Friday, September 30, 2011

dancergirl by Carol M. Tanzman

Title: dancergirl
Author: Carol M. Tanzman
Publisher: Harlequin/Harlequin Teen
Release Date: November 15, 2011
Pages: 248 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: from the publisher via NetGalley

dancergirlThe videos went viral...

EVER FEEL LIKE SOMEONE’S WATCHING YOU?

ME TOO.

 BUT LATELY IT’S BEEN HAPPENING IN MY ROOM.

 WHEN I’M ALONE.

A friend posted a video of me dancing online, and now I’m no longer Alicia Ruffino. I’m dancergirl. And suddenly it’s like me against the world—everyone’s got opinions.

My admirers want more, the haters hate, my best friend Jacy—even he’s acting weird. And some stalker isn’t content to just watch anymore.

Ali. dancergirl. Whatever you know me as, however you’ve seen me online, I’ve trained my whole life to be the best dancer I can be. But if someone watching has their way, I could lose way more than just my love of dancing. I could lose my life.

Review:

A dancer with many years of experience, Ali is at first hesitant to let her friend Charlie film her when she's dancing. After some persistence, she gives in and when her dancing hits the web, she becomes dancergirl: a new Web sensation. Fan sites pop up, haters hate, and she has... a stalker? Someone is following her, taking pictures, making embarrassing videos of her dancing around in privacy and putting them on the Web for the world to see. But who could it be? Ali will have to find out what's going on before her stalker decides he's not okay staying at a distance.

Excuse me a moment while I squash my anger because once again, a POC heroine (specifically, one who is a mix of African-American, Puerto Rican, Italian, and possibly Cherokee) is kept off the cover in favor of a white person's face. The cover effect cannot hide it. Whitewashing isn't funny. Okay, I'm good for the moment. Sorry about that and I promise my anger had no effect on the rating.

I loved reading the parts where Ali was dancing and the whole dancergirl aspect of the plot. Originally, I found this book and picked it out because it was about a dancer; I'm currently trying to write something involving a dancer and I can never have enough research. (Speaking of which, if anyone can recommend me a few books about teen dancers, especially if they're on their high school dance team, I would appreciate it.) The suspense aspect of the story was its best point; the paranoia feels real and it's easy to start pointing fingers at every other character the way Ali was.

While I did like the idea of Ali as dancergirl, a Web sensation akin to Rebecca Black (except Ali dances instead and is good at what she does), the plot is quickly brought up and then dropped as soon as it gets the Ali-has-a-stalker plot going, leaving that particular plot unresolved and feeling inconsequential despite how important it really is. Side characters like Luke who beg for more development get none and once again, unimportant, depthless female characters are injected into the story for no reason other than to be mean to the main character for a minute over something stupid like a boy. Characters need more of a purpose than that and those girls deserved better.

Ali and Jacy's romantic development was near-nonexistent and what little there was was hasty. Their interactions went like this: Ali and Jacy meet up, Jacy gets moody, Ali and Jacy fight, ones of them leaves, they meet up again later and act as if those huge fights they had never happened. Repeat multiple times. This is not romantic development nor is it a good friendship. Pretending you never fought is not the way to get around issues in a friendship; it's how those issues get worse and worse until your friendship is ruined. While Jacy's behavior is explained later in the book, I can't say it was okay for him to treat Ali like he did.

This is only the first in a new series and the second book, Circle of Silence, will be out in August 2012. I may check it out and I may not. For fans of suspenseful stories and dancers, this is your book!

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: Succubus Revealed by Richelle Mead

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (10)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating.

I've got quite a few reasons for wanting this book. For one thing, the book sounds interesting in its own right. We need more main characters faking their deaths, I think. Yet another thing I can like about the book is its cover, which still caught my eye despite the neutral tones because I wanted to see all the little details. There's also the fact that this is a vampire book and seeing that vampire books are still being published gives me some hope for my own vampire manuscript.

When the Sea is Rising RedWhen the Sea is Rising Red
by Cat Hellisen
February 28, 2012
288 pages (hardcover)


After seventeen-year-old Felicita’s dearest friend Ilven kills herself to escape an arranged marriage, Felicita chooses freedom over privilege. She fakes her own death and leaves her sheltered life as one of Pelimburg’s magical elite behind. Living in the slums, scrubbing dishes for a living, she falls for charismatic Dash while also becoming fascinated with vampire Jannik. Then something shocking washes up on the beach: Ilven's death has called out of the sea a dangerous wild magic. Felicita must decide whether her loyalties lie with the family she abandoned . . . or with those who would twist this dark power to destroy Pelimburg's caste system, and the whole city along with it.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti

Title: The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women
Author: Jessica Valenti
Publisher: Perseus Books Group/Seal Press
Release Date: April 1, 2009
Pages: 263 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it

The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young WomenThe United States is obsessed with virginity — from the media to schools to government agencies. In The Purity Myth, Jessica Valenti argues that the country’s intense focus on chastity is damaging to young women. Through in-depth cultural and social analysis, Valenti reveals that powerful messaging on both extremes — ranging from abstinence curriculum to “Girls Gone Wild” infomercials — place a young woman’s worth entirely on her sexuality. Morals are therefore linked purely to sexual behavior, rather than values like honesty, kindness, and altruism. Valenti sheds light on the value — and hypocrisy — around the notion that girls remain virgin until they’re married by putting into context the historical question of purity, modern abstinence-only education, pornography, and public punishments for those who dare to have sex. The Purity Myth presents a revolutionary argument that girls and women are overly valued for their sexuality, as well as solutions for a future without a damaging emphasis on virginity.

Review:

The Purity Myth has been on my to-read list for a while now due to good word about it, my own curiosity about why society slut shames, victim blames, and judges women based on the sex they are or are not having. It took me a while to read, but I finally did it! It's pretty much about how society judges us as women based on how sexual we are and regardless of what our orientation is. Whether you're a straight, gay, bi, trans, or another sexual orientation, the book applies to each and every woman because there is not one of us that hasn't been affected by the purity myth at one point or another. Heck, I'm asexual and the book still applies to me because it's also about the sexuality forced upon women against their wills by society whether or not they actually have any.

The points Valenti makes about the treatment of women in society based on their sexuality are all very true; I read about girls judging another another based on their sexuality in the books I read (YA books, which is probably one of the worst places to drop those damaging messages) and hear teens doing the exact same thing in real life. One friend of mine called another girl a slut for sleeping around with numerous boys and an attempt at intelligent discussion about why she felt that way was useless. The effect the virginity movement has had on teens and the media really shows and I hate that Valenti has to be right about the damage the movement has done.

