Archive for March, 2011

Book Review: Agatha H and the Airship City

Mar
18
2 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book Review

Agatha H and the Airship City Agatha H and the Airship City by ,
Series: Girl Genius Novels #1
Published by in 2011
Genres:
Pages: 264
Source:
Goodreads

Adventure! Romance! Mad Science!

The Industrial Revolution has escalated into all-out warfare. It has been eighteen years since the Heterodyne Boys, benevolent adventurers and inventors, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Today, Europe is ruled by the Sparks, dynasties of mad scientists ruling over—and terrorizing—the hapless population with their bizarre inventions and unchecked power, while the downtrodden dream of the Hetrodynes’ return.

At Transylvania Polygnostic University, a pretty, young student named Agatha Clay seems to have nothing but bad luck. Incapable of building anything that actually works, but dedicated to her studies, Agatha seems destined for a lackluster career as a minor lab assistant. But when the University is overthrown by the ruthless tyrant Baron Klaus Wulfenbach, Agatha finds herself a prisoner aboard his massive airship Castle Wulfenbach—and it begins to look like she might carry a spark of Mad Science after all.

My Review:

For those of you who don’t know, this book is a novelisation of the webcomic Girl Genius. I was introduced to Girl Genius about a month ago, and I have been hooked ever since. I got caught up by the end of the week (neglecting some possibly important other work) and I have been frustrated at the webcomic format ever since – mostly because I can’t get the rest of the story fast enough! So, when I found out there was a book, I was very excited! I wanted more of Agatha’s story, and here was the chance to get it.


Well, no, not so much. The book, it turns out, is simply a novelisation of the first three volumes of the Girl Genius Comics (they’re on volume 9 now). It did add some interesting back-story in a few places, and I loved the fact that it allowed us to see inside the characters’ heads a little more. But it was just the same story in a different format, which was slightly disappointing. On the other hand, it was a good story in the first place, so not much can go wrong, once you get past my (completely wrong) expectations.


In the end, I would recommend this book to anyone who has trouble with or is unsure about webcomic format. The comic is brilliant, and if you can handle it, start there, and read the book only if you’re an extreme geek (like me!) 


Oh, and can I just put in my vote for a movie of Girl Genius? I think we need more Steampunk films out there, and Girl Genius would lend itself so well to that format – I already have half cast it in my head. Film producers, call me!


If I can just have a few more seconds of your time, would you please go visit my last post, Missing: HAVE YOU SEEN THIS BOOK? I am trying to find the title and/or author of a book I loved in high school and I need your help!





Missing: HAVE YOU SEEN THIS BOOK?!

Mar
17
4 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Discussion Day

We all have those books that affect us long after we’ve finished them. Most of mine I still own and pick up to read again occasionally. But there is one that I read many years ago that I cannot for the life of me remember the title or author and it has been bothering me for years. I borrowed it from a friend (whom I no longer have contact with), and for some reason I never wrote either down. I had despaired ever finding it, when suddenly this morning I realized – if anyone could tell me how to find this book it would be you wonderful people on the blogosphere!

What I can remember:
1) I read it sometime around 2004, so it would have been published before then.
2) It was paperback, and it was an odd shape – taller than most paperbacks, kind of like the shape of a manga instead of a regular novel (though it was a novel, there weren’t any pictures that I remember).
3) It was a sci-fi told from three points of view – the extreme future society, the “today” society and the medieval society. These societies told different sides of a “fairy tale” though the fairy tale was not any one specific fairy tale but a conglomeration of many fairy tale tropes. (For example: The woman from the extreme future seems like a witch/fairy godmother to the questing young man because of her extremely advanced technology.) The extreme future woman is trying to protect the medieval society from the society in the middle, who are basically stealing the medieval planet’s resources because they’ve run out on their planet.
4) The cover is dark – either black or navy blue, and I think it had a woman on the cover (from the extreme future society, or at least that’s who I thought she was).
5) I believe it would be classified as YA and either under sci-fi or fantasy, because it has elements of both.

If you have any information on this book, please leave it in the comments below. I will be eternally grateful to you, because this has been bothering me for years!





