizard, an adorable dog, and the hopping/animated scarecrow.

Hermione is best friends with the notorious Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley, which is hard to beat.

Winner: Sophie. Howl, Michael, Calcifer, and The Scarecrow beat Harry and Ron, even if they hadn't had numbers on their side.

Category Five. Fantasy Elements.

Sophie is enchanted into the form of an old woman.

Hermione is the best witch of her year.

Winner: Hermione. She actually has magical powers, whereas Sophie is just a victim. But their knowledge of magic is probably equal.

End Score! Sophie: 2 Hermione: 3 Congratulations, Hermione! You move on to the next round! And don't worry, Sophie, you are still loved.

And the second couple is... Flora Segunda (Flora Segunda, Ysabeau S. Wilce) vs. Courtney Crumrin (Courtney Crumrin series, Ted Naifeh)!

Category One. Personality.

Courtney is antisocial, sarcastic, and very clever. And she's about twelve. "Creepy Crumrin".

Flora is a bit absent minded, a procrastinator, but very adventurous and resourceful.

Winner: Courtney. She intimidates Flora into silence with ease.

Category Two. Fight!

Courtney, though young, already has impressive magical power as a witch, but in a physical fight she's a bit wimpy.

Flora's hardly a walking tank either (though she is a bit big from eating too much), but she's got so much spirit she could probably beat the crap out of you.

Winner: Flora. Get real, she's at least twice as big as Courtney.

Category Three. "Kiss Me, You Fool!"

Courtney almost falls in love with a cursed vampire, but tragedy strikes. It's a tragic tale Courtney glosses over.

Flora has a bit of an affair with the butler, but then there's her budding relationship with her best friend. Neither ever really go anywhere.

Winner: Courtney by default. Sorry, Flora.

Category Four. Friends.

Courtney has no friends, unless you count her uncle and the recurring goblin fellow.

Flora, on the other hand, has her dogs and Udo, plus the lost family butler Valefore who, while maybe not the best of friends, is still interesting.

Winner: Flora. Courtney needs to learn the value of friendship.

Category Five. Fantasy Elements.

As said before, Courtney is a very powerful witch, despite being young and untrained.

Flora may have some magickal talent, but it's more useful for getting into trouble.

Winner: Courtney wins the last round in less than five seconds.

End Score! Courtney: 3 Flora: 2 Congratulations, Courtney! You move on to the next round! Don't cry, Flora, you're still in one of my absolute favorite books.

And the last couple of the Fantasy round is... Fire (Fire, Kristin Cashore) vs. "Ben" Benevolence (Princess Ben, Catherine Gilbert Murdock)!

Category One. Personality.

Fire is meek and a little whiny, but matures with age. Bad experiences have made her guilty and a bit shy.

In the beginning, Ben is a complete brat and pig. But by the end of her adventures, she's learned so much that she's now a formidable young woman.
Winner: Ben. Her personality is much stronger than Fire's.

Category Two. Fight!

Fire is a superb shot. She's not too bad with her fists either.

Ben, though tough, isn't exactly a fighter when it comes to the physical aspect, but she does her best.

Winner: Fire. Neither of them do well, but they're almost equally matched and Fire ends up gaining the upper hand fairly quickly.

Category Three. "Kiss Me, You Fool!"

Fire and Brigan start out in the love-hate stage. He hates her, she fears him. Love at first sight! But their feelings cultivate in a touching way, and it's hard not to fall in love with them.

Oddly enough, Ben and Florian start out love-hate too. In fact, they both hate each other. But along the way (when Ben's pulling the ole 'dress-as-a-boy' trick), they start to get along.

Winner: Fire. Her's and Brigan's relationship is easier to understand and love as a whole.

Category Four. Friends.

Fire's best friend and inital lover, Archer, is very, very, very annoying. But he's loyal.

Ben doesn't really have any friends, unless you count her spell book. But that's hardly her fault. She got locked in tower, for goodness sake.
Winner: Unfortunately, Fire. Is an annoying friend better than no friend at all?

