Sunday, February 26, 2012

Persy -- The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, sister of the handsomest (and nicest) guy in school, and the girl with unanswered questions. Like, what happened all those years ago when her brother Jude came home covered in blood and Daniel Kalbi completely disappeared?

By the way, Daniel used to be their next door neighbor and they were best friends growing up. Then Daniel lived with them for a few months after his dad disappeared. Then Daniel disappeared.

Grace used to ask her brother what happened. She used to bring up the topic with her family. But no one said anything, so they settled into silence. Because that's the way the Divine family is: they don't discuss the past and they don't discuss their problems, not even with each other.

Then comes the day when Daniel reappears, sitting at a desk in school with a completely new look and strange new powers. At first Grace is determined to find out what's going on, but does she really want to know?

It seems like she doesn't have any idea, because she's constantly changing her mind throughout the entire book. I swear, sometimes the girl has no curiosity. Though I have to say, she is pretty smart. After all, the smart thing to do is stay away from the dangerous teenage boy who seems to be in love with you but has dark powers and tells you to stay away (I'm looking at you, Bella Swan). So yeah, Grace follows her common sense and stays away every once in a while, but she's so bipolar that it doesn't last long.

Plus she's probably the most naive teenage girl ever. Boy does she have her stupid moments.

In the beginning (and actually, throughout the whole book), I was a little irritated with Bree Despain's vision of a Christian family. But as the story continues, Grace is made aware of the fact that her family has issues, so it's not that they're just being "good Christians," so I felt a little better after that.

The way the book is written is also a little annoying. It's mostly flashbacks, which do help to tell the story in the right order (kind of...?), but can be very cumbersome. In fact, lots of the scenes, both in the present and the past, just feel cumbersome. You could probably take out a hundred pages or so (or at least summarize them), and you'd still have the same story, just moving a little quicker.

And maybe if Grace would stop changing her frickin' mind.

One thing I really do like about The Dark Divine is the werewolves. Nowhere on the back of the book or the inside or in any summary anywhere does it mention the werewolves, but I'm going to give you a little spoiler and tell you that there are some. And they're very cool werewolves. It is not every day you read a Christian werewolf novel that somehow, inexplicably pulls it off.

Another pleasant surprise is the horror aspect. There were times when I really didn't want to put the book down because I couldn't wait to find out what happened next and I had a tingling at the back of my neck. Unfortunately, the tingling dissipated fairly quickly.

The twist ending is also very well done, but it would've been better if it had actually ended there. Ugh, how I hate happy little epilogues. They ruin the whole tone of the book (unless you're reading a happy little novel, in which case, it's perfectly fine).

So I have very mixed feelings about this book. Some of it, like the werewolves, is very good. Other parts, like Grace, make me groan. But it's surprisingly good, and I find myself recommending it despite the idiot main character. I don't expect much at all from the second book (The Lost Saint, oooh, sounds amazing), but the first one is worth a look.


You might like this if you: have always wanted to read a Christian werewolf book; are looking for a new take on werewolves; or if you just have nothing else to read. Okay, so I might be struggling to find reasons to like this now.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Persy -- Wednesday Scrolls -- Best Endings of Literarydom

"So, good night unto you all,

Give me your hands, if we be friends,

and Robin shall restore amends."

Rule number one: do not mess up the ending. The ending is everything. The ending is what will stay with the reader, what the reader will think of whenever that book is mentioned. The ending is the grand finale, the coup de grace, the moment when the curtain descends and the actors stand in tense silence as they await the audience's reaction. Will there be wild applause? Heartfelt silence? Discontent mutterings? Disgusted shouts?

I'm always talking about endings; I bet you're sick to death of it. But it's true. if the ending's off by even a fraction, no matter how amazing the rest of the book is, it will not sit right in my mind. A good ending is vital.

So I thought I'd show you how a professional does it...and give you a list (I love me some lists!) of books with some of the best endings in all of Literarydom, plus mention a few of the worst. I certainly won't tell you what the endings are (spoilers!). That's something you'll have to discover for yourself (or you could, you know, cheat and use the internet).

Artemis Fowl - Eoin Colfer. So epic.

The Demon's Lexicon - Sarah Rees Brennan. The book itself is practically intolerable, but the ending is so good and makes so much sense. It's hard not to admire it.

Dragon Slippers - Jessica Day George. Wonderful. Brought a big smile to my face.

House of Stairs - William Sleator. ...Rather hard to explain, really.

In The Spotlight - Ann Mauren. Though there were many parts of the book I didn't love, the ending is spectacular.

Last Stop - Peter Lerangis. Definition of a twist ending.

Me, The Missing, And The Dead - Jenny Valentine. Rest of the book isn't impressive, but the ending is pretty good.