While I agree with much of what Valenti has to say, there is one minor point where I strongly disagree. On page 28, one of her footnotes says this as she discusses beauty pageants: "Who, after all, can maintain a pearly white perma-grin through humiliating bathing suit competitions and inane questions--all for scholarships that are paltry in comparison to the money spent on gowns and coaches--other than women looking for some serious validation?"

I'm not going to try and say beauty pageants don't have deeply sexist roots; denying that fact is only a waste of time and words. However, I dispute her opinion that women only do it for validation. I was in exactly one beauty pageant (I was thirteen and we do not speak of it) and I didn't do it to be validated; I liked dressing up and I just wanted to have fun. That wasn't how it went in the end, hence the event's status as "we do not speak of it," but I do have one thing to thank it for: teaching me how to strut, which eventually became part of my natural walk.

Back on topic, have you noticed how society has a worshipful relationship with beautiful people? Just look at a tabloid or think back to how the pretty people were treated when you were in high school. Being beautiful can bring you a surprising amount of power, though it comes with its drawbacks the way any kind of power would. Perhaps some of these young women grew up seeing what power came with beauty and entered beauty pageants to use their beauty to their advantage. Maybe they simply loved the spotlight. There are any multitude of reasons a woman could enter a beauty pageant and not all of them include validation.

Chapter five, focused on abstinence-only education and what it does to children and teens, really stuck with me. I remember very little about how sex ed was taught to me, but I know it was abstinence-only education. For one thing, the speaker that came in every Wednesday showed us a horrific, brain-scarring slide show of what male and female genitals look like when afflicted with STDs or STIs. I don't remember learning about birth control, condoms, or and other method of safe sex. For another thing, the school newspaper was barred from writing about safe sex by the principal as recently as last year.

My bad memory led me to do a little research. This is a PDF I found about sex ed in Florida that was made as recently as late 2009 or early 2010. My sex ed classes happened in 2007, so I think this is close enough for use. I did a search for mentions of my county's name and it comes up in a few places: one of them spotlights the gender-stereotypical pamphlets given to students and another one talking two PowerPoints shown to children and teens (the scare tactic STD one I saw and another one that shames teens who have sex).

That PDF and the information it provides support Valenti and the sad yet true points she makes. Young adults are not being properly educated on sex and if they have sex anyways, it's because they have low self-esteem or want to be popular or they're on drugs, not because they want to. The people who abstain from sex and the good ones no matter how rotten their attitudes are and the one who have sex are the bad ones whether or not they have hearts of gold. This is not how people should be taught about sex.

All in all, The Purity Myth is a smart book. It's frustrating how women are treated even in the present time when we're supposed to be equal, and I think it's important for young women to read this novel. I think I liked my trip out of the world of YA and into nonfiction. I might have to do this more often.

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

Saturday, September 24, 2011

H.Y.P.E. Project: Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

Beware: spoilers for Starcrossed lie beyond this point.

Title: Starcrossed
Author: Josephine Angelini
Publisher: HarperCollins/HarperTeen
Release Date: May 31, 3011
Pages: 487 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Read it on my Kindle for the H.Y.P.E. Project (details here)

Starcrossed (Starcrossed, #1)
How do you defy destiny?
 
Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is—no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it's getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she's haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood . . . and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they're destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history.
 
As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together—and trying to tear them apart.

Review:

"She was hunkered down on her knees, her face covered by her filthy hair, moaning names and saying "blood for blood" as she hit her forehead repeatedly against the wall." This is a quote from Starcrossed (the page can't be cited due to reading it as an ebook) about one of the Furies, but this is also an accurate description of me once I finished reading this book.

For sixteen years, Helen has lived on the calm, small, and very boring island of Nantucket and wished she could go somewhere else. Then Lucas Delos and his family moved to town, and Helen introduced herself to them by attempting to kill Lucas in the middle of school. According to Lucas and his family, they and Helen are Scions, demigod descendants of the Greek gods, and the Furies are forcing to play roles they have forced on others throughout history. Helen and Lucas have broken one part of the cycle of blood for blood, but they will still be forced to play the starcrossed lovers.

Characters

Not very good. Helen is surprisingly stupid for how smart she supposedly is (telling the reader about a character is bad due to contradictory characterization like this) and a massive Mary Sue the likes of which I have not seen in a long time. All the descriptions of how beautiful, talented, perfect, and flawless she was made me want to puke. I would like to see Lucas put through a shredder. Wait, Helen isn't the only one with the Idiot Ball; everyone has a personal Idiot Ball they carry at all times and clutch like pearls toward the end of the novel, when Daphne comes in and everyone believes her despite her being who she is. Otherwise, the characters are unremarkable.

Plot/Pacing

While the novel does have a plot and is generally well-paced (by this, I mean the reader doesn't have to wait until they are three-fourths through the lengthy novel to find out what is going on), it still manages to be boring. The plot and pacing, as derivative as they are (and not of The Illiad and Romeo and Juliet, the two works that inspired this novel), would have earned the novel another star if not for the outstanding sexism and misogyny detailed in the next section.

Themes/Conflicts

This has to be one of the most sexist pieces of trash I have ever read, if not the most sexist piece of trash. Helen has no say in her relationship with Lucas; she is subject to his whims and the boundaries and terms of their relationship are solely defined by him. It's all about what he wants and what he can handle and nothing she ever says is taken into account. It is always up to him to impose control on Helen so she won't tempt him because everything she does tempts him, and she has to stop tempting him or else bad things will happen. It's always the woman's fault because she tempted men into doing it, you see.

Lucas never puts any trust in Helen and will not let her be in control of her own sexuality. He even makes all of her decisions (with only minor, temporary objections from Helen)! I won't even go into the implications of needing to destroy a feminine object of power to free men from their lust. I have lot to say about "A lady never cheapened herself by using foul language" and most of them begin with a word starting with f. No lady is any less of a lady for cursing and sexist rhetoric like this really grinds my gears.

This quote is telling of the novel:
""She hasn't been feeling well," he explained to Castor, who looked on with sympathy.

""I have a daughter," Castor replied gently as if that explained everything."
However it is meant, that is not a joke. That is flat-out misogyny and it only gets worse throughout the novel.