Category Five. Fantasy Elements.

Fire is the last human monster, which gives her the power to read minds. Plus she's superhumanly beautiful. Kind of hard to beat.
Ben teaches herself magic while locked in a tower armed only with an old broom and a spellbook. She masters magic and the fine art of broom-riding.

Winner: Draw. Fire's telepathy gives her an advantage, but Ben's just too resourceful to fall behind. After a long, drawn out battle, they shake hands in mutual respect and fatigue.

End Score! Fire: 3 Ben: 1 Draws: 1 Congratulations, Fire! You move on to the next round! No worries, Ben, you're still the queen and you can still ride a broom.

So our Fantasy Finalists are: Hermione Granger, Courtney Crumrin, and Lady Fire! Tune in next Wednesday for the Urban Fantasy Character Arena!


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Arty -- Thirteenth Night by Alan Gordon

You've read Twelfth Night, right? You know, Shakespeare and all? If you haven't, there are three things you should do. Firstly, you should repeatedly hit yourself in the face with a two-by-four. Secondly, turn off your computer. Thirdly, go read Twelfth Night. Right now. Because neither the book nor the review will make sense if you haven't read it.

Okay, read it now? Good.

The events of Shakespeare's tale are all true. There really was a Duke of Orsino who married an orphaned twin named Viola. Olivia really married Sebastian. And, most importantly, there really was a jester named Feste and a steward named Malvolio.

But their actions were all a bit more sinister than Shakespeare made it out to be.

Fastforward fifteen years afterward, and Feste, now known as Theophilus, is an aging clown with a drinking problem, seemingly useless in the Fools' Guild - a training center for fools, clowns... and secret agents. The Fools' Guild sends its jester-agents into highly touchy situations of international importance to sue for peace or war, convince nobles to courses of actions... and sometimes assassinate those nobles. But Theophilus, as he's fond of pointing out, is no longer a young man, and there's not much for him to do.

Then word comes that the Duke of Orsino is dead. Worried that Malvolio, the more-dangerous-than-he-appeared steward, who declared revenge on the Duke's house (and Feste) fifteen years ago, has begun to execute that revenge, Theophilus travels to Orsino to investigate.

Thus begins a continuation of Twelfth Night, returning to the lives of Viola and Sebastian, Olivia and Fabian, and, of course, Sir Toby Belch and Andrew Aguecheek, fifteen years after we first met them.

I really wanted to like this book. And - guess what? - I did! It's Shakespeare. It's mystery. And, come on, it's jesters. Who doesn't like jesters? (If you answered 'I don't,' go hit yourself with that two-by-four again. I mean it.)

Now, this was not a perfect book. A few aspects of the mystery were confusing, and there were times when there wasn't enough foreshadowing for the plot twists to make as much sense as they could have. The description was bare, too. I never quite got a feel for what even Theophilus looked like, except that he's always describing himself as 'old.' (I guesstimate he's around forty.) Most of the other characters don't have much to them, except for brief adjectives like 'fat,' 'beautiful,' or 'young.' I'm choosing to believe that this was to retain a shred of a playlike aspect.

But if you want to know anything about my reading habits, you should know that I need good characters more than a good plot - and the characters are where the awesomeness of this book lies. Theophilus is a great MC. He's witty and sarcastic (as all jesters should be), he's depressed but not mopey, and flawed but not a horrible person. He's very human. Viola (probably my favorite female Shakespeare character besides Beatrice) is a great character, as well as Andrew Aguecheek, Maria, Viola's and Orsino's son (who is ADORABLE!), and Bobo, the fool who's sent to help Theophilus unravel the mystery. Even the minor characters are funny and engaging, and you're really sad when any char dies (which happens a couple times).

The mystery, while not on level with the characterization, is interesting, and, while political, wasn't too much so for me to grasp. And I really hate political mysteries. I called the main villain about a third of the way through, though I didn't really have any evidence for it (it's always the one you least suspect, after all). However, there was a minor 'villain' who I really did not expect and nearly shouted when they revealed it - even though it made sense.