Midsummer Night's Dream - William Shakespeare. See above quote.

Sorcery & Cecelia - Caroline Stevermer and Patricia C. Wrede. A true happy ending.

Speeding Bullet - Neal Shusterman. Realistic and satisfactory.

The God Engines - John Scalzi. Slightly horrifying.

Unwind - Neal Shusterman. Appropriately epic.

And this is how you don't write an ending:

Angel - Cliff McNish. Well, despite the fact that THIS WHOLE BOOK IS CRAP.

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury. Doesn't seem to fit the rest of the book.

Gods Behaving Badly - Marie Phillips. They never really solved the problem of the disappearing sun...?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling. I know, I'll probably get hate mail for this, was a bit heavy on the happily ever after, don't you think?

Mansfield Park - Jane Austen. YOU READ 400 STINKING PAGES FOR THAT?

So Yesterday - Scott Westerfeld. Just...disappointing, to say the least.

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins. It's very abrupt and tacked on, like she had no idea how to write an ending.

Twilight - Stephanie Meyer. Bella doesn't get turned into a vampire (oops, spoiler).

So what's your list of epic conclusions and awful endings?


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Arty -- Behind The Gates by Eva Gray

Dystopian. The new paranormal romance, as many people are saying. Which is a shame, because good dystopian is really good. I haven't come across a good paranormal romance (in all my experience with the genre, y'understand). Anyway, dystopian has now reached its totalitarian paws into the middle grade area of the library with the series Tomorrow Girls, by Eva Gray, starting with Behind the Gates.

It's 2020. America is in trouble because of a strange war with someone called the Alliance. Everything is different. (Don't ask me how, I don't remember.) But 13-year-old Louisa isn't worried about the war right now; she's about to go off to privileged Country Manor School with her best friend Maddie.

CMS isn't exactly what Louisa expected, with the wilderness training and sharpshooting classes; still, she loves it. But Maddie doesn't. And one of their roommates, Evelyn, thinks it's all suspicious. But CMS is just trying to keep the girls safe - right?

I don't really need to explain anymore, because we've heard the plot about a hundred times over. Girls sent away to school, school seems weird but strange, girls learn about nefarious scheme behind school, have to... do something. And it's all in this little 240-page book. Very different girls fighting at first and then binding into an unlikely team - check. Main charrie is bland and pretty stupid but OMG SO GOOD AT EVERYTHING - check. One of the girls seems paranoid but is actually OMG SO RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING - check. Another girl - Rosie, their other roommate - is a snobby jock girl but OMG SHE'S ACTUALLY NOT BAD - check.

Which brings me to Maddie, possibly the most annoying best friend I've ever read. This book might have been better if it hadn't been for poor, pathetic, angsty, whiny Maddie. Louisa and Maddie are supposed to be bestest of best friends - they have to pass as twins because Maddie's family is too poor to send her to CMS, and breaking the law is Louisa's way of saying 'I love you' - but as soon as they get to CMS, it's like their friendship dissolves. Maddie angsts. about. everything. I kid you not. And when the inevitable reconciliation comes, it's just so sudden and cardboardy, I laughed straight through it.

And then we have the villains. Oh, the villains. I don't want to 'give anything away' (not that there's anything you won't be able to guess from the get-go), but... there was one scene where it looked like the bad guys would win, and the women villains all laughed over their 'glorious victory.' I was laughing there, too.

There were a few things to like about this series, I guess, but it's really not worth reading it to find them. I hear the second book Run For Cover is better. Still, I have better things to read.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Persy -- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

If you follow my vlog (hint hint?), then you'll know that I recently (as in a month or so ago) read the great classic dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 and...was disappointed.

Guy Montag is a fireman of the future, which means he doesn't stop fires, he starts them. Books of all kinds are illegal (and yet, everyone is still taught to read?), and when books ar discovered, the firemen appear on the scene to destroy all traces. He has always enjoyed his job, but then he meets his new next door neighbor, Clarisse McClellan. After many conversations with her, he suddenly begins to wonder, begins to think, begins to imagine.

Montag's perfect world of order begins to crumble until he barely knows up from down. And, to make it all even worse, he begins reading.

This novel held me in rapt attention all the way to the end, stopped. The last chapter left me with a strange and very unsatisfied feeling, which is a shame because the rest of it was so good.

It was like being Guy Montag. When he's going about his monotonous, grey life, you feel like you really are going about your own monotonous, grey life. When he starts falling into insanity, you feel like clutching your hair and screaming along with him as your brain explodes in confusion. The writing is that good.

I think Ray Bradbury just didn't quite know how to end it, or maybe he was in a hurry and so just scribbled something off without giving it much thought (or hey, maybe he thought it was brilliant), but I'm just not feeling it. It didn't have any of the same atmosphere as the first part of the book and seemed like a random addition that might've made sense if added to another book, but just feels...random. It even touches on the edge of ridiculous.

