Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hex Hall

Rating: 5 out of 5 Demon Spells

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

I saw this book from a long ways away, standing and talking to a friend of mine at Barnes and Noble. The cover attracted me instantly. And then the synopsis sounded interesting. So, yeah, I bought it.

First of all, Sophie Mercer is a funny character. She isn't your normal type of character that usually populate these kinds of books. In other words, she actually has a spine and some wit. That being said, she still acts like a normal teenager with a little angst, random and uncontrollable crying, a lot of sarcasm and humor, and inevitable crushes. I enjoyed reading Sophie and, by the end of the book, I felt like I knew her very well.

The relationship between Archer and Sophie is also very enjoyable to read. There is enough tension there to keep it interesting. And there is definitely some chemistry between them although at parts it seems glossed over. However, I don't really feel like Archer is really given a whole lot of depth where other characters have been given some.

Like Jenna. She is a good character as well. We get the whole story about how she fell for the wrong person and ended up a vampire all alone once her lover was killed. That is a powerful story and I was hoping to get something like that from Archer as well. But that did not happen. That is probably my only real complaint about this book.

Everything else is great. The plot is smooth and quick, fast. I did not see the twist at the end coming. I did see the whole business with Archer coming because I was an idiot and read the back of the second book before I finished this one. Oh well. It was still interesting and I nice little plot twist.

I definitely can say I would put Hawkins' book up there with Unearthly. It is a great, entertaining read, and left me with a hankering to read the next one. I gave it 5 out of 5 Demon Spells.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day


O, how I love this day because it is all about Ireland.

If you haven't noticed by now, I'm a freak about anything Irish. that the day is practically over. Hope you had a great one!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Moonlight Mile

Rating: 3 out of 5 Acelas

Amanda McCready was four years old when she vanished from a Boston neighborhood twelve years ago. Desperate pleas for help from the child's aunt led investigators Kenzie and Gennaro to take on the case. The pair risked everything to find the young girl—only to orchestrate her return to a neglectful mother and a broken home.

Now Amanda is sixteen—and gone again. A stellar student, brilliant but aloof, she seemed destined to escape her upbringing. Yet Amanda's aunt is once more knocking on Patrick Kenzie's door, fearing the worst for the little girl who has blossomed into a striking, clever young woman—a woman who hasn't been seen in weeks.

Haunted by their consciences, Kenzie and Gennaro revisit the case that troubled them the most. Their search leads them into a world of identity thieves, methamphetamine dealers, a mentally unstable crime boss and his equally demented wife, a priceless, thousand-year-old cross, and a happily homicidal Russian gangster. It's a world in which motives and allegiances constantly shift and mistakes are fatal.

In their desperate fight to confront the past and find Amanda McCready, Kenzie and Gennaro will be forced to question if it's possible to do the wrong thing and still be right or to do the right thing and still be wrong. As they face an evil that goes beyond broken families and broken dreams, they discover that the sins of yesterday don't always stay buried and the crimes of today could end their lives.

I was introduced to Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro just before the movie of Gone, Baby, Gone came out a few years ago. The movie is great and sticks to the book really well. These books and these characters are exciting and just fantastic. Patrick is a smart-ass and Angie is a hardened, beautiful, Italian. They make a great team. One thing the movie did not do well that the books do is show the chemistry between the two and the great dialogue you get in the books was not present in the movie. That book raised an ethical question at the end that was very poignant to me. I won't spoil anything for those of you who have not read the book or the movie.

This book plays as a direct sequel to Gone, Baby, Gone because it deals with the same characters. Amanda McCready is missing again, but now she is sixteen years old and incredibly intelligent and bright. Patrick and Angie are older now and have fallen into a life of complacency and parenthood. Somewhere along the break since we last saw them they got married and had a child. This is a nice change and it makes the stakes even higher for them when their family is threatened.

I'm going to compare this book to the ones that came before it. When I do that, it doesn't really do very well. The story line gets a little fuzzy at times and I'm not sure what details were really necessary. And there were some weird little political statements inserted in there that I'm not sure were not entirely the author's voice coming through. Whatever they were they kind of bugged me. The Patrick Kenzie I had gotten acquainted with in the other books did not whine as much about technology and change. That being said, some of the things Patrick said were really funny and so very true.

When you don't compare this book to the others it is a great book. It has a good message to it and there is enough action to make it exciting. Patrick's banter is entertaining also.

I may have to read them all in a row again just so I can see if more things will make sense. I am saddened by the ending of this book because it may mean the end of Kenzie-Gennaro adventures. Here's to hoping that something will pull them out of their retirement. I do recommend Dennis Lehane and especially these books starting with A Drink Before the War to anyone who likes their crime drama gritty, full of action, and a little dark at times. I gave it three out of five Acelas.

Challenge Day #17

Today's challenge is to post a picture of myself and tell about my day. I'm going to stretch it a little and tell about yesterday and maybe some of today.

Yesterday was a great day, but it was also very bittersweet. It marked three years since the day my sister passed away. I keep thinking that the next year is going to be easier when it just doesn't seem to be that way.

We didn't get going until about noon which was nice. It made the morning relaxed and laid back. We, my mom and I, went and picked up my sister and her boys then we went to Olive Garden for lunch. After that we went to Kohl's and shopped for a bit. Then we went to Cocoa Bean and got cupcakes for dessert. By that time it was time to get Gigi from daycare, so we dropped Kate and crew off then rushed home. Then my mom and Gigi and I went and got flowers and put them on Brittany's grave then went home and got ready to go to the temple. We took Gigi to another babysitter and then went up to the temple where my cousin and his wife were going through for the first time. It was a perfect ending to the day.

