Monday, December 29, 2014

For Real

For RealFor Real by Alison Cherry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For some reason, I suspect the next season of the Amazing Race will have a romantic twist to it.

Thank you, Netgalley and Random House Children's, for this free book to review!

I have a lot to say about the characters, especially Will Divine. I kid you not, that is his legit name. As Claire points out, his driver's licence must say "Divine, Will", which is one of my favorite parts of the book! His twist at the end felt too rushed though, although in hindsight, I suppose there were some hints.

I don't really know what to say about Claire. Her introversion was relatable at some points (especially the dancing--ooooooh my gosh, I love the idea of it, and doing it by the myself, but in a crowd? of people? Yikes). Something about her bugged me though, but I can't quite pinpoint what. She was naive enough to believe someone's lie, but then again, so was I.
DisneyGifs.com - Disney Gifs
Maybe that's it: I can't point a stick at her for stupidity without it turning around toward myself. ;) I was also concerned by how determined Claire was to look sexy for Will. I mean, she's trying to prove to her sister and the world how mature, capable, and independent she is, and then she gets angry when he jokes with other girls instead of with her. Then again, I'm sure I've done that too. :P Sorry, guys.

The other racers, besides Miranda and her ex, pretty much blended together.

Writing a novel about a romantic Amazing Race sure was a brilliant idea though. This book has actually answered some of my questions about how race shows work. Pretty cool, right? I would absolutely recommend this book to TV lovers.

View all my reviews

Grading:
Language: B?
Adult Content: B? Even though the producers of the show Claire is on wanted her to go pretty far, she never did.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Modern Decency #2--Christmas

Guess what I got for Christmas?

A kindle fire!

Since it can take pictures, I decided to write another Modern Decency post. The pictures may not be the best quality, but I'm just glad I can take them.

Outfit 1/3: Vigil mass and morning mass
So, this is what I wore to the five o'clock mass on Christmas eve, and then again today on Christmas morning. I attended all three masses, in case you're wondering. I went to the vigil mass because that's the one my family goes to, and the morning mass to sit with a family with five kids under the age of seven. The mom is there too, of course, but the dad is our singer/organist/cantor, so he can't help keep his mini army quiet. So I do (sort of).

This is my sister's room, in case you're wondering. I had to use it because she has a full length mirror. Thanks, sis.

Black dress: eshakti.com, AKA one of the best clothing companies ever. They're sort of expensive, and they ship from India, but they have good sales. Especially if you're a first time customer, which I was when I bought this dress. Overall, it was $30-40. Wearing a dry-clean only dress while holding a seven month old baby may not have been the best idea, though.

Jewelry: Christie @ The Celtic Cowgirl made me the earrings, and the owl necklace is from my grandma. Pictures do not do these pieces justice.

Since the neckline is a little lower than I'm used to, I wore a black Cami Secret with it. It's just a clip-on rectangle with some lace at the top, so it's really light weight. On Amazon, a set of three is about $10.

Outfit 2/3: Midnight mass
Because I'm in the adult choir, I got to sing at the midnight mass. I wanted to wear something simple, so I could change easily when I got home. I was up waaaaaay past my bed time.



I forgot to put the purple earrings back in (and my glasses), but I've still got the same necklace on.
Wool skirt: I really have no idea where it came from. But it's comfy.

Green skirt: rummage sale, about fifty cents. Got to love rummage sales!

Purple sweater: Cold Water Creek, a few months before they went out of business. I think they're back now though? Anyway, the beads on the sweater kept falling off, so it's definitely not the best quality. But it's purple and works with everything, so I wear it a lot.

Outfit 3/3: Christmas day

Prepare to be amazed, because it is just spectacular. So effortless, so soft....



Drum roll, please!



**Drums**




Ta-da! ;) I had been asking for a UoM sweatshirt for a while now. My brother goes there, and I hope I will too.

I've also got on same green shirt that I wore when I went to the midnight mass. The pants are from a resale shop--maybe four dollars? Since we don't have any family nearby anymore, it was just us on Christmas, and I totally went for clothes I love over clothes that look fancy.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Beautiful Books #3

Unfortunately, none of the blog buttons are working here, but anyway, I'm linking up again with Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further Up and Further In, for round three of Beautiful Books! This month? All about editing.

1. On a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best) how well do you think this book turned out?
That's a tough one; maybe a six? Overall, it should be low, but it's only a rough draft, and any draft is better than none.

 2. Have you ever rewritten or edited one of your books before? If so, what do you do to prepare yourself? If not, what’s your plan?
I'm currently editing When I Depart, my Jane Eyre retelling. I finished it right before NaNo, and then began editing December 1, so that gave me a four week break. I fixed up some minor parts, then sent it out to my critique partners. I've got a bit of a dilemma here: was I supposed to edit it a lot and then send it out, or should I have sent it out right away? I don't want to give my dear partners junk, but I don't want to edit something to perfection, then decide it doesn't fit the story and delete it. (Elizabeth, I know you follow my blog: what's your opinion?)

3. What’s your final wordcount? Do you plan to lengthen or trim your book?
I Won't Fly, a Swan Lake retelling, is 25,025 words long. I'm going to lengthen it as much as possible. 60,000 words total sounds good to me.

4. What are you most proud of? Plot, characters, or pacing?
Hm...mostly the characters. I love my plot, but I think it needs more going on.