Writing

The stuff of my nightmares. It tells the reader absolutely everything, especially if it's as unimportant as what car the teacher drives or that a one-off nameless character has a leather fetish. It seems like a Herculean task for it to show the reader something or stay on-task. The imagery is atrocious and the narration is constantly cheating. It's one thing to change to another character's point of view for a chapter because it's important to the plot; it's another thing to do it for exactly one paragraph or even sentence or when it has no importance in any possible way. Even the action scenes were made boring thanks to the info-dump heavy, clunky writing.

Logic

There is one thing that can't even be called a plot hole or hole in logic; the only proper term for it is a brain fart. Close to the end, Helen and Lucas decide they can't be together because they're first cousins. This would pass me by without comment (I am unbothered by first cousins being together) if it weren't for the fact that marrying your first cousin is legal in Massachusetts, where Nantucket is located. In Spain, where Lucas's family comes from, it is legal to marry your first cousin. Finally, the ancient Greeks Helen and Lucas are descended from practiced--guess what?--first-cousin marriage.

They are not cousins after all (I suppose someone said there couldn't be any genuine conflict in the novel), but the point is that at the end of the novel, they believe they are. Someone should have done their research because if it's supposed to be a conflict of some sort, it shouldn't be legal from every possible angle. There is the social unpopularity to consider, but Lucas and Helen don't seem like the type that would let that stop them. When you're truly in love, public opinion no longer matters.

Was it worth the hype?

As many did, I heard about it when Angelini received a seven-figure advance for the trilogy Starcrossed is the beginning of. Even then, I took issue with the novel; its sexist pitch of being "Percy Jackson for teenage girls" told me this would not be the book for me (my thoughts on the pitch are better explained here). Alas, the H.Y.P.E. Project is about hyped books and such a massive advance gave Starcrossed a lot of hype, so I read it anyway. I do not always make smart decisions, as you can see.

It is wonderful that Angelini's advance got her out of a rough situation, but I do not believe, based on what I have read, that the trilogy will be worth the advance it got or recoup all the money spent on it. The novel is most certainly not worth the hype. I will not be reading the next installments, but I do hope there is not a happy ending. Star-crossed, as you know, means ill-fated. Star-crossed people do not have a happy ending and if Lucas and Helen end up with a happy ending, we have another case of people not knowing how to use words correctly.

Bonus cover section

Pictures of it you see on the Internet, such as the one I used above, are very plain and don't seem likely to catch the eye, but they're slightly more noticeable in real life, such as if you see them in a bookstore. They have a certain metallic shine to them that catches light well, effectively making it a noticeable cover despite how truly plain it is. I take issue with Lauren Kate's author blurb on the cover, though; YA novels in general should not be allowed to use starcrossed and saga, among other words, until they learn how to use them correctly.

0 stars!


What am I reading next?: dancergirl by Carol M. Tanzman

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Pages: 420 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Amazon Vine-provided ARC

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.




Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Review:

It was difficult to come up with a review that was more intelligent than "YESYEYESYESYEYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYES" times infinity, so here goes something.

Raised by the chimaeras from birth, Karou is an art student living in Prague and runs errands for Brimstone, the chimaera she pretty much considers her own father. Picking up teeth for him here and there isn't so bad (usually) and she gets wishes in return, letting her do things like give her wings or make her hair grow out of her head naturally blue. Then the black handprints begin showing up on doorways and Karou meets Akiva, a seraph soldier in the war against the chimaeras.They fall hard and fast and he may be the key to helping Karou find out where she came from and who she is. But could knowing cost her everything?

I could swear the author has been silently watching and reading all the grievances YA PNR readers have with the genre because the book manages to avert pretty much all possible problems even when they come close (like a guy watching a girl while she sleeps--don't worry, he doesn't do it for long because he figures out he shouldn't). The characters are vivid, the world-building with the seraph and the chimaera is clear and original, and I want to read it all over again when I just finished it a few hours ago. The descriptions of Prague and all the other locales visited over the course of the book really come to life and you can see the Poison Kitchen as if you were standing right in front of it.

A little more on the characters: Karou is exactly the kind of heroine I like. Flawed, but human and very enjoyable to read about instead of painful. Akiva, the love interest any maybe even co-protagonist considering the sizable portion of the book he narrated, wasn't too bad either. While they fall in love very quickly and this is normally a turn-off for me, something clicked this time and it felt right. Their relationship even has a healthy dynamic! Imagine my surprise that for once, the love interest didn't keep things from the heroine just to keep her from falling out of love with him or getting angry and he actually trusted her.

I'm not a prosey person. I'm not. In the never-ending battle of pretty prose vs. constant plot, the plot always wins despite my appreciation for good prose. When I run across those rare books that have both plot and prose so beautiful I wish I could write like that, they have my heart and my attention. Smoke and Bone is one of those books. I don't like omnipresent third-person point of view either, but it was the perfect type of narration for the novel. It read almost like a fairy tale, similar to the writing in her previous YA novel Lips Touch: Three Times, a book I also loved and that led me to Smoke and Bone.

The book isn't even out yet and I'm hungry for the next installment! I guess I have only two things left to say. One is that you--yeah, you, with the funny look on your face--should read this book. The second is screw the ARC, I want a hardcover. I'm so happy and lucky I snagged an ARC before they ran out, but I want final copies of the books I really loved and I want to give it a proper sale. For writing such a wonderful book, the author deserves the slice of the money pie she'll earn when I buy it.

5 stars!


What am I reading next?: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

Waiting on Wednesday (9)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating.

I've been back-and-forth on whether or not I wanted to read this book because on one hand, futuristic society, steampunk, and zombies. On the other hand, I have not yet run into a good steampunk book that I can remember and I am no zombie fan. My brother got all the zombie-loving genes and I got all the brains, you see. A pretty ARC was dancing in front of me on Amazon Vine and when I was arguing with myself over what to request, some friends gave their input and I went for it. It's next on my list!

Dearly, Departed
by Lia Habel
October 18, 2011
480 pages (hardcover)

Love can never die.

Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead—or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?

The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible—until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.

But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead—and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.

In Dearly, Departed, romance meets walking-dead thriller, spawning a madly imaginative novel of rip-roaring adventure, spine-tingling suspense, and macabre comedy that forever redefines the concept of undying love.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Memento Nora by Angie Smibert

Title: Memento Nora
Author: Angie Smibert
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish
Release Date: April 1, 2011
Pages: 184 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: from the school library

Memento Nora (Memento Nora, #1)On an otherwise glossy day, a blast goes off and a body thuds to the ground at Nora's feet. There are terrorist attacks in the city all the time, but Nora can't forget.

