Monday, December 31, 2012

Wednesday Scrolls -- November Review

Yeeeah we're late again. Not quite sure what our problem is this month, but I promise, we're not dead. Or at least, Persy isn't. I can't speak for that other reviewer... *pokes Arty with stick curiously*
 
Soooooooo in the month of November I read (brace yourselves) a total of 10 books, counting 4 manga/graphic novels, and 1897 pages. Eheh. Did awesome. Not really. Worst month this year. Depressing. But -- I had the amazing experience of finishing the entire Death Note series. Wow.
 
Best November Book: I'll have to go with Finis, Volume 12 of Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. Man that was intense.
 
Honorable Mention: The Essential Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. Nothing even came close to being this good.
 
Worst November Book: Battle Royale Vol. 2 by Koushun Takami and Masayuki Tayuchi. I finally dropped the stupid series after finishing this volume.
 
Dishonorable Mention: Aldo's Fantastical Movie Palace by Jonathan Friesen. I just feel sorry for this book.
 
I would like to say I'm hoping December will be an improvement, but since I've read, erm, very few books since December 1st, I wouldn't get my hopes too high. BUT -- I've already completed my 2012 reading goal and have officially read more books than I did last year! YAY!! Let's see how high I can get my count!
 
--Persy


So I'd like to take this opportunity to say I FAIL AT DEADLINES.  I have excuses but 1) you're not interested and 2) they're not very good ones anyhow.

November was also dismal (though not quite as dismal as this month, for which reason I'm glad we're not reviewing December).  I read 11 books.  Le sigh.  But on the other hand, most of them were very good and I did enjoy what little reading I did.

Best November Book: Cinder by Marissa Meyer.  One of the popular books that really deserves the hype.  Not perfect but still really, really fun.

Honorable Mention: A tie between A Study In Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock.  Both amusing for very different reasons, I enjoyed Princess Ben more (Scarlet was half backstory that was rather dull) but Sherlock. Holmes. and. John. Watson.

Worst November Book: Probably Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke.  It wasn't bad by any means, but it just wasn't as much fun as I was hoping.  Too much human-hating.

Dishonorable Mention: ...Again, there's no real dishonorable mention because I enjoyed the rest of them too much.  Odd.

Well, auld lang syne and here's to 2013 and hopefully a better reading year.  Cheers!

-Arty

Monday, December 17, 2012

Arty -- Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

Hey guys.  Sorry about the delays.  I've been all over the place lately.  And I've been reading almost nothing.  But today I get to review something that really makes me happy.

Actually, in general, Sarah Beth Durst tends to make me happy.  She renews my faith in the ability of humanity to write decent YA fantasy/romance.  And not just decent - really, really good.

The premise is simple.  Liyana has been chosen as the vessel for her tribe's goddess, who needs to come to the physical world to remedy the drought that's been plaguing their nomadic desert world.  But despite a flawless ceremony, Bayla the goddess doesn't come. 

Outcast as 'imperfect' and 'unworthy,' Liyana thinks she'll die in the harsh, dying desert.  But that's before she meets Korban - an actual god, already in his vessel.  Korban is the desert tribes' trickster god, the raven always tricking the gods in and out of things.  He tells Liyana that five of the desert gods have been stolen, godnapped for presumably nefarious purposes.  And that if they don't rescue them... the desert could very well die.

So off they go on their quest to save the gods.  But on the way, Liyana gets to learn a lot about the way the deities work - and she begins to question if she really wants to give into them at all.

Characters first.  Liyana was actually a pretty interesting heroine.  Nothing special - no Sophie Hatter or Liesel Meminger - but she didn't make me want to smack her over the head or anything.  And, while we did get the whole 'she's gorgeous and she's gifted' thing, it felt... organic, usually.  Not tacked on just to make Liyana likable.

But, if we're being honest, Korban is the best thing about the book.  Trickster gods are a weakness with me, and who doesn't like ravens?  I liked how he was suitably mischievous while still maintaining a godlike presence.  He wasn't a tumbling jester idiot.  He was, first and foremost, a god - just a god of trickery. 

I really want to talk about my second-favorite character - possibly my first, seeing as how he's a bit more original and intriguing than Korban - but I don't want to give anything away.  Just... those chapters from a different POV than Liyana's?  They get better.  A whole lot better.

There were times when the plot felt drifty, aimless, and there were times when I had to wonder what on earth Durst would do to fill the next two hundred pages.  But she always delivered - there was almost always just enough foreshadowing, and every seemingly random addition had its place.

The villain... well, I was honestly a bit disappointed in the villain.  Everything else was so magnificent, and then... I just wasn't scared.  At all.  Not of him.  There just wasn't enough about the villain to really feel anything for him.  His army of monsters was three times as scary as he was.  If he had just been more developed, then it would have been better; as it was, he was the worst part of the book.

But that army of monsters?  Pretty awesome.  Not perfect or horrifying by any means, but still - powerful enough to cast doubt.  Doubts that weren't necessarily avoided in the end.  The end, I say, which was this close to perfection.  It gave me swirly, happy feelings - the kind of swirly, happy feelings that make you think, "This should have a sequel - no, it shouldn't - but what happens next?! - but that's the beauty of it!"  Et cetera.

(And can I mention the love triangle that ACTUALLY WORKED.  A toast to Sarah Beth Durst.)

Another book I have to heartily recommend to those who are fans of this genre or even to those who aren't, since it basically bucks every negative cliché about the YA Paranormal/Fantasy Romance genre.  Cheers.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Persy -- Aldo's Fantastical Movie Palace by Jonathan Friesen

Chloe's life wasn't bad at all until a tragic accident on the farm leaves her with ugly emotional and physical scars. Her relationship with her father becomes strained, at best, and her mother's old movie theater, named after her great-grandfather, isn't doing well. Her only comfort lies in Grandpa Salvador, who spends his time painting and repainting his trailer.
 
Then a new boy moves into town, a blind boy named Nick. Neither take a shine to each other, but in time they grow to accept each other into a peculiar partnership. Nick is working on a script, and he finally allows Chloe to help him with the details.
 
But then it all goes crazy when they fall through the movie screen at Aldo's Movie Palace and find themselves in Nick's script! But it's neither his version nor Chloe's of their fictional land of Retinya, and they soon discover that the land is in dire need of help. But will Chloe be able to keep Nick on her side?
 
I was pretty excited going into this because the publishers of Replication sent it to me (I felt so special), and the whole story is really easy to fall into. Buuuuut there are so many things that aren't quite right with this poor little fantasy adventure... let's start with the characters.
 
Chloe started out interesting. She had the whole scarred thing going for her and a cool granda and works at an old movie theater. But let's face it, not only is she rather 2D, the one layer she has is pretty annoying. She will not listen and plunges straight ahead no matter what any of the wiser and more experienced characters say. She's ridiculously stubborn.
 
And then we come to Nick. You'd think he'd be a main character, but no, not really. He's only in the book for like, five minutes, and does absolutely nothing. Starts out mean and annoying, disappears for the middle of the book, and then comes back with...well, he's certainly not the same Nick. But there's a difference between character growth and character inconsistency.
 
Scout and Nob are okay. Quite flat, like everyone else, but certainly more interesting (and intelligent) than the others. Grandpa Salvador is easily the best, but, naturally, he doesn't get to do much at all. And then the villain...hardly exists. There's just not much going on there. His only purpose is so that there is a villain somewhere in the story to keep things going.
 
The world of Retinya is actually pretty cool. We just don't get to spend much time there or see many sights. The majority of our time is spent getting through the adventure as fast as we can, an adventure that makes less sense the more you think about it.
 
