Something Strange and Deadly: Susan Dennard

Let’s be honest here…you’re probably groaning by the cover alone.  The book looks like it’s going to be your stereotypical paranormal.  The main character is wearing a fancy dress, there is a dark depressing feeling that the art department is trying to get the reader to feel.  But does it ring historical?

Not really.  The dress isn’t what a nineteenth century Miss would wear but that doesn’t matter since I’m not analyzing this books cover (yet). So, let’s review the book.

General Summary: Eleanor receives a disturbing letter from her brother.  Its contents are disturbing enough, but what makes matters worse was that it was delivered by a zombie and now Eleanor finds herself having to team up with the spirit hunters.

Review:  I love this book and then again I don’t.  For the first two thirds of this book I had thought I met my soulmate.  It had taken something I absolutely despised and hated (zombies) and made it great.  I love Eleanor she’s kick ass.  And that’s something about this book I loved till the end.  She could handle whatever was thrown at her and she wasn’t Mary Sue perfect.  I also liked her interactions with her suitors and for that matter than her love life is not the main focus of the book.  Rather, it’s the attack on Philadelphia and Eleanor’s quest to find her missing brother. That was another strength of the book (well, through most of the book) was it’s plot.  Dennard had a clear story in mind when it came to this book and I enjoyed that until….well, I got to the climax.
 To be honest, I wasn’t impressed with the climax at all.  It wasn’t poorly written.  It was very exciting and all, but I felt like I had read it before in oh…..Clockwork Angel. While it was true that the stories are different, a plot twist that was used in Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices series was used here and it just sort of rubbed me the wrong way. I was like really Dennard you’re better than this. And even if I didn’t read Clockwork Angel  it still would’ve been predictable and sort of groan inducing twist.
While I like the Infernal Devices series a lot better than the Moral Instruments the book is still a bit of a cliche.  Not that cliche can’t be good but that doesn’t matter.

That being said, I really did enjoy the book.  Besides the main characters and  I thought that Dennard excelled when it came to the use of details in the this story.  Everything seemed so put together for the most part and with reason.  Which is sort of hard to do.  That being said, it wasn’t perfect I think as the book progressed and I got a better look at what the story was about I was able to spot a plot hole or two. And yeah, one of these plot holes was quite glaring but overall it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book (much).

 Best Feature: History.  I really love history.  And I have to be honest, when you combine the paranormal with historical fiction it’s pretty kick ass.  I even like that stupid Titanic book with the werewolves, mainly because it incorporated history.  Not very well, might I add.  But still it incorporated history.  This book, was much more of a success (in my opinion at least) than that Titanic book and I think it’s because Dennard didn’t try to recreate an alternative version of a big historical event.  Okay, so history was altered-big time-with zombies walking around everywhere in the nineteenth century.  But there were still core things about the period that existed if you knew your history.  And this made me smile.
Eleanor’s Philadelphia

Worst Feature: This seems familiar….: While there was a lot of originality to this book there were also a lot of similarities to Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices series.  Which is okay, but it makes part of the book sort of predictable and a let down.  When I started reading this book, I was so excited.  For the first one hundred and fifty pages or so, I thought I finally had another book I’d give a full blown ten to (which doesn’t happen a lot).  However, then things got a little cliched.  And I have to say this…what is the deal with all these period pieces and gears.  Yes, I get that gears were used in a lot of old machinery but can’t you be I don’t know a little more creative.

Appropriateness:  There are some pretty vivid descriptions of the zombies that are a bit gruesome, but other than that it’s pretty proper.  It has to be right?  It’s YA and it’s historical and historical MC’s are always prim and proper.

Blockbuster Worthy: Sure, why not.  I’m always for a good period piece with zombies.  Even if they royally screw up on the script and everything else you have the costumes to look forward to.  Here’s who For  Eleanor, Kaitlyn Jenkins.…maybe?  I like her in Bunheads and I do think she might be able to pull off Eleanor in some ways but I’m not sure if she’s bad ass enough.

 

Daniel: Chad Duell.  I think he has the right look though he’s a ginger instead of blonde.

 

Overall Rating: Eight out of ten gears.  This book was looking perfect till the last third of the book and then I fell a bit out of love with it.  I still recommend it though.  It’s one of the better YA paranormals I’ve read in quite awhile.

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Do Judge a Book By It’s Cover: More Books

A couple of weeks ago I judged a few books by their covers and I really enjoyed doing that so I decided to make it a regular feature.   Here’s how this works, I look at five books they may be released or not make up a summary and compare it to it’s real summary before rendering a verdict for the art department.

 

What The Cover Tells Me:  Isla Black is fed up with being the class geek.  So she decides to use her brains to get even.  With a couple of cunning plans Isla finds herself ruling her high school before you can say Mean Girls.  But is being the school’s top bitch all that?   Especially when Isla might be in love with a smart guy herself.

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What the Book is really about: This book is actually about a group of friends who are at the top of their class who decide for various reasons (not all good)  to live a little. 

Verdict: Close enough, I guess.  Personally, I find the cover a little insulting and stereotyping.  It’s true some smart girls wear dresses and really bad leggings, but surprisingly there are quite a bit of fashionable smart people.  Don’t believe me,  have you read Suri Cruise’s blog lately?

 

What The Cover Tells Me:  Just looking at the cover I could see it as a grown up version of Alice in Wonderland and that would be sort of cool.  I mean, yeah it would sort of be like the Tim Burton version of the film but you really could make it your own and less creepy…you know.  Or maybe more creepy if you like creepy.  I think there are a lot of ways you could go with Alice being grown up.  Since this book is called The Selection, maybe Alice is selected to become the next delusional  queen of Wonderland if she can survive one more trip through the looking glass.  However, I still can’t fathom why Alice would be smelling her armpit. 

