Saturday, December 31, 2011

Arty -- Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks

Superheroes. I'm not much into them, unless you count Megamind (and since that's a movie, you can't really count it on a book review blog). But supervillains? Yeah, totally.

I've gotten through a few villain books (H.I.V.E., Council of Evil) but didn't think too much of them, even if they were entertaining. Then I got Evil Genius, and it sat on my shelf for a long, long time. It shouldn't have. It sits head and shoulders above the others.

Cadel Piggott is a systematic genius. Well, actually Cadel Darkkon is a systematic genius. When he was just a little guy, Cadel found out that he is the son of famed bad guy, Phineas Darkkon, now in jail for crimes of many sorts.

Cadel learns this from his therapist, Thaddeus Roth - who has also been grooming Cadel's genius at systems to cause mild but noticeable havoc throughout their hometown. Now, at the tender age of fourteen, Thaddeus suggests sending Cadel off to Axis Institute, a sort of specialist college for 'unique cases.' Cadel agrees to go and finds out that 'unique cases' may as well be read as 'psychopaths,' and that 'specialist college' means that the institute has classes like embezzlement, disguise, and (my favorite) Pure Evil.

Cadel at first loves his studies. But when he meets a brilliant, engaging young woman named Kay-Lee over the Internet, he starts to wonder whether he wants to be an evil genius at all...

Evil Genius is a thick book. At 500 pages, there's a lot of plot to cover. And yes, it drags a bit towards the front, what with the build-up of Cadel's motivations and story. But once it gets started... it's really tough to put it down. I've met few books that I really dislike to put down, and this is one of them.

It's not an action book. It's definitely a 'thought' sort of book. But that doesn't keep it from being so awesome. Cadel is a great main character - propensities toward both 'evil genius' and 'good genius,' with neither exaggerations or excuses for either. I'm firmly of the belief that 98% of all books can be amazing if they have a great main char, and this book did.

The real villains, too, were good. I really had no idea who the main villain was, though I had my suspicions and I really should have known all along. The supporting cast wasn't as great - they were mostly there to further the plot and nothing else - but they were hardly stock characters, and all were interesting.

What I liked best, though, was the sheer number of surprises. I've rarely been as surprised at the plot twists in one book as with Evil Genius. Foreshadowing could have been stronger, but I'm really not sure how one could foreshadow most of what went on without giving it away. So it's not a big deal.

I'm really not sure that any of that review made sense, but if it didn't, then here's the bottom line: Great characters. Great plot. Great ideas. Great twists. Great book. Read it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Persy -- The Iron King by Julie Kagawa -- Proper Review

Since my earlier review was hardly sensible and fair, I've decided to give it another go and see if I can actually say something about the book itself. Or at least, something about the 86 pages I read.

The first few paragraphs or so weren't so bad. But the fifth time Meghan said something along the lines of "Gosh, why can't my mom get a decent insert-random-piece-of-crap-here", I began to get homocidal urges.

Meghan is such a brat. Sure, you can be miserable, after all, your father disappeared ten years ago, your mom moved you out to some tiny little town in Kentucky (or somewhere), and you now have a stepfather and stepbrother, but that doesn't mean we're going to let you complain about your jeans, having no cell phone, having no decent computer, not having your learner's permit yet, thinking that your mom forgot your birthday (which she didn't, she was just planning a surprise), or the fact that the hottest guy in school doesn't know you exist. These are all ridiculously minor problems.

For one thing, first you complain about how your mom can't find the money to buy you a decent pair of jeans. Then you're complaining about how your mom is so much prettier than you, and how you're more of the cargo-pants-and-tee kind of girl. So you do like cargo pants?

And chillax girl, your only fifteen. Oh yeah, you turned sixteen on your birthday. So you're sixteen. Whatever, chillax. You don't have any friends anyway, what do you need a cell phone for? And you seem to think that having your learner's permit will permit you (permit, heheheh) to go wherever you want, but there are several problems with this. One, you don't have a car. Two, you'd have to buy gas to put in the car.

And then you get ecstatic about tutoring Mr-Hot-Football-Player? Seriously? S-H-A-L-L-O-W. And THEN, after some mischievous pixie or whatever plays a joke on Mr-Hot-Football-Player, and Mr.-Hot-Football-Player blames you, you still SERIOUSLY believe that Mr.-Hot-Football-Player is asking you out because he likes you? You're such an idiot, Meghan. You deserved the payback Mr.-Hot-Football-Player threw in your face.

I understand that these are very minor plot points, more to just rouse up sympathy for the main character (not working) than being actual problems in the book. But they are still super duper annoying.
So after we get through all that "setting-the-scene" crap, Meghan finally discovers faeries. First off, her six-year-old stepbrother Ethan (who is awesome) gets swapped with a faerie changeling who tries to eat Meghan's leg, and then she discovers that her best friend Robbie is, in fact, Robin Goodfellow, AKA Puck. So she spends multiple pages denying everything and moaning and being annoying.