I mean, they make it work. But oftentimes it's hard to tell how the characters got where they are and why they're doing whatever they're doing.
 
But let me also say that the memory scenes were pretty cool. If you read the book, you'll know what I'm talking about.
 
To summarize, it's not a bad book, but it's far from good. It's just kind of...a book. A quick and easy read, though, so you probably won't feel like you've wasted a bunch of time reading it. But I can think of better quick-and-easy reads.
 
--Persy
 
You might like this if you: want a quick-and-easy fantasy read; enjoy fantasy stories with modern characters in strange worlds; don't care so much about character depth but like creative fantasy worlds; or if you have a horrific scar and a blind friend and wonder what adventures are in store for you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Arty -- Cinder by Marissa Meyer

I am so late again.  I apologize. 

Cinder.  Another one of those 'you have to read it, it's so good' books I keep hearing about. 

And you have to admit, the idea is pretty awesome.  A cyborg Cinderella in futuristic Beijing (New Beijing, to be precise)?  Definitely cool.  But surely such a great idea that was popular to boot couldn't be that good.

It could.

Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg.  She's a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister's illness.  But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai's, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction.  Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world's future.

I'm going to start with the best and most impressive thing: the book wasn't about Cinder and Kai.  It was about Cinder.

It was about Cinder being a mechanic, and about Cinder's different relationships with her family (unfriendly with her stepmother and older stepsister, loving to her younger stepsister, Peony), and about Cinder trying to make sense of what she's found herself in, and about Cinder trying to help Kai, and then, sparsely, about Cinder falling in love with Kai.

It's about Cinder and how she works (no pun on the cyborg nature), not about Cinder falling in love with her Prince Charming.  It's ridiculously refreshing.

Kai and the other characters were well fleshed-out, too.  I actually love Kai.  Not a fangirl, ooh-I-love-him-so-much kind of love, but he's a really cool character with his own identity apart from Cinder, too.  His balance of insecurity and intelligence was interesting to watch. 

Queen Levana was a sincerely creepy villainess.  I mean... really creepy.  The whole idea of her - I won't spoil it - and of the Lunar race is oddly believable and at the same time just really creepy.  Which made a few of the plot twists even more horrible.

Meyer has a great writing style - very crisp and precise, not flowery or overdone or very fairytale-ish at all.  It actually felt a lot like Cinder - a brilliant mechanic, picking exactly the right words for exactly the right effect.  It wasn't a pretty style, like - say - Markus Zusak or Diana Wynne Jones - but it really worked.

Oh.  And the way she incorporated the Cinderella story details into this was just brilliant.  The car, and her baby cyborg foot, and the missing slipper... brilliant.  Did I say brilliant?

The cons of Cinder... there aren't many.

The afore-mentioned plot twists were... sort of predictable.  I don't try to figure out anything ahead of time, usually, but this time it was easy to see where Meyer was going.  Not all the time, but on a few of the key points.  Though I hate to say it, Cinder's and Kai's relationship does sometimes smack of insta-love.  (But love is rarely the focal point of their dealings with each other and it's overall more tastefully handled than in most cases.)  And it ends on a dreadful cliffhanger, and the next book, Scarlet, doesn't come out 'til February.

Small complaints from me.  In my humble opinion, it's a must-read for fans of fairytale retellings, sci-fi lite, or even just really well characterized YA.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wednesday Scrolls -- October Review!

Happy Halloween! Okay, so maybe I'm a bit late, but hear me out... my poor computer, Kal, picked a very inconvenient time to crash (is any time convenient?) so we're a bit late on our monthly review. I'd like to claim the blame (ha! I'm so poetic) on the missing book reviews as well, but that would be Arty's fault, not mine.
So yeah, Persy here, finally. How was your October? I actually did okay, with 14 books read, 3 of them manga, and a total of 4295 pages, which is actually pretty good for me. I'm surprised because I have very little time to read these days. For instance, 7 of my October books were actually for school. Yikes.
Best October Book: Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. I can't believe it's taken me this long to read such an amazing classic. Same goes for The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Honorable Mention: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. Plus Around The World In Eighty Days by Jules Verne and Deletion, Vol. 10 of Death Note, by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata.
Worst October Book: I suppose Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock. Honestly, there weren't many duds this month, so I wouldn't really label this book as a bad book.
Dishonorable Mention: ...I guess there isn't one. Wowza.
November's not looking too shabby! Hoping to keep it up!
--Persy

Arty here.  Yeah, yeah, I let you guys down.  I'm sorreh.  Busy weekends.

Anyway... October has been a really, really bad month for me.  I read a paltry 11 books.  Excuse me while I go cry in the corner.

Best October Book: Hard to tell.  Probably Bunnicula, by James Howe, which has been a favorite of mine for ages.  I read it for Halloween.

Honorable Mention: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, a Peter Pan retelling, was terrifically dark.  And then there was The Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland (who can write a Norse myth even if he can't write Arthurian legend), and Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan, and Runt the Brave by Daniel Schwabauer. (Who has a terrific Adventure Novel writing curriculum that everyone should go out and buy right now.  Kthxbai.)

Worst October Book: Probably The Vindico by Wesley King.  It wasn't bad, per se, but it just wasn't particularly gripping.  Just a lite read.

Dishonorable Mention: ...Well, like Persy, I liked all my others too much for them to be here.  So huzzah.

At least they were all pretty good, even if I didn't read much.  Oh well.  Here's to November being better.

-Arty

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Persy -- The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Life is acceptable.
 
Sure, things aren't great. Mary's father is gone, her mother sits by the gate staring into the Forest of Hands and Teeth waiting for some sign of her husband, and her childhood friend Harry is getting a bit too close. But the Unconsecrated are still safely beyond the gate, and the villagers are surviving. Mary still tells herself the stories of her mother, stories of a time before the Unconsecrated and a neverending ocean.
 
But then Mary's mother does see her husband -- and gets too close. She is infected in an instant, and condemned to death. By the time Mary's brother Jed gets back, it's too late to say goodbye. Their mother is shoved outside the gate to join the rest of the Unconsecrated.
 
Life is hard.
 
Now orphaned, Mary expects to be taken in by her brother Jed and his wife Beth, but Jed stonily tells her that she is to be taken in by the Sisterhood, the religious women who rule the village. Harry doesn't come through on his interrupted proposal, and, with nowhere else to go, Mary is forced into the Sisterhood, where her world starts to turn upside down.
 
First of all, Travis, Harry's brother, is injured and taken to the Cathedral to be looked after. Mary has always been in love with him, and she now finds it harder than ever to give up on him (he's engaged to Cass, Mary's best friend) when she sees him every night.
 
And, to top it all off, Mary discovers the impossible: a stranger has come from outside the fence. Does this mean that they are not the last survivors of humanity? That there is an end to the Unconsecrated and the Forest of Hands and Teeth? That her mother's stories weren't just nonsense, but true? Is there really an ocean out there, as she's always dreamed?
 
Life is unacceptable.
 
Mary begins to unwind the lies and mysteries surrounding the Sisterhood and the limping little village. But before she can get very far, the unthinkable happens: the gates are breached, and the Unconsecrated flood the village. Mary only barely survives along with Harry, Travis, Jed, Beth, Cass, a little boy named Jacob, and Mary's dog Argos. The group escape the village and start along one of the many fenced paths leading into the Forest. Mary is confident that there is something waiting for them, something better. Something free. The ocean.
 
I had mixed feelings about The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I've also been rather oblivious about it. When it first came out, I declared it uninteresting and so didn't put it very high on my to-read list. And then when I finally picked it up the other day, I realized it was about zombies. ILOVEZOMBIES. Buuuut then I saw some of the tags it had on various book websites: die-heroine-die, stupid-love-triangle... you get the picture. My excitement faded.
 