In Nora's world you don't have to put up with nightmares. Nora goes with her mother to TFC--a Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic. There, she can describe her horrible memory and take a pill to erase it so she can go on like nothing ever happened. But at TFC a chance encounter with a mysterious guy changes Nora's life. She doesn't take the pill. And when Nora learns the memory her mother has chosen to forget, she realizes that someone needs to remember.

With newfound friends Micah and Winter, Nora makes a comic book of their memories called Memento. Memento is an instant hit, but it sets off a dangerous chain of events. Will Nora, Micah, and Winter be forced to take the Big Pill that will erase their memories forever?

Angie Smibert's remarkable debut novel takes readers on a thrilling ride through a shadowy world where corporations secretly rule and consumerism is praised above all.

Review:

In the future Nora, Micah, and Winter live in, terrorist attacks and car bombs are set off by the Coalition happen every day and people can take little pills so they can forget it ever happened. Nora is supposed to take one after she witnesses a man's death in a bombing, but she spits out her pill and decides that she has to remember. With the help of Micah, an artist, and his sculpture-making friend Winter, they produce a comic book that puts the memories out there so everyone can know. Just as soon as they have started, people want them stopped before they can reveal the biggest secret of all.

This review will be shorter than my normal babbling rants because I'm already starting to forget what went on in the book--and it's not because I went to the TFC and took a pill for it. It's just that forgettable.

Nora, Micah, and Winter were all quite likable and their narrative voices were all unique. I never would have confused one narrator for another when they rotated. The writing was often unclear and the ending was especially unclear, but it's not a terribly difficult story to follow. A special shout-out goes to Nora's mother for being an interesting character when she got her chance to be n the spotlight. My heart really went out to her for what she had to deal with.

Weighing in at only 184 pages, Memento Nora is a book you could finish in just a few hours with the help of a good attention span and some free time. I think the novel could have benefited from being longer so the characters could have more time to be developed and the world could be expanded on. I wanted to know so much more about Winter--you don't see a well-done Japanese-American lesbian main character every day-- and see her develop, but woefully little time was spent with her. Due to the length of the book and the narrative's tendency to be skewed toward Nora, Winter spent very little time narrating.

I think the premise could happen. There are people who would doubtlessly take the pill if it existed, but too many more would refuse because they recognize the importance of remembering the bad. I would. It is acknowledged that there are still people that won't take the pills, like a man that saw the World Trade Centers collapse, but they seem to be a very small minority and the pills aren't mandatory. While the book has the right theme, having most people choose to forget in order to get that theme of how important it is to remember across makes the dystopia of Nora, Micah, and Winter's world unrealistic. However, I suppose their future is sufficiently scary as a dystopia is supposed to be.

The Forgetting Curve, the second book in the series, will be coming out next year and follows Winter's cousin Aiden, but I'm not sure I will read it due to Memento Nora's failure to impress me. I'm kind of sad it didn't excite me more because I've been looking forward to it since I heard about it near the beginning of 2011. Check it out if it interests you.

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: dancergirl by Carol M. Tanzman

Queen of the Dead by Stacey Kade

Title: Queen of the Dead
Author: Stacey Kade
Publisher: Disney/Hyperion
Release Date: May 31, 2011
Pages: 266 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.

Queen of the Dead (The Ghost and the Goth, #2)The Ghost

Okay, I admit it. I'm not perfect, no matter what you've heard. First off, I'm dead. Second, I got sent back from the Great Beyond. I mean, seriously, who is running things up there? Now I have to spend the summer after my senior year working--and on behalf of a bunch of whiny spirits, no less. But a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do.

It's a good thing Will Killian is still around. Even though he drives me crazy, and he could seriously do with a tan--Hello! It's summer!--I'm glad he's here to help me. Correction: was here to help me. Now he's all distracted by this frizzy-haired girl who can--big deal--communicate with the dead too. Whatever. I don't need Will. But there are some things--like saving my parents from a couple of horrible mistakes--that would be easier with his assistance. Still, I will get what I want... with or without him.

The Goth

I'm still totally amazed that Alona Dare is my spirit guide and that it works. Yes, I've had a crush on her since sixth grade, but I also kind of hated her. And sure, she had to die before she'd talk to me--but I don't know, I kind of like having her around.

Things get confusing when I meet Mina, who's the first ghost-talker I've ever encountered (other than my dad). I always thought Alona and I were doing the right thing helping those other ghosts, but Mina has me thinking otherwise. Plus, she might know some stuff about my dad that even my mom doesn't. But if there's one thing I should have learned by now, it's not to ignore Alona. That's never a good idea.

Review:

She only got sent back from the Great Beyond to Earth, but Alona Dare may as well have gone to Hell. Now she has to spend her summer working and helping out all those other ghosts that want to move on. At least it will be a little better with Will Killian, her friend-but-kinda-maybe-more and a ghost-talker. When another ghost-talker named Mina shows up and occupies Will's attention with information about other ghost-talkers and things he never knew about his dad, Alona isn't happy about her problems being neglected. After an unforgivable act, they both have some hard choices to make.

One of my favorite things about the series is the writing. Alona and Will have their own voices and stories and these are what keep me moving through the books when I feel they get a little slow. I'm just dying to see what else they have to say and see how it will all turn out for them. This time around, they have their own plot lines and lives going on instead of being stuck to each other the entire time and these dual storylines ramped up the pacing. After the disaster that was the last book I read (or attempted to read, since I didn't finish it), Queen of the Dead was exactly what I needed.

I still wanted to kick Alona sometimes for the selfish things she does, but she is strangely likable. She has never pretended to be a good girl and what you see is what you get. She's only (figuratively) human, after all; she makes mistakes, big mistakes, and she's a good, sympathetic, well-developed character. Even when she's at her worst, I can't help cheering her on. Then we have Will, the straight man to Alona who isn't afraid to call her out when she's being selfish or does something stupid. Thank goodness getting the girl didn't cost a great male character his spine. When Will got anxious to learn more about his dad and the Order from Mina, I felt it with him. In general, the book is just as good at characters as it is at the writing.