 

What the Book is really about: America Singer finds herself participating in this lame dystopia The Bachelor wannabe contest after her boyfriend lamely breaks up to her.  She soon finds herself falling for the even lamer, Maxon.  Now her ex wants to get back together what will she do…read the sequel because it’s not answered in this book.

Verdict: The cover is eye catching and it works enough, I guess.  But I’m not quite sure it works for this book.  Seriously, it would’ve worked better for an Alice in Wonderland retelling better.

 

 

What The Cover Tells Me:  Thaddeus  was one too many times a peeping Tom in the school locker room and is now cursed to living his days in stone unless he can find true love.  This is very hard when pigeons constantly poop on you.  It sort of  helps though that Thaddeus comes to life at night.  Though there’s not that many girls who stay at the school at night unless you count that one purple haired weirdo from the Astronomy Club and there’s no way that Thaddeus is falling in love with Ebony Wilks.  And did Thaddeus mention that every night when he comes to life he’s naked and has to make do with the school’s gym clothes (gasps!)

 

What the Book is really about:  Phoebe’s mom remarries and she finds herself moving to Greece (cool right, I always wanted to spend the school year on the  coast on the Mediterranean).  However, it’s not that cool for Phoebe and I can sort of understand given the fact that the school she is attending is full of Greek god descendants.  

Verdict: I like this cover.  It sort of gives the book a chick lit feel with a naughty edge.  Maybe it’s a little too naughty since after the initial printing the cover has changed.

 

 

What The Cover Tells Me:   Ji finds herself stranded in the rural Japan for the summer with her crazy Aunt Mae.  Japan wouldn’t be that bad if it wasn’t for the creepy Maneki-neko cat shop that Aunt Mae runs.  Ji can’t help but find bad luck when it comes to these cats when they’re suppose to be good luck charms.  That and she can’t stand sushi, anime, or sumo wrestling and she’s in Japan. Will Ji ever find the luck of the Maneki-neko or is she doomed to be cursed by Hello Kitty?

 

 

What the Book is really about:  Jas Callahan and her family are vacationing in Vegas when Jas finds herself in trouble again all because of cat.  Now with a mystery to solve and a bad hair day to tame, Jas finds herself in a heap loud of trouble all because of that cat.

Verdict: I actually like this cover.  And okay, it does deviate quite a bit from the book but I think it gives the cover a cooky like feel and the book itself is a bit quirky so it works.

 

 

 

What The Cover Tells Me:  Myra Gibbs is the type of girl that would give Rachel Berry a run for her money.  The things she’ll do in order to win an audition are rather epic.  When new girl, Sasha Coleman, moves to her school and upstages her Myra will do anything to be the one to take that bow.  Even if  it means stealing Sasha Coleman’s voice.

What the Book is really about: This book is about an ensemble cast of characters who attend a performing arts school each of them dealing with their own problems.

Verdict:  Well, the book is about a performing arts school so that is close enough.  However, I wish the cover didn’t focus on one character since the book itself deals with an ensemble cast.

  

What Were You Thinking: Dating a Boy Who’s Not Human

My mother lately has been obsessed with Dr. Phil.  Honestly, I don’t know why she watches the show since I think Dr. Phil is sort of a hack (I’m sorry, his dissertation wasn’t over a psychological issue) the show though is entertaining enough.  And I like how Dr. Phil always asks these supposedly “tough” questions.  Some of the melodrama on that show is so similar to some of the stuff that goes on in YA.  I wondered how some of YA’s biggest dumb asses would fair on that show.  However, since I am a poor law student, Dr. Phil and his  dissertation on arthritis  were unable to doing his hosting duties so I will just have to rely on my bachelors in English and Political Science to psychologically  analyze these girls.  So without further ado, here is the transcript of our interview:

MJ (YAL Book Briefs): Welcome, everyone to What Were You Thinking.  Today’s topic, dating a boy that’s not human.  Everyone knows that human boys suck (audience starts clapping rapidly and cheering) it’s all about the paranormal creature ya’ll.  Because what is more gorgeous than a vampire, werewolf, merman, or zombie hunk.  Okay, maybe not zombies.  Those are a little creepy…

Random Audience Member: My boyfriend’s a zombie!

MJ: My apologies to you.  The rotting and eating flesh thing has to get annoying.   Never the less,  the topic on the blog today is dating a boy who’s not human and I have three very important guests: Bella Swan from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga, Nora Grey from Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush Hush Saga, and Bethany Church from Alexandra Adornetto’s Halo Trilogy.

(Bella, Nora, and Bethany proceed to walk over to the sitting area on the fictional set.   Bella is wearing a Team Switzerland t-shirt while Nora Grey is wearing something blase that is just as forgettable as she is.  As for Bethany, she is wearing an oversize Dallas Cowboys jersey and jeans). 

MJ: Hi, ladies.  It’s good to have you here on What Were You Thinking.  I’d like to talk to each of you about your experience with your paranormal lover.

Bella: (blushes) Well, I’m not sure which one is my lover…..there’s Edward he’s a vampire and he’s perfect.  He’s my everything.  I am willing to give up anything and everything for him.  And then there’s Jake when I’m around him I find myself liking different things.   Like motorcycles even though I’m ridiculously clumsy and all.   And did I mention he transforms himself into a big furry werewolf and….

MJ: This show is not about love triangles, Bella.  Though I’ll be sure to invite you back to that show…if this feature stays on the blog for that long.  What I want to know is what attracted you to your paranormal lover?

Bella: Oh, that’s easy, they’re hot.

MJ: And you’re willing to give up your life because a guy’s hot…

Bella: Well, you would too if your boyfriend was Edward Cullen and it’s not like I’m going to be dead dead because I’ll be a vampire.

MJ: But it’s a very painful process and your family is going to be dead in a hundred or so years, won’t you miss them?

Bella: (flippantly shrugs) I’ll have Edward.