So if you like Shakespeare or period fiction or mystery or just a really well-written book, pick up Thirteenth Night. Oh, and it's a series! Book number one in the Fools' Guild Mysteries, there are seven sequels, as of 2010. Seven! Here's hoping they're all as interesting as the first one.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wednesday Scrolls - Literary Heroines Who Don't Suck, Other Edition

We've gone over the big ones. Fantasy. Urban Fantasy. Classic & Historical. But what about scifi? What about chick lit? What about romances? What about those books you just can't find a genre for? What about THEM!!

Don't worry, I'm not ignoring them. All of the above fall into the lovely, broad genre of Other. As much as I love scifi, there just aren't a ton of heroines in science fiction literature. I don't read a lot of chick lit, and there are very few awesome heroines in chick lit anyway. And, well, the genre-less ones obviously go in Other. Here's a list of the awesomest ten heroines from the above-mentioned genres.

#10. Deryn Sharp from the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld. Steampunk. Okay, so the whole girl-dressed-as-a-boy has been done millions upon millions of times, and, honestly, lots of people are sick of it. However, when it's done well, I actually love it. This time, Scott Westerfeld pulls it off. Deryn Sharp pretends to be a boy to get into the British Air Force, where she proves to be a brilliant air(wo)man. She's kind of like Bloody Jack only steampunk, and not quite as witty. And the book itself (Leviathan)? Surprisingly awesome.

#9. Dulcie from Going Bovine by Libba Bray. Scifi/Fantasy. She's a punk angel, which sounds like a boring cliché but actually isn't, and she's a little sad but a little cheerful at the same time. Pretty cool, in other words. And the book itself? OMGSOAWESOME!

#8. Sammy Keyes from the Sammy Keyes series by Wendelin Van Draanen. Mystery. The young-girl-detective thing's been done many times as well, but never has it been so enjoyable. Sammy is awesome for all ages, not just ten-year-olds. She's smart and resourceful, everything a good detective should be. She just has a bit of bad luck from time to time. And the book itself (Sammy Keyes And The Hotel Thief)? Awesome.

#7. D.J. Schwenk from Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. Chick Lit. She's funny, she's likeable, she's in an unfortunate situation, and she has character growth. A good main character is the only thing that will make it possible for me to actually like a coming-of-age/chick-lit/whatever book, and D.J. is very cool. And the book itself? Pretty awesome.

#6. Shahara Dagan from Born of Fire by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Scifi/Romance. Shahara is aweome because she's good at her job, but not much else. She often even seems like a complete idiot until you're reminded that she's never been a criminal before, only a policeman. Plus she's got a miserable past, and you know how I love those. And the book itself? Oh like you need me saying it again.

#5. Haruhi Fujioka from Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori. Manga. Everybody loves manga! Okay, not everyone, but everyone should. I mean, pictures! But anyway. Surrounded by rich airheads, Haruhi is sarcastic and surprisingly laid back, just kind of 'whatever-but-please-don't-touch-my-stuff'. Let's face it, I just love everyone from OHSHC (Haruhi's just the only girl). And the manga? OMGSOAWESOME!

#4. Audrey Cuttler from Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway. Chick Lit. What were the qualities of a good chick lit heroine? Funny, likeable, unfortunate situation, and character growth? Well, Audrey's got all of those PLUS music! And the book itself? Absolutely hilarious.

#3. Gratuity "Tip" Tucci from The True Meaning Of Smekday by Adam Rex. Scifi. First of all, Tip is pretty much traveling across the world with an alien named J.Lo in a worled pretty much controled by aliens. Yes, that beeping noise is the awesome-o-meter warning you that it is about to explode. Tip not only navigates the cold cruel world by herself (she's like, twelve, by the way), but even saves the cold cruel world. And the book itself? OMGSOAWESOME!!

