Friday, May 28, 2010

Ophelia by Lisa Klein

No spoilers.

Author: Lisa Klein
Year of Publication: 2006
Genre: YA
Pages: 328
First Line: "My lady: I pray this letter finds you in a place of safety."

Summary: He is Hamlet, Prince of Denmark; she is simply Ophelia. If you think you know their story, think again.

In this reimagining of Shakespeare's famous tragedy, it is Ophelia who takes center stage. A rowdy, motherless girl, she grows up at Elsinore Castle to become the queen's most trusted lady-in-waiting. Ambitious for knowledge and witty as well as beautiful, Ophelia learns the ways of power in a court where nothing is as it seems. When she catches the attention of the captivating, dark-haired Prince Hamlet, their love blossoms in secret. But bloody deeds soon turn Denmark into a place of madness, and Ophelia's happiness is shattered. Ultimately she must choose between her love for Hamlet and her own life. In desperation, Ophelia devises a treacherous plan to escape from Elsinore forever. . .with one very dangerous secret.

Source: Back of book

Review: Ultimately a disappointment. The beginning was slow, then it got better, then bad again, and then the last four pages or so were fairly enjoyable. I don't know if I like what Klein did with certain characters (I won't be specific for spoilers), and certain plot elements annoyed me. There were parts of the original play that were left out which I thought was kind of annoying -- parts that are really fantastic and should have been included. Other parts were glossed over and not as drawn out as would have been appropriate (the play within a play, for example).

I would say if you haven't read/seen Hamlet already, then you may be slightly confused in reading this book -- you could read it without having read/seen Hamlet, though. I wouldn't recommend it, for the most part.

Worst part: The book was so different from the play that I felt it had nothing to do with the original. I would have liked something more similar to the play. Also, Hamlet does not have black hair, Ms. Klein -- he's definitely blonde.

Best part: Ohh, I don't know. I guess those last four pages. And they weren't even THAT good.

Grade: D+

Other Books by This Author: Lady Macbeth's Daughter. (Which I may read if I have the time, just because of the Shakespeare connection and I always wondered about the Macbeth's kids. I find it hard to believe they didn't have any, especially because of Lady Macbeth's line, "I know how tender 'tis to whatever the babe that whatevers me." (I don't have a copy and I'm too lazy to look it up.))

39 / 50 books. 78% done!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Reduced Shakespeare: The Complete Guide for the Attention-Impaired [abridged] by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor

No spoilers?

Reduced Shakespeare: The Complete Guide for the Attention Impaired [abridged]
Author: Reed Martin and Austen Tichenor (of the Reduced Shakespeare Company)
Year of Publication: 2006
Genre: NonFiction
Pages: 234
First Line: "Why have we written this book? Let us count the ways:. . ."

Summary: From the Reduced Shakespeare Company -- the theater troupe whose side-splitting production The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) was the longest-running comedy in London -- comes an openly hysterical, yet surprisingly informative, guide to everything you always wanted to know about Shakespeare -- but couldn't be bothered to ask.

Believe it or not, Shakespeare's plays were the summer blockbusters of his day -- everyone loved them, from royalty to ragamuffins. The Reduced Shakespeare Company takes Shakespeare off his pedestal and puts the fun back into the work of the greatest playwright the world has ever known -- and teaches you something while they're at it!

Source: Back of book

Review: Hil-ar-i-ous. Seriously, if you want to learn about Shakespeare but can't sit through a "real" biography or whatever, this is the book for you. Make sure you read the footnotes and the annotated bibliography. I will say that some of the humor may go over your head if you know very little about Will. I know there were a few things that were written where I was scratching my head, wondering if the authors were joking or not. Aside from that, it's a great book with a lot of information and laughs.

Worst part: It has spoilers for all the plays. They're easy to avoid, though.

Best part: It was so funny. Seriously.

Grade: A-

Other Books by This Author: None.

38 / 50 books. 76% done!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Captivate by Carrie Jones

No spoilers.

Author: Carrie Jones
Year of Publication: 2010
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 273
First Line: "There are bizarre people who actually like physical education class."