MJ: What about college?

Bella: I’ll be in high school for eternity so it won’t really matter. And I’m really good at high school.  Did you know that I met Edward in biology?  How’s that for being ironic?

MJ: (chooses to ignore this remark) And Jake?

Bella: Don’t werewolves live forever too?  I mean, if they don’t imprint. And since Jake can’t love anyone more than me that’s not going to happen ( laughs).

MJ: Okay, so to summarize you were attracted to your paranormal lover or should I say lovers because they’re hot.

Bella: Pretty much…

MJ:  With that in mind, let’s turn to Nora.  Nora, what can you tell me about your experience with your paranormal lover?

Nora: Well, Patch is the ultimate bad boy.  When I first met him I thought he was going to kill me and of course that meant I had to stalk him.

MJ: Because he was going to kill you?

Nora: Pretty much.  I mean, wouldn’t you stalk a guy if he was trying to kill you too?

MJ: No.  I’d probably call the police and  get a restraining order on him and then if he was still bugging me I’d get my cousin who’s in the military to have a word with him.  Or in a worst case scenario, I’d probably try to get put in Witness Protection which might be a viable option for you considering the fact you watched Patch commit various crimes…

Nora: Even if he was hot?

MJ: Yes, even if he was hot.

Nora: Wow, your loss because what Patch and I have is great.

MJ: He tried to kill you.

Nora: He’s the ultimate bad boy.  And he has abs of steel.  Haven’t you seen my book covers?

He might have abs of steel, but seriously it looks like he’s going to push poor Nora off the cliff here.

MJ: Okay, I get it.  Being hot counts for a lot.  But aren’t you scared that one day your going to wake up and he’s going to attack you in a murderous rage?

Nora: Well, no.  He’s my guardian angel.  And guardian angels don’t kill people unless they have to.  And Patch would never kill me.  Well, at least not now.  Unless my Nephilim heritage gets in the way.  You know, that might be a problem….

MJ: Oh, really…well, speaking of angels let’s turn the mic over to Bethany Church from Alexandra Adornetto’s Hush Hush.  Now the other guests I have here are human, but I decided to invite Bethany to participate in our little chat today because she can give us a perspective from the other side since she is a paranormal creature herself.

Bethany : I prefer angel  or the lord’s messenger and might I say I am disgusted with what was said today.

MJ: (odd look on face) What?

Bethany: This attitude everyone is taking about relationships especially her (waves her finger obnoxiously at Bella)

 

Bella: What did I do?

Bethany: You’re unfaithful and you’re willing to give up your humanity.  Obviously, you’re going to hell.

Where Bella’s going to end up.  And yes, in Bethany’s world Hades means Hell.  So, just try to deal with.  Yes, I know it’s really annoying for anyone who knows anything to do with Greek mythology to rationalize that Hades and hell mean the same thing, but this is Bethany we’re talking about.

Bella: Well, it’s a good thing I want to be a vampire then, bitch.

Bethany: (looks at MJ in horror) There are children reading this….right?

MJ: (Shrugs) This blog isn’t controlled by the FCC, Bethany.  But  that’s besides the point.  We’re completely off topic.  As I said before this show is about paranormal relationships if we get the go for future interviews I’ll be sure to invite you to The Scarlet Letter reenactment show. Now let’s talk about your relationship or should I say relationships?

Bethany: Relationships?  But I only have one Huggie Bear.  I swear.

MJ : (smirks) But what about Jake?

Bethany: (bites lip) What about him?  He’s a demon who tried to seduce me, I stayed strong for Huggie Bear though.  We’re meant to be.

MJ: Didn’t Jake take you to the prom?

Bella: (interrupts) You ho! You call me out for being a slut and then you went out with another guy to prom?  I didn’t even do that to Edward.  Not that I could invite Jake (my Jake’s a cute puppy not a demon) to the prom anyway because of the treaty but still….

What a cute puppy actually looks like-obviously, this pup is too cute to be Jacob Black.

MJ:(Waves hands in the air) Simmer down, ladies.  I just want to find out why Bethany was attracted to both…was it Huggie Buggie?  And Jake.

Bethany: Huggie Bear.  And no, I wasn’t attracted to Jake.  But he was sort of hot….

MJ: And is Huggle Wuggles hot?

Bethany: Are you going to hell?

MJ: One would hope not…

Bethany: Well, you are.

MJ: (sighs) Okay then, folks.  I think I got my answer to why paranormal boys are so much greater than human boys because they’re hot. I know it’s a dumb reason, but that’s all I got out of these characters. I’ll see next week when we discuss….hey….hey…stop it you two.

(Bella and Bethany have gotten into a cat fight and our now threatening to stick their significant others on each other, the interview regrettably stops here).

 

*Note, I do not own Bella Swan, Nora Grey or Bethany Church.   Bella is property of Stephenie Meyer author of the Twilight Saga.  Nora is property of Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush Hush Saga.  And Bethany is property of Alexandra Adornetto’s Halo Trilogy.  The use of these characters was used to illustrate  a point about paranormal romances in YA fiction.  That for the most part paranormal romances are extremely trivial and usually rely heavily on psychical attributes rather than real emotions.  

52 Reasons to Hate My Father: Jessica Brody

Sometimes it’s interesting to see how the other half lives especially when they….well, lose everything.

General Summary: Lexi Larabee is your typical spoiled rich girl.  After having her picture in US one too many times her father decides to issue her an ultimatum: either complete the fifty-two jobs he’s assigned her or say bye-bye to her twenty-five million dollar trust fund.

Review: I’m in a bit of a paranormal burnout so I’ve been reading a lot of realistic fiction lately.  Grant it, 52 Reasons to Hate my Father  is hardly realistic considering that most of the population aren’t trust fund babies but still… I have to say overall I was surprised.  I thought this book would merely be cotton candy filler for me, due to how predictable the summary sounded but I actually liked it quite a lot.  And okay, it wasn’t that innovative.  I basically predicted what was going to happen throughout the book, but it was executed  so perfectly I had to like it.