The expansions Kade made to her fictional world with Mina and the Order of the Guardians was great. The information about them was a little too info-dumpy and messy for my tastes, but Will got to find out what he wanted to know and so did the reader. The whole thing with Lily and her family was... Okay, that got me crying. It did. Not anything too special because I could see it in many movies, but it still brought tears to my eyes. I love it when books get me drying like that.

Kade caught my attention with The Ghost and the Goth and with Queen of the Dead, she's got me hook, line, and sinker. The final book of the trilogy won't be out until June 2012 or so, but I can wait. If it means there will be solid, satisfying resolution to a situation I'm not sure can end happily, I'm willing to wait. (But not if the wait is twelve years or longer like Strange Fate by LJ Smith, which I'm pretty sure is never coming out.)

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Shakespearan Giveaway Winner

The Shakespearean Giveaway has run its course and the winner, selected with the help of random.org, is:

Britt T!

Congratulations, Britt. Your books will be shipped to you sometime soon and I'll email you when I ship them (and also sometime today for other stuff, but yeah).

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Modelland by Tyra Banks

Title: Modelland
Author: Tyra Banks
Publisher: Random House/Delacorte Press
Release Date: Setember 13, 2011
Pages: 576 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Amazon Vine-provided ARC

ModellandNo one gets in without being asked. And with her untamable hair, large forehead, and gawky body, Tookie De La Crème isn’t expecting an invitation. Modelland—the exclusive, mysterious place on top of the mountain—never dares to make an appearance in her dreams.

But someone has plans for Tookie. Before she can blink her mismatched eyes, Tookie finds herself in the very place every girl in the world obsesses about. And three unlikely girls have joined her.

Only seven extraordinary young women become Intoxibellas each year. Famous. Worshipped. Magical. What happens to those who don’t make it? Well, no one really speaks of that. Some things are better left unsaid.

Thrown into a world where she doesn’t seem to belong, Tookie glimpses a future that could be hers—if she survives the beastly Catwalk Corridor and terrifying Thigh-High Boot Camp. Or could it? Dark rumors like silken threads swirl around the question of why Tookie and her new friends were selected . . . and the shadows around Modelland hide sinister secrets.

Are you ready? Modelland is waiting for you...

Why I Didn't Finish This Book:

192 pages. I made it exactly one-third of the way through Modelland before I reached the point where I couldn't take it anymore and put the book down for the final time.

I knew what I was in for from the beginning. If the first thing the main character does when the novel begins is squirt whipped cream into her mouth from a can as she lays on a school hallway floor, it's not going to be a good book. The premise itself didn't give me much hope, but it would be good snarkbait, right? I might even learn a few things about what I should and should not do when writing.

Reader, all I have to show for what I managed to read is dead brain cells. Nothing good came of this book, not even a lesson in how not to write a novel.

A story with a point: Some years ago, a new building had to be built specifically to house the business my father worked for. Though numerous instances of theft delayed the project and made it take longer, what really delayed construction was the construction workers, who worked slower than a dead man walks. When all was said and done, the building was done over a year behind schedule.

The point? The book's pacing is abysmally slow, even slower than those construction workers. The inciting incident of the novel, the event that get the plot moving, does not happen until page 111. By page 192, very little else has happened. It's all descriptions of clothes and doing unimportant things and minimal worldbuilding. Might Modelland get some wiggle room due to its length? Absolutely not. I have read lengthier novels with much faster pacing. Awful, stilted writing didn't make reading the book any easier. We're not discussing the writing any further. You can't even know until you take a peek inside yourself.

But not all novels are plot-driven! Some are character-driven! Well, there is nothing about the characters in Modelland that could drive the story. Tookie is dull and so much time is spent making her an average girl, a Forgetta-Girl, that she manages to turn into a special snowflake Mary Sue. None of the side characters inspired any interest either, and I hated to see the usual mean girl love rival trope step in with Zarpessa. (Have I mentioned that while half the names in the book are normal, the other half are random arrangements of consonants and vowels? No? Now you know.) None of the women have any aspirations unrelated to being good enough to go to Modelland and this is about as far away from okay as it can get.

By the one-third point of the book, at least a few questions should be answered, but nothing was clear and there were inconsistencies. So Tookie is a Forgetta-Girl and people usually don't remember her and walk around her like she doesn't exist. What makes Lizzie and Zarpessa, for instance, see her when teachers don't? The extent and details of her "power" were never explained and nothing made me think they would be at one point. What is the point of this dystopia?

Furthermore, I can't begin to fathom how Tookie's world got to where it was. How did it become a shallow, fashion-obsessed society? Because there is no way it has always been like this. It's impossible. What is the government's roll in this, because the government is always involved in dystopian fiction? Why is there so much misogyny smeared on every possible surface? I'm sure much of this is explained later in the book (maybe not the last one), but it's the author's responsibility to make me want to read to that point, not mine. I shouldn't have to force myself through a book like I did with most of Modelland.

As I've seen someone else say, this book is a feminist's worst nightmare. Men are reduced to a woman's accessory, only for how good they look on her arm and what they can do for her when she doesn't want to do it. Objectification is wrong no matter what. Also, boys appear to be the solution to all your problems. It's said at one point that one character wouldn't be in trouble if only she'd had the right boyfriend (and this is in a situation where who they're dating has nothing to do with anything). The book tries so hard with the message of all girls being beautiful, but the bad listed above and that I can't even rein in my anger enough to list overwhelm it.

Parts of this book were just plain WTF. Not alternate-universe-or-dystopia-WTF, which my suspension of disbelief covers, but this-makes-no-sense-in-any-universe kind of WTF. I'm not sure it's safe for a man with only one eye to be driving the car and I don't think I need to restate the whipped cream scene mentioned above. A change in temperature as severe as going from sweltering hot to hair-freezing cold within mere minutes will do serious harm to the body, but Tookie is fine.

The sad thing is that Banks seems so serious about the book both in interviews and in the reader's note for the book--she puts a lot of herself into this book (the SM-IZEs and so much more) and I can practically hear her narrating it. I know that feeling of having a passion for writing because I have that same passion for it. Unfortunately, having a passion for it is not equal to having a talent for it and nothing in the 192 pages I could stomach proved to be that Banks is an adequate fiction writer. She has a lot of room for improvement.

I need to stop making my book decisions in part based on entertaining my Goodreads friends with my annoyance and flabbergastery. It never leads me to any good books.