Ten pages in: dull dull dull dull Mary is such a stupid whinypants.
Ten - thirty pages in: hey, this is pretty good.
Thirty - one hundred pages in: ugh, Mary.
One hundred - end of book: AAAAAAAAAAAGH.
 
This is one of those books with terrible chars. They're all stupid in their own special way, and I can't help but wonder if they all had some actual mental problems. But then again, seeing as how they live in a post-apocalyptic zombie world, I'll cut them some slack. I doubt I'd have all my lightbulbs screwed in just right if I were in their situation.
 
But this is also one of those books that is just so tragic and well-written and realistic that it somehow ends up beautiful in my head. I closed the book with a sense of awe and shock, completely exhausted from the trip. Talk about a climax done zombie-style. I even sort of ended up liking Mary towards the end. She's still not exactly smart, but I can see her being awesome in a kind of Resident Evil-one-woman-against-the-zombie-horde way.
 
This review reminding you of another book? Life As We Knew It, for example? Yeah, the books are ridiculously similar. They both follow the basic plot of an apocalypse with a character who is incredibly dull and yet resourceful. None of the main chars are all that interesting (though "Forest" had the advantage of a dog; I'll put you out of your misery and give you a small spoiler: Argos survives the entire book), but the writing is spectacular, and for the last half of the book, it's impossible to stop reading. Both books are the first in a series, and both sequels are about different characters. Both main characters are female with names beginning with M. If Carrie Ryan and Susan Beth Pfeffer aren't already friends, they should definitely get together and see what other tragedies they can come up with. Can you imagine what would happen if they wrote a book together?
 
"Forest" definitely isn't for everyone. I don't expect it to become the next great classic or anything, but I still encourage you to give it a try, as long as you aren't too incensed by stupid main chars or too sensitive to mental and physical pain. Yikesies.
 
You might like this if you: like Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer; like apocalypse/futuristic stories; love zombies and therefore must read/see/listen to anything related to zombies; enjoy amazing, unique writing styles (if you can call it unique... let's just say Pfeffer and Ryan are the only two with it); or if you feel like your life is not enough and that there's something else waiting for you beyond a deadly forest. Perhaps this book can give you examples of the does and don'ts (DO practice archery. DON'T be indecisive about your one true love).

Monday, October 22, 2012

Arty -- Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan

Vampire romance, not really my thing.  Vampire romance parody... that I can handle.

And Team Human was a really good vampire romance parody.

Mel Duan is your average high school girl (albeit one with a spine, maybe too much of one for her own good) with average high school friends (even though she dated Ty and Cathy's sort of an airheaded literary freak and Anna's father supposedly ran away with a vampire).  Life is good for her... until vampire Francis shows up to go to high school.

Mel's first reaction is, Why does a 120-year-old vampire want to go to high school?

Her questions turn rather more serious, however, when her desperately romantic friend Cathy falls for Francis's pale, frigid... er, charm.  Staunchly Team Human, Mel decides she has to fight to free Cathy from herself.

Meanwhile, the questions about Anna's father and his supposed vampire elopement spark a mystery Mel takes it upon herself to solve.  This, along with Cathy's involvement with Francis and his 'shade,' or vampire family, brings her into way more vampire contact than Mel ever wanted.

Even knowing that this was supposed to be a parody, I went into Team Human very skeptically.  I mean, as soon as Francis came on the scene, I had about a million cynical views on how it would go.  Mel would fall in love with Francis, Mel would fall in love with another of Francis's friends, she teaches her vampire beau how to laugh and thus causes a worldwide vamp phenomenon...

Well, no, not really.

Team Human is, despite constant light-hearted fun and gentle genre-poking (Mel really does wonder why a 100+-old vamp would want to go to high school, and that question is answered), pretty realistic for a vamp novel.  No, it's not a scientific treatise on vampire biology, but it does feel more well-thought-out than a lot of such endeavors tend to be.  For example - a percentage of vamp turnings end in death.  Another percentage turn into mindless, slavering zombies (yes, there are also ZOMBIES in this book - it's awesome).  Also, vampires can't laugh.  They rarely smile.  And they're not cold - they're just... lukewarm.

Not exactly romantic.

But what really makes the book - as in most really good books - are the characters.  Mel is a great heroine - she's got a spine, like I said, and she's not afraid to use it... which does get her into a lot of trouble that she regrets and learns from.  She learns.  Cathy is... okay, well, I didn't like her much, but she was a good, developed character.  Anna and Ty were well-drawn, Francis was annoying but not over-the-top... and then the vampires in Francis's shade are awesome.  And then there's Kit.  I don't want to say too much about him (the surprises in the book are the best parts), but there's a line of his backstory that just... gave me shivers.  Showing that vamps, like humans, are not all good and not all evil.

The love story was surprisingly realistic, as well.  It was happy, but it wasn't - I, for one, still didn't agree with the choice made.  But it was realistic.  It showed that sometimes you have to trust your friends to live their own lives, even if you don't think they're right.  One great theme - respect. 

Storywise, I loved it, too.  The mystery was actually good.  I've noticed I'm pretty slow when it comes to mysteries, but the resolve came as a huge surprise.  I admit to shivering a little then, too.  It was just pretty... gut-wrenching.  After all the buildup, I should have seen it coming.  But I didn't.  And the emotional reaction was worth the stupidity.

So if one ever gets tired of sloppy, romance-centered vampire novels, look no further than Team Human, a refreshing parody/commentary of all the unrealistic vamp stuff out there for consumption.  One shall not be disappointed.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Persy -- Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock

Sherlock Holmes is a 13-year-old Jewish misfit who doesn't go to school and reads police newspapers for fun. He never interferes with investigations, but follows them closely, all the while solving little mysteries around his household and surrounding neighborhood. But when random chance implicates Sherlock as the accomplice to a violent murder, he has no choice but to go into hiding and attempt to clear his name. But first, he must escape from prison...
 
I'm not quite sure why, but I was expecting this to be some kind of retelling of Sherlock Holmes, in which Sherlock is a young boy in modern day London or something like that. I have no idea where I got that idea, because that's not what this series is. This really is about Sherlock as a kid before his master detective years.
 
First of all, everyone should know better than to meddle with Sherlock's past. That's part of the fun and mystery of Sherlock -- you know nothing about him. If you start trying to fabricate mysteries and adventures and details, it just starts to feel a little... meh.
 
But the funny thing is, Eye of the Crow is actually a pretty good mystery/adventure/historical book, but I really really wish it wasn't about Sherlock Holmes. If it wasn't about him, I'd look on the series with a much fonder eye.
 
I'm also not sure if this is some kind of precursor to the original Sherlock Holmes, or if Shane Peacock is retelling basic Sherlock Holmes stories. Because there's an Irene in this book (though her name isn't Irene Adler and she's not a thief or anything), and I would find it curious to name her that if it wasn't supposed to mean something. There's also the leader of a street gang, The Malefactor, who is something like Moriarty. The only thing I can figure is that maybe these characters turn into Irene Adler and Moriarty. Or perhaps it's just a big coincidence.
 
The writing isn't bad, and the plot's okay, and the mystery bit is pretty well done. Nothing about this book screams greatness, and when you add in that it's supposed to be Sherlock Holmes, it turns out to just be a meh-y book. Unfortunately, I'm required to review books four and six, so I'm going to have to continue through the whole series.
 