This book shows that sometimes something that seems so predictable (like vanilla ice cream) can be outstanding.

Let’s talk about characters.  I think Brody did a good job with all of the characters in the book.  First of all, she makes Lexi a likable heroine which is easier said than done.  And the supporting cast is also handled quite well too.  For example, I really liked how fleshed out both Luke and Lexi’s father were.  I thought the backstory for both of these characters was handled appropriately and I liked how some of the choices they made were obviously effected by their backgrounds.

For the most part, I thought the plot and the pacing of this book were handled well.  However, I did find that the end of the book was rushed a little bit.  Plus, one of the plot points towards the end of the book seemed a little rushed and disjointed to me.  I get why Brody did it, but still maybe some more build up for that little point….Still though, for the most part I was impressed.  Writing a book like 52 Reasons to Hate My Father is a challenge.  It doesn’t really involve any tricky research or world building, but since the plot itself is so simple execution has to be done right otherwise the book could very easily flop.  Fortunately, Brody was talented enough to pull it off with very little plot holes.

Best Feature: Lexi.  It’s hard having a spoiled little rich girl for a main character without having your audience hating the character.  Brody succeeds in making Lexi very likable are there times she’s annoying….yes, but overall Lexi is likable enough.  I think part of this is because her reactions to what is happening to her are so spot on.  And, of course, that Brody showed that there was more to her character than being a Paris Hilton wannabe.

Worst Feature: Predictability.  While I really liked this book it was pretty predictable.  And that’s not a bad thing.  While I do like books that grab you by surprise, sometimes something that is simple and predictable works like it does here.  I think if anything reinforces the idea that originality isn’t everything to a book’s success.  Predictable books can be enjoyable if they’re executed properly like it is here.

Appropriateness: For the most part I do think this book is pretty clean.  However, there is some teenage drinking and partying in the book.  I do like how Brody handles the drinking though, showing (not in an overly preachy way) that there’s usually a reason why people turn to alcohol and how it can end up destroying everything.

Blockbuster Worthy: Yeah, I could see this as a cute ABC Family movie of the week here’s who I’d cast:

Lexi: Lea Michele.  I really wanted to pick the girl in the book trailer because I think she did an excellent job, but I think this would be a good role for Lea even if she’s borderline too old.

Luke: William Moseley maybe…Honestly, this is a tough one.

Overall Rating: Eight out of ten stars.  I really liked this book, despite it’s predictability.  Jessica Brody has a great voice and I do think she’s an author to watch in the genre.  Also, thank God for realistic fiction.  After have read a slew of paranormals lately, it’s so nice to read a realistic fiction in YA that is well written.

What Would the Characters from Witches of East End Wear?

Melissa de la Cruz is probably one of the most fashionable authors out there in YA or adult fiction. All her characters’ are styled to perfection. So, when I heard that Witches of East End has been optioned I couldn’t but help but wonder how these characters would be styled on the small screen.  It’s going to be a very important job (might I recommend Patricia Field, Lifetime)  And I just had to do this entry:

Freya is the wild child which meant I had more liberties when it came to dressing her than her sister. I tried to make all her looks a little eclectic. Meaning, I tried to give her a little of everything without making her look like a tramp or a crazy cat lady. The left side of the set are outfits she could wear when she’s at the bar. There are two cocktail dress that border on over the top, but on Freya they’d look okay. There’s also a long blue maxi dress that I thought might fit the casual atmosphere of the Hamptons. On the other side of the set are day looks. I decided that Freya wouldn’t be one to stick to just separates and did a variety of different looks for her.  My favorite of the day looks is probably the red jacket because I think it’s a bit out there, just like Freya.

One of the sisters from the book, Ingrid has the ability to heal others and she’s a librarian. She’s a little bit more conservative than Freya. But conservative does not equal frumpy. I tried to make her wardrobe as fashion forward as I could. I think Ingrid would wear a lot of separates that would have business appropriate silhouettes. While the structure of the garment is library appropriate, I tried to make it a bit more fashion forward by utilizing fun prints. There are a few dresses in the set. Notably, a black cocktail dress and a white and blue print dress. I see the black dress being worn more for like a networking party while she could wear the blue and white dress on a date with Matt.

Joanna is Ingrid and Freya’s mother and always think of her as one of those women you want to be your grandma. I think her style is probably casual chic. Hence, why I chose a lot of sweaters.  I also chose pieces that I thought would be easy to move around with but were stylish like the camel colored boots in the set.   I don’t think Joanna would be a dress person, but when she would be forced to but on a dress I imagine it would be a draped one like the one I chose to flatter her curves.

Bittersweet: Sarah Ockler

Despite my excessive clumsiness I’ve always wanted to be a figure skater.  Of course because I was clumsy, live in Texas, and don’t like waking up at the crack of dawn these dreams were short lived.  However, I still am an ardent fan of figure skating and like to watch or read anything about it.  Almost as much as I like cupcakes.  Well, Bittersweet  is about both so it should be my ideal book, was it?

General Summary: Hudson is stuck working at her mom’s dinner when she’d rather be skating her heart out.  Why?  Well, Hudson’s mom is a passive aggressive control freak and her father ( a deadbeat dad) walked out on her and her ultra cute little brother.  However, when a Hudson learns about an upcoming skating competition she decides that she’s going to once again go for the gold.  But is it what she really wants?

Review: My feelings for this book were mixed there were parts of it I loved and parts that were a bit meh. I guess I should start by disclosing that I think this book sort of triggered some issues for me.  Hudson’s story was similar to something I, myself, experienced, so I think some of my negative feelings for the book were probably related to those events in my life. I’ll start by talking about the good.  There’s actually a lot of good things about this book.  I think Ockler’s story was really realistic.  It was really bittersweet.  While there is a definite ending at the end of the story, it’s not a happily ever after and I appreciated that.