5. What’s your favourite bit of prose or line from this novel?
The title, I Won't Fly.


6. What aspect of your book needs the most work?
Hm...probably their religion. Halfway through I added their worship of the stars, and referenced it from there on out. It probably should have been there from the beginning.

7. What aspect of your book is your favourite?
I really, really like the idea of a Swan Lake retelling, as well as Odette, my main character. She's always trying to do the right thing, even when it's hard.

8. How are your characters? Well-rounded, or do they still need to be fleshed-out?
Ugh. Just went over my characters. :) Odile and Siegfried might need some work, but Odette feels fine.

9. If you had to do it over again, what would you change about the whole process?
Hm.... I don't know. Maybe I'd have worked more on the world building?

10. Did anything happen in your book that completely surprised you? Have any scenes or characters turned out differently to what you planned? Good or bad?
I knew where most of it was going, although I had several different ideas for the ending. I like the note it ended on though.

11.What was the theme and message? Do you think it came across? If not, is there anything you could do to bring it out more?

Uh....

Well....

I have no idea. I guess the theme is "Don't hang out with swans".

12. Do you like writing with a deadline (like NaNoWriMo) or do you prefer to write-as-it-comes?
Like most people, I'd prefer only to write when inspiration strikes, and have it strike every day when it's just me and the computer. As that never happens though, NaNo is awesome as keeping me on track, and Go Teen Writers' 100-4-100 challenge (where you write at least a hundred words for a hundred days) ends on Dec. 23, and I'm am probably not going to write again until 2015. I NEED A BREAK.


13. Comparative title time! What published books, movies, or TV shows are like your book? (Ex: Inkheart meets X-Men, etc.)
Big surprise here: I Won't Fly is based off of Swan Lake.

14. How do you celebrate a finished novel?!
By not looking at it again for as long as my editing brain will allow.

15. When people are done reading your book, what feeling do you want them to come away with?
Tough one.... I guess I want them to be a little sad, but slightly hopeful.


And then I want them to do this:
#bookworm #readingGilmore Girls
Thanks, Cait and Sky, for hosting these link-ups!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Rite of Rejection

Rite of RejectionRite of Rejection by Sarah Negovetich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not only is this good "for a self published novel", it's just plain good.

Thank you, Netgalley and Sarah Negovetich, for this free book to review!
"Before you stands the future."

Straight-laced, sixteen-year-old Rebecca can't wait for her Acceptance. A fancy ball, eligible bachelors, and her debut as an official member of society. Instead, the Machine rejects Rebecca. Labeled as a future criminal, she's shipped off to a life sentence in a lawless penal colony.

A life behind barbed-wire fences with the world's most dangerous people terrifies Rebecca. She reluctantly joins a band of misfit teens in a risky escape plan, complete with an accidental fiancé she's almost certain she can learn to love.

But freedom comes with a price. To escape a doomed future and prove her innocence, Rebecca must embrace the criminal within.
Seriously. If I had known this was self published when I saw it on Netgalley, I probably wouldn't have requested it. I've been burned too often to be comfortable in that area. I am so glad I got this though. Rite of Rejection was so well written, I highlighted a few quotes on my kindle.

I never really understood why the machine Rejected Rebecca (because she was good in English?), but I really liked her. She was so naive, even to the point of defending the cardinal after she got in the PIT, and kept thinking, "What would a lady do in this situation?" Then she turned into a determined criminal who wanted to take a stand. Fabulousness.

And then there's the guys. Daniel was friendly and adorable, but their crush felt way too rushed at first.
the hunger games animated GIF
I was pretty impressed with Eric, through and through. He must have been just as confused by everything as Rebecca was, considering they were both Rejected in the same day.

My main problem is with the ending. It was abrupt to the point where it felt like the final paragraph wasn't even finished. Also, their country was so evolved, while still looking just like America, I wanted more of their history! After Rebecca was thrown into the PIT, I didn't get much.

Would I read other books by Sarah Negovetich? Absolutely! Check out her author bio and blog; she's hilarious.

View all my reviews

Grading:
Adult content: B
Language: A?
Violence: A? B? It's a dystopian. They're generally violent.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Giveaway Winners!

Time is up! Now to announce the winners.

The lucky fellow who won Gilded is...Elizabeth Anne D!

And the lucky fellow who won Replication is...Katy O!

Congrats, guys! I'll email you for your addresses, then send them right away. Thanks for entering, everybody!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Stepsister's Tale

The Stepsister's TaleThe Stepsister's Tale by Tracy Barrett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finally know how Cinderella got her name. I mean, who names their kid after ashes?
What really happened after the clock struck midnight?

Jane Montjoy is tired of being a lady. She's tired of pretending to live up to the standards of her mother's noble family-especially now that the family's wealth is gone and their stately mansion has fallen to ruin. It's hard enough that she must tend to the animals and find a way to feed her mother and her little sister each day. Jane's burden only gets worse after her mother returns from a trip to town with a new stepfather and stepsister in tow. Despite the family's struggle to prepare for the long winter ahead, Jane's stepfather remains determined to give his beautiful but spoiled child her every desire. 