Book Review: I am Number Four

Mar
17
0 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book Review
I am Number Four I am Number Four by
Series: Lorien Legacies #1
Published by in 2010
Genres: ,
Pages: 440
Source:
Goodreads

In the beginning they were a group of nine. Nine aliens who left their home planet of Lorien when it fell under attack by the evil Mogadorian. Nine aliens who scattered on Earth. Nine aliens who look like ordinary teenagers living ordinary lives, but who have extraordinary, paranormal skills. Nine aliens who might be sitting next to you now.

The Nine had to separate and go into hiding. The Mogadorian caught Number One in Malaysia, Number Two in England, and Number Three in Kenya. All of them were killed. John Smith, of Paradise, Ohio, is Number Four. He knows that he is next.

My Review:

When I first saw this book around the blogosphere, I was kind of skeptical. I’m getting a little tired of the “New guy/girl falls for the wrong person but they were meant to be together  so they work it out in the end” and that’s exactly what this sounded like. I’m so glad to be proven wrong!


First of all, this is the first time I have ever seen one of these where one of them is an alien, and I like it! I’ve seen thousands of Vampire/Werewolf/Angel/Witch/whatever paranormal you fancy versions of this, and it’s getting to the point that they have to be absolutely fabulous for me to enjoy them because they’ve been done so often. But aliens have rarely been touched, and I think it’s a really good idea! We need to bring back YA sci-fi, and here’s a great start.


The thing I really liked about this one is that, even though there’s a love story to it, it’s not the main story. John loves Sarah but the important part of the story is the Mogadorians trying to kill Loriens, and that always comes first in the story. I really like this – many paranormal stories are all about the forbidden romance these days, and while that’s nice, I’m so ready for one that is more about the actual story not the romance. 

Oh, and of course I love the fact that it’s set in Ohio! We tend to be considered a boring place to live, and while I don’t disagree, it’s nice to read a story  that makes it seem at least a little more interesting.


I’m so excited to go see this  film someday, and I’m so glad I gave the book a chance!





Media Review: Red Riding Hood

Mar
15
0 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Media Monday

Title: Red Riding Hood
Media Type: Feature Film
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Studio: Warner Brothers
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy

My Review: A friend and I went to see this on Sunday, and it’s honestly taken me the whole time since then to put together my thoughts on this one. If I’m honest, I was a little skeptical going into it. I had wanted to see Beastly but it wasn’t showing, so she talked me into going to Red Riding Hood. On the one hand, I wanted to see it, because I love fairy tale retellings, but on the other, I’d seen so many reviews calling it a knock-off of Twilight that I didn’t want to see it – I wasn’t much a fan of Twilight in the first place, and the only thing the films have going for them is the eye candy.

Unfortunately, the most I can muster for the film is ambivalence. It’s not something I’ll ever want to watch again, but it was a decent watch the first time around. It was certainly better than Twilight ever was. The story was interesting and original – I’ve never seen Red Riding Hood done quite this way before, and I liked the idea. The eye candy was frankly more to my taste than that of Twilight. And the mystery was so well done that I didn’t even suspect the wolf until it was revealed (impressive considering my friend is a Criminal Justice major and watches Criminal Minds and CSI and all that stuff and she didn’t get it either). I also think this film was visually stunning – the metaphor of blood red against white is set up very early and maintained throughout the film, and I thought the village was well rendered.

The main complaint I have about this film is that it was obviously made to make money off the Twilight fans. I mean, when you publish a book without the ending just to be sure that you get more people to come watch the film, that is simply a cry for money. I don’t like that. And unfortunately, I feel like it showed in the film. Peter had the typical “Twilight” hairstyle, Valerie just wanted to get into some guy’s pants, the music was pretty much Twilight plus a little bit of folk influence, and most of all it was just a story. It was a fluff piece, filmed solely for the purpose of making money and it shows. There were so many things that could have been done with it. One character has a mental handicap and he is immediately blamed for things he didn’t do – but he’s then killed and there is little recognition of the fact that the original accusations were just prejudice (beyond the fact that he obviously isn’t the wolf, of course). The main reasons given for Valerie’s affection for Peter and unwillingness to marry Henry is that Peter is, in her eyes, the hottest thing on the planet (nevermind that Henry is good looking too, and he is much nicer to her than Peter is). I don’t agree with the message either of these things send and I’m frustrated that they might be considered “OK” by some of the audience.