The characters were also very well written.  I didn’t like a lot of the cast, case in point Hudson’s mom but I understood her motives.  This is a parent whose bad parenting was actually realistic and you could arguably make the case that it wasn’t bad parenting.  But I’m going to say it Hudson’s mom=bad parent.  I get that Mrs. Avery’s heart is in the right place, but I think she’s so busy with work and everything that Hudson just got taken advantage of.  And it just seemed like this was the accepted norm.  Also (this is me being an extremely nit picky realist ya’ll) if Hudson’s mom was in such a dire financial condition she should’ve sold the diner.  Yes, I know it’s the Averys’ livelihood but do you know how expensive the restaurant business is?  Just watch a couple of episodes of Kitchen Nightmares and you’ll get the answer.

As for Hudson, herself, she’s another character I had mixed feelings for.  I really liked her in the beginning how she had this dream and she was working for it.  Then she met Josh and Hot Hockey Boys and then  well…she became your typical ice princess cheerleader.  Once again, very realistic but it made me a little bit aggravated with her.

 

While my distaste for the characters didn’t affect the actual quality of the book for me, the pacing did.  This book is long, almost four hundred pages, and I felt like it could’ve lost a good fifty or so pages.  I appreciate how Ockler digs into various moments of Hudson’s life but I’m an impatient law student and sometimes I just don’t want to savor things.  Also, I thought that some aspects of the plot were a bit of a let down.

While the plot left me down at times the cupcakes didn’t.

Best Feature: Cupcakes and Figure Skating: This book involves cupcakes and figure skating.  Two of my favorite things in the world.  The execution of the cupcake element though was done a lot better than the execution of the figure skating element.  And okay, I sort of see where Ockler is going with the whole lack of figure skating plot line, but being a competitive person it sort of rubbed me the wrong way.  Although, I never competed in figure skating or any competitive sports when I was a kid I was into music and competed in lots of music oriented competitions (i.e. I made the All State band on piccolo when I was in high school, which  earned me a scholarship).  Music required a great deal of time, disclipline, and practice.  Something that has transcended into other aspects of my life as well.  I can only imagine that figure skating would be the same-requirng practice.  I mean, there’s no way you can do a triple whatever without practicing.  That’s just not the way life works.  And while Hudson does practice some, she doesn’t practice the amount she should for such a big competition.  Grant it, girl has other things on her mind.  But I seriously, didn’t get her motivations (cute boys and naggy mom) because I’d still be freaking out over practicing.

For those who are morbidly curious: a  piccolo. 

Worst Feature: Doormat Main Character.  Hudson is a doormat.  Pure and simple.  Okay, so the whole book is about her being unsatisfied with being a doormat.  But guess what guys, she doesn’t really do anything to stop being a doormat.  Okay, I guess given your perspective on the book you could argue otherwise.  But really, there were some choices that she made that just had me pulling out my hair.  I felt like a lot of the time, Hudson put herself in misery.  Not to mention the fact that I think deep down inside she felt satisfied with the rather depressing life she lives, but that’s me being all Freudian.

Appropriateness: This book does talk about some heavy real life issues, but it’s pretty clean.  I do wish Hudson would’ve been a bit more assertive than she was though.  I didn’t like the way she was pretty much satisfied and learned to be satisfied with being a doormat.  However, I think you could easily argue that she’s not a doormat.  It’s just depends on your perspective.

Blockbuster Worthy: Sure, I love figure skating movie. Blades of Glory is one of my favorite movies.  Okay, so this wouldn’t be a Blades of Glory type of movie it would be more like The Cutting Edge with maybe a little Ice Princess (without the ridiculousness) thrown in for a good measure.  But still it would be cute.  Here’s who I’d cast

Hudson: Sasha Cohen.  I actually picture Hudson looking a lot like US figure skater Sasha Cohen.  I know she’s a little too old for the role but for all intents and purposes she could easily play Hudson.

Josh: Nathan Parsons.  Isn’t it odd how much you’ll hate someone on General Hospital, but love them on a little show called Bunheads.  Oh Nathan would have to lose the accent and keep the shorter haired look he has now, but still there’s Josh potential there.

Will: Freddie Stroma.  Once again a guy with an accent, but as long as he doesn’t pull a Greg Sulkin I think he’s good to go.

Overall Rating: Six out of ten skates.  I really liked this book.  But I think my own personal life made the experience a little less than enjoyable.  I still recommend it though, it is a cute read.

Book vs Movie: Avalon High

One of my favorite books is Meg Cabot’s Avalon High.  I think if anything because it combines two things I love 1) Meg Cabot and 2) The Arthurian legend.

I know weird combination, right?

The Arthurian legend, admittedly is pretty depressing.  Meg Cabot books not so much.  However,  the two of them combined sort of works.  The book itself is not a retelling of the Arthurian legend (thank God), but rather it uses the Arthur mythos to help accelerate various aspects of the plot.  I also have to give kudos to Cabot for using aspects of the Arthur legend that aren’t normally used in retelling (a.k.a. The Lady of the Lake).  Overall, it’s one of my favorite Meg Cabot books of all time.

The book itself has three manga sequels which I honestly do not care for.  I thought the story itself was weak and the artwork was subpar.  However, the manga sequel in hindsight was a lot better than that the crappy Disney movie I’m about to review.