When her stepfather suddenly dies, leaving nothing but debts and a bereaved daughter behind, it seems to Jane that her family is destined for eternal unhappiness. But a mysterious boy from the woods and an invitation to a royal ball are certain to change her fate...
Let's be honest: the classic Disney film left a lot unexplained. Why does such a noble family have no other servants besides a stepsister, why do none of the neighbors wonder why this third girl was suddenly degraded to servant, and who the heck names their daughter Cinderella? Thankfully, The Stepsister's Tale answers these questions, and more.
perfectloops animated GIF
The beginning was good, the ending was great, but the middle sagged. While I was certainly interested to see what would happen next, and how they kept themselves from starving, I wanted to see more of Cinderella. I was expecting to see why the stepsisters were so cruel to her, but it turns out that she was just overeating to make people feel sorry for her. Seriously, she didn't do any work; she just sat in the ashes, trying to keep warm (hence, Isabella morphed into Cinder-ella).

I really liked Jane, the eldest "ugly" stepsister. Her mother is mentally off (like, a lot), and Maude isn't even a teenager yet, so everything fell to Jane. Jane doesn't whine though, she toughens up and makes friends with a boy of the woods, who is SUCH A SWEETIE. How could anyone not want to kiss him? I may have melted when they did.

Would I read other books by Tracy Barrett? If she writes another retelling! I'd love to see a Rapunzel one.

View all my reviews

Grading:
Violence: A
Adult Content: A
Language: A

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Judge Who Stole Christmas

The Judge Who Stole ChristmasThe Judge Who Stole Christmas by Randy Singer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I tried to find some Grinch GIFs, but I couldn't find any that were appropriate. Plus, it appears to be the creepiest looking movie ever. I've only seen the animated version for a reason.
It starts innocently enough in the town square of Possum, Virginia. But it ends up as a spectacular national scandal: Can a federal judge outlaw Christmas?

Thomas Hammond and his wife play Joseph and Mary in the annual live nativity scene in their hometown. But a federal judge rules the display unconstitutional and a Christmas showdown ensues. Thomas refuses to abide by the court order and ends up in jail. From the courtrooms of Virginia to the talk shows of New York City, the battle escalates into a national media spectacle. Caught in the middle is law student Jasmine Woodfaulk assigned to represent Thomas as part of her school's legal aid clinic. 

Whatever happened to peace on earth?
My main problem with this book is the fact that Thomas was such a misguided person. He meant well, but he had killed his child a year before. Seriously. His four year old has appendicitis (something my own brother nearly died from), but he refused to bring the kid to the hospital until it was too late. Instead, he decided to tell God what to do and fully expected God to pull a miracle at the last minute. THAT IS NOT OKAY, and now one of his kids is dead. This made it seriously hard to root for Thomas.

Also, why didn't he just apply for a permit to put up the manger scene? I'm sure he would have gotten approved.

About half way though, however, I really warmed up to the story, especially to Jasmine. She's being pulled in all different directions by a potential employer, her family, and a law case she never really wanted. I had to admire how she managed to keep her sanity.

I am now completely in the Christmas mood. Bring on the carols, especially "Away in a Manger"!

View all my reviews

Grading:
Violence: A
Adult Content: A
Language: A

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Orphan of Torundi

The Orphan of TorundiThe Orphan of Torundi by J.L. McCreedy
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

DNF at 57%.

Thanks anyway, Netgally and Penelope Pipp Publishing.
To find the truth, she must first uncover the lie ….

Orphaned as an infant, Sam is raised by a pharmaceutical research mission in the rain forests of Torundi. She wields a mean machete, makes soap from candlenuts and is a fairly astute amateur entomologist. You know, the normal stuff. But a month before her seventeenth birthday, she is exiled to an American boarding school in Malaysia.

Armed with little more than her unusual upbringing and church-lady clothes, Sam must contend with her new existence as the world's most socially unprepared high school senior. Well that’s just fine. Because she is determined to solve the mystery behind her banishment and return home tout de suite.

But when she discovers the unthinkable – that her banishment is tied to an enigmatic corporation with illicit designs on Torundi – she realizes the real mystery she must uncover is ... why? Soon, Sam is caught in a whirlwind of intrigue, danger and greed. As she chases this thread of truth to its end, she unravels a plot that threatens her beloved Torundi, her trust in the boy she has grown to love and her own existence.
When I saw this book on Netgalley, I was so excited that I immediately requested it and got approved. Because I was reading other books at the time, however, this was put off to the side. When I was ready to read it though, I discovered it had been archived! I had been so excited for this, but I knew eventually, I would forget all about it. This could have been the greatest book ever, but I'd missed my chance. I was seriously disappointed.

Then it came on Netgalley again. I was thrilled at the second chance, requested it again, got approved, and downloaded it to my kindle right away.

Then I read it.

And regretted it.

Seriously. I had such high expectations: a girl from some unknown country is suddenly uprooted and put in modern society? How cool is that? It turns out, however, that Sam has no personality. She adjusts perfectly, loving the food, mentioning the temperature difference only once, and understanding all of her schoolwork with ease.
fun animated GIF
Unfortunately, it can.
My second problem was Jones. He was SO CREEPY, and yet Sam adored him. Um, this guy has a dubious past, is your teacher (illegally, by the way), but conveniently only nineteen, so he can still be the love interest. How awkward is that?
disney animated GIF
I stopped reading when they kissed.
Then there's the writing. It was beautiful at times, yes, but so forced. A girl who grew up in the forests of Torundi could certainly have beautiful quotes, but they would be subtle, not poetry.

While I have no desire to finish this book, maybe you would like it. It does have an interesting premise, even though it wasn't for me.

View all my reviews
Grading (up to where I stopped reading):
Violence: A
Adult Content: A
Language: My mind fails me right now, but I think A.

In other news, don't forget to enter my giveaways for Replication and Gilded!