Bottom line: If you wanted to go see it before my review, then by all means, go for it. If you liked Twilight then definitely go see it. Just don’t expect anything profound or life-changing from it.

Disclaimer: This film includes sexual references and some gruesome scenes that I personally found difficult to watch. “Viewer discretion advised.”





Book Review: The Iron Witch

Mar
15
0 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book Review
The Iron Witch The Iron Witch by
Series: Iron Witch #1
Published by in 2011
Genres: ,
Pages: 299
Source:
Goodreads

Freak. That's what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna's own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic—the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma.

When the darkest outcasts of Faerie—the vicious wood elves—abduct Navin, Donna finally has to accept her role in the centuries old war between the humans and the fey. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout with secrets of his own, Donna races to save her friend—even if it means betraying everything her parents and the alchemist community fought to the death to protect.

My Review:

This is another one that has received rather mixed reviews. I have to say, I loved it! I love the mixture of science (alchemy) and fae, and I love the fairy tale element too! Besides the fact that I loved the feel of the book – I’m a huge fan of paperbacks, and so the fact that it is a paperback, with such a gorgeous cover design was amazing – I love the fact that it’s small. The recent trend in YA fiction has been tomes of 400-500 pages, which are nice, but every once in a while, it’s good to have something that I know I can finish in a day.  And I love the fact that even though it is a short, fast read she packed a full story in there, somehow.

Usually when I write a review, I try very hard not to take into account what others say, beyond perhaps acknowledging that I am reviewing something that others have a different opinion on. But in this case, I feel the need to defend the book. Many of the reviews I’ve read have pointed to the lack of explanation as their reason for disliking the book. I will admit, there are places where she could have given us more information. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing! I like it when the author doesn’t tell me everything because a) it gives me a chance to try and work it out for myself and b) it gives me something to look forward to in the next book. One can love something without knowing very much about it. Take for example Xan. Xan is one of my favorite guys in literature, right up there on my fictional Guilt Free Five. Granted, he has temporary placement there, because when I got to the end of the novel, I realized I know next to nothing about him. He’s still awesome, but I want to know more about him, and I sincerely hope (and I’m probably right) that we’ll find out more about him in the next book.

My point is give this book a chance. It tells a wonderful story that leaves you with at least a little mystery at the end – and who couldn’t do with a little more mystery in their lives?





Book Review: Beautiful Creatures

Mar
14
3 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book Review
Beautiful Creatures Beautiful Creatures by ,
Series: Caster Chronicles #1
Published by in 2009
Genres: , ,
Pages: 563
Source:
Goodreads

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

My Review:

Wow, there is a lot of hype around this one! I’ve seen both really positive and really negative reviews for it. If I’m honest, I fall right in the middle. I’m not going to gush and say this book was the best thing ever, because I had some trouble getting into it, and I got really frustrated with the prejudice some characters were showing (I mean come on, I get it already, just get over yourself! Of course, there are people like that in real life, and it wouldn’t be an accurate representation without them, but they’re frustrating nonetheless.)

Once I got past the fairly complicated, and hence rather slow exposition it was a really good book! I read the last 200 pages or so in one sitting last night, even though it was really late and I knew I had school this morning. Some things I really liked that kept me reading:

1) Finally we have a male protagonist/mortal in one of these paranormal novels! I was getting kind of tired of the girl always being the one who “can’t live without him” even if she is a strong woman in other ways. Let’s spread the lovesickness around more often, please?

2) The setting was amazing! I loved the infusion of history in everything, because frankly we all know a whole lot more about the history of our hometown than we really want to (I think we had a lesson at least once per year on the Great Black Swamp growing up, and I bet the majority of you, dear readers have never even heard of it. You lucky, lucky people!) But the history wasn’t just thrown in as part of the atmosphere, it was essential to the story and that is awesome!

3) The Mythology involved in this paranormal is extremely interesting, and I would keep reading just to find out more. They create this extremely intricate and complicated mythology, but somehow they manage to keep it a secret from the readers at the same time as the people in the town. I can’t wait to find out more about the Casters, because I have a feeling they have it all worked out somewhere and just aren’t telling us yet.

Bottom line: If you like this sort of thing, definitely go read it! It’s wonderfully fresh and new and you won’t be disappointed. Just be warned that you should give yourself a little more than your usual time to get into it.