When she finally decides to go with the faerie thing, she and Puck go into the Nevernever, the world of faeries and fey. There, Meghan once again proves her stupidity by following "Ethan" deep into the woods and almost gets eaten by a kelpie. Rule #1 of faerie lands: if someone you love randomly appears and then runs off into the woods waiting for you to follow, DON'T FOLLOW. Geez.

And that's when I stopped. I flipped through the rest of the book, and it looks like it's mostly composed of Puck fighting with the Iron Prince, Ash (who's apparently shockingly beautiful, omglolz), because they have a "history", and at some point the entire future of the world is thrust upon Meghan's shoulders and she has to go off and fight some person and save the world. Presumably she does, because there's several sequels that seem to be about Meghan and her forbidden love with...someone. Ash, probably. He seems the type.
So there you are, an in-depth rant about The Iron King. Once again I'm having a bad day (computer virus. persistent little *#!%$.), but I've managed to keep my anger away from this review, so this is (hopefully) more on topic than my rant the other day.

Merry Christmas (I'm so enthusiastic).


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Persy - Wednesday Scrolls -- Book Rant Meets Book Review?

So you may have noticed that I went AWOL for a while. Since Thanksgiving, actually. Yeah, sorry about that. Life exploded in an interesting collection of drama, pain, and bow ties, so I had an unusually hard time getting to a review or even a Wednesday Scrolls.

And what I'm about to attempt probably will not be good enough to be considered a book review, especially since I haven't finished the book. But I must speak my peace. If you want the slightly more sensible version, check out my review of The Iron King on LibraryThing (I'm BrynDahlquis) Or Shelfari (I'm Persy P). On here, though, I'm really going to let loose.

To be fair, I'm having a bad day, so most of my disgruntled feelings have been directed at this book, so it's probably not as bad as I make it out to be.

So everyone knows that faeries are starting to be 'in'. They're replacing the vampires and werewolves, which at first was a welcome relief. But then I realized that they're just going to write the same books with faeries instead of vampires. So we're just going to continue the same cycle over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, desperately trying to find that glimmering lantern in the darkness that is YA Fiction (if you'd like a map to said glimmering lanterns, check out our awesomed section).

The Iron King started out bad and pretty much maintained the same level as bad throughout all 86 pages I managed to crawl through (it was like crawling through a mud swamp of super suction). Main Character: Meghan Chase. Idiot level? 15000000000000 POINTS!!!!

What words can I think of to sum up the lovely Meghan Chase? Whiny. Selfish. Shallow. Idiot. Panicky. Boring. Bitter. Gag. Ugh. Annoying. Ridiculous. Ditzy (in a bad way). More ugh. She is the main problem with The Iron King. If this story wasn't told from her point of view, it wouldn't be nearly so bad.

And then Julie Kagawa just haaaaaaad to drag Puck into it. Robin Goodfellow. A Midsummer Night's Dream. Yeah, that guy. That totally awesome guy. That guy who happens to be one of my favorite characters of all time and space and literarydom. Yeah, that guy. Yeah, he's Meghan's "best friend". Actually, he's not that bad in The Iron King, but he really doesn't live up to his name.

At first I felt bad about wanting to throw the book down unfinished because lately I've left a lot of books unfinished. Maybe I used to be more rigorous in my reading, or maybe I've just had some rotten luck picking up books lately, or maybe I've just been in a bad mood and taking it out on books. Whatever the reason, I got over feeling guilty about it and decided to just enjoy hating the guts of this book (what makes up the guts of a book? The story? The words? The letters? The thoughts of the author? The author herself? Now I feel kind of bad about hating this book's guts. It's certainly not the words's fault that they got arranged in such an annoying manner).

So while trying to decide about finishing The Iron King, I read some other reviews of it to see what the general consesus was and if it got any better further in (by the way, I did flip through to see, and every scene I read was miserable), and was surprised by all the good ratings and reviews. Most people "loved it from the beginning", though a few agreed with me declaring it to be badly written crap. And I think I've figured out why it's so popular.

It's not a good faerie tale. In fact, it's really awful. All the people who loved this book mentioned that they weren't normally into faeries, because they wouldn't like good faerie books. They only like this because it's not like everything else they've been reading (though really, it probably is, just in disguise).

And this brings me to The Hunger Games (this connects to The Iron King, I swear). People think it's amazing. I thought it was passable. The only reason everyone loves it so much is because they don't normally read dystopian novels, so The Hunger Games was new and exciting and unlike anything they'd read. Not because it was a well-written, exciting, epic dystopian novel. Sure, it's good but it's not amazing.

So basically this is just one long (badly written) rant about society and passable literature. I'm a bit fed up at the moment, and the prospect of going off into seclusion for a few weeks with nothing but trully awesome novels is incredibly appealing. Maybe I'll mail an update or a review to Arty every once in a while so I won't disappear completely like I did around Thanksgiving.