Monday, December 8, 2014

TWO Giveaways in Time for Christmas!

Guess what? I'm having not one, but TWO giveaways! They should arrive in time for Christmas. You can keep them as a treat to yourself or give them to a fellow bookworm.
Running Through the Stars
Giveaway #1
Gilded (Gilded, #1)
Gilded
Sixteen-year-old Jae Hwa Lee is a Korean-American girl with a black belt, a deadly proclivity with steel-tipped arrows, and a chip on her shoulder the size of Korea itself. When her widowed dad uproots her to Seoul from her home in L.A., Jae thinks her biggest challenges will be fitting in to a new school and dealing with her dismissive Korean grandfather. Then she discovers that a Korean demi-god, Haemosu, has been stealing the soul of the oldest daughter of each generation in her family for centuries. And she's next.

But that’s not Jae’s only problem.

There's also Marc. Irresistible and charming, Marc threatens to break the barriers around Jae's heart. As the two grow closer, Jae must decide if she can trust him. But Marc has a secret of his own—one that could help Jae overturn the curse on her family for good. It turns out that Jae's been wrong about a lot of things: her grandfather is her greatest ally, even the tough girl can fall in love, and Korea might just be the home she's always been looking for.

It's like Percy Jackson, but with Korean demigods and for a slightly older audience. You can read my review of it here. This one is never used; I read Gilded on my kindle, then won a giveaway of a print copy. It just sat on my shelf though, so now I'm giving it away.

Giveaway #2
Replication: The Jason Experiment
Replication
What if everything you knew was a lie? Martyr---otherwise known as Jason 3:3---is one of hundreds of clones kept in a remote facility called Jason Farms. Told that he has been created to save humanity, Martyr has just one wish before he is scheduled to 'expire' in less than a month. To see the sky. 

Abby Goyer may have just moved to Alaska, but she has a feeling something strange is going on at the farm where her father works. But even this smart, confident girl could never have imagined what lies beneath a simple barn. Or what would happen when a mysterious boy shows up at her door, asking about the stars. 

As the reality of the Jason Experiment comes to light, Martyr is caught between two futures---the one for which he was produced and the one Abby believes God created him to have. Time is running out, and Martyr must decide if a life with Abby is worth leaving everything he's ever known.

Yes, I am giving away a Jill Williamson novel! I have another copy I like better. You can read my review of it here. This book is lightly used, but I took good care of it. It's still in perfect condition.

Rules:
1. You can enter both giveaways, but you can only win one book.
2. USA only
3. You must have fun

May the odds be ever in your favor!

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, apparently there will be six books in the series. The third came out earlier this year.

Reading this now was a terrible decision.
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another.

Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
 
I absolutely love Caelena. She is not merely An Assassin, but she also likes dresses and lost puppies. While I'd like to know how, and why, she decided to be that way after going to the death camp that is Endovier, she is so endearing. And frankly, I don't know who to ship her with! All of the characters are so fleshed out, even the sneaky Kaltain. Hats off to Sarah Mass!

Another aspect I adore of this book is the names. They're all pronounceable! In high fantasy, you usually run into names like Bazizkilbmahsamki and Xiqrhigy (say those ten times fast, I dare you).
The Hunger Games animated GIF
But here everyone's names were awesome. Chaol, Dorian, Caelena, Kalkain.... Epic.

Doesn't Caelena realize though that as the King's Champion, she would be ordered to kill people? What's to stop the king from ordering her to kill Chaol? Or Arobynn, the one who trained her to be an assassin in the first place? Scratch that, actually. Someone needs to take him out. Caelena was a kid! Arobynn was brutal.

And oh my gosh, the symbolism of the glass castle and the state of the empire...dang. The king may live in a beautiful castle that's stood for years, but one crack could destroy it all.

I got the impression this would be heart wrenching, and while I teared up a little, I was never crying. Beware the hype, I guess. But I've got a feeling that this is the kind of series that builds and builds and builds, and then crashes into tragedy, leaving the readers devastated and more in love than ever. Something to look forward to, I guess, IF I CAN SURVIVE UNTIL THE LAST BOOK COMES OUT IN 2017!
the hunger games animated GIF
Yeah right.
I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of Crown of Midnight.

View all my reviews

Grading:
Language: B
Adult Content: A
Violence: B?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Cait's Blog Change + Tag!

Guess what? Cait from notebooksisters.com has moved to paperfury.com! Check it out, because it looks SO COOL. And she's having a tag to generate news about her move, and I totally joined, because I am her minion.

1. Why did you start blogging?
A lot of my sister's friends got blogs at around the same time, and so I wanted one too. None of them update theirs very often, but I've fallen in love with blogging.

2. What’s the story behind your blog’s name?
I tried a bunch of different names at first, but blogger said they had already been taken. Then I wanted to include stars in the title because I think stars are just the prettiest things ever. Somehow I ended up with Running Through the Stars, which I absolutely love.

3. How many designs have you been through since you started blogging? (Pictures! We demand pictures!)
Sorry! I don't have pictures, but I used to have one that was like Elizabeth's @ Incidents of a Literary Nature, actually. Later I changed it to the starry one now.

4. Have you ever switched blog platforms? What made you move? If you haven’t ever changed…why?
I've never changed from blogger to anything else because my computer skills are so sad it's comical. I've figured out how to use blogger though, so I'm going to stick with it until I see a really good reason why I should move.