--Persy
 
You might like this if you: love Sherlock Holmes, and feel obligated to read every version of him you can find; like quick, easy mystery reads that don't require too much energy; like historical fiction; or if you like historical mysteries and don't care a whit about Sherlock Holmes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wednesday Scrolls -- September Review!


Welcome to October! I, Persy, had a rather pathetic September, with a meager 2815 pages read and 15 books completed. The number is better than I was expecting, but it gets super depressing when I remember that only three of those books were fictional novels read for pleasure. The rest were history and British literature books or manga.

Best September Book: I guess I'll have to go with The Importance of Being Earnest by the one and only Oscar Wilde. Also, The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex.

Honorable Mention: Beauty Sleep by Cameron Dokey and Romeo and Juliet (Manga Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare, Richard Appignanesi, and Sonia Leong.

Worst September Book: Cantarella Vol. 5 by You Higuri. The series started off okay and just went downhill. Sojourner Truth: Ain't I A Woman by Patricia and Fred McKissack is also terribly written.

Dishonorable Mention: The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. Sorry, just didn't like it at all. And, unfortunately, the first volume of Millennium Snow by Bisco Hatori was pretty bad too (but I can't help but be a fan because of Ouran).

Maybe I'll get a bit more pleasure reading done this month.

--Persy


Hi.  Arty here.  September was also a rather dismal reading month, with just 22 books read.  In my defense, I finished writing a book!  But... well, that was pretty early on.  So anyway.

Best September Book: Either Myths of the Norsemen by Roger Lancelyn Green, or Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer.

Honorable Mention: The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman was really great (who's surprised?); also, Wonder by R.J. Palacio.

Worst September Book: Probably Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare.  Sigh.  I held out hopes...

Dishonorable Mention: Worldshaker by Richard Harland.  It stared out fantastic, but by the time it ended, I just wanted to throw everybody over the edge of the ship.

So there you have it.  Here's to better books and more reading time for the Month of Halloween!

-Arty

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Arty -- Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Ah, genreless fiction.  How you continue to surprise me.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school - until now.  He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be.  The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face.  But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

Simple.  For once, a summary is sufficient.

This book could have flopped many, many times, and it came pretty close a few times.  But, in the end, it was just really good.  Mostly because of Auggie, who I love.  

Auggie is... I don't know how to describe Auggie.  He's a normal kid, really.  He just has a twisted-up face.  He's happy, usually; he's friendly, he's funny, he's trusting.  He's just a really sweet kid, and by the time the book ended, I wanted to give him a huge, bone-crashing hug.

The emotional connection you make with Auggie helps carry some of the plot points that would have been cheesy if they had happened to someone less... lovable.  But Auggie is Auggie.  When he's sad, you're sad.  When he's happy, you're happy.  When people mistreat him, you want to punch them in the face.

Auggie is like everyone's best friend's little brother.  You just... take care of him, even though he's capable of taking care of himself. (And his obsession with Star Wars is adorable - he knows the story, as opposed to so many 'geeks' in genreless stuff who know Darth Vader and 'Luke, I am your father' but nothing beyond that.)

The othr characters are interesting, too - Via, Auggie's older sister, is a particular favorite.  We also get parts of the book from other characters' perspectives - Jack and Summer, Auggie's school friends, and Miranda and Justin, Via's once-best friend and boyfriend, respectively.  All of them were easy to like (except maybe Summer, she was a bit too perfect to be believable), and they all introduced different aspects of Auggie - living with Auggie, how the world treats people like Auggie.  They put the book into perspective.

The plot, which goes through Auggie's first school year, can seem a little long and winding at times - almost pointless - but every time it starts feeling like that, something else will happen, and the story sort of sucks you back in.  It's addictive.  I hated putting the book down because I wanted to see what came next.

Cons.  Sometimes Auggie sounded ridiculously mature for an eleven-year-old.  It was a bit jolting sometimes, when he'd act like a little kid and then suddenly come out with something 'old' and deep.  And, like I said, sometimes the plot got a little slow, or a little unrealistic.  But it's still so good, mostly due to the characters.

So, basically, Wonder is a wonder.  (Sorry, I had to.)  Read it.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Persy -- Beauty Sleep by Cameron Dokey

Once upon a time...
 
A beautiful princess is born to the King and Queen, and at her christening, she is subject to two very powerful works of magic. The first is from her aunt, whose invitation was forgotton. Princess Aurore is cursed to prick her finger on her sixteenth birthday, and die. But the second spell comes from her godmother, who decrees that she will prick her finger, but will merely sleep for a hundred years until woken by a kiss.
 
Because of the first spell, the young princess is forbidden to leave the castle or go anywhere near a needle. But Aurore feels called to the outside world, and, with the help of her cousin Prince Oswald, she is finally allowed outside. She grows up under the teaching of her father, who instructs her on how to be a ruler of the people. It's not long before the villagers fall in love with their cursed princess, but the nobles are far from happy.
 
The nobles long ago fell in love with Oswald, who was originally declared successor to the throne. But the king changes his mind, and declares Aurore to be his heir after all. But when her sixteenth birthday comes and goes, things begin to get messy, and Aurore will have to face the two spells inside her.
 
First of all, don't pay any attention at all to any other synopsis you read. They don't make any sense.
 
Second of all, for some reason, I wasn't expecting much from this book. Maybe it was the unattractive cover (mine really wasn't very appealing), or maybe it was one of the lame summaries I read (just stay away from them), but something made it seem very uninteresting. Despite this, I decided to give it a try. I'm really glad I did.
 
Aurore is easy to like, even when she's being childish and impetuous. I still can't help but sympathize with her, even when I know she should calm down. The small cast of supporting characters (her father, Oswald, Ironheart, La Foret) are all very well done likeable.
 
Most of the plot is very well done, but it feels like a lot of buildup and not much else. I kept expecting something big and dramatic and horrifying, but it never came. Nevertheless, it was still very interesting and the difficult plot of having a main character whose supposed to be asleep for the story was handled very well.
 
I'm not entirely happy with the ending, though. I think it could've worked, but it just didn't quite click for me. But it was still done much better than most of the people who try to pull off that kind of thing, so I'm not terribly upset.
 
Bottom line: Beauty Sleep is a very good fairy tale retelling that I would immediately recommend to Sleeping Beauty fans, with good characters and good writing. It may not be perfect, but it's pretty close. I will definitely be looking into Cameron Dokey's other fairy tale novels.
 
--Persy
 
You might like this if: you like fairy tale retellings; you like short, fun fantasy novels; your favorite princess is Sleeping Beauty; you have a soft spot for time travel or enchanted forests; if you aren't sick of unconventional princesses; or if you were cursed as a baby and need a good example of how to get your own happily ever after.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Arty -- The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

I'm starting to really fail at this "review every weekend" thing.

Anyway.  The Adoration of Jenna Fox.  It's one of those kinda popular, kinda not books that I figured wouldn't be very good.  Because 'kinda popular, kinda not' books have this nasty habit of not being very good.

But it was the September book for a book club I'm part of, and another friend rec'd it (who has good taste, if you'll remember Hope Was Here, Pandora Hearts, and Quicksilver).  So I got it.

And it was really, really good.

It reminded me of my favorite Margaret Peterson Haddix books, Double Identity.  Only three times as well characterized and plotted out and thought-provoking.  Yeah, thought-provoking is a good thing in this case.  Somehow, Pearson managed to make it thought-provoking without saying "This is a book about THIS subject, now here, make up your mind."

Who is Jenna Fox?  Seventeen-year-old Jenna has been told that is her name.  She has just awoken from a coma, they tell her, and she is still recovering from a terrible accident in which she was involved a year ago.  But what happened before that?  Jenna doesn't remember her life.  Or does she? And are the memories really hers?