So farewell, faithful readers, this is my goodbye. I'm leaving with my Neal Shusterman, Vivian Vande Velde, and Shakespeare. Parting is such sweet sorrow...

Wait. If I went into seclusion with only would I watch anime and Doctor Who and nerimon videos???
Never mind, guess I'll just have to endure.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Arty -- Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen

I hate romance books (generally). I love Wendelin Van Draanen (of Sammy Keyes fame). What do you get when you put them together?


Sorry about the caps. I get excited about this book.

The first time Juli Baker saw Bryce Loski, she fell head over heels in love with his beautiful blue eyes. The first time Bryce saw Juli, he fell in love with staying away from the over-enthusiastic, way-too-intelligent girl. And even though his mother tries to convince him otherwise, Bryce wants nothing to do with Juli. After all, what self-respecting seven-year-old wants to play soccer with a girl?

So Juli spends her elementary and middle-school years not-so-secretly in love with Bryce; Bryce spends his elementary and middle-school years not-so-secretly terrified of Juli. But somewhere in eighth grade, things change.

For Juli, she falls out of love with Bryce. For Bryce... well, maybe he's not in love with her, but he's curious. So what happens when things get flipped?

I love this book. It's hilarious, real, and well-written. And I liked the 'couple,' though whether eighth-graders can be considered a couple is questionable. They were amazing - together and apart. I was cheering for them all the way, maybe because I understood them both - Van Draanen writes the same event for each character in their own chapter, letting the reader see both sides of the story.

Juli is one of those girls I generally despise, especially as a love interest - manically cheerful, very intelligent, and 'thoughtful.' These usually turn out to be Mary Sues. And while Juli sometimes felt a bit Sueish, she was never unlikable. She had her failings. Bryce, on the other hand, had plenty of faults, yet managed to be completely adorable. As a quieter person, I totally understood why Juli freaked him out.

The Baker family and the Loski family were polar opposites, yet both believable. Both had their pros and cons. Sometimes it was painful to read about both of them. But - and here I have to commend Van Draanen - I loved how open Juli was about her love for her parents. And they were great parents. I'm so tired of characters who hate their parents for no reason. Juli (and Bryce, actually) break that tiresome model.

And let's not forget the subplots that run through the book. Rarely confused, always needed, and very often hilarious - Juli's chickens almost made me want to start raising them, and the Basket Boy sale was awesome.

In short, this is the way romance was meant to be written. No one's perfect, hard work is a given, and romance isn't the only thing on the characters' minds. Wendelin Van Draanen strikes again. Read it.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wednesday (Almost) Scrolls - Best And Worst of November, 2011

Arty here. Well, how was your Thanksgiving? Awesome, I hope. Personally, I ate way too much. But then that goes without saying.

Anyway, it's time to evaluate our reading months.

In the month of November, I read 19 books and one manga.

Best November Book: Oh, so The Book Thief. I read it in about five days (I'm a busy girl) and completely abandoned everything else to finish this awesome work. I almost cried at the end. Read it - I can't summarize it. Just read it.

Honorable Mention: I read a lot of good books this month. I think the second best one, on purely entertainment purposes, was How To Break A Dragon's Heart by Cressida Cowell. Notice that this series has made it onto both of my Honorable Mentions? Because this series is like ICE CREAM, PEOPLE. It's just insanely fun. And Alvin is the BEST VILLAIN EVAR.

Worst November Book: Particularly Cats by Doris Lessing. Nonfiction about, of course, cats. Didn't realize it was quite so... realistic. Not my cup of tea.

Dishonorable Mention: Jade Green by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Historical mystery/ghost story... thing. Just strange, though it does have the unique privilege of grossing me out. Not much grosses me out.


'Ello, Chaps! Persy's here! That was my British accent, in case you hadn't noticed. Yeah, I had weird dreams about John Simm and underground airports last night, don't ask.

November was a bad month for me. I read only 9 books, and that's counting 2 manga. My page count totalled up to a measly 1817. Sad. I'll do better this month (did I say that about November? Hm..)

Best November Book: I'll have to go with How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell. I didn't really read any super amazing books this month, so this one wins easily.

Honorable Mention: Born of Ice by Sherrilyn Kenyon and Ouran High School Host Club Vol. 3 by Bisco Hatori. Yeah, so there's two honorable mentions, what are you going to do, sue me?

Worst November Book: Alexander The Great by John Gunther. A poorly written nonfiction book about, well, Alexander the Great.

Dishonorable Mention: There really isn't one. "Alexander" was the only book of November that I really didn't like. Whoohoo.

So there you have it, our best and worst of November. This weekend there'll be a new review and we'll return to our regularly scheduled Literary Heroines Who Don't Suck next week (maybe)!