Book Review: Ice

Mar
10
2 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book Review
Ice Ice by
Published by in 2009
Genres: ,
Pages: 308
Source:
Goodreads

When Cassie was a little girl, her grandmother told her a fairy tale about her mother, who made a deal with the Polar Bear King and was swept away to the ends of the earth. Now that Cassie is older, she knows the story was a nice way of saying her mother had died. Cassie lives with her father at an Arctic research station, is determined to become a scientist, and has no time for make-believe.Then, on her eighteenth birthday, Cassie comes face-to-face with a polar bear who speaks to her. He tells her that her mother is alive, imprisoned at the ends of the earth. And he can bring her back — if Cassie will agree to be his bride.
That is the beginning of Cassie's own real-life fairy tale, one that sends her on an unbelievable journey across the brutal Arctic, through the Canadian boreal forest, and on the back of the North Wind to the land east of the sun and west of the moon. Before it is over, the world she knows will be swept away, and everything she holds dear will be taken from her — until she discovers the true meaning of love and family in the magical realm of Ice.

My Review:

This is what happens when I am on break. I’ll read two or three books simultaneously for a few days and then finish them all at once! I’m very sorry for bombarding your feeds, really!

In essence, this book is a modernized retelling of the fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon. I love fairy tale retellings, and though this particular fairy tale isn’t my favorite, it is one of my friends’ favorites and so I have read a fair amount of retellings of this story. Of course, the problem then is I am very picky about my fairytale retellings. I expect a lot from them. This one did a passable job, but it unfortunately hasn’t made my favorites list.

One of the things I really liked was the modern setting of the retelling. Durst did a really good job updating the tale, and making it plausible in modern day, at least at the beginning. I liked the flavor of Native American tales she brought to the story, and I liked that it was up in the Arctic Circle – while the Norse versions are fun they lend themselves more to a fantastical retelling and to truly make this a modern day tale, I think an Arctic Circle research lab was the only way to go.

The main thing that would have pushed this up onto the favorites list was a little more development in the characters. I felt that Durst jumped straight into the story without giving us much time to get to know the main characters, which is ok as long as you give us a chance to get to know them later. I never felt it, though, and I was less invested in what happened as a result.

Overall, though, an interesting retelling that deserves a read by anyone interested in this fairy tale or fairy tale retellings in general.





Book Review: The Water Wars

Mar
10
2 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book Review
The Water Wars The Water Wars by
Published by in 2011
Genres: ,
Pages: 240
Source:
Goodreads

Welcome to a future where water is more precious than gold or oil—and worth killing for

Vera and her brother, Will, live in the shadow of the Great Panic, in a country that has collapsed from environmental catastrophe. Water is hoarded by governments, rivers are dammed, and clouds are sucked from the sky. But then Vera befriends Kai, who seems to have limitless access to fresh water. When Kai suddenly disappears, Vera and Will set off on a dangerous journey in search of him-pursued by pirates, a paramilitary group, and greedy corporations. Timely and eerily familiar, acclaimed author Cameron Stracher makes a stunning YA debut that's impossible to forget.

My Review:

The Water Wars is most definitely a thinker! The world Vera lives in is well crafted and vivid, and scarily realistic. As the summary says, water is scarce. Vera is only allowed to drink at meals and even then  it’s only a few sips, because water is so precious. The day I started this one, I sat down to dinner, my favorite kind of soup, and suddenly it hit me – what would we do if we ran out of water, or almost did, like in Vera’s world? There are so many things we do with water – take showers, flush toilets, clean our houses, swim, cook meals (no more special Ham and Bean soup!) – not having it is something I have difficulty imagining. I remember discussing in my Global Health class how much water we use per day. We were asked to guess how much water we used in a day, and one girl said 3 gallons. Our teacher laughed, and said “Well, no showers, no toilet and no cooking then.” We use just under a gallon each time we flush (though that keeps going down with the new green toilets) and a shower uses a gallon per minute! With that in mind, Stracher brings up a valid point – we waste so much, what will we do when it’s gone? What’s worse is the part I didn’t even think about: all that water in the Polar Ice caps may be fresh now, but if they melt it will just go straight into the sea, and the majority of it will become salt.