#2. Frankie Landau-Banks from The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. Chick lit? When Frankie realizes how her new boyfriend looks down on her and doesn't expect or want her to be smarter than him, she decides to prove him wrong. She turns out to be a freakin' genius. And just...well...awesome. And the book itself? Oh go read it for goodness sake!
#1. Jasmine Callihan from Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe. Forensics. Cats. Fashion. Hilarity. Ooh yes. Jasmine has got to be the. funniest. main character. ever. This is one of the few books that makes me laugh out loud, and yet the mystery is still intriquing and fun to figure out on your own. Jasmine is just epic. And the book itself? Absolutely HILARIOUS.

So there you are.

This concludes the Literary Heroines Who Don't Suck Saga. Should they battle it out to see who is the queen of heroines? I think they should. TO THE ARENA!!!

...Next week.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Persy -- The Last Thing I Remember by Andrew Klavan

You ever wake up and find yourself strapped to a chair, covered in burns and cuts and bruises? You are, that is, not the chair. The chair's fine. Well, probably. Who knows what these dastardly villains have done to the poor thing.

Who are these dastardly villains, you suddenly ask yourself. You can't remember. You have no idea where you are. You frantically think to yourself, what's The Last Thing I Remember?

Well, The Last Thing I Remember is actually a book by Andrew Klavan, about a boy who finds himself in the exact same position. The last thing Charlie West can remember is a normal day--Yesterday? Sure, it was filled with some excitement (epic karate demonstration, finally getting Beth's phone number, arguing with Alex), but in the end, it was a normal day. Nothing to explain why he's just woken up from a night of torture.

Charlie barely escapes with his life, but now he must embark on a quest to figure out what's going on. But just as he seems to get close to safety...he finds he will never again be safe.

This book starts out strong. There's a smooth blend of flashbacks and scenes from the present, both of which keeps the reader (you!) interested. But soon the novelty of an amnesia-suffering MC wears off, and you start noticing some things.

First of all, Andrew Klavan's writing isn't exactly epic. His sentence structure is very repetitive (usually beginning with 'I'), and he tends to use short sentences for dramatic effect. He often does this. He starts the sentences with the same word. He thinks this will be cool. He is wrong.

Then, before you know it, you've reached the end of the novel, and you're left with this feeling of, "Whaaaaaa?" It's one of the most abrupt endings ever. The only warning you get is when you start noticing you're running out of pages. Klavan never quite finishes setting the story up, so the whole book feels more like a really, really long prologue.

So points to Klavan for a good idea and a good MC, but he needs to work on his actual writing style. There are three more books in the Homelanders series, and I'm at least going to read the second one in search of some kind of climax.


You might like this if you like: The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Richard Yancey, or if you like like YA thriller/suspense or action/adventure novels, or if you're worried about one day waking up with amnesia.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wednesday Scrolls - Literary Heroines Who Don't Suck, Classic & Historical Fiction Edition

Time to continue the ongoing Literary Heroines Who Don't Suck Saga! We've already covered fantasy and urban fantasy, and today we'll be taking a look at both classic and historical fiction. I combined the two genres because there just weren't enough to warrant a list for each. Even combined, there's only 8, not even a full 10. I don't read a lot of historical fiction, and there aren't really a lot of heroines in classic novels. What's really amazing though, is that they're all almsot equal in their awesomeness. Here's a list of the 8 I've encounted in my travels:

#8. Wilhelmina "Mina" Harker from Dracula by Bram Stoker. Classic Horror. Listen, y'all (and I don't use that term lightly), Dracula is not boring, it is not tedious, and it is not filled with obscene pages of violence and dirt. It's a work of genius. and Mina Harker is actually very cool. She's certainly not the best character in the book, but that hardly makes her boring. She's comfortable in her situation as a woman, doesn't run off to kill the vampires behind Van Helsing's back, and yet is still brave. She is dignified. And the book itself? ^^ Work of genius.

