Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Long Night Dance by Betsy James

Vague/small spoilers.

Long Night Dance
Author: Besty James
Year of Publication: 1989
Genre: YA, fantasy
Pages: 199
First Line: "It was a crazy place to have built a house, on the western cliffs where the wind was incessant, but Ab Drem had gotten the land cheaply in trade."

Summary: Fifteen-year-old Kat is more her father's housekeeper than his daughter. Just like all Upslope women, Kat is required to stay close to the hearth and as far away from Downshore and its savage people as possible. Kat must remain respectable -- and that means covering her read hair, finding a husband to care for, and never singing, swimming, or dancing.

But Kat knows there must be more to life -- she can feel it in her heart. She can hear the call -- the sound of drums beating, drawing her to the forbidden beach. When Kat can no longer resist the call, she discovers what she thinks is a fatally injured seal washed up on the shore. Instead, she has found a Rig, one of a charmed race of mythical seal people. The only way to save this mysterious man is to defy her father and her community and seek aid in Downshore. But does Kat have the strength to stand on her own?

Source: Back of book

Review: Betsy James focused so much, I think, on the way her words sounded that she ignored the rest of the book. Plot was underdeveloped, characters were relatively flat, and the point of the book was totally lost. I have read another book about selkies (the "mythical seal people" or "Rigi" in this book) called Seven Tears into the Sea and it was much better. I may read the sequel to this if I have time, only to see if it's any better. All in all, I was disappointed. Too many things were missing from this book.

Worst part: Betsy was more trying to write pretty phrases than actually get a good story out.

Best part: I liked Nall's name. That's...that's about it.

Grade: D

Other Books by This Author: Dark Heart and others.

48 / 50 books. 96% done!

Also, congratulations and good job to everyone who participated in the Open Mic Night!

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd

Very vague spoilers.

The Vast Fields of Ordinary
Author: Nick Burd
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre: YA
Pages: 309
First Line: "I spent a good part of my senior prom drawing DH + PS in a giant heart in the last stall of the Cedarville High boy's bathroom."

Summary: It's Dade Hamilton's last summer before college. He has a crappy job at Food World, a "boyfriend" who won't publicly acknowledge his existence (maybe because Pablo also has a girlfriend, one of the most popular girls in school), and parents on the verge of a break-up. Add to all this the case of Jenny Moore, a nine-year-old whose disappearance has gripped his Iowa town, and Dade's main goal is just to survive until he leaves for school.

Then he meets the mysterious Alex Kincaid, a dreamy-eyed misfit with all the wrong friends. Alex breathes new life into the suburban wasteland that Dade can't wait to escape -- but real love, like truth, has consequences, and its power soon sets in motion a tragic chain of events that will change Dade's life forever.

Source: Back of book

Review: The beginning of the book is a bad representation of the rest. The rest of the book is a million times better. I'll be honest -- there's not a whole lot of plot going on, and it's a whole lot of nothing for the most part. But it's pretty interesting. There were some loose ends at the end (one in particular that was annoying, having to do with Alex), but other than that I was pleasantly surprised with this. It wasn't the best book I've ever read by any means, but it was enjoyable.

Worst part: Probably that loose end about Alex.

Best part: I loved the main character, Dade. And the description of kisses was somehow fantastic.

Grade: B

Other Books by This Author: None, but he's working on others.

47 / 50 books. 94% done!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci

No spoilers.

Title: Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd
Author: Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre: YA, anthology
Pages: 403
First Line: --

Summary: With illustrated interstitials from comic book artists Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O'Malley, Geektastic covers all things geeky, from Klingons and Jedi Knights to fan fiction, theater geeks,a nd cosplayers.

Source: Back of book

Review: Like I did for The Poison Eaters I will be doing this by individual story.

1. "Once You're a Jedi, You're a Jedi All the Way" by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci. Not wonderful. I felt there was something missing throughout. And I was kind of confused through a lot of it. But it wasn't awful, either. I probably wouldn't have started off an anthology, as an editor, with one of my own stories, especially when the anthology had better ones to offer, but, whatever.

2. "One of Us" by Tracy Lynn. I don't remember this one. I'll have to flip to the story to refresh myself. (I say that because I think the memorability of a story is important. And I'm doing this only by looking at the table of contents.) OH! OH! This was actually a really good one. Very interesting and pretty funny. Maybe memorability isn't a great judge? No, it is, but, this one was good. Really.

3. "Definitional Chaos" by Scott Westerfeld. I was totally expecting more from Westerfeld. This story was super confusing throughout.