What am I reading next?: Queen of the Dead by Stacey Kade

Waiting on Wednesday (8)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating.

I'm suffering from too much of a book-induced headache right now to explain why I want this book and chose it this week (you'll see why if you stick around for my upcoming review of Modelland by Tyra Banks), so just enjoy.

AuditionAudition
by Stasia Ward Kehoe
October 13, 2011
464 pages (hardback)

When high school junior Sara wins a coveted scholarship to study ballet, she must sacrifice everything for her new life as a professional dancer-in-training. Living in a strange city with a host family, she's deeply lonely-until she falls into the arms of Remington, a choreographer in his early twenties. At first, she loves being Rem's muse, but as she discovers a surprising passion for writing, she begins to question whether she's chosen the right path. Is Rem using her, or is it the other way around? And is dancing still her dream, or does she need something more? This debut novel in verse is as intense and romantic as it is eloquent.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In My Mailbox (2)

In My Mailbox is a weekly event hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren spotlighting books I've bought in the past week or received for review.

Don't forget, my giveaway of ARCs of So Silver Bright by Lisa Mantchev and Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay is still open and ends September 14!

I've had most of these for about a week now, but I've been a bit busy and only got around to the post now.


Bought:

Soul Thief by Jana Oliver
Succubus Revealed by Richelle Mead (My last planned Richelle Mead book ever. I've given up on her.)
Queen of the Dead by Stacey Kade
Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

Received for review from Amazon Vine:

Modelland by Tyra Banks (This will not go well.)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEE!)

For the curious, that black cat in the photo is Shadow, one of the five cats my family owns. She goes by Shadow, BB, Baby, Dodo, Dodo Bird, and so many more I can't name and no matter what my brother says, she is my baby. She sure doesn't throw herself at his door, follow him everywhere, or become unstoppably demonic when he isn't home. I couldn't make her stay off the blanket when I was trying to take the photo, so I just let her stay in it.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

All You Desire by Kirsten Miller

Title: All You Desire
Author: Kirsten Miller
Publisher: Penguin/Razorbill
Release Date: August 9, 2011
Pages: 423 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.

All You Desire (Eternal Ones, #2)Haven Moore fled to Rome a year ago, leaving behind the Ouroboros Society and its diabolical leader, Adam Rosier. Now she's back in New York City with her beloved Iain. But Iain's supposed to be dead. And if they blow his cover, Adam won't give them any second chances.

Meanwhile, Beau Decker is missing. His life rests in Haven's hands. The Horae, a group of mystical sisters, hold the key to Beau's fate. They want to lock Adam away forever and Haven is his only weakness. To save Beau, Haven must seduce Adam and lure him into the Horae's lair.

But Adam Rosier has always had a funny way of seducing her. And the closer Haven gets to her enemy, the more she succumbs to his spell. Beau's life hangs in the balance--but this time, Haven can't even trust herself. Every decision she makes will shape her destiny.

How far will she go for the people she loves?

Review:

This is my opinion of the series in a nutshell: ""No," he said. "Just no."" (All You Desire, p. 121)

The little praise I have for bad books seem to get lost in the noise when I include them closer to the end of a review, so I'll state them first and get it over with. If there's one character I really like, it's Leah, one of Haven's friends who has visions of the future. Her personality appeals to be and I would love to read more about her. Yeah, she's just the Psychic Friend used to move the plot along and that type of friend has plenty of fans wherever they go (Alice Cullen, anyone?), but I like her outside of her ability to see what's going to happen.

Miller takes all the little details that seem so insignificant in both books of the series and ties them together well, revealing them as something that is actually very important. Most readers wouldn't think twice about those details and it makes for some good surprises. I also love the complexities of both the Ouroboros Society and the Horae; neither are totally good or bad, just shades of grey that can't be easily defined.

While I disliked Iain's mother for not being the mother she should have been despite the circumstances and Iain being an Eternal One, she said one line that I praised to the heavens: "Why would you assume there's a man pulling my strings?" Finally, someone gets that man isn't a woman's only motivation! Characters often take the words right out of my mouth when talking to Iain or Haven, and though what they said has little to no effect on the characters, I appreciate that someone seems to be in tune with what the reader will think.

Okay, there went all the praise I can give. Now we move on to the fun part: the bad stuff.

In the first book, Haven was stuck in a revolving door of "I trust Iain! He's my soul mate and I love him." "No, he killed me once and he'll do it again!" I hoped she wouldn't do it again in this book, but I didn't end up getting what I wanted. This time, she's stuck in the revolving door about whether or not Adam and the OS are changing and whether or not she's going bad. In the end, her going around and around and around and around make me sick to my stomach. She get tricked and used as a pawn every which way she can and it's just so frustrating! And her infidelity doesn't make me a fan of her either.

But Haven is not the dumbest person in the book, as dumb as she can be; Iain is. After faking his own death, he just needed to lie low and maybe change his appearance up. Dyed hair or a haircut that frames the face differently can go a long way. Can he do it right? Never! People knew he was alive when they shouldn't and when people still think he's dead, he walks around New York City in the middle of the day. Considering he was so high-profile and wanted for murder before his "death," it is both idiotic of him and unbelievable that no one figured it out earlier. He is a disgrace to all who have faked their deaths in real life or fiction.

Some twists surprised me or had me suspicious instead of sure, but I called the major twists far ahead of time. In one and only one instance, the foreshadowing of one of them was about as subtle as a blunt object to the head. Haven and Iain still don't have any sort of healthy relationship or communication, and it's hard for me to root for them like I should when I don't believe they should be together. It was great we had a gay soul mate couple, but it was difficult to enjoy it when one half had barely any characterization and the other half was the best-friend-turned-plot-point. Don't you hate it when characters get reduced to plot points?

To be honest, I still think Haven would do better in a relationship with Beau, said gay-best-friend-turned-plot-point, than with Adam or Iain. He won't be attracted to her ever, yeah, but he treats her better than either of Haven's own love interests.

Miller's writing is unclear, inconsistent, and confusing, but if there is one thing she can write, it's useless filler. There are detailed infodumps everywhere and the reader should be given more respect than being treated like they might not be smart enough to remember even the biggest points of the first book. Small reminders are okay, but a three-page infodump on Adam's role in the first book is not just going overboard, but swimming to the bottom of the sea and putting together a wardrobe made of seashells. At numerous points, I could have screamed at the book, "WRONG WRONG WRONG!" It would take too long to list them and if you're dying to know, ask and you shall receive.