First Glance: The first time I watched this film, I was excited.  I had set it to record on the DVR as a treat for myself to watch after I finished writing my memo for LRW I.    So needless to say, I was overly exhausted when I watched it for the first time and a lot of the crap that I’ll later mention got by me.  But it still wasn’t my favorite.   I understood that a lot of things change from book to movie, but there were two things that really made me dislike the movie: Miles and the ending. Let’s talk about Miles first.  He’s the self insert character for Merlin.  In the book the Merlin reincarnation is this cool, quirky English teacher.  A character I actually liked and wanted to see in the movie adaption.  He really did remind me of Merlin.  This Miles insert character not so much.  He’s as cliche as you get for the high school nerd that becomes the MC’s b.f.f.  And you know what, while I usually like nerds I didn’t like Miles.  He thinks rather highly of himself throughout the film and it doesn’t help matters that Disney totally made him a Gary Stu (i.e. he has these super psychic visions).

However as bad as Miles is, he’s definitely more tolerable than that ending Disney decided to give the audience.  Disney states the ending was changed to give the movie more of a female empowerment edge.  And you know what I say, bull shit.

My sentiments exactly, good queen Bess.

The ending itself doesn’t make sense on several levels.  I won’t go into spoiler specifics here but that little twist ruined an entire subplot of the movie and book.  Plus, honestly it just doesn’t make sense.  While the twist that the book had did.  Cabot’s use of the lady of the lake was brilliant.  Simply brilliant.   I guess some people could say that the Mouse dumbed down the book so that it’s targeted age group  could watch it, but I disagree.  I think most kids this age aren’t as stupid as Disney seems to think they are.  A little exposition on who the Lady of the Lake is would be all that is needed.

Note, this image was found on Wikipedia.  I’m sure curious viewers of the movie could easily Wiki Lady of the Lake if they really were that confused.

Upon Second Viewing: In preparation of writing this post I watched the again so I could give it a more proper analysis and review some more of it’s technical elements.

The Casting:  I seriously think the Disney Channel casting agents just looked at who they had on contract and went from there.  No joke. None of them fit.  Not even Britt Robertson, who I think is a fairly decent actress but not Elle.  And let’s not even get started with Greg Sulkin…..

The Acting: Horrible.  Just horrible.  Okay, Britt Robertson does a fairly decent job as Elle Allie, but the rest of the cast with the exception of Jen sucked.  For example, Elle’s (I refuse to call her Allie, even though that’s what Disney changed her name to) parents were over the top.  And did not come off as parents at all.  Then there’s Miles a character that is suppose to be the funny nerd that everyone loves, well he came off as pompous and condescending to me.  And while a lot of that was the writing, the actors mannerisms were off as well.  Then there is Greg Sulkin’s performance as Will.  Poor, poor, Greg.    I feel bad that he even got casted in this movie, but that still doesn’t excuse his British accent from slipping several times throughout the movie.

 

Story:  I would say that the movie kept true to the book about fifty percent of the time.  The bare bone story is there, but as previously stated there have been some major changes.  And these changes are what robs the story of it’s moments of brilliance.  I’m going to be honest here, if Meg Cabot wasn’t such a skilled writer, then Avalon High would’ve been a cliched Arthur retelling like…well, the movie.

Writing: Piss poor.  The dialogue itself often felt fake.  I at first blamed the actors, but after a second viewing I noticed just how bad the writing really was and it just made the relationships and consequently everything else in the movie fail.  I really wish they would’ve bought Meg Cabot or her screen writing counterpart, Amy Sherman Palladino, to write the script.
 

Overall Rating: Three out of ten.  I think if you’re a Cabot fan and for that matter a Cabot fan who really likes Avalon High, you’re going to have some issues with this movie.  I get that movies differ tremendously from books, but I think this adaption took too many liberties.  Then again, some fans I’ve talked to really like the movie.  I guess it depends on how critical you are.

Do Judge a Book by Its Cover

Today I decided to judge a book by it’s cover.  I picked five random YA books some have been released and some haven’t.  So let’s see how I judge a book by its cover:

What The Cover Tells Me:  Starr used to be a pop princess but lost all her money once the Mouse cancelled her show.  After poorly investing her money and some horrible press, Starr finds herself having to work at Mickey D’s and a slew of other crappy jobs until her agent (her dad) can get her a Lifetime movie of the week gig or somehow can pitch her crappy career at McDonalds as a reality show to Bravo or whoever.  Starr will find that flipping Big Macs isn’t what it seems to be.  Especially since she has a crush on the fry guy of all people.

What the Book is really about: It’s about a spoiled rich girl named Lexi who is forced to do fifty-two minimum wage jobs after her father threatens to cut off her trust fund.

Verdict: The art department was pretty spot on with this one.  I got that it was supposed to be about a spoiled little rich girl without even having to read the cover flap.  Of course, I thought the book was going to be about a Miley Cyrus-ish movie star but honestly I’m kind of glad it’s not.

What the Cover Tells Me: Elvira has sold her soul to fashion.  Now America’s true TOP model, Elvira would love to get out of the thumb of her pushy manager, Max.  However, she finds herself ever bound to him.

What the Book is Really About: This is the sequel to Everneath (a kick ass Persephone retelling).  In this book, Nikki finds herself having to work together with super evil Cole.

Verdict: Once again, I give props to the art department.  The cover itself has a dark edge to it which fits the story.  And even though glamorous dresses aren’t involved in these books.  I love the dresses used on these covers. And I want this book NOW!

What the Cover Tells Me: Ever since watching Ancient Aliens, Chase has been obsessed with finding life outside of Earth and even ends up making a home made satellite to make contact.  To Chase’s astonishment he gets a response back.  A desperate call from a winged girl named Adara to come with her and rescue her home planet.  But is Adara what she seems?

What the Book is Actually About: That idiot Bethany Church and her boy toy get married.  And have to hopefully face consequences for their dumb assery.

Verdict: Well, Xavier’s girlfriend is a paranormal creature.  But Bethany only remembers she has wings on special occasions and I don’t think she could pick him up even if she wants to.  And what is up with that girl’s waist?  Seriously, I get that the model industry is dominated by a lot of thin girls, but couldn’t we try to find someone who didn’t look borderline anorexic?