#7. Kit Tyler from The Witch Of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. Classic Fiction. "Despite winning the Newberry Award..." Yeah, I did just quote myself. But let's face it, Newberry Award winners are usually dull and boring, but "Blackbird Pond" is an exception to the rule. Kit is pretty awesome, seen as a foreign witch by her new neighbors and relatives. But she ends up making a school (by accident) for the young children, teaching them to read and write. Go Kit! And the book itself? Excellent.

#6. Rosalind Hawkins from The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey. Historical Fiction/Fantasy. As I've said before, best Beauty and the Beast retelling. Ever. Rosalind, like Mina, is perfectly content being a woman and wearing corsets and skirts, and doesn't even think about it. Instead, she just curls up in her chair, forgetting all about her skirts, to read her books in comfort. She's and educated woman, irritated that men don't always accept her knowledge, but she doesn't jump up on a soapbox and start shouting at everyone. Plus, she's just kind of cute. And the book itself? ^^Best B&B retelling. Ever.

#5. Emily Trefusis from Murder At Hazelmoor (AKA The Sittaford Mystery) by Agatha Christie. Classic Mystery. Christie doesn't always do it for me, but Emily is very cool. If you want something done, do it yourself. That's what she decides when her fiancé (a silly little man, but for some reason she can't figure out, she loves him anyway) is charged with murder. So she heads down to solve the mystery herself, weedling her way into the heart of the little village. She's a brilliantly created heroine. And the book itself? Ending a bit disappointing, but overall quite good.

#4. Cat Royal from the Cat Royal series by Julia Golding. Historical Fiction. Cat's actually a very average young adult historical heroine: spunky, adventurous, and witty. She's good at getting into tight situations, and she's good at getting out of them. Perhaps it's Golding's writing that distinguishes Cat from all the others. And the book itself (The Diamond of Drury Lane)? So good.
#3. Marguerite St. Just from The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. Classic Adventure/Superhero. *squees* Best book EVER. While Marguerite isn't the best part of it, she plays her part(s) superbly. You want a double agent? Check her out. And the book itself? OMGZ SO AWESOME.

#2. Mary "Jacky" Faber from the Bloody Jack/Jacky Faber series by L.A. Meyer. Historical Adventure. Girl dresses as boy to get into some sort of all-boy situation. Cliché. But when it's actually done well, it's amazing. Jacky doesn't start dressing as a boy because she particularly wants to, it just kind of happens and she's got nowhere else to go but the sea, and they don't take girls anyway. Jacky is full of adventure and absolute hilarity. And the book itself (Bloody Jack)? Go read ALL THE BOOKS IN THE SERIES!

#1. Mara from Mara, Daughter Of The Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Classic/Historical Espionage. Okay, remember how I said Marguerite St. Just is the best example of a double agent? Mara would actually give her a serious run for her money. I would love to see these two in battle. Mara is roped into double agent-dom, but she does it so well and she's so amazing. And the book itself? Dude, READ IT ALREADY.

And there you have it. This weekend I'll be doing a review, and the following Wednesday we'll have the last installment of the Literary Heroines Who Don't Suck Saga! Unless we have an ultimate showdown, of course...


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Arty -- The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans

Michael Vey is your typical fifteen-year-old. He's got his loving mom, since his dad died when he was little. He's got his best friend, Ostin Liss, who is overweight, genius-smart, and girl-crazy. He's got a crush on Taylor, the beautiful popular-but-nice-to-everyone-(except-apparently-Ostin) cheerleader. He's getting tormented by the school delinquents/bullies, Jack and Wade. And he has power over electricity.

Yeah, just a normal fifteen-year-old.

But (dun-dun-dun) someone wants Michael's powers for himself - someone from Michael's past, and someone possibly connected to his dad. And when Michael shows his powers less than discreetly, he leads that someone right to him.

This book had cliché written all over it, but I still picked it up at the library, hoping it would work the cliché factor to its advantage. And the author did get a few things right.

The beginning was good. For one thing, the 'powers' that Michael and various other teens have are all based in electricity, instead of having every kind of power on earth at their fingertips. It was a bit refreshing and interesting to see how many ways they could use electricity (though, not being a scientist, I don't know how correct those uses are). I also enjoyed the interactions between Michael and his mother, Sharon.