5. How long does it take you to write a post? What’s your postly process like?
I don't usually time myself, but I did this time! I always write a rough draft first, then go back after a quick break and do a few edits, and maybe add some GIFs. And it took me...four days. But only 40 minutes.

Yep.

6. Have you ever been super nervous about a post? Why?! What was it?
I don't usually care what people think, but I was eager to see their responses to my Intro to Modern Decency. I think some Christians go waaaaay too far in their pursuit of modesty. I mean, at some point, guys just have to man up and take responsibility for their own lust problems. The way I dress can't fix them.
peter-pan-10.1
7. Do you have a blogging schedule?
Nope. I try to blog weekly, because I like having fresh content for my readers. Whenever I read a book that hasn't come out yet, I mark the date on google calendar and post the review on my blog then.

8. Do you tell people In-Real-Life about your blog? Their reactions?
My classmates don't talk about blogging that often, so I usually don't bring it up. Also, most of them aren't really readers, so I don't think they'd care very much.

9. Top ten blogs you read/comment on the most! Go! Go!
I actually don't comment very much! I'd like to, and I often write comments and then delete them before even entering them, for some reason. If a blog has over 20 comments, I usually don't add mine. I mean, they have plenty of comments! How could they care about mine? I realize if I were them, I'd totally care, but that hasn't quite gotten into my brain yet.

Top Ten Blogs I read:
  1. Go Teen Writers (Best. Website. Ever.)
  2. Paper Fury (Duh)
  3. Forever Changed (Sarah comments a lot, so I like to check out her blog as well)
  4. Celtic Cowgirl (Celtic Thunder fangirl! Check her out!)
  5. The Book Chewers (Cait also blogs here...I'd follow her anywhere, apparently)
And...that's just about it. I check out a ton of other blogs every once in a while, such as my sister's blog, Marchaelary, but she and her blogging friends don't post very often.

10. If you could change/improve things about your blog, what would they be?
Hm.... I'd say I'd like more of my followers to support the authors whose books I read. It was the greatest feeling ever when I got a couple of people to read Jill Williamson's books, and I just love helping authors.
image
Now go buy a book.
And there we have it! Please follow paperfury.com, because Cait is awesome and loves cakes. Enough said.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Hunger Games

Yes, I'm very late to The Hunger Games bandwagon. But here I am, with a review for Mockingjay. I don't think there are any spoilers, but proceed at your own risk.

I didn't review the first two books, but here's the general rundown.

The Hunger Games: 5 stars, all the way. Lots of emotions.

Catching Fire: 4.5 stars. My main problem was Suzanne Collins's inability to pace her novels. I'll get into that more later.

Now for Mockingjay.

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How am I ever going to recover? I'm shocked Katniss did. I wouldn't have.

I'm split in two about this book (not literally, but I'm sure some characters were). I cannot get over the amount of bloodshed. It was probably excessive, but I'm writing this review immediately after reading it, so I don't have as clear an opinion as I will in the morning. The one death at the moment that I think was too much was Finnick's. (Scroll over to see the spoiler.)

Another excess in Mockingjay is the wasted space. In all honesty, it could have been 50-100 pages shorter. Pacing is not Suzanne Collins's strong suit. Breaking people is. As I was reading, I thought, "The ending had better blow me away, or I will completely hate this book". I'm not sure the ending blew me away, but I'm basically in shock right now. I need a blanket. Maybe when I recover, I'll be annoyed at it in some way, but for now, I'm frozen. Frankly, I was stunned throughout the entire novel.

I'm so glad about what Katniss did to Coin at the end. I probably would have done it as soon as I discovered Coin's plan, but I don't remember if Katniss had the ability to do so at that point. At least she did it in the end.

Another small qualm I have is the amount of names. Apparently Darius is the one who defended Gale in Catching Fire, but since so many other people were thrown at me, only to never be seen agian, anything that happened to Darius left little emotional impact. And who is Messala, anyway? Where did Cressida come from? Why on earth were nearly all of the prep teams killed? That makes no sense.

Now, time for the question I'm sure you're all dying (haha) to know. Gale or Peeta? I was wondering that myself.

Until I read the freaking novel and didn't find a love triangle.

Seriously. Every once in a while there would be a reference to the fact that Gale and Peeta loved her, but it was one of the few parts of this book that wasn't overused. I didn't classify Mockingjay as a romance because it wasn't one. We found out who she picked, yeah, but overall Katniss had other things to do.

I'm not going to go off on a rant about my opinion on the supposed love triangle, but as it seems so popular nowadays to have an opinion on it, I'm leaning slightly toward Peeta. Maybe I only liked him better because Gale is such a monster. Gale expected Katniss to like him, even though he had never hinted at romance until recently. Apparently he loved her for at least six months before the Games. He did nothing though! Katniss had no idea. If you're too afraid to say anything to your crush, then you don't get to be so furious when she is forced into a romance for the sake of survival in the Games. Okay? Okay.

Rant done.
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Violence: LOL. It's the last book in a trilogy about killing innocent children. It's bloody.
Language: A
Adult Content: A
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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Church--Modern Decency #1

Woo! First Modern Decency post! Thanks to my sister, Mary @ Marchaelary, for taking the pictures.

This is an outfit I wear to church when I know there won't be little kids hanging on me. I could probably wear this even when they are around, but the shell is not washable and I'd rather wear something with a sturdy, closed front than an open blouse. The blouse is too tight when buttoned, so I just leave it loose with a shell or tank top.