What the Cover Tells Me:  It was only suppose to be a tattoo.  A showing of the passing of age.  It was never suppose to turn Kayla Brown into a scaly sea monster.  But that’s what happened.  One day she’s the most popular girl in school and the next day she’s a scaly freak and it’s all because of that damn tattoo.  If only her b.f.f. Sal hadn’t been so insistent that she take a walk on the wild side.  Now Kayla is determined to find a cure, but does a cure exist?  And if it does how can she find it when she’s sort of trapped in the water?
What the Book is Actually About: It’s about this girl Tempest who’s half mermaid and mysterious boy shows up on her seventeenth birthday.
Verdict: Pretty telling.  I wish the tattoo wasn’t that big of a feature on the cover because even though it was mentioned in the book it really didn’t play that big of a role in the book.
What the Cover Tells Me:  This book is the ultimate fantasy.  You might not understand half of the stuff that’s going on.  But it’s going to be epic and everyone is going to be talking about it.  And if you don’t like it….well, that’s your problem and everyone is going to look at you weird so you just should pretend you like it.  Oh, and it somehow involves the goddess, Nyx.
What the Book is Actually About: A dystopia version of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, but without the chemistry and cravats.
Verdict: Fail.  I don’t think the cover really connected to what the book was about at all.  Plus, I may have sour grapes but that cover was one of the big reasons I bought the book in the first place.
What the Cover Tells Me: Amber Hirsh has always been sick of being the good girl.  The girl next door.  The forgettable girl.  That is until she gets an invitation to The Illuminate.  A secret society of the elite who take forgettable like Amber and turn them into unforgettable.   The only thing there’s a catch about being an unforgettable that might change Amber’s life forever.
What the Book is Actually About: A forgettable girl named Haven finds herself working at one of Chicago’s premiere hotels and finding out about a dark legacy.
Verdict: Meh.  I think the cover is pretty versatile and it could work for a fairly large group of YA books.  Still though, the shallow part of me loves the dress.

For Darkness Shows the Stars: Diana Peterfreund

I think in the end it was cover lust that had me buying the book.  Seriously, there needs to be a support group for YA cover lust.

I love Jane Austen.  And I love reading Austen retellings.  So needless to say, when I found out about For Darkness Shows the Stars I had to give it a try.  Even if it went against my best judgment.

Curse you, Jane Austen, for making me read this book.

General Summary: Apparently, progress has caused humanity to lose a hundred IQ points except for those who don’t know an iPhone from a Android.  Those individuals are safe and become Luddites.  They think they are “helping” those who have lost their smarts by allowing them to work on their farms (though they don’t use the term work, rather care).  Eventually those who lost the IQ points start reproducing spawn who have regained the missing points and this gets all the Luddites panties in a twist because they’re losing their slave labor.  One of these spawns happens to fall in love with a Luddite and what do we get, a Jane Austen redux of Persuasion.

Review:

Honestly, I don’t know where to start.  I was excited about this book if a bit weary.  When I first saw it it was almost an instant buy me for me because I love Jane Austen retellings.  However, the reviews for the book were less than stellar.  Still, I was interested in reading it and finally I relented and bought the book.  And now, and now I have buyer’s remorse.

Okay, so the book isn’t downright terrible.  It has some good points.  However, you had to squint to see the good within the bad.  And maybe it’s partially my own taste that kept me from enjoying the book.  I’m tired of dystopias.  Despite forcing myself to read them for my Trend Spotlight series I still don’t get them.  And while I admit I can occasionally enjoy a good dystopia or two, for the most part I don’t usually read them.

I think one of the reasons For Darkness Shows the Stars failed for me was that there were so many things about it that failed in the dystopia cliche train.  As per usual an apocalypse event has happened-this time the majority of humanity losing a hundred or so IQ points- and now there is great social unrest.  It gets better apparently everyone losses all these points in intelligence because of technology.  Yep, God doesn’t approve of technology at least according to a Luddite.   At this point I thought that surely this is going to be something Perfreund explores more like make the Luddiates aren’t being 100% honest with what they’re saying.  But nope, there is no hidden story behind how the Reduction.  What’s even worse is there’s no real sense of resolution either.  Sure, things are solved at the end of the book.  But everything is solved ridiculously fast with no fall out.  It just kind of unnerved me how things were constantly being described as being sucky and then out of nowhere they’re fixed.

I guess it would’ve helped if the character development would’ve been better.  But the characters for the most part were as weak as the plot.  Okay, I will give credit do to Peterfreund for developing the character Elliot.  Even though I could not personally care for her, Elliot was a well formed character.  An annoying character, but a realistic character.  As for Kai though I really couldn’t get Elliot or his attraction for each other, even with the letters that were provided between chapters.  BTW, the letters in my opinion  read very false.  I didn’t really get a sense that there were two distinct characters writing to each other.  Sigh….

Despite my problems with the book, I will say for the most part the writing itself was clean and easy to follow despite the pacing issues.  Also, despite my issues with the world Peterfreund created I really was able to have an understanding of it by the time I finished the book. Despite the fact that the execution of this book was fine technically,  I didn’t love it.  I didn’t get the love story that I thought I get with a Persuasion retelling or for that matter any Austen like charm.

Best Feature: Jane Austen retelling: I love a good Austen retelling.  Persuasion is one of those books I feel gets neglected when it comes to these retellings-usually they’re Pride and Prejudice and Emma-retellings.  That being said, I thought this book was a piss poor retelling.  While the bare bone plot structure was there, the book lacked the charm and social wit that the original version had.

