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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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dream Warriors

Dream Warriors: A Joey Cola Novel (Book 1)Dream Warriors: A Joey Cola Novel by D. Robert Pease
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A biblical Joseph retelling? Yes please!

Thank you, Evolved Publishing, for this free book to review!
Joseph Colafranceschi is a fifteen-year-old, self-described geek, living in the Bronx. The second youngest of twelve sons of the former U.S. ambassador to Italy, Joey discovers that a small Egyptian statuette given to him by his father, endows him with power to control his dreams. After his brothers throw him down a manhole, Joey is drawn into a hidden society of warriors who have been battling a reincarnated Egyptian Pharaoh for over 3,000 years. In the dream world, everyone is not what they appear to be, and it’s impossible to tell who to trust. As Joey slips deeper into a world of gladiator battles and clandestine missions into other people’s dreams, he catches the eye of a beautiful Egyptian princess. The only thing that keeps him grounded in reality is his best friend Alex, but even she may not be who he thought she was. 
That said, it was a very loose retelling. Aside from the beginning, I could hardly tell it was based on anything biblical. Whether that's a good or bad thing is up to you. Personally? I would have liked a little more of the original.

One trend I hope will strengthen in 2015 is more smart characters. Joey here fit the bill! I know nothing about going to MIT when you're 15, but it sure sounds smart. So must I. ;)

For the most part, the dream world made sense. If you could change the arena's reality with just a thought though, wouldn't everyone do that? Like, randomly turn it to water, a concert, or an igloo?
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My main problem with this book is the ending. It's half cliffhanger, half abrupt. While I was glad to discover who some of the Dream characters were, there was no definite resolution with the romance. Even if there were, though, I probably wouldn't have liked it. If you have a crush on two girls and continually let both kiss you, then you don't deserve either, just sayin'.
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Would I read other Joey Cola books? Probably. According to the author's blog, he's going to work on the sequel this month for NaNoWriMo, which I think is awesome. Go NaNo!

Grading:

Violence: B
Adult Content: A
Language: A

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