I am always making this face.
Red blouse: If it's from my parish's rummage sale, then it was probably 50 cents.
Black skirt: A couple sizes too big, but very comfy. Thrift shop: $4.
Shell: Cold Water Creek. $? They were having a sale.


I wish I could use more of the pictures Mary took! It was lots of fun. ;) My second Modern Decency post will be on what I wear to youth group.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Off Pointe

Off PointeOff Pointe by Leanne Lieberman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of my favorite things to say is "on the other hand". Bear with me! My opinions love to clash with each other. I also don't know the difference between "bare" and "bear".
When Meg's summer ballet program is canceled and her ballet teacher suggests she attend Camp Dance to learn new dance styles, Meg is devastated. Worse still, her teacher thinks she lacks stage presence and needs to connect more with her audience. At camp, Meg struggles to learn contemporary dance. A girl named Logan, who is jealous of Meg's ballet technique and her friendship with Nio, a cute contemporary dancer, makes Meg's life even more difficult. When Meg, Nio and Logan have to work together to create a piece for the final show, arguments threaten to ruin their dance. Unless they are able to overcome their differences, Meg's time at Camp Dance will have been a disaster from start to finish.
On one hand (here we go), I wanted Meg to get a grip. She had a solo in the most recent ballet recital, but her teacher wants her to work on stage presence while at summer camp. Meg freaks out and thinks she won't become a professional simply because she has room to improve. Seriously, girl? On the other hand, I think a lot of people, myself included, can relate to her. If someone criticizes one thing, that means there must be other problems they're too nice to mention, right? Or, ya know, not. But some people don't think that way.
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The writing is quick and to the point. I know some middle school girls who do ballet, and I think they'd really like this book. I just wish it had been longer though. There were lots of details that could have been explored, like Meg's relationship with her family and just how good she really was at ballet.
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Would I read other books by Leanna Lieberman? Yes! When I received this book through Goodreads First Reads, it came with a bookmark for Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust, which I plan on reading. The publicity did not go to waste!

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Grading:
Adult content: A
Language: A
Violence: A

Monday, November 17, 2014

Isabella's Libretto

Isabella's LibrettoIsabella's Libretto by Kimberly Cross Teter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I still have no idea what an oboe is.

Thank you, Kimberly Cross Teter, for this free book to review! Gotta love Goodreads' giveaways.
Isabella’s Libretto is the tale of one orphan seeking her dream in Venice, Italy, in 1715—a time when music permeated the canals and lanes of the floating city. Abandoned as a baby at the Ospedale della Pietà, Isabella dal Cello has spent her entire life wondering why her mother deserted her. Now she is an ambitious teen who has worked hard to earn a place playing her cello in the orphanage’s prestigious orchestra. This remarkable ensemble of girls is directed by none other than Don Antonio Vivaldi, the colorful and complex maestro, destined to be remembered as a great composer, conductor, and violinist. Don Vivaldi recognizes Isabella as a kindred spirit and nurtures her talent. One night, however, Isabella defies the rules of the Ospedale and sneaks out with her best friend. The unusual punishment devised for Isabella changes her life in a most unexpected way, testing her devotion to her musical goals—and her friends. Can Isabella satisfy an impossible choice that is put before her? Challenged by loss and betrayal, she will have to call on her pluck and perseverance if she has any chance of claiming her dream before it slips away.
So, I just looked up what oboes. For other uninstrumentality inclined people, it's like an advanced recorder, and what Isabella's best friend played. I was pretty confused about that; my mistake. ;)

Isabella is a great character. On one hand, she's selfish and rash, as is seen by the way she treats most people. On the other hand, you can really see her passion for music and how that's basically the only thing that keeps her going, aside from her friends. And if she can't reply on them, what else does she have besides her cello?
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The pacing of the novel was off, however. It's mainly about Isabella's day to day life, which might appeal to some people. I'm just not one of them. Isabella suddenly had a lot of friend drama, and then it was over. The writing needed a little more development as well; it's still feels like it's in the beginning stages.

I really love seeing music in writing though, despite the fact that I don't play anything. Isabella's Libretto makes me want to play an oboe (or a recorder), and I definitely recommend it to middle school girls who play instruments, even if this overall was not for me.

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Grading:
Violence: B. The girls are nearly attacked in a flashback about the fireworks.
Adult Content: See above. Still A, though.
Language: A

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Name of the Blade

The Name of the Blade (The Name of the Blade, #1)The Name of the Blade by Zoë Marriott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Japanese vampire cats. Alrighty then.

Thank you, NetGalley and Candlewick press, for this free book to review!
Ancient Japanese gods and monsters are unleashed on modern-day London in this first book of an epic trilogy from acclaimed fantasy writer Zoë Marriott. When Mio sneaks the family’s katana — a priceless ancestral sword —from her parents’ attic, she just wants to spice up a costume. But the katana is much more than a dusty antique. Awakening the power within the sword unleashes a terrible, ancient evil onto the streets of unsuspecting London. But it also releases Shinobu, a fearless warrior boy, from the depths of time. He helps to protect Mio — and steals her heart. With creatures straight out of Japanese myths stalking her and her friends, Mio realizes that if she cannot keep the sword safe and learn to control its legendary powers, she will lose not only her own life . . . but the love of a lifetime.
Being the first book in the trilogy, it's very open ended. How is Mio supposed to explain to her parents what happened? Where is her friend's mom, anyway? Did anyone call the police after the battle?