Gosh, that summary just does not give the book justice.  It makes it sound so run-of-the-mill.  And boring.  And uninteresting.  And cliché.  I'm repeating myself.

One of the things about this book is the writing.  It's easy to read, and it sounds like Jenna.  It's mechanical and almost surreal at first, as Jenna wakes up.  And then it becomes more flexible, more grounded, the more she goes through, the more she remembers or learns.  It was just awesome to read.

Another is the characters.  Jenna is a great MC - not a favorite, but she didn't leave me wanting to kill her or even just feeling blah about her existence.  She actually gets to be likable.  (Except with Ethan, the annoying prerequisite 'love interest,' but there were only a few scenes with him.)

The side chars are really fun, especially Lily.  Lily was amazing.  Jenna's godmother and grandmother figure, she's grounded and realistic and sometimes pretty unlikable but still.. relatable.  You get her.  And by the end of the book she was my favorite character.  Jenna's parents, too, were really well done - very human, not demonized or perfect.  So human.  And Mr. Bender - I kinda want a book just for him.  He sounds like an interesting guy and he didn't have enough scenes.

The action of the novel - if it can be called real action - was very well set up.  It started a little slow, but then you get the sense that something's wrong... and it keeps escalating.  And escalating.  And there comes a point when you think it can't get more horrible for Jenna, but it does.  There were a couple times when I thought, "Okay, how is Pearson gonna top this?" and she always does.  It drove me crazy and it was brilliant.

Random rant - Pearson actually managed to incorporate Jenna's going to school in an intelligent way.  Several plot points revolved around things Jenna did or discovered or heard in school.  Which is just great.  So many books stick school in there just for the lulz, or to introduce the romantic interest.  Which Pearson did, but it was the least important reason.

I really can't find much wrong about this book - except for the random, unnecessary romance with Ethan.  Not everybody would love it.  But for anyone who likes low-key scifi or interesting books that make you think without pushing it, this is a must-read, just to see if you enjoy it.  I'm really excited to read the sequel, Fox Inheritance.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Persy -- Born of Shadows by Sherrilyn Kenyon

That awkward moment when you haven't read anything since the last book you reviewed...
 
I considered trying to do something clever to get out of writing a review, like declaring today a new literary holiday that required an extra special post or something like that, buuuuut... I'm too tired to be clever, so I figured I'd just continue my little Sherrilyn Kenyon series by reviewing book four in the League series, Born of Shadows. You can read my reviews of the first three books here: "Night", "Fire", "Ice".
 
Caillen Dagan is a master smuggler struggling to survive and keep his three sisters out of trouble. He's managed quite well so far, but finally Kasen gets him in the deepest water ever, and he is captured and sentenced for execution. But before the axe can drop, his DNA test sends up red flags and before he knows it, he's declared the long lost heir to the Garvon and Exeter systems, and the only son of Emperor Evzen.
 
As if adjusting to his newfound royalty wasn't bad enough, he runs into Desideria, the daughter of the Quillac queen. The duo fall right into the trap of a mystery criminal and are accused of crimes that not even Caillen's committed. They have no choice but to rely on each other as they try to stop the true criminal before Caillen's father and Desideria's mother are assassinated.
 
What I like about "Shadows" is that the plot is a bit deeper and the romance a little less important. Don't get me wrong, it's definitely still around, but it's a bit less lustful and sudden than the romance in the previous three books. Caillen and Desideria spend more time getting to know each other than making out.
 
This book also introduces Fain Hauk, brother of Dancer Hauk who has appeared in several of the other League books. Fain is a bit less empathetic, a bit more sarcastic, and a lot more interesting than his younger brother, especially when you add in the whole space pirate thing. I think Hauk's getting his own book pretty soon, but I'm still holding out for Fain to get the spotlight.
 
As for the main characters, Caillen's pretty cool. I've always liked him, so getting a book all about him is nice. Desideria's not bad either, though a little... naive, perhaps. But that's kind of a requirement for heroines in Kenyon novels.
 
The plot is far more complex than the other League books, with lots of space politics. Kenyon doesn't try to put too much science in it either, which is good since I don't think she bothers to check if she's right when she does. It's a nice balance, but the ending kind of stumbles along to a happily ever after (which is also a requirement for Kenyon novels). It's a very forced happily ever after, but I guess perfection is too much to ask from a romance novel.
 
Sometimes it's hard to classify the League series as science fiction. Sigh.
 
"Shadows" is definitely better than "Ice", which was a bit of a flop in all areas, but for me at least, it doesn't hold quite as much appeal as the first couple of League books. Perhaps the plot is just getting old. Ah, well, no book infatuation lasts forever. Except for The Boxcar Children. And Harry Potter. And The Prophecy of the Stones. Maybe I should just stop there.
 
--Persy
 
You might like this if you: like romance, but not too much; like science fiction, but not too much; have already read the other League novels and are thirsty for more; need a quick guilty pleasure read; or if you suddenly discover you're a long-lost prince and you don't know what to do with yourself.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wednesday Scrolls -- August Review!



Hello September, goodbye August! That's right, yet another month has passed away, and the crew here at the MLU (all two of us) are here to give you our personal best and worst of the month.
 
I, Persy, read a total of 16 books and 4,676 pages, which is way better than I was expecting. It also felt like I got no reading done because ballet started back, so when I'm not dancing or working, I'm scrambling to get school done. I'm honestly usually too tired to read by the time everything else gets done.
 
Best August Book: Since I still had a stack of favorites left over from RAMFAP month, I read a lot of awesome books this month. But I think the best would have to be Unwind, by Neal Shusterman. This book still gives me chills and makes me really think. Shusterman never disappoints.
 
Honorable Mentions: Like I said, I read a lot of good books last month. So the Honorables are Happenstance Found by P.W. Catanese, The Prophecy of the Stones by Flavia Bujor, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling, Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom by Susin Nielsen, and I Am Here! Vol. 1 by Ema Toyama.
 
Worst August Book: Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt. *shudders*
 
Dishonorable Mention: Rifles For Watie by Harold Keith. I am so sick of the Civil War right now.
 
Let's hope I can find some energy and time for reading this month!
 
--Persy


Gosh, September already.  Arty's favorite month.  I hope it'll be better than August, because I only managed 14 books.  And that was while I was on vacation!  Sheesh.  Oh well.

Best August Book: I actually read a whole lot of good books, even if there weren't many, so it's hard to choose, but I have to go with Sapphique, the sequel to Catherine Fisher's Incarceron.  MY GOSH SO GOOD.  I can't even explain how terrific of a sequel this is.  It does everything a sequel should.  AND JARED.  JARED IS BEST EVERYTHING.

Honorable Mention: Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer.  Aaaugh so good.  Also The Elder Edda, translated by Andy Orchard.  Beeeeautiful.  Thrymskvida and Loki's Home-Truths.  Good stuff.

Worst August Book: Probably The House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert DeJong.  Oi.  Boring.  Believe it or not, I got it as a school book.

Dishonorable Mention: The Alchemist and the Angel by Joanne Owen.  An import straight from England (it has its worth in pounds on the back).  Sadly, the intriguing premise and the beautiful inside art were not enough to save a dreadfully static writing style and not-very-fleshed-out characters.

So that was the month of August for me.  Here's hoping September will be better!

-Arty

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Arty -- Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer

Genreless.  It sounds so boring and dull.  And yet sometimes you stumble across a treasure.

Hope Was Here is such a treasure.  It has a simple premise: Hope Yancey, a sixteen-year-old with no father and an absentee mother, has been raised by her aunt Addie for as long as she can remember.  They travel the US, working at different diners and restaurants - Addie is a short-order genius, and Hope has plenty of experience waitressing.