4. "I Never" by Cassandra Clare. Awesome. I loved the idea of this (although it's a total "don't do this at home, kids" story). It was super cute.

5. "The King of Pelinesse" by M.T. Anderson. Uh-oh. I don't remember this one, either. Oh. This one was odd. An interesting idea, but I'm not sure I liked it. Kind of creepy.

6. "The Wrath of Dawn" by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith. Well. No. This was disappointing, also. It wasn't horrendous, but I wasn't impressed.

7. "Quiz Bowl Antichrist" by David Levithan. This story was pretty awesome. Sometimes I really like Levithan, other times I don't. This time I did. Fairly original, very funny.

8. "The Quiet Knight" by Garth Nix. A great idea. I loved the main character. I was annoyed that Nix changed the spelling of one of the character's names towards the end for no reason -- like, it was a typo/editing issue. And it was annoying.

9. "Everyone But You" by Lisa Yee. I vaguely remember this. But not really. Oh, right. This was weird. I felt like it didn't belong in this anthology. Or any anthology, really. I didn't really see the point. I mean, I did, but...I don't know. Not impressed.

10. "Secret Identity" by Kelly Link. Also not remembering. Okay. I just didn't know the title. This was totally creepy. Like, woah, ew. It was an interesting idea, but oh my God, so gross. Far too forgiving of the main character, I think. And some parts didn't really make sense to me.

11. "Freak the Geek" by John Green. I was really looking forward to this one but was disappointed. It's the only thing I've ever seen written by John Green (and I think I've read it all) in a girl's point of view. There was a reference he made that I was all excited about, but other than that, I was not impressed.

12. "The Truth About Dino Girl" by Barry Lyga. I loved this until the end. The end was awful and horrific and I hated it. Seriously. You'd have to read to understand, but it was just really awful. (And not in a "bad writing" kind of way, the character was just. . .oh my God.)

13. "This Is My Audition Monologue" by Sara Zarr. Totally weird. Indulgent. Disappointing.

14. "The Stars at the Finish Line" by Wendy Mass. I. Loved. This. It was super. Interesting idea, good characters, I loved it all.

15. "It's Just a Jump to the Left" by Libba Bray. Another creepy one. And not because of the RHPS references. It was just. . .Cawley was odd, and, just, ugh. Creeps. Anyway, unimpressed again. Characters were annoying.

Overall: The stories that were good were REALLY good. Aside from that, I was disappointed.

Worst part: The creepiness of so many of the characters. Seriously.

Best part: Mass' story. Wonderful.

Grade: C+

Other Books by This Author: Black and Castellucci each has individual novels as well as work they've done with others. I'm too lazy to list it.

46 / 50 books. 92% done!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Wings by Aprilynne Pike

Vague spoilers.

Title: Wings
Author: Aprilynne Pike
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre: YA, fantasy
Pages: 294
First Line: "Laurel's shoes flipped a cheerful rhythm that defied her dark mood."

Summary: Laurel's life is the very definition of normal. . .until the morning when she wakes up to discover a flower blooming from her back. As it turns out, nothing in Laurel's life is what it seems. Now, with the help of an alluring faerie sentry who holds the key to her true past, Laurel must race to save her human family from the centuries-old faerie enemies who walk among them.

Source: Back of book

Review: Not fantastic. Something about the style annoyed me -- it seemed very fake or something. The story itself wasn't bad. I'm not sure how I felt about the "wings" and what they were made of, but that could be because I've never heard that take before and I've read a crazy amount of faerie stories. This definitely isn't the best faerie book I've read, but not the worst, either. Maybe worth a read? It gets better as it goes on and it makes you, or me, at least, want to read the sequel, but I'm not about to go out and buy it.

Worst part: The first half was weird. Or the first third? I don't know. It didn't work as well as its remaining parts. Those weren't mind-blowing, either, but they were certainly better. And then the whole thing about Laurel's age bothered me. Especially when it came to the situation with David.

Best part: Tamani. The faerie boys are ALWAYS the best part.

Grade: C

Other Books by This Author: Spells.

45 / 50 books. 90% done!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Good Neighbors: Book One, Kin by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh

No spoilers.

The Good Neighbors: Book One, Kin
Author: Holly Black and Ted Naifeh
Year of Publication: 2008
Genre: YA, fantasy, manga
Pages: 117
First Line: "My name is Rue, like kangaroo or like 'you'll rue the day we met, mwa-ha-ha!'"

Summary: Rue Silver's lief isn't at all what it appears to be. Her mother has disappeared -- and her father is being blamed for a murder. Is he guilty? Or is there another truth beneath it all?