Summary: Zara and her friends thought they'd solved the pixie problem. And they did -- sort of. The pixies are all locked away, deep in the woods. But the king's needs grow stronger each day that he is in captivity, while his control over his people weakens. And it's enough to draw a new king into town. Astley claims he is different. He claims there are pixies who can live peacefully with humans, that it doesn't have to be all violence and nastiness all the time. Zara wants to believe him. . .until Astley also claims that she is fated to be his queen.

There is no way Zara would ever turn pixie. And she's got good friends who will make sure of that. Besides that, she and Nick are so in love they're practically inseparable. But when the very thing Zara wants to protect most is exactly what's at risk, she is forced to make choices she never imagined.

Source: Back of book

Review: Not terrible. I'll probably read the next one. This isn't my favorite faerie series but it's not unenjoyable. Definitely need to read the first of the series, Need. I kind of get the feeling that Jones isn't really cut out for fantasy, especially since I've read her Tips On Having A Gay (ex)Boyfriend. I felt that one was much better. Then again, I was also younger when I read that. Probably worth a read, especially for younger fantasy audiences.

Worst part: It was slightly confusing. I felt lost at some points. And I don't think it was because I haven't read the first one in awhile -- I remember feeling similarly about that book, too.

Best part: Asltey was interesting. A bit different, I felt, than a lot of other male leads out there these days. Not ENTIRELY, but some.

Grade: B-

Other Books by This Author: Need, Tips On Having a Gay (ex)Boyfriend, and others.

36 / 50 books. 72% done!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Title: Persuasion
Author: Jane Austen
Year of Publication: 1818
Genre: Fiction, romance
Pages: 254
First Line: "Sir Walter Ellio, of Kellynch-hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect,by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents; there any unwelcome sensations, arising from domestic affairs, changed naturally into pity and contempt, as he turned over thealmost endless creations of the last century -- and there, if every other leaf were powerless, he could read his own history with an interest which never failed -- this was the page at which the favorite volume always opened: 'Elliot of Kellynch Hall.'"

Summary: Like the earlier works Persuasion is a tale of love and marriage, told with the irony, insight and just evaluation of human conduct which sets her novels apart. But the heroine -- like the author -- is more mature; the tone of the writing is more sombre. Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth have met and separated years before. Their reunion forces a recognition of the false values that drove them apart. The characters who embody those values are the subjects of some of the most withering satire that Jane Austen ever wrote.

Source: Back of book

Review: Definitely enjoyable. I read this one for school and I ended up taking a hiatus from it because the essay test we were doing in class on it was further in the future than I had imagined and I really had started reading it too early to write a decent in-class essay on it, but like all of Austen's novels, it was enjoyable. Most people seem to like P&P best, but I really like Sense and Sensibility more. I think I also like Persuasion more as well. I feel this book's plot translated better to my own life, but I have very little experience in the relationship department, so I can't say this is her ONLY novel that can translate to modern day society more completely than the others. Of course, as Austen's style usually is, it can be verbose and kind of like walking through a marsh at some points, but the novel as a whole is interesting. I found the ending to be more romantic than the other four novels I have read of Austen. Unlike P&P where the union (even before marriage) was fairly vague, this one was more descriptive and more enjoyable. I might even venture to say that I prefer Wentworth to Darcy.

Worst part: I think a problem with a lot of Austen's novels is that because there are so many characters (and often with similar names), it's difficult to keep them all straight. Persuasion owns this flaw as well. While it may have been easier for its original readers who lived in such society and had the time to really pick apart the book, it's not so easy for a modern-day reader who isn't reading intently.

Best part: I liked how alike Anne and I were. As mentioned in the summary, she is considered to be one of Austen's more mature leads. Although I like the more whimsical characters as well (such as in S&S), I felt Anne was refreshing.

Grade: B++

Other Books by This Author: Mansfield Park, Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Lady Susan, (unfished) Sanditon and Northanger Abbey

34 / 50 books. 68% done!

The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black

Title: The Poison Eaters and Other Stories
Author: Holly Black
Year of Publication: 2010
Genre: Fantasy, short story collection
Pages: 212
First Line: "Matilda was drunk, but then she was always drunk anymore."