The story opens with another move, to small-town Mulhoney, Wisconsin and the little diner called the Welcome Stairways.  This town and this diner, however, are ever so slightly different.

There's Lou Ellen, the single mother with the disabled baby Anastasia; there's Braverman, the diner's teenage griller who had to stay home from college because of family financial issues; and, most of all, G.T. Stoop, the Welcome Stairways's owner, the effervescent older man with leukemia who also up and decides to run for mayor.

It's a good thing Hope is skilled at hope, because it appears Mulhoney will need it.

Good grief, this book was good.

The characters are what make it.  Hope is what makes it.  I've never read a better genreless heroine. (Sammy Keyes is under the mystery genre - she's more fun but Hope is right on her tail).  She's not whiny or annoying, and she's not a Pollyanna - she knows life is tough and she's okay with that and she knows it's still worth it.

CAN I GET AN AMEN FOR THE MOST REFRESHING HEROINE SINCE EVER?

Sorry.  I get really excited when I find a female MC I love this much.  Seriously.  This girl danced around a diner in a red clown nose to lift her spirits.  You cannot dislike Hope Yancey.

The other characters are amazing, too.  I thought Addie would be another cliché brash-but-lovable aunt; she turned out to be an opinionated, stubborn, frightfully intelligent, warm, loving, oh-my-gosh-can-I-be-her-niece character.  (Also a can-you-come-cook-for-us character - her food sounds divine.) Braverman was actually an interesting love interest - you could see it from a mile away, but still.  He and Hope were cute.

G.T., however, turns out to be the second driving force of the novel, after Hope.  This guy... I'm not even going to try to sum him up because it's late and I'm tired and besides - one does not simply sum up Gabriel Thomas Stoop.

Basically, he's one of the most amazing old guys ever.  Any Adventures In Odyssey listers - ironically, he reminds me a lot of Tom Riley.  (Without the Richard Maxwell issues.  Mainly because there's no Richard Maxwell figure in Hope Was Here.  But that's beside the point.)

The subplots - the political side (which was amazing), the diner/short-order cook/waitressing side (which was amazing and made me hungry), the personal, girl-wishing-for-family side (which was amazing) - it all worked so well together.  So well.  And even if the ending was a little easy... it was worth it.

Hope Was Here is like comfort food.  You sort of know what you're getting, but at the same time it's sort of a surprise how good it is, and it makes you happy the whole way through.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Persy -- Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom by Susin Nielsen



12-year-old Violet Gustafson is a bit bitter, a bit pessimistic, and a bit jaded. After the messy divorce of her parents and watching her father remarry, have twins, and steadily get richer and richer, she has sworn off love entirely. Her mother, on the other hand, is determined to find "The One". While taking care of her five-year-old sister Rosie, Violet also has to take care of sorting through her mother's suitors by whatever means necessary, but they all seem to be losers.
 
Enough is enough, she decides, when her mother introduces her and Rosie to her latest boyfriend, Dudley Wiener. If his name wasn't bad enough, he also likes puns. With the help of her best friend Phoebe and the cute boy from Winnipeg Jean-Paul, she must get rid of Dudley and find the perfect man for her mother. And the only candidate is George Clooney himself.
 
I was kind of doubtful going into Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom by Susin Nielsen. Page 14 and I was already wishing I could ditch the stupid thing, but I dutifully kept reading, and... well, I'm glad I did.
 
This is one of the few books that make me suck up my pride and admit that I like. Y'see, once I'm predisposed to hate something, I have to hate it, even if I do like it. I just can't admit to switching sides. But sometimes, something is so good, that I'll suck it up and proclaim the world that it is amazing (Life As We Knew It, comes to mind). "Dear George Clooney" is one of those things.
 
While at first Violet seems a bit silly and unoriginal, she rapidly became one of my favorite main characters of literature. She's outspoken (like, really), resourceful, and nerdy. Three of the best qualities in an MC. Her little sister Rosie is pretty darn adorable too, and Phoebe, the sidekick, is appropriately cool. And don't get me started on how much I like Jean-Paul, and trust me, it's hard to like someone named Jean-Paul.
 
I'm not sure exactly when I switched sides on this book. I think I started admitting the book's likeability when Violet calls Jean-Paul a grapefruit (in French). But I think I actually gave into the dark side when Violet breaks Ashley's nose. And I totally fell in love when she crashes a golf cart into George Clooney's car.
 
Now I kind of want to read it again.
 
But anyway, I'm not normally a fan of the contemporary-realistic-humor-genreless books, but every once in a while I find one I really, really like, and it's usually because of the same reasons: hilarious and awesome main character; strange but possible adventures; and brilliant character growth. Just when you start to think the MC has gone a little overboard, the MC herself realizes she's gone too far. It's almost like you grow along with the main character.
 
This is Susin Nielsen's second novel, and her first is actually set in the same world about a character who makes a brief cameo at the end of "Dear George Clooney". And I have to read it. And I will. Ha.
 
--Persy
 
You might like this if you: like books like Audrey, Wait! (Robin Benway) and Lia's Guide To Winning the Lottery (Keren David); love main characters with true spunk, not that crap that passes for spunk in the literary and television world; if you're looking for a quick, enjoyable read; or if you're trying to get George Clooney's attention.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Arty -- The Highway Cats by Janet Taylor Lisle

There are times when you just need a quick read to make you feel happy.  The Highway Cats fits this criteria.

It's about a community of cats who live, fittingly, by the highway - a rough-and-tumble community, a rag-tag collection of tough cats who look out for number one and no one else.  Among these cats is Shredder, an older tom who prides himself on being just as hard as the rest of them.

Shredder is out by the highway one regular day, in time to witness three tiny kittens trying to cross the road - in horrible traffic.  Miraculously, the kittens survive.  Not only do they survive, however - they also take a shine to Shredder.

Shredder, against his better impulses, refuses to have anything to do with them.  Thus the three kittens fall into the hands of Khalia Koo, a once-beautiful Siamese who was scarred by a fire and now wears various pieces of trash over her head to hide her hideousness.  Khalia Koo and her henchcat, Jolly Roger, run a rat farm; they take the kittens in to use as pillows on cold winter nights.

But the three kittens make an unexpected impression on the highway cat community.  Suddenly these mangy, dirty, careless, foul-mouthed cats are cleaning up their acts around the kittens; the rat farm experiences a surge in productivity; and even Shredder and Khalia Koo find themselves softening.  Is it all the work of these three miraculous kittens, who seem to have a glow of their own?

Then a greater threat to their newfound peaceful lives presents itself, and it seems that even the kittens' particular brand of magic may not be enough to save the highway cats.

The Highway Cats is really short and really sweet and really... I don't know what.  Magical?  Actually, the friend who rec'd it to me may have the best word for it - surreal.  It's very surreal.  Kittens who glow, a she-cat who wears orange juice cartons to hide her deformities, a plan to drive off oncoming construction workers - it's just a very odd collection of things to work with.

But work, it does.

It's just adorable.  At just over one hundred pages, there's not a whole lot of time for anything, and yet it feels complete.  It's a bare-bones story and it works.  Sort of like Dread Locks, but fluffier.  And sweeter.  And, in a way, more fulfilling.

The characters are awesome.  Shredder was the perfect old-guy-who's-not-as-tough-as-he-thinks; Jolly Roger and Murray the Claw were funny (if shallow) henchcat types; and the three kittens, who could easily have come off annoying and perfect, were really just adorable.  Khalia Koo, however, is definitely my favorite.  She started off 'evil' and then sort of became just 'nasty' and then plain old heroic. (I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I love horribly maimed characters.  Khalia Koo actually does have horrific scars.  She has this awesome line... never mind, spoilers.)