Rue digs deeper into her family's past and makes a startling discovery: Her mother is a faerie, and she has vanished back into the faerie realm because of a broken promise. In order to get her back, Rue must plunge into the depths of her own identity -- and must follow the sinister twists of her own fate.

Source: Back of book

Review: I love the idea for this, but I felt like it was missing something throughout. Usually I'm a big fan of Holly Black, but this book was definitely missing something -- it was as if she was relying too much on pictures to tell the story, which didn't work well at all. The graphics themselves were good in some ways -- the background and passerbys were pretty great. But the main characters weren't so much. They were DRAWN well, but the physical appearances of the characters didn't represent the characters personalities well. Because of my sick obsession with faerie, I will read the sequel, but I'm not expecting much from it. Maybe worth a look, if only for some of the faerie depictions?

Worst part: That missing part of the story. I still don't know what it is.

Best part: The ending was pretty surprising, I thought.

Grade: C

Other Books by This Author: (All Holly Black) Tithe, Valiant, the Poison Eaters, Ironside, Spiderwick Chronicles, the White Cat: Curse Workers series, and others.

Other Notes: Again, I am only counting graphic novels as 1/2 (half, .5) of a book for my count.

44 / 50 books. 88% done!

Hamlet: The Manga Edition by Adam Sexton and Tintin Pantoja


Title: Hamlet: The Manga Edition
Author: Adam Sexton and Tintin Pantoja (and William Shakespeare)
Year of Publication: 2008
Genre: YA, drama, manga
Pages: 185
First Line: "Has this thing appeared again tonight?"

Summary: The sudden death of the king, later revealed to be murder. The queen's all-too-sudden remarriage to the king's brother, the murderer. The grieving, suspicious Prince Hamlet. Supernatural visitations. Deception, manipulation, and soul-searching deliberation. Plots, leaks, and counterplots. Poisoned wine. A rigged sword fight. Revenge.

Source: Back of book

Review: This is the first graphic novel I've ever read. I lovelovelove Hamlet, so I decided to give this a try. (As this is my first graphic novel, I'm not sure how to review it, but I will do my best!) I'll start with the actual graphics. All of the characters seemed age-inappropriate. Gertrude, Claudius, Hamlet, and others seemed far too young. The only one whose age was right, I think, was Polonius. Il oved the depiction of Elsinore, though. It isn't what I prefer for the castle (I like the brighter, more palace-like building in Branagh's version), but by itself, it's pretty awesome. As for the actual dialogue, etc., some of how it was written was spectacularly interesting, if you've read/seen the original play. Certain words were emphasized and stuff like that so it made it a little more accessible to Shakespeare!noobs (not that I'm any expert). I will say that it's fairly difficult to understand if you haven't read/seen the play already and understood it. I have both read and seen it and done a lot of work with it for school, and even I was a bit lost/confused at some parts. That might have just been the graphics, though, which were sometimes so abstract that it was impossible to say, really, what the artist was getting at. A fun read if you've already been exposed (extremely, that is) to Hamlet.

Worst part: Those abstract images drove me insane.

Best part: The fact that it exists?

Grade: C-

Other Books by This Author: (All Adam Sexton) Macbeth, Julius Caesar and Romeo and Juliet.

Other Notes: 1. This is not a substitute for actually reading/seeing the play! If you are a student and are trying to find a way around actually reading/seeing it, this is not the way to go. Besides, it's so fantastic, it's worth just reading/seeing it anyway (and I highly recommend Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet).

2. I am only counting graphic novels as 1/2 (half, .5) of a book for my count.

43.5 / 50 books. 87% done!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga

No spoilers.

Goth Girl Rising
Author: Barry Lyga
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre: YA
Pages: 388
First Line: "My mother and I both spent a lot of time in hospitals."

Summary: After six months in the Maryland Mental Health Unit, Kyra Sellars, a.k.a. Goth Girl, is going home. Unfortunately, she's about to find out that while she was away, she lost track of more than time.

Things seem normal at first. Roger's his typical pain-in-the-ass, fatherly self. Jecca and Simone and the rest of the goth crowd still do their thing. And Kyra is back in black, feeling good, and ready to make up with the only person who's ever appreciated her for who she really is.

But then she sees him. Fanboy. Transcended from everything he was into someone she barely recognizes.

And the anger and memories come rushing back.

Fanboy. The Spermling. Miss Powell. Roger.

Her mother.

There's so much to do to people when you're angry.

Kyra's about to get very busy.