Summary: In her debut collection, New York Times best-selling author Holly Black returns to her Modern Faerie Tale series (Tithe, Ironside and Valiant) in two darkly exquisite new tales, "Going Ironside" and "The Land of Heart's Desire." In the first story, "The Coldest Girl in Coldtown," a girl is drunk on the street -- but for a reason you'd never guess. Then Black takes readers on a tour of a faerie market, introduces a girl poisonous to the touch,and another who challenges the devil to a competitive eating match.

These twelve stories, two of which are published here for the first time and each of which is illustrated by Theo Black, have been published in anthologies such as 21 Proms, The Faery Reel, and The Restless Dead and have been reprinted in many "Best of" anthologies.

Source: Back of book

Review: Holly Black never fails to entertain me. Rather than review the book as a whole, I'm going to do it by story because it's easier and sometimes, some stories are really worth it while others you should just skip.

"The Coldest Girl in Coldtown" - Not great. I read this in another anthology first and didn't particularly enjoy it. Something about it didn't keep my attention. Worth a skim, though.

"A Reversal of Fortune" - I really liked the idea of this, but something about it was missing. It had something, I think, to do with the characters, but I'm not sure. Definitely worth a read, though.

"The Boy Who Cried Wolf" - Interesting. Original. Take a look at it for a new twist on werewolves.

"The Night Market" - Probably my favorite of the collection. I loved this one and I hope Black decides to expand on it to make a novel or something.

"The Dog King" - The style of this one was totally different from the others and I had a really hard time pushing through it.

"Virgin" - Not bad. Possibly slightly underdeveloped, but interesting. It gave me an idea for a novel about Hamlet and Ophelia.

"In Vodka Veritas" - Loved this. Super original and unpredictable. Another one I'd like to see as a novel.

"The Coat of Stars" - Cute. A very story-teller vibe and style to it. This might be another that would make a good novel.

"Paper Cuts Scissors" - Oh. My. God. This was brilliant. Totally original. Love. If "The Night Market" isn't my favorite, this is.

"Going Ironside" - Doesn't make a lot of sense if you don't remember about its parent story, so to speak. (I think this one is related to Valiant?)

"The Land of Heart's Desire" - I would mark this as my favorite except, I feel it's not really part of the anthology because it expands so much on Tithe and Ironside. Words cannot express how much more I love Roiben now. And Black seriously needs to write another novel about Roiben and Kaye and Cornelius and Luis.

"The Poison Eaters" - I was so wowed by "The Land of Heart's Desire" that this one paled in comparison. I skimmed this one, mostly.

To sum up -- some duds, and something missing in a few, but definitely worth the time to read it, especially if you've read Black's other novels. Plus, it's interesting to see Theo Black's (Holly's husband) illustrations. His online gallery is limited.

Worst part: The missing bits in various stories. My least favorite story was probably "The Dog King," partly because I had no clue what was going on.

Best part: So many of these were so good. And anything more I can get on Roiben, Kaye, etc., makes for a happy me.

Grade: B

Other Books by This Author: Tithe, Ironside and Valiant

35 / 50 books. 70% done!

How to Be a Vampire by Amy Gray

Title: How to Be a Vampire
Author: Amy Gray
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 136
First Line: "Dare to escape the scratched confines of mortality?"

Summary: Here the secrets of the undead are revealed from how to be turned to how to fill eternity once you've been bitten including: Telling your family that you're a child of the night / Dressing like the mysterious creature you are / Dos and don'ts of dating a mortal. Escape mortality. Embrace the darkness. Become a vampire.

Source: Back of book

Review: Well. This is possibly one of the most unhealthy books I've ever read. I get it. Gray wants to buy into the Vampire Craze Stock. We all do. But please, be original about it? This would have been a million times better if it had been, like, a book (in essay format or something) about all the stuff that's out there in fiction concerning Vampires. Instead, it was kind of just. . .pretty to look at. Lots of pictures, lots of blurbs, I felt like I was reading J-14 for Vampires, or something. It was worth a laugh, at least. But not worth the time.

Worst part: Stupid. *headdesk* Just. . .it's far too encouraging of this stuff. And it sounds too serious. . .like, it's immature writing and stuff, but I can totally see twelve-year-olds using this this as, like, a bible.

Best part: It was aesthetically appealing.

Grade: D-

Other Books by This Author: None.