It actually is hard to say too much about this book without spoiling a lot of the action that comes about. It's not that anything is shocking or unexpected, but... it's just the sort of book that you don't want to know too much about going into.  Let it surprise you.

Because the ending is terrific.  I started grinning when I read the last page - it's the perfect ambiguous ending.  Not a whole lot is explained, because it doesn't need to be.  It just... is.

So if you're in the mood for a quick, happy-feeling little book about cats and a bit of magic, The Highway Cats is definitely the right book.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Persy -- Author Interview featuring Robert Paul Weston!

This Wednesday Scrolls, I am privileged to bring you all an interview with Robert Paul Weston, writer of poetry and prose, and author of novels Zorgamazoo and Dust City. Zorgamazoo is written entirely in verse, and is strongly reminiscent of Dr. Seuss. Dust City is prose, and I'll let its label say it all: "When your dad is the wolf who killed little red riding hood, life is no fairytale."

Robert Paul Weston was born in Dover, England, and after living in various places (Canada, Japan...), he now resides in London, England. For more info about him and his books, check out his cool website.

And now, please give him a warm welcome!

1. When did you first start writing?
I started writing seriously when I was nine years old. For Christmas, I gave my 4th grade teacher a "novel" about two boys at a private school, who find a portal to another dimension in their closet. No idea what happened to that story, but I hope Mrs. Urch still has it (wherever she is).

2. Do you have a special "writing place"?
When I lived in Toronto, I rented shared office space with other writers, but now I live in London and the rents are a bit too steep! These days I write at a study carrell at the library, or else on the couch at home.

3. Is it hard to switch from verse to prose when writing?
It's not hard to switch from verse to prose; it's the switching back that's a killer. It always takes me a couple days to get into the rhythm of writing in verse.

4. Which do you enjoy writing more, verse or prose?
Difficult to say. Both have their ups and downs. With prose, because it's so wide open, it's easy to steer off the path and write yourself into a corner. With verse, on the other hand, I nearly always stick to the plan. You can't afford too many detours. I like the freedom of prose and the intense fulfilment that comes from finishing a long stretch of form poetry.

5. What is your favorite book(s)?
Right now, my favourite books for young readers are Skellig by David Almond and Momo by Michael Ende. My favourite book adults is The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill.

6. What if you could go anywhere in history?
I love reading about history, but I feel like I can get a lot out of a really thorough history book, so please send me to the future—anytime after Thursday, September 13, 2063 (according to TheDeathClock.com, this is when I kick the bucket). That way, I'd get a rare peek at what becomes of the world after I'm gone.

7. Can you tell us what you're working on now?
I'm writing two new books. The first is an "upper teen" coming-of-age novel about music (and other things). The second is a middle grade fantasy novel, in prose this time. If I'm lucky both should come out in 2013, which is shaping up to be a very busy year for me.

Thank you, very much, Mr. Weston! I'll be keeping an eye out for the new titles next year!

--Persy

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Persy -- The Prophecy of The Stones by Flavia Bujor

On their fourteenth birthdays, three girls are told that they aren't who they think they are. Jade is not the daughter of the Duke of Divulyon. Amber is not the daughter of the poor peasant woman she's loved all her life. Opal is finally given a reason to exist.

The girls are each given a stone, and then sent away. They are warned to trust no one. On their travels, they discover the land of Fairytale, where they can finally learn their true purpose and hear The Prophecy. Soon it's not only a matter of survival, but a great battle between good and evil. But exactly whose side are the Stones on?

Meanwhile, in a hospital in Paris, a young teenage girl named Joa is on her deathbed, all alone...

My favorite books from my childhood are rarely as good as I remember them to be, especially if years and years have passed since the first time I read it. The Prophecy of the Stones by Flavia Bujor (translated from the French by Linda Coverdale), is different only in the fact that I've never stopped rereading it, and so I gradually grew aware of the fact that it's actually pretty bad instead of suddenly realizing it. Nevertheless, I will never cease to adore this book.

I'm not sure if it's Bujor's writing (she was only 13 when she wrote it) or the translation, but the writing is painfully simplistic and repetitive. The world of Fairytale and the surrounding countries is very black and white with its representations of good and evil, and most of the characters have only two layers, some only one. Amber and Aidan are the the most obvious.

Amber is a very sensitive, emotion-driven girl who cries a lot whenever she's sad or happy, and is the most set on saving the world from evil and uniting everyone in friendship and goodness. Aidan is just... there. Jade has two layers and the most character growth, going from the spoiled princess to the warrior princess over the course of the book and turning into a very cool character. And then Opal, who has always been my favorite, is the cool and aloof one who never shows emotion, but learns how to love and feel etc. The Nameless One is the humble hovalyn, the traveling warrior who has no memory. Some things change about him over the story, but he essentially stays the same character.

The plot is hardly aimless, but not much connects one thing to the next. The girls do things either because they're told by a helpful passerby who happens to know what they should do next or because they "get a strange feeling and know that they should do such-and-such." This is just an excuse to get the plot moving along without actually giving it much thought.

So basically, it's really not very good if you're looking at the minor things like writing, and plot, and characters. But there is something irresistable about The Prophecy of The Stones. Every time I read it, the first few chapters are painful and hard to get through, but then I get to a point where I don't want to put it down. I just want to read one more chapter. And then it's over. Maybe it's just nostalgia, but there's no denying that this book has a certain magic.

So while a 14+ might recoil in revulsion from this brilliantly orange novel, a younger girl would certainly eat it up. I fell in love with it back when I was a little girl (all those years ago), and I've never quite gotten over it. This was the book I would read over and over again, back to front, day after day. This was the book my friends and I would read aloud to each other even though we could quote most of it. This was the book we decided to convert into a play and perform, even though there were barely enough of us just to be the main three girls.

This is a story of magic written by a 13-year-old girl full of dreams.

--Persy

You might like this if you: like fairytale-esque stories; are a 10-year-old girl; like surreal stories; like books with personifications of Death; like light, young fantasy; or if you just want to feel like a kid again curled up with a favorite book.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Arty -- Time Stops For No Mouse by Michael Hoeye

Yeah, Arty's alive.  Sorry 'bout that, much importantness crammed my weekends.

So.  Time Stops For No Mouse.  I've seen other books in this series in various places, and they all look very cute - I mean, mouse detective stories.  Generally the only mysteries of any sort that I can abide.  The Great Mouse Detective springs to mind.  But I digress.

I finally found the first book in the Hermux Tantamoq Mysteries, and it took me way too long to read it.  But I finally did, and now I'm wishing that I had before now, because it's really, really cute.  That's the word that sums up basically everything about this book - cute.  (Even with the villainous youth-crazed mad scientists and the murder-by-mousetrap and such.)

Hermux Tantamoq is a humble mouse watchmaker.  He's minding his own business, fixing watches and clocks, when in strolls Linka Perflinger - daring and lovely aviatrix/adventuress mouse.  She broke her watch during an adventure, and needs it fixed posthaste (watches are critical to the timing and execution of life-threatening stunts).

Hermux is taken with Ms. Perflinger and readily agrees to fix the watch for her.  Unfortunately, Ms. Perflinger is involved with much more than just innocent, death-defying tricks.  When a strange, sinister rat comes into Hermux's establishment, demanding to have Ms. Perflinger's watch, Hermux knows something is up.  He follows the rat, and...

Okay, if I keep summarizing, then I'll never stop.