Source: Back of book

Review: Another fantastic book by Barry Lyga. A great and realistic story with a plot that is more real-life than fiction. I say that because Lyga focuses on a string of problems and every day life, rather than just one large conflict. One large conflict IS in the book, but it sort of lingers in the background as it builds up. I loved this book and I feel reading it again would be like reading an entirely different book. Definitely worth checking out.

Worst part: I'm not sure Lyga does a spectacular job getting the female voice right.

Best part: Aside from the femininity question (or getting the female voice "right") of Lyga's voice, I love KYRA'S voice. I can't quite explain it. It felt like she was actually talking to you. Lyga does a great job with keeping a consistent conversational tone, diction, etc.

Grade: A-

Other Books by This Author: The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, Hero-Type, and Boy Toy.

Other Notes: 1. Some pretty mature themes, but nothing extremely graphic.

2. This is a sequel to The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl. Despite this, it may be possible to read GGR without reading tAAoFaGG. It wouldn't be easy, and I certainly recommend reading tAAoFaGG if only for the fact that it's awesome by itself, but it is possible.

3. I recently read two graphic novels. Do you guys include those on your lists for 50? I'm considering counting them as .5 each. These are the first graphic novels I've ever read, so . . . Let me know your opinions!

43 / 50 books. 86% done!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

No spoilers.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Author: John Green and David Levithan
Year of Publication: 2010
Genre: YA
Pages: 310
First Line: "When I was little, my dad used to tell me, 'Will, you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose.'"

Summary: It's not that far from Evanston to Naperville, but Chicago suburbanites Will Grayson and Will Grayson might as well live on different planets. When fate delivers them both to the same surprising crossroads, the Will Graysons find their lives overlapping and hurtling in new and unexpected directions. With ap ush from friends new and old -- including the massive, and massively fabulous, Tiny Cooper, offensive lineman and musical theater auteur extraordinaire -- Will and Will begin building toward respective romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history's most awesome high school musical.

Source: Back of book

Review: Oh, God. So much love. John Green and David Levithan are AMAZING. I've read novels from both of them before, and this one is really spectacular, just like the others, but this time, their talent is combined. Green's Grayson seems to be much like characters in his other book, but I love that character all the time, so it's okay. Levithan's Grayson is a sweetheart. I love him. Seriously a funny, heartwarming, and philosophical book.

Worst part: While the combined talents are awesome, I felt like Green's characters (ie Will Grayson, Jane, sometimes Tiny) were more real than Levithan's (ie Will Grayson, sometimes Tiny, Gideon, Maura).

Best part: Will Grayson. Both of 'em.

Grade: B+

Other Books by This Author: They have yet to write anything else together.

Other Notes: 1. Language is pretty harsh in this book. As are the themes in general. I wouldn't say a thirteen-year-old should read it. I'm 18 and even felt it was a bit much. Just be aware of that. (We're talking the f-bomb, the c-word, the p-word, it's got everything).

2. This book does center, in part, around gay characters. So if you're not into that, be aware.

42 / 50 books. 84% done!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Resistance by Gemma Malley

No spoilers.

The Resistance
Author: Gemma Malley
Year of Publication: 2008
Genre: YA, scifi, future
Pages: 323
First Line: "Overhead lighting, bleak and uncompromising, shone down into the small room like a prison guard's searchlight, picking out every speck of dust, every mark on the cheap carpet, every smudged fingerprint on the window sill."

Summary: Peter and Anna have escaped their childhood prison, Grange Hall, but shedding the terror of life as a Surplus doesn't come easily. They may be Legal, but it's a struggle to adjust to "normal" life under the strict Declaration. Impatient to see action as an agent in the growing resistance, Peter feigns reconciliation with his grandfather to infiltrate Pincent Pharma. The company is responsible for Longevity+ -- a drug rumoured to reverse the ageing process. But there is more to the drug than Peter and Anna could have ever imagined. IN order to restore youth to the old, scientists must first harvest it from somewhere...

Source: Back of book

Review: Not bad. I felt like the book didn't really start until about two-thirds in, but it was decent otherwise. A few typos which were annoying. And it's by a British author, so the quotation marks and spelling isn't American which takes a bit of getting used to. The story itself is well thought-out and written. It is the sequel to The Declaration so check that out before you read this one. It's a little annoying that character detail is fairly avoided. The book relies more on dialogue than description, which I usually like, but I think it could have used a bit more description. For example, I could not for the life of me remember how old Peter and Anna were, and I ended up looking it up on the Interwebz after.

Worst part: The fact that it took so long to get started.

Best part: Loved Jude and Sheila. Awesome.

Grade: B-

Other Books by This Author: The Declaration and others.

41 / 50 books. 82% done!