I really didn't like anything related to the romance. Shinobu is the most perfect person ever, and no, I'm not being sarcastic. I like him a lot. But shouldn't everyone have a flaw? That's make makes them stronger. Also, insta-love alert! Not even I have ever had a crush on a guy so quickly. And I'll admit it: that's saying a lot.
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I did enjoy the Japanese god element. I just wish there was more of it! What's up the Harbinger? Is Shinobu immortal?
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Would I read other books in the series? Maybe, if they come up on NetGalley.

Grading:
Language: I don't remember. B?
Adult Content: A
Violence: A? B?
I seriously need to write the grading as soon as I finish a book, instead of a month afterwords. :P

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Royal Institute of Magic

Royal Institute of MagicRoyal Institute of Magic by Victor Kloss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Proof that self publishing is not always a mistake.

Thank you, Netgalley and Victor Kloss, for this free book to review!
Two years ago, Ben Greenwood's parents walked out the door and never returned. The police have all but given up finding them when Ben stumbles upon a peculiar letter addressed to his dad. “You are the most wanted man in the Unseen Kingdoms. Unless you come to us, we cannot help. For your child's sake, tell us what you know.”

The letter is from an organisation called the Royal Institute of Magic and is dated a day before his parents disappeared. Like most people, fourteen-year-old Ben hasn't the faintest idea what the Royal Institute of Magic is, but he has his first clue: the logo on the letter.

Armed with nothing but his wits and the help of his good friend Charlie, Ben sets out to find the Institute and, through them, his parents. To succeed, he will have to navigate a land filled with fantastic creatures and Spellshooters, where magic can be bought and sold, to unravel an ancient family secret that could hold the key to defeating an evil the Institute has been fighting for the last five hundred years.
For a while, I couldn't tell if it was self-published or not. I had to ask the author. Sometimes self publishing deteriorates the quality, but here? It was awesome. Vickor Kloss is amazing.
22 Signs You Are A Harry Potter Super-Fan
Writing anything to do with a teen boy in England must be difficult, to say the least. While there were SOME similarities to Harry Potter, there were none plot wise, so it didn't bother me that much. J. K. Rowling does not own the idea of having a magic world coexisting in the natural one.
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One thing that bugged me is the prologue. It could have been left out entirely with no ill effect.

That said, this book was very entertaining, and I loved the world building. I'd absolutely suggest this to someone who loves modern fantasy. Victor Kloss is an author to keep an eye on!

Grading:
Langauge: B
Adult Content: A

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Beautiful Books Link #2

I feel so awesome right now. Before Go Teen Writers' 100 for 100 challenge and NaNoWriMo, I wrote 300 words on a good day. Today I wrote 1519 and now I'm working on a blogpost.

Yeah baby.

Anyyyyyyway, time for the actual post. Cait @ Notebook Sisters (soon to become paperfury.com!) and Sky @ Further Up and Further In are hosting a Beautiful Books link-up about writing. Thanks guys!
1. Be honest: how is your writing going?
As I said, today is a good day. ;) On the days I go to my co-op, though, I don't get home until at least 5, so it's pretty hard to write then.

2. What’s your first sentence/paragraph?
Yeah, about that.... I'm probably going to change it, because it's a flash forward to the ending and I'm probably going to change the ending. Here it is anyway.
“King Heinrich is dead because of you.”

His proclamation rings through my ears as I scramble through the forest. I must have lost the other ladies yards before. No one wants to venture out to ---- Woods, especially not after dark. They say the women with the plague come here to die. I stumble over a stick, but keep going.
Yep. Still don't have a name for those freakin' woods.

3. Do you have a book cover, and/or pictures that reflect your book?
No cover, but I've got a pinterest board for I Won't Fly.
Lucía Lacarra and Marlon Dino in Odette's PDD, "Swan Lake". Photo (c) Jesús  Vallinas.
Siegfried and Odette
Swan Lake
Odile: Can't wait for this scene.
4. Do you have pictures of each of your characters? If not, describe them for us! (Be as descriptive as you can.)
After rummaging around on my fantasy board, I found some.
Rothbart
Heinrich (to the left) and Siegfried (to the right)
Gwen:)
Odette
5. What scene are you most excited to write?
The ending! Also, the one I'm currently working on, in which Heinrich dies.

6. Share a snippet or a scene that you really enjoyed writing.

Just then, the speakerman calls for everyone’s attention. “Present the Dowager Zia Vix.” Every bows or curtseys as she walks past. Truly, the king’s mother makes an imposing figure. Large enough to require lots of cloth for her gowns but old enough for no one to care about her weight, she walks with startling confidence. The Dowager does not have to flatter anyone to get her way. She simply gets it.

The candle light beams down on her white hair, making the rubies pinned in it sparkle. Thankfully, her hair is white because of her age, not because of the plague. White hair is one of the symptoms, even for the young.
As the music starts up again and King Heinrich goes to his mother for a dance, I turn around for a glass of champagne before Prince Siegfried finds me.
There's something about Lady Vix's confidence that makes me want to write about her, despite her lack of good character (haha, pun pun pun).

7. Now that you're writing, have any of the plot details, or the process itself, turned out different from what you planned or imagined?
Yes. I realized that I did not have enough of an idea to get me through November (no surprise there). Things are smoothing out now though.

8. Is there a character or aspect of your plot that's difficult to write?
Swan Lake is not a happy play. Except for in the Barbie version, nearly everyone dies. As every production does it differently though, I have to pick which characters die and which ones stay, if any.