And the first part was SO GOOD. It's a CRIME against LITERATURE!

Well, maybe not that bad. But you know me and endings. If it's not just right, no matter how good the rest of the book is, it doesn't sit right in my mind. Once again, if you want a truly amazing dystopian novel, I have to point you in the direction of Unwind by Neal Shusterman.

While I do agree that Fahrenheit 451 is an important piece of classic literature, and I can understand why it's on so many reading lists, I do not think it is one of the best books ever. I can think of better dystopian novels (with way better endings), and other authors who can not only write an amzing beginning and middle, but also an end. So perhaps it is worth a quick read, but it's not destined to end up on my bookshelf.


You might like this if you: like dystopian novels; want to read all the "great works of literature"; read for excellent writing; or if you find it on your required reading list for school.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wednesday Scrolls - Belated January Review

January already feels like fifteen years ago, but here am I, Persy, to tell you about the best and worst of the first month of 2012! In Janury, I read a total of 22 books and 3726 pages! I'm definitely off to a good start (I'm not going to say anything about February, though...

Best January Book: I Want My Hat Back written and illustrated by Jon Klassen. Go read this book. Right now. It'll take you five seconds.

Honorable Mention: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and Marco's Millions by William Sleator (out of 22 books, of course I'm going to have multiple honorable mentions).
Worst January Book: What Happens In Vegas, Dies In Vegas by Mark Everett Stone. All the characters were the same, and...need I really get into the completely bizarre time travel?

Dishonorable Mention: Bitten by Kelley Armstrong. Stay far away. I'm getting my wisdom teeth plus four premolars surgically removed tomorrow, so stay tuned for a probably late and senseless review by me this weekend.


Konnichiwa, everyone! Arty at your service. This January, I read 20 books, three of which were manga.

Best January Book: The Kings of Clonmel by John Flanagan, the eighth Ranger's Apprentice book. RA is like How To Train Your Dragon for me... only ten times worse. I'm an addict.

Honorable Mention: Inheritance by Christopher Paolini (don't look at me like that - I like the books, okay?) and Quicksilver by Stephanie Spinner.

Worst January Book: Behind The Gates by Eva Gray, the first Tomorrow Girls book. The Hunger Games for tweens. Just... don't. Unless you're having trouble sleeping.

Dishonorable Mention: I... really don't have any other books that I particularly disliked. January was a rather lukewarm month.

And that was my literary January. (Whoa, that almost rhymes. Almost.) Next Wednesday I hope to have another Scrolls up, but we know how that goes. Sayonara!


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Arty -- Quicksilver by Stephanie Spinner

Hermes is my favorite Greek god. (Since I got over my Artemis kick, anyway - y'know, like ARTYmis? MOONLIT Library of the Underworld? I love it.) However, he's not the most publicized god, and I had never considered that there might be a whole book about him.

BUT! There is Quicksilver.

Quicksilver is a short little book that covers a few of the tales in which Hermes appears - Persephone and Hades (Persephone as PERSY, get it?), Perseus and Medusa/Andromeda, and Calypso and Odysseus. It also sheds some light on where he wasn't in the tales - what Hermes was doing, most importantly, during the Trojan War.

The best thing about the book is - surprise surprise - Hermes himself. Of course he's got the sense of humor and sarcasm that I expect. (The first sentence: "It's dark and gloomy and it smells like dead sheep, but when Zeus says go to Hell, I go.") But what I love about Spinner's Hermes is his vulnerability. As arguably the most mortal of all Greek gods, Hermes is very human. He needs Zeus's attention and approval as any son would; he misses his half-brother, Apollo; and the pointless Trojan War, as well as his family's involvement, makes him irritated. He's actually kind of a pathetic character, with no special talents besides his feathered sandals and his job as messenger/leader of the dead. But it's a sympathetic kind of pathetic, and it works well against his cheery exterior.

The retellings of the myths are good: more in-depth, with non-traditional details thrown in. The details are necessary, since Hermes has few to none of his own myths, and he of course has to be doing something while Calypso frees Odysseus or while the Trojan War goes on. My personal favorite was the Perseus/Medusa myth - Hermes's interactions with Perseus are great to read.

Spinner's style is clear and understated, which is good for Hermes's voice. Sometimes I wish she had been a little more involved with her story, because there are times when it's hard to get into it - especially with the Trojan War, or his later falling in love with Calypso. If she had dug more into the stories and made the book longer, then it would have been easier to read.

But maybe cutting it short would cut out some of Quicksilver's charm. As is, it's a pleasing little tome that splits the difference between retelling and reimagining very successfully.