And that's it. I'm done. The ending might be open, it might not, but I'm not going to keep buying them if it turns out there will be more books in the series. I will not be tricked again! People who loved the first book will love the second just as much, but those who had issues with the first book will find no reprieve here.

2 stars!


What am I reading next?: Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Shakespearean Giveaway!

I'm sitting on (well, not really sitting on, but you know what I mean) two ARCs that could use a new home and a reader who would love them, so I'm hosting a giveaway! The lovely young books I offer to one lucky winner are:
  • So Silver Bright by Lisa Mantchev (which--fair warning--is the third book of a trilogy)
  • Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay
To enter to win, simply fill out the form below. The contest is open to US residents only and ends Wednesday, September 14. You also get one extra entry in the giveaway if you follow my blog.


So Silver Bright by Lisa Mantchev

Title: So Silver Bright
Author: Lisa Mantchev
Publisher: Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends
Release Date: September 13, 2011
Pages: 368 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Provided for review by the publisher (thank you, Ksenia!)
All Beatrice Shakespeare Smith has ever wanted is a true family of her own. And she's close to reuniting her parents when her father disappears. Now, Bertie must deal with a vengeful sea goddess and a mysterious queen as she tries to keep her family--and the Theatre Illuminata--from crumbling. To complicate it all, Bertie is torn between her two loves, Ariel and Nate.

Lisa Mantchev's So Silver Bright brings Bertie's story to a stunning conclusion that fans of Eyes Like Stars and Perchance to Dream won't want to miss.

Review:

Nate is free from Sedna's clutches, but Beatrice Shakespeare Smith's problems are far from over. She still needs to fulfill Ophelia's promise, but that's kind of hard when getting the Scrimshander to the Theatre Illuminata isn't as easy as it seems. Sedna still lives and pursues Bertie with all her strength, wanting to see the young wordsmith dead. And how is she supposed to make a decision between the two men she loves equally? The journey to the place Bertie calls home is fraught with danger, fire dancers, brigands, and more mischief, and a happy ending seems close at hand--but could it turn out to be out of Bertie's reach? Not all plays end with, "and they lived happily ever after."

This review feels so stiff to me and I wish I could liven it up a little, but every time I tried to, it devolved into something like this: "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE SOOOO GOOOOOOD LIKE OMG HAPPPPYYYYYY BUT SAAAAAAAAAAAD!" So yeah, stiff review it is. As much as I want to unleash the inner fangirl and let her roam free, I've got to try to be intelligent.
The character growth Bertie has gone through during the series is impressive. If I were to read the first two chapters of Eyes Like Stars again and then reread the last two of So Silver Bright, it would seem like they're two different people and not the same young woman. Pretty sure she stole the title of "favorite character" from Ophelia and the fairies and now wears it like a crown. I've never liked Ariel because of some of the things he has done--to pull an instance from this very book, he humiliates her in front of the Queen and a large crowd of nobles--but he was admittedly sympathetic.

Bertie's adventures with her troupe were as fun to read about as ever and the book was just as good at making me laugh and smile as its predecessors (mostly due to the fairies), but the pacing wasn't the best. Until the last seventy pages or so, it was pretty slow going and I just floated with it. Small, forgettable plot points from previous books become incredibly important the best way they can, obvious plot points are confirmed, and it looks like the book made a last-minute trip to Plot Supermarket, the plot point superstore, to pick up another plot point or five. In the end, it all ties together pretty neatly and the sense of closure is complete yet open-ended, giving me plenty of room to imagine where the characters go from there.

The prose was often beautiful and made me wish I could write like that, but there were more than a few scenes where I couldn't figure out what was supposed to be going on. One scene was so bad about it that I had to reread it three times just to figure out what happened and that it made sense. Varvara, a fire dancer coincidentally introduced during that unclear scene, could have made for such a good character with her backstory, but she was only used as a plot device to help Bertie get around obstacles or move the plot along. I hate seeing good characters go to waste like that.

Since 2008, I've read about one hundred books per year and I'm on track to do it again No more than five of those books make me cry. So Silver Bright is one of those books for 2011. I didn't even like one character, but their fate had me bawling like a little baby, and a scene later in the book involving Sedna made me tear up too. Two-thirds of the way through, I thought this would be a solid three-star, but everything that came after that point was good enough to make me kick it up a notch. For all its flaws, So Silver Bright was a good book and a great conclusion to the Theatre Illuminata trilogy.

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: The Giver by Lois Lowry/All You Desire by Kirsten Miller

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Perchance to Dream by Lisa Mantchev

Title: Perchance to Dream
Author: Lisa Mantchev
Publisher: Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends
Release Date: May 25, 2010
Pages: 333 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
 
ACT TWO, SCENE ONE

Growing up in the enchanted Theatre Illuminata, Beatrice Shakespeare Smith learned everything about every play ever written. She knew the Players and their parts, but she didn't know that she, too, had magic. Now, she is the Mistress of Revels, the Teller of Tales, and is determined to follow her stars. She is ready for the outside world.

ENTER BERTIE AND COMPANY

But the outside world soon proves more topsy-turvy than any stage production. Bertie can make things happen by writing them, but outside the protective walls of the Theatre, nothing goes as planned. And her magic cannot help her make a decision between--

NATE: Her suave and swashbuckling pirate, now in mortal peril.

ARIEL: A brooding, yet seductive, air spirit whose true motives remain unclear.

When Nate is kidnapped and taken prisoner by the Sea Goddess, only Bertie can free him. Bertie's dreams are haunted by Nate, whose love for Bertie is keeping him alive, but in the daytime, it's Ariel who is tantalizingly close, and the one she is falling for. Who does Bertie love the most? And will her magic be powerful enough to save her once she enters the Sea Goddess's lair?

Once again, LISA MANTCHEV has spun a tale like no other--full of romance, magic, adventure, and fairies, too--that readers won't want to put down, even after the curtain has closed.

Review:

Bertie's play at the Theatre Illuminata got a standing ovation just like she wanted, but she sets out with Ariel and her four fairy friend Mustardseed, Cobweb, Moth, and Peaseblossom so she can rescue Nate, the pirate Player she cares so much for, from Sedna's clutches. Bertie's gift to control words and make what she writes come to life isn't an easy gift and the outside world is no walk in the park. While Nate's soul haunts her dreams, Ariel is close by during the day and Bertie is torn between the two men in her life. As she approaches the lair of the Sea Goddess, Bertie's love and her magic may not be enough to save her or her friends.