9. What’s your favorite aspect of this novel so far? Favorite character?
Siegfried is definitely my favorite character and aspect to write about. He's insecure, emotional, scared...a lovely bundle to work with. Damaged people are the most interesting.

10. Have you drawn off of any life experiences or people you know to create your novel and your characters?
Nope, although there are bits of me in Odette. I've never even seen a production of Swan Lake.

11. Do you have a playlist or certain song for your novel and/or characters?
"Hunter's Moon", by Ryan Kelly from Celtic Thunder, is what inspired I Won't Fly in the first place.

12. Let’s have some fun for a moment: imagine you are somehow transported into your book’s world. Which character are you most likely to be found hanging out with?
Hm.... Probably King Heinrich. Except he's dead. So maybe Odette instead.

13. How do you keep yourself motivated to finish your daily wordcount? (Pinterest? Internet breaks? Chocolate?)
Youtube videos! Studio C, Blimey Cow, Owl City, random goofing off, ect....anything mind numbing after bleeding words onto a computer.

14. What your favourite writing quote or piece of writing advice?
This awesome pep talk by Veronica Roth for youth NaNo. Don't limit yourself to one way of doing things, do what works for you at the time of doing it.

15. How does this book make you feel so far? Are you laughing? Crying? Frustrated?
Semi-frustrated, semi-thrilled.

I know I can do it! How's NaNoWriMo been going for you?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Death Cure

The Death Cure (Maze Runner, #3)The Death Cure by James Dashner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I am very annoyed. This will be a long review, so bear with me.
It’s the end of the line.

WICKED has taken everything from Thomas: his life, his memories, and now his only friends—the Gladers. But it’s finally over. The trials are complete, after one final test.

Will anyone survive?

What WICKED doesn’t know is that Thomas remembers far more than they think. And it’s enough to prove that he can’t believe a word of what they say.

The truth will be terrifying.

Thomas beat the Maze. He survived the Scorch. He’ll risk anything to save his friends. But the truth might be what ends it all.

The time for lies is over.
 
Characters: No.

Teresa: She has such a minor role, and we barely see her at all. If only she could have been as interesting as she was in the first book.

Minho: Still my favorite.

Newt: On pinterest, I saw lots of "NEWT"S BACKSTORY IS SO TRAGIC!!! HOW SAD!!!" pins. Am I missing something? I got the impression that we'd find out who he was before the maze, and...we didn't. We did find out what happened to his limp though. Never trust pinterest, I guess.

Thomas: I call his kind "stupave". That's a mix between stupid and brave. Let's face it: he's an idiot. Why is he the Final Candidate? Minho is a great deal smarter. I know WICKED picked Thomas for other reasons as well, but it bugs me that they consider him smart when he so clearly isn't.

Brenda: Want more of her too.

Plot: Action? Check. Well paced action? Nope.

Honestly. At the beginning when they were trying to break out of WICKED's compound, the gladers there just kinda hung around and had a few conversations, like they had all the time in the world. WAKE UP. You're in the enemy's very camp. You don't have time for this klunk, as Minho should have said.

Also, it bugged me that Thomas chose not to get his memories back. I understand why he wouldn't want to do anything WICKED wanted him to do, but as a reader, it felt like James Dashner was holding onto the mystery for far too long. The Maze Runner was all about finding the answers, but now he refuses?

Whew. Rant done.

Now that I've got that out of the way, let's talk about the good things. I really liked the last couple of pages, even though I still have questions. Ugh. Spoiler: Were the Immunes led to a different planet or something?

Also, it was very entertaining and kept me hooked.

Would I read other books by James Dashner? Well, I found a link to the three paged Thomas’s First Memory of the Flare (I hope it was legal), and I glazed over that. But anything else? No thanks. I read the series after seeing the first movie because I wanted answers right away. I've got a few of them now, but I'm still so confused.

Grading:
Language: B
Adult Content: A
Violence: Not for the faint of heart.

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Monday, November 3, 2014

In Which I Am Put Through Many Trials

The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner, #2)The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I NEED ANSWERS.
Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. 

Thomas was sure that escape from the Maze would mean freedom for him and the Gladers. But WICKED isn’t done yet. Phase Two has just begun. The Scorch. 

There are no rules. There is no help. You either make it or you die.

The Gladers have two weeks to cross through the Scorch—the most burned-out section of the world. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them. 

Friendships will be tested. Loyalties will be broken. All bets are off. 

There are others now. Their survival depends on the Gladers’ destruction—and they’re determined to survive.
Seriously. I'm not sure how much longer I can stand it. I'm nearly (but not quite, the poor guy) as bothered as Thomas is about all this.

I really hope The Death Cure will be just as action packed as this one though. The middle of each chapter would slow down, but then there'd be something horrifying in the last sentence, and I would need to keep reading. LOVE IT.

What was up with the memories, though? Honestly. He'd have a random dream every so often, and while interesting, they did not give any real answers. Also, why were they dream memories instead of just memories? Has anyone in real life ever dreamt about the past in such realistic fashion? That's kind of weird.

Teresa...oh Teresa. On one hand, I understand what she did, why she did it, and why she's frustrated with Thomas. But on the other hand, POOR THOMAS. I can't say anything because spoilers, but it sure does bug me that I can't figure out who was in the wrong, if anyone. It's all just a mess.
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Of course I'll read the next book though. As much as withholding information bothers me, it sure is working!

Grading:
Language: B
Adult Content: A
Violence: C

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