This book is the perfect way to get into the topics of global warming and environmental issues, especially for someone who doesn’t keep on top of them. I think everyone should read it just to get them thinking about these issues – the way we’re using our resources, they’ll be gone before we know it. We need to start thinking now about what we’ll do when they’re gone, or we’ll end up in the situation this book puts forth.





Book Review: The Iron Queen

Mar
07
0 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book Review
The Iron Queen The Iron Queen by
Series: The Iron Fey #3
Published by in 2011
Genres: , ,
Pages: 358
Source:
Goodreads

My name is Meghan Chase.I thought it was over. That my time with the fey, the impossible choices I had to make, the sacrifices of those I loved, was behind me. But a storm is approaching, an army of Iron fey that will drag me back, kicking and screaming. Drag me away from the banished prince who's sworn to stand by my side. Drag me into the core of conflict so powerful, I'm not sure anyone can survive it.
This time, there will be no turning back.

My Review:

That is not the end! That is SO not the end! It is not allowed to be the end! (I feel justified in saying this because there’s a note at the back of the book that says there’s at least one more.) Leaving aside the fact that I have loved the idea of the Iron Fey from the very beginning, this book was amazing! I had a hard time putting it down!

All of your favorite characters are back for more, and this time they’re all where they’re supposed to be –  Only there’s one problem. A false king has taken over the Iron Fey and he’s threatening all of Nevernever. Oberon and Mab have joined forces and asked Meghan to help them defeat the false king, but all she wants to do is go home.

I’ll be honest, when I picked it up I didn’t remember a ton from reading the first two and what I did remember kept getting mixed up with the other series’ about fey I’d been reading (I flew through several fey/fae books right in a row last fall, and they kind of combined in my head). But it only took a few pages to get me right back into the story and remembering what happened before. In fact, I’m impressed that so much happened in this book – it feels like forever ago that I started it, even though it was only a few days. The book is jam-packed with action and plot twists, a very fast paced read. At the same time it is filled with emotion – I nearly cried twice, and the last time I cried at a book was when **SPOILER** Dumbledore died. I just don’t cry at books, so the fact that she was able to make me tear up is a huge accomplishment.

I’m not going to say much more, because honestly, if you’re looking at this review you’ve probably already read the first two. If you haven’t START THERE and do it NOW! These fabulous books will NOT disappoint!

Oh and isn’t the cover pretty?! All of them really – so gorgeous!





Book Review: Clockwork Angel

Mar
05
3 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book Review
Clockwork Angel Clockwork Angel by
Series: The Infernal Devices #1
Published by , in 2010
Genres: , ,
Pages: 476
Source:
Goodreads

Magic is dangerous--but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by--and torn between--two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

My Review:

I thought I loved The Mortal Instruments series. I was wrong. While I liked TMI, the term love should have been reserved for Clare’s newest series, The Infernal Devices. What can I say, I’ve come to love steampunk!

It wasn’t the fact that this was nominally Steampunk that made me love this one though.  In TMI the thing I most had to suspend disbelief for was the whole “secret society” bit. I loved it, because it was extremely well done and explained, but I think I will always be a little skeptical of a secret society in this information age. It’s almost impossible to keep something like that out of the papers and off the internet. Put the Clave in Victorian England though, and suddenly you have an extremely believable scenario (with pretty dresses too!) The Pandemonium Club could have happened then, whereas now, people would probably start questioning if they didn’t know who was leading a group they were in.

I also loved the characters in this one. While Will felt like a repeat of Jace for most of the book, Jem, Tessa, Jessamine and Sophie were all wonderfully new. I’m not saying the repeat is a bad thing – this lifestyle does things to a person and it is perfectly believable that Jace is not the only one who ever acted the way he did. And I have to be honest – while there wasn’t any one character I valued over the others in TMI (sorry Team Jace or Team Simon or whatever you call yourselves) I’ve finally found my character to love! I absolutely loved the character of Jem and I would never get tired of him! Oh and I’ve changed my mind since my City of Glass post – Darren Criss can’t be Magnus, because he would make an AMAZING Jem and Magnus is in both!


Clare has left me curious about so many things that I am anxiously awaiting Clockwork Prince perhaps even more than City of Fallen Angels! It is a gorgeous realization of her world as it might have been before, and left me wanting more!





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