35 / 51 books. 72% done!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston

No spoilers.

Wondrous Strange
Author: Lesley Livingston
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre: YA, fantasy
Pages: 327
First Line: "Puck's tortured words rang in Kelley's ears as she lifted her head, struggling against the darkness that threatened to descend upon her."

Summary: Seventeen-year-old actress Kelley Winslow always thought faeries were just something from childhood stories. Then she meets Sonny Flannery. He's a changeling -- a mortal taken as an infant and raised among Faerie -- and within short order he's turned Kelley's heart inside out and her life upside down.

For Kelley's beloved Central Park isn't just a park -- it's a gateway between her ordinary city and the Faerie's dangerous, bewitching Otherworld. Now Kelley's eyes are opening not just to the Faerie that surround her, but to the heritage that awaits her...a destiny both wondrous and strange.

Source: Back of book

Review: Not the best Faerie book I've ever read, but it was certainly enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed the Shakespeare references, and I hope that there are more in the sequels (it's supposed to be a trilogy, I understand). I wish there had been more stuff in Faerie shown. . .but I did like the kelpie stuff and the addition of the siren, which is generally unusual. Usually, it's a glastig. The story is fairly unpredictable and the style isn't bad or distracting. Worth a read.

Worst part: I didn't like how Auberon was characterized. I didn't feel it was very in-character as far as Faerie goes.

Best part: Oh, dear. The Shakespeare references. Except there weren't enough!

Grade: B

Other Books by This Author: Darklight (the sequel to WS).

33 / 50 books. 66% done!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Beastly by Alex Flinn

No Spoilers.

Title: Beastly
Author: Alex Flinn
Year of Publication: 2007
Genre: YA, fantasy
Pages: 304
First Line: "Mr. Anderson: Welcome to the first meeting of the Unexpected Changes chat group."

(First line of the actual text: "I could feel everyone looking at me, but I was used to it."

Summary: I am a beast. A beast. Not quite wolf or gorilla or dog, but a horrible new creature with fangs, claws, and hair springing from every pore. I am a walking monster.

You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. And I'll stay this way forever -- unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, the perfect girl, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly. . .beastly.

Source: Back of book

Review: This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I love that story and I love this book. The book, which will be released as a movie on July 30, 2010 (starring Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens, and OMG Neil Patrick Harris -- they couldn't have picked anyone better), was a great story. Not the most well-written book I've ever read, but I found it super enjoyable. Probably was a little old for it (I'm 18); the writing was really easy to understand, so I'd suggest this for 9th graders, I think. But those younger and older, of course, can enjoy it as well. The changes made to the story were really interesting and the book in general was definitely worth it. Give it a read!

Worst part: I really wish the quality/difficulty of the writing was greater. Also, I feel there was something not quite right about Kendra's character. Maybe a bit immature?

Best part: I seriously love Will. He should have gotten a love interest, IMHO.

Grade: B+

Other Books by This Author: Diva, Fade to Black, Nothing to Lose, Breaking Point, Breathing Underwater, and A Kiss in Time

32 / 50 books. 64% done!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

No spoilers.

Beautiful Creatures
Author: Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre: YA, fantasy
Pages: 563
First Line: "There were only two kinds of people in our town."
Summary: 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.

Source: Back of book

Review: Fail. This book felt like the biggest waste of time. The only thing going for it, I felt, was the fact that it was told from a new point of view (not that the POV was very authentic -- one of the girliest boys I've ever read). In any case, rather than having the story told from the POV of the supernatural being (usually a girl), it went for the girl's boyfriend. BUT WAIT, you say, isn't that what Twilight is? Well, yes, but at least this one has a boy for Bella! HOLD UP, you continue, Lena moves to a new town -- that's what BELLA did! Yeah, also true. Okay, so this is basically Twilight with witches. Except somehow worse. Definitely not worth the time.

Worst part: So. Long. The book was unnecessarily long -- details that were worthless were put in and then important stuff was tiny. And even though it was all over-detailed, I don't know how the book got so big, because it didn't say much of anything.

Best part: I liked the flashbacks. That's about it.

Grade: D

Other Books by This Author: None. But I expect a sequel.

31 / 50 books. 62% done!