Bertie and her friends don't have it easy this time around; like any teenager and especially one with powers she's just starting to figure out, Bertie makes a lot of mistakes and learns from them. Early in the book, she hardly knows how to use her word-magic without summoning something that could kill her, but experience teaches her how to do it right. Not everyone has perfect control the first time they use their powers; some of them have to work at it. My favorite character Ophelia may not have much of a presence in the book, but Bertie and the fairies make up for it with their growth and their actions as comedic sidekicks, respectively.

Through Shakespeare's fairies and the omniscient point of view, Perchance to Dream retains much of the humor is predecessor had even when the stakes are higher and the tone slightly (just slightly) darker. While I prefer the setting of the Theatre Illuminata, Mantchev did a great job of putting Bertie and her friends in the outside world to meet a wider variety of characters than just who is in a play.

I'm sure I'm supposed to like one love interest or another at this point because a major part of the books is the love triangle (I normally abhor books with a heavy focus on a love triangle, but I am occasionally forgiving if I like everything else enough), but I don't like Ariel or Nate very much. They both trick her into doing the same thing through different methods and that annoyed me so badly. Last time I checked, that's not how you make someone you love do that; you get them to fall in love with you too and it's done after a mutual, informed decision. By the end of the book, I was hoping an army of squirrels would come along to steal their nuts. (I apologize for that pun. I can't help it sometimes. Runs in the family.)

From the time Bertie steps through the portal to the time she arrives in Sedna's throne room, I was lost, especially the first time I read it. During my second read of the book, my feeling of not knowing what the heck was going on and of everything it could be, why is this stuff the trial someone has to pass to get to Sedna's lair was only slightly eased. Even by Theatre Illuminata standards, which I set very high due to the nature of the books, it was weird.

I've got three theories as to how it's going to end with Bertie, Nate, and Ariel. 1) Bertie rejects them both. I feel this would be best for her, but I know it won't happen. 2) Polyamory because if she loves them both equally and can't choose, maybe she won't have to. I wouldn't mind this because we hardly ever see something so different in YA, but I doubt it will happen. I'd put its chances at five percent. 3) One love interest dies, automatically pairing Bertie with the one that didn't die. This is what's most likely and I don't care much for endings like that. I like the heroine to make the choice, not fate or death or what have you.

Maybe one of my theories is right or maybe they're all wrong, but I'm eagerly awaiting So Silver Bright, the final book in the trilogy, to find out how Bertie grows from here and how it all turns out.

3 stars!


What am I reading next?: So Silver Bright by Lisa Mantchev

Friday, September 2, 2011

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

Title: Eyes Like Stars
Author: Lisa Mantchev
Publisher: Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends
Release Date: July 7, 2009
Pages: 352 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it

All her world's a stage.

Beatrice Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater.

She's not an orphan, but she has no parents.

She knows every part, but she has no lines of her own.

Until now.

ENTER STAGE RIGHT

NATE: Dashing pirate. Will do anything to protect Bertie (as she's known at the theater).

COBWEB, MOTH, MUSTARDSEED, and PEASEBLOSSOM: Four tiny and incredibly annoying fairies. Bertie's sidekicks.

ARIEL: Seductive air spirit and Bertie's weakness. The symbol of impending doom.

BERTIE: Our heroine.

Welcome to the Theatre Illuminata, where the characters of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Theatre by The Book--an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family... and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.

Lisa Mantchev has written a debut novel that is dramatic, romantic, and witty, with an irresistible and irreverent cast of characters who are sure to enchant the audience.

OPEN CURTAIN

Review:

The Theatre Illuminata with its magical book of plays, eccentric characters, and all the friends she's ever known is Bertie Shakespeare Smith's home and she's dismayed to learn that the Theater Manager wants her to leave and strike out on her own. How can she leave? It means too much to her! With the Theater Manager's word that she can stay if she can find an invaluable way to contribute to the theater, Bertie sets out to restage Hamlet--not an easy task when four annoying fairies are always fluttering around, the Players are adverse to change, and Ariel, the air spirit of The Tempest fame, is doing what he can to make sure Bertie fails in her task.

What really makes Eyes Like Stars shine above anything else (any pun you might have seen there never happened) is the characters. Bertie's conflict is relatable--it can parallel anyone's fears of leaving home or a familiar place for the unknown--and she's complex too. She makes mistakes like all teenagers do and no one is afraid to call her on it when she does. The love interests Nate and Ariel both have great chemistry with Bertie (if you read the tango scene and still try to say Ariel and Bertie have no chemistry together, stop reading right now because we're not going to agree on anything about this book), but I've got my issues with both of them and I'm not quite sold on them yet. Even more than Bertie did, Ophelia stood out to me and even after my fifth re-read of this book, she remains my favorite character.

Two more fitting words for the book? Funny and clever. The comedic timing is perfect and it's harder to find a line that isn't quotable than one that is. The four fairy sidekicks from A Midsummer Night's Dream provide plenty of comic relief and the narration itself isn't afraid of a witty quip or two. To the book's benefit, the understated prose keeps the focus on what's going on with the characters rather than on the words. The irony of this in a book with a focus on the power of words isn't lost on me. When I was reading it, I thought, This is how I want to write. Why can't I be this good? *jealous*

The big reveal at the end felt too sudden and a little rushed, and I wasn't sure why Bertie had completely forgotten her childhood like she did. It's one thing for another character to forget what happened while they were away from the theater, but what about Bertie? She didn't seem to know about it because she never thought about it beforehand and she seemed just as surprised as everyone else when it was explained. What caused her selective amnesia? She's got to remember something about it, right? I hate to think it or put it into words, but it seems like a choice made for plot convenience. Not knowing about how she spent her younger years made the plot run more smoothly, but it leaves questions like this unanswered.

Despite my fussing, I love this book and the series to pieces. It saddens me that there is so little attention paid to it (as far as I've seen, not many people have heard of it) and then far worse series regularly top bestseller lists with each new installment. Bad books pile up like muck and you've really got to dig to get to the good books, the buried treasure. Hopefully, this will change; I've already got plans to recommend the entire series to my local library and a few teachers I know so that others can be caught in the spell of the Theatre Illuminata and give it the attention and adoration it rightly deserves.

4 stars!


What am I reading next?: Perchance to Dream by Lisa Mantchev