But the characters weren't strong enough to bear up under all the clichés. Michael is one of those vaguely funny, vaguely courageous, vaguely interesting male MCs that seem to be gaining popularity, with only his Tourette's Syndrome as a defining personality factor. That was interesting, and well-written, but hardly sufficient to distinguish an MC. Ostin was maybe my favorite character, but he was so very much the stock comic relief-slash-information dispenser, with so little background or development, that it was hard to cheer for him.

Don't get me started on Taylor. When you give the MC an oh-so-beautiful cheerleader as the supposedly spunky, intelligent, kind love interest, you're going to have to work hard to make me like her. But when you make her controlling, rude, and manipulative in the best of times and a complete wimp in the worst of times, who still manages to get everyone to worship at her feet... well, don't expect me to be impressed.

The requisite bad guy scientist, Dr. Hatch, was utterly uninteresting, a caricature of a hundred previous 'mad scientists.' Near the end, his face even 'twisted in hatred' toward Michael. Yes, very intimidating, I'm sure. And his big plan? Take over the world with the electric-kids' powers (powers that, yes, evolved from some of his company's experiments).

I quiver with fear.

Add all that to a confusing yet cliché ending (let's rescue all the prisoners! oh wait, we have to take over the central command station with all the cameras, microphones and controls), Cell 25 was disappointing, to say the least. I know it's being hyped in classrooms and such as a great, clean book, but... well, just because a book is clean doesn't mean it's great, or that it's a must-read. I know a lot of clean books that have way better characters, way better plots, and way better endings than this. It's not that hard.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Wednesday Scrolls - Best and Worst of September, 2011

Persy's September Literature

We're taking a break from the Literary Heroines Who Don't Suck saga to have a little review of September of 2011. Arty and I will be bringing the best -- and worst -- books of the month, and some impressive numbers of pages and books.

In September of 2011, I read 15 books (which is including 4 manga and 1 graphic novel) and 4,053 pages. Not my best, but certainly not my worst.

Best September Book: I'm honestly going to have to go with Courtney Crumrin's Monstrous Holiday, story and art by Ted Naifeh. This is the fourth installment in the Courtney Crumrin saga, and my favorite Crumrin so far.

Honorable Mention(s): Holes, Louis Sachar; Born of Fire, Sherrilyn Kenyon. [We're only supposed to have one honorable mention, so shhh! Don't tell Arty I cheated]

Worst September Book: The Forensic Science of CSI, Katherine Ramsland. This woman can't write, I'm sorry. In this nonfiction book about the real science of real crime scene investigators, Dr. Ramsland fails to mention the many, many differences between the show and real life. I didn't even finish this book.

Dishonorable Mention: Heart Of Stone, C.E. Murphy. Didn't finish this one either.


Arty here. In September 2011, I read 23 books, including three manga, and... well, I don't keep up with page number. So I dunno that.

Best September Book: September was a bit of a blah month, so my books had to be supported by some seriously good Shakespeare. Much Ado About Nothing was definitely the best thing about September, and one of my favorite Shakespeares so far. As I mentioned on Facebook, Romeo and Juliet only wish they were as cool as Beatrice and Benedick.

Honorable Mention(s): I squeezed in two How To Train Your Dragon books, the fifth and sixth: How To Twist A Dragon's Tale and A Hero's Guide to Deadly Dragons. Hiccup and Toothless are always awesome.

Worst September Book: Wings, by Aprilynne Pike. One of the worst books I have ever read. Period. Read the review.

Dishonorable Mentions(s): I Am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore. Sorry, couldn't agree with Persy's good review. And Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe. ...And Reckless by Cornelia Funke. [Like I said, September was a blah month. Don't tell Persy I did three!]