Worst Feature: Pacing: Dear lord, it took to page two hundred and something for the plot to actually move.  It was that slow.  I honestly, thought I was on some sort of weird merry-go-round where Elliot would see Kai, he’d insult her, she’d have  a memory into the past, and the cycle would begin again.  And okay, I get that that happened a lot in the original.  But the original had charm.  It was more than the romance.  Austen gave brilliant social commentary and there are a lot of social issues in Persuasion.  I suppose you could say the same for For Darkness Shows the Stars.  I mean, it’s a dystopia.  There are social issues.  But the issues in Peterfreund’s dystopia world felt flat and honestly at times I felt icky reading the book.  It wasn’t that the book was terribly outwardly offensive, it was just the fact I found the whole basis on the society repugnant.  As I said before, a large group of the population suffers from low intelligence and how are they treated….like slaves.  Even their offsprings  who have hire IQs are expected to live lives like slaves.  And okay, I sort of knew this going into the book that there would be classism issues, but honestly I didn’t expect this plot point to be this grating.  And for that matter I didn’t understand why the Posts weren’t like screw you Luddites.  All they’d have to do is invent some weaponry that would’ve been off limits to the anti-technology luddites and it would be bye-bye sanctimonious Luddites.  But no, that doesn’t happen in this novel.  Instead, most of these people are okay with being oppressed.  So yeah, the social message in this book didn’t work for me.

Appropriateness: It’s pretty appropriate.  I mean, I disagree with a lot of the statements that are made concerning the society that the book is set on-can you say backwards much-but it’s a dystopia and obvious it’s suppose to be screwed up.
At least I can give this book a star for something.

Blockbuster Worthy: Meh.  I’d rather see another adaption of the actual Persuasion.  At least then I’d have Regency clothes and Austen wit.  Be that as it may here’s who I’d cast:  Elliot: Shay Mitchell.  I think she has an Elliot look about her.  Kai: Ben Barnes because I need someone hot as Wentworth.

Overall Rating: Five out of ten Janneties.  It wasn’t terrible the book itself was readable, but for a Jane Austen adaption it honestly sort of sucked.  I think what could’ve been a great idea sort of failed miserably in its execution.

Mothership: Martin Leicht and Isla Neal

Usually I hate cartoon covers, but somehow this works.

 

Disclosure: I used to be a huge fan of Ancient Aliens (i.e. before I went to law school and had to allocate my TV time appropriately).  The show was ridiculous on so many levels it was hilarious.  Plus, some of the folklore they talked about was sort of cool.  So I’m sort of into reading anything about aliens and boy does Mothership have them.

General Summary: Elvie’s life hasn’t been that great lately.  First she finds herself knocked up and then she’s sent to boarding school.  Boarding school in space.  But it gets better, the school is invaded by these men carrying ray guns and one of them just happens to be Elvie’s baby daddy, Cole, who just happens to be an alien.

Review: I really, really liked this book.  And admittedly it had some faults, but it brightened up what otherwise would’ve been a very dull week.  I think the thing that made me smile about the book the most is it’s originality. As previously mentioned I’ve always had a thing for aliens.  Besides watching Ancient Aliens, I was very much into sci-fi when I was a kid.  The thing is, usually sci fi takes on such a dark tone.  I mean, haven’t you seen Independence Day?  Spoiler alert: the aliens try to kill all man kind.  And while there were some dark parts to this book, there were other parts that just made you want to smile like Elvie.  She was a hilarious and snarky main character.  I really liked the fact that she was such an action oriented character and for that matter she knew how to fix things.  While I might be your stereotypical girl who can’t fix a car or tell you what sort of screwdriver to use, Elvie is brilliant when it comes to this sort of thing.  And I really like the fact that she breaks these stereotypes.




For that matter, I liked the other characters in the book as well.  Nobody was perfect.  Even the love interest-who FYI is dumb as a box of rocks.  Usually I hate dumb characters, but there was something charming about Cole.  Though I personally liked Elvie’s best friend Ducky more.  Yes, she has a friend named Ducky.  And he’s just as awesome if not more than his namesake.

Mothership was also a quick read.  The writing was clean and things happened throughout the book to keep the reader engaged.  I never got bored with this book and that’s a good thing.  Besides the various maladies that happened on the spaceship, the tone of the book makes it engaging.  Leicht and Neal don’t take things seriously and that seems to help the book be a success.  Honestly, if this book had more of a dramatic tone I wouldn’t have liked it as much.

Best Feature: Uniqueness: Lately I’ve been reading a lot of run of the mill YA books.  May it be chick lit, dystopian fare, or a paranormal romance.  Mothership is unique because it doesn’t fit any of these genres and it doesn’t take itself seriously.  Plus, I really like the fact that this is a futuristic book but the future is not that different from the present.  Okay, so there have been some advancements in technology but it’s not like the Earth has transformed overnight like it would’ve in a lot of other YA futuristic books.

Worst Feature: Science.  Okay, as much as I loved this book the logical part of my brain was occasionally screaming at it for some scientific impossibilities.  Case in point, running out of oxygen in space.  First of all, most people can hold their breath for less than a minute.  The whole holding your breath scene lasted about five and their were only two casualties that resulted.  Plus, space’s temperature is so cold that it would probably kill you within seconds.


Appropriateness: This book deals with teen pregnancy, so if that’s not a subject matter you like to read about then I would advise you not to read it.  There is some cursing in this book, a very brief sex scene.  But nothing extremely graphic.

Blockbuster Worthy: Yes, I would be interested in seeing an adaption of this one.  I think it could be hilarious .  Here’s who I’d cast:

Elvie: Ellen Page.  Yeah, I know.  But I couldn’t help but think of Ellen Page via Juno when I thought of an actress for Elvie.  So there you go.

Cole: Van Hughes.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen him play another Cole who is a baby daddy, but I think Van would be the perfect fit for Elvie’s Cole.

Overall Rating: Eight out of ten saucers.  I really liked this book, it had some flaws but I do recommend it if you’re looking for something that is a bit off the wall and different in the genre.