This is one of those books that's hard to sum up, because there are several threads of conflict that emerge later on and connect in unexpected ways.  It's not complicated, per se - just not simple.  You have Tucka Mertslin's cosmetics and shady new Millennium line that makes everyone look younger, the scientific exploration into a tribal community of rodents who never age or die, Dr. Mennus's 'Youthanasia Resort'...

One of my favorite parts about the book was the character names.  Hermux Tantamoq.  Linka Perflinger.  Tucka Mertslin.  Pup Schoonagliffen.  I've read reviews where readers were bugged by this, but I LOVE it.  So... cute.

Basically, if you don't like cute, then don't read this book.

Hermux is an adorable main character.  He's the perfect regular Joe, just doing what he does.  There is no real point where he's all I'm Going To Be A Hero now.  He just... is one.  Because he's cool.  And cute.  I love Hermux.  Officially one of my favorite literary mice, up there behind Reepicheep.

And then there are the surrounding cast, most of whom aren't particularly good people, but are still interesting.  Tucka Mertslin is appropriately nasty and obnoxious.  Dr. Mennus is a little cliché, but he still has a very cavalier feel to him that seems creepy.  Pup Schoonagliffen fulfilled his role very well.  And Terfle.  Terfle is Hermux's pet ladybug.  She was so. adorable.  Ladybugs have never been that adorable.

There are some downsides.  Like I said, it's a very cute book - well-written, definitely, but cute.  It won't appeal to a lot of people for that reason.  The mystery seems to be wrapped up very neatly at the end, although I don't know if anything besides a neat ending could suit this kind of book.  And the first half of the book, while incredibly amusing, might bore some readers - it's very much about Hermux's daily life.

In my mind, though, there was very little that was wasted about this book.  It's adorable.  It's about amateur mouse sleuths and fountain-of-youth chemical formulas.  Just... read it.  Read it.  It's awesome. I can't wait to get my hands on the sequels.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Wednesday Scrolls -- RAMFAP Roundup AKA July Review

That's right, folks, RAMFAP is over. Sad.

Except that I finished with an epic 22.5 favorite books completed and 7,031 pages read! I deserve a reward!

Instead of our usual Month Review format where we highlight best and worst books, I figured I'd just give you a rundown of everything I got read, since obviously, all the books were amazing and none of them were awful.

When I first invented RAMFAP month, it was because I wanted a good excuse to reread all the Harry Potter and League books in one month, but, as you might've noticed, the idea grew a little since then. So instead of getting through all seven of the Harry Potter books, I just got through the first three. But I'm determined to finish the last four by September! I also got all the League books read, except for the last one that only just came out (that's actually getting read by September too).

Here's a list of the other fabulous books I read: Hana-Kimi, Evil Genius, Night Gate, Sabriel, Graceling, Dragon Slippers, Ouran, Alice In Wonderland/Through the Looking-Glass, Fire, Brightly Woven, Bad Kitty, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Nightlight, The Comedy of Errors, and Jabberwocky & Other Poems. I also got halfway through The Prophecy of the Stones.

It was definitely a good month, but I'm looking forward to going back to a more leisurely reading pace and discovering brand new wonders and horrors in the world of literature. I will keep you posted.

What about you? How did y'all do on RAMFAP month, if you participated?

--Persy




Arty here, coming it at 21 books read.  But... I have a small confession to make.  Only 11 of those were actually very-favorites. I know.  Shame on me.  If I could show you a picture of my To-Read Stacks, you'd understand.

Still, that's 11 favorites revisited!  Eleven favorites that include The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis (of course), Dread Locks by Neal Shusterman, The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (RANGER'S APPRENTICE), Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer (ARTEMIS FOWL), Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, the whole Books of Umber trilogy by P.W. Catanese (which EVERYONE should read, I kid you not), the first two books in the Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine, and The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter.

What you might appreciate: in the month of July, I read the first and last Artemis Fowl books.  Yep, I got The Last Guardian for my birthday.  And it was... well.  The ending.  The ending was... oh, just read it.

Like Persy, I'm ready to dive back into the unstable world of new books. (Actually I already have, since it's the second, but anyway.)  Happy August and good luck with your new stuff!

-Arty

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Persy -- Wednesday Scrolls -- RAMFAP is almost over!

That's right, there's onle one week left of RAMFAP month! How many of you have participated? What books have you reread? How maany more do you hope to squeeze in?

I'm not doing as well as I'd hoped, but I still feel pretty proud of my accomplishments. I'm on my fourteenth book. I got off to a very bad start, but I've been slowly catching up as my life quiets down and I have more time just to read. My last class of summer ballet just ended today, so I'll have even more time for this last week of RAMFAP, so I've got a lot of rapid reading planned!

Don't let RAMFAP escape you! Don't put it off! Go grab that favorite book and read it! I strongly recommend some frozen hot chocolate or a tasty milkshake to go along with it (it's way too hot to go without)!

Look forward to a review from Arty this weekend, and next Wednesday we'll sum up our RAMFAP adventures!

--Persy

Friday, July 20, 2012

Persy -- Born of Ice by Sherrilyn Kenyon


You may remember my reviews of the first two books in Sherrilyn Kenyon's League series: Born of Night and Born of Fire. You may remember how much I love these books. I mean, it's not like I rave about them all the time or anything.

Unfortunately, book #3, Born of Ice doesn't quite live up to the first two books. Sure, the more you read any Kenyon books and the less amazing they are, but even the first time through, "Ice" wasn't overly impressive. But I still love it.

Devyn Kell is the son of Shahara and Syn (see Born of Fire), and a runner (similar to a smuggler, but not quite). He used to work as a army medic, but effectively "resigned" when he turned against his own unit in order to save a ten-year-old boy (Omari, who becomes Devyn's adopted son). And then there's Devyn's ex-fiancée, who mortally injured Devyn years ago, leaving him with a dangerous heart condition.

Alix is a slave. After her father/owner dies, a man named Merjack gets a hold of her and decides to use her to get back at Devyn's family. Y'see, Alix bears a startling resemblance to Devyn's ex-fiancée. So Alix joins Devyn's crew as the engineer. Even in the beginning, she doesn't want to take down Devyn, but it becomes harder and harder as she falls deeper and deeper... IN LOVE!!!

I'm going to go right out and say it. Devyn and Alix are both pretty stupid. I don't really care about either of them. And let's face it: the plot of "Ice" is pretty basic too, and not at all interesting. I get the feeling Kenyon didn't spend a lot of time editing this book, because it just isn't too awesome compared to the other books in the series.

And don't get me started on Kenyon's all time favorite line. "And in that instant, she/he knew insert-obvious-fact-of-life-here." She used it a few times in her other books, but she really goes overboard in "Ice". It gets a leetle ridiculous.

It would also be very confusing for people who haven't read books #1, #2, and #4 (possibly #5, but I haven't read that yet, so I don't know if it makes things clearer or not). It seems like every single character ever named in the League series had about fifteen children, and they're all in Born of Ice. It gets very hard to keep track of them.

The only things that save this book are Vik and Omari. Vik first appeared in "Fire", and he's only gotten better since then. I have a soft spot for snarky robots. And then Omari is just cute.

So...basically it's not a very well-written book. But! The first time through is as captivating as ever, and I mean... VIK!! He makes it all okay.

By the way, we're over halfway into RAMFAP month...how are y'all doing? Better than I am, I hope... That's all I'm gonna say.

--Persy

You might like this if you: like dramatic romances with stupid main characters; improbably spaceship chase scenes; tortured characters; or just the other books in Sherrilyn Kenyon's League series.