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Persy -- Born Of Fire by Sherrilyn Kenyon

If you're familiar with my reading preferences, you know about my six absolute favorite authors. I will buy and read anything by these six authors and so far, I have failed to really dislike a single book by any of them. Sure, a few haven't been up to the standards, but they were still good. One of these authors is Sherrilyn Kenyon.

Okay, so maybe she shouldn't be lopped in with my six favorite authors (who I may unveil in the future for those of you who don't know) since I've only read three of her many, many books, but I love those three books so much that I'm willing to take a chance, and say that Miss Kenyon is a favorite.

Last year I reviewed Born Of Night, the first book in Miss Kenyon's League series. Born of Fire is the second book, and is about one of the more minor characters in 'Night', C.I. Syn, a bloodthirsty, alcoholic filch (hacker). Well, he's not that bloodthirsty. Or at least, not as bloodthirsty as they all say. He'd rather drink some Tondarion A-Grade Hellfire (you know I'm obsessed when I know the names of all the alcoholic drinks in a book) than anyone's blood. I mean, ew.

Anyway, back to the book.

Shahara Dagan is a Seax, sort of like a cross between a bounty hunter and police officer. Seaxes are bound to uphold the law and keep their honor, and they do this by signing contracts for specific criminals. Shahara is the best of the best, the only one to pass the Seax test in the last generation. But despite being an amazing Seax, she comes from a poorer than dirt family, with a younger sister with a gambling problem. When Tessa gets into trouble again, Shahara must come up with some money fast, not only to pay of her sister's debts, but to pay the hospital. And the only contract that'll pay enough is Syn's, so Shahara goes after one of the scariest criminals known to the Ichidian universe.

But what she doesn't know is that Syn is Caillen Dagan's best friend. Shahara's brother's best friend. They didn't tell Shahara because they knew she'd throw a hissy fit because hey, she is a police officer.

It gets even more interesting when it's revealed that many years ago, Syn discovered evidence of a dangerous secret, and now "they" have found out where he is. Before she can properly sort everything out, Shahara finds herself signed up to trick Syn into leading her to the evidence, betraying him in the end. But as she gets to know C.I. Syn, she discovers that he may not be the villainous criminal she's always heard about...

Unless of course, he steals her heart!

Sorry, couldn't resist. *suitably ashamed*

I recently read this book for the second time, and to my surprise, it was almost just as good as the first time through. When I reread "Night", I found lots of things that bothered me a little, but it looks like Miss Kenyon's writing gets better and better. True, it's a bit heavy on the love-at-first-sight-oh-my-stars-she's-the-most-beautiful-woman-I've-ever-seen-why-am-I-so-attracted-to-her thing, but that's okay. Syn and Shahara are still some of my favorite characters, and Shahara is stupid in all the right ways. As in, she doesn't really know what she's doing half the time because she hasn't done it before, but she picks up fast enough. The only thing that bothers me about her is that she seems to have some deep-rooted fear of everything. Heights, tight spaces, men. I mean, seriously, girl, get a grip. One phobia is enough, two is pushing it.

My favorite part of Sherrilyn Kenyon's writing is how unafraid she is to seriously beat up her characters. Almost all of them have some of the worst pasts you can imagine, which makes the Ichidian Universe a seriously miserable place. You start wondering how it could get any worse, and booyah, you find out. Just once, I'd like to meet a Sherrilyn Kenyon character who had a happy childhood. Thinking,, can't think of one.

Another thing I like about Sherrilyn Kenyon is her website. Best author website. Ever. It gives you the reading order for all her books (very nice), character bios (nice), and book playlists! I LOVE playlists! And Miss Kenyon obviously has very nice taste in music (except that Bauhaus song. That was just painful).

Okay, so maybe this isn't much of a review, it's more of me gushing about Sherrilyn Kenyon, but I'll just sum it up real quick in a cheatsheat: If you like romances but aren't afraid of gore, horror, and various other R-rated scenes, this is the book for you! And if you like lots of action and science fiction atmosphere and can take lots of romance, this is still the book for you! But if you don't like any of the above-mentioned things, don't even touch it.