I then came home and watched The Duchess with Keira Knightley and Dominic Cooper. It was such a good movie. I highly recommend it. I had not wanted to see it, but I was pleasantly surprised. I even dreamed about it. When you watch it, I'm sure you will also dream of Keira Knightley and her big hair in that movie. It is definitely impressionable.

Today has been pretty chill. I woke up, did Zumba workout, ate, got ready, helped my sister while the boys were getting their haircuts, then we went to Wendy's and surprised my mom with some lunch. Since then I have cleaned up and now I'm just hanging out. I go to work in about an hour, but I am just covering for the Rexburg store, so it will still feel like a day off. Ha!

Anyway...there ya go.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Challenge Day #16

Post a picture of the last thing you purchased.

I went to the cheap seats last night and watched The Eagle for a whopping $3.50. It was actually a really good movie. I also had great company, sitting between two awesome girls. All in all I would recommend seeing this movie. Channing Tatum is not the best of actors, but I do like the story line and the cinematography is amazing in it. So check it out.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Challenge Day #15

Today I get to post about something I cannot leave the house without.

This is probably where some of my OCD stuff comes out. I have to have things in their right place whenever I go somewhere. My keys have to be in my right pants pocket, my phone and my chapstick in my left pocket, and my wallet in my back right pocket. Those are all habits I've had since my mission. I carry chapstick everywhere I go ever since I got back from Florida because I am keenly aware, now, of just how dry it is here in Idaho especially in the winter. Before Florida I didn't really even notice.

All that being said I think the one thing I cannot leave home without is my iPod. Music keeps me going. Enough said.
However, I also have to bring a book or my Nook with me everywhere. You never know when you will have a moment to read a couple pages.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Challenge Day #14

Today I am supposed to blog about my favorite musician. I'm going to talk about my top three even though it is hard to do that because I have so many favorites. I absolutely love music and I literally don't go anywhere without my iPod.

Number 1: Tori Amos

She is an acquired taste to be sure. When I first heard her I wasn't impressed. Part of the reason it is hard to love her right away is that she enunciates words in an odd but charming way. It is a distinct sound that I cannot get enough of. Just recently I was trying to introduce a friend of mine to the ways of Ms. Amos and I got all excited about a part in the song "Precious Things" and I was disappointed by her reaction. I asked her what she thought and she said "I couldn't understand her."

A big reason I absolutely love Tori is because I do understand her. She manages to connect to me at a different level that I cannot explain. Another huge thing for me is that her music literally saved me during my grieving after my sister's passing. Right at this moment I am listening to her cover of "Father Figure" and it is amazing.

Number 2: Florence + the Machine

A new love of mine I was introduced to at the end of last year. She is a genius and reminds me a bit of Tori Amos. Maybe that is the draw. Her lyrics are brilliant and also don't make complete sense at face value just like Ms. Amos'. My favorite song of hers is "The Drumming Song." I cannot wait for more brilliance from her. I cannot get enough of her album.

Number 3: Adele

Her new album 21 is freaking amazing. I've loved her since I heard "Chasing Pavements" a few years ago. The raw emotion and beauty in her voice is so appealing to me and it speaks to me. Her sound is classic and timeless.

Runners Up:

Number 4: The Civil Wars
Number 5: The Killers
Number 6: Ke$ha

Interesting to Note:

Kelli would appreciate this, but I just realized that my top three favorite musicians are all redheads.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Challenge Day #13

Post a picture of something that makes you happy.


Monday, March 7, 2011

The Maze Runner

Rating: 3 out of 5 Grievers

Imagine waking up one day in total darkness, unsure of where you are and unable to remember anything about yourself except your first name. You're in a bizarre place devoid of adults called the Glade. The Glade is an enclosed structure with a jail, a graveyard, a slaughterhouse, living quarters, and gardens. And no way out. Outside the Glade is the Maze, and every day some of the kids -- the Runners -- venture into the labyrinth, trying to map the ever-changing pattern of walls in an attempt to find an exit from this hellish place. So far, no one has figured it out. And not all of the Runners return from their daily exertions, victims of the maniacal Grievers, part animal, part mechanical killing machines. Thomas is the newest arrival to the Glade in this Truman-meets-Lord of the Flies tale. A motley crew of half a dozen kids is all he has to guide him in this strange world. As soon as he arrives, unusual things begin to happen, and the others grow suspicious of him. Though the Maze seems somehow familiar to Thomas, he's unable to make sense of the place, despite his extraordinary abilities as a Runner. What is this place, and does Thomas hold the key to finding a way out? (courtesy of

The concept of this book is fascinating. Young boys sent to a Maze they are supposed to solve without any explanation. It is obvious it's a test, but for what? The whole premise is built around how "everything is going to change" when it is hard to see what it is going to change from. I think Dashner could have spent a little more time explaining and building up the "regular life" in the Glade and the Maze. Some of it just felt rushed and glossed over and then seemingly needless details were gushed over.

Let me back up. I seem to do that a lot and get ahead of myself.

I liked this book. There is a lot of potential to it, and I am excited to read more. That being said, I think the execution of it wasn't exactly what it could have been. I've said it before and I will say it again--a good idea deserves great writing. I'm not saying Dashner is a bad writer. It just felt contrived and immature at some points. The little twists and turns at the end of the chapters were built up and dragged out so long when I knew what was coming so I found myself skipping to the last sentence of the chapter. I had a hard time not skimming at points because I felt like there were so many unnecessary details and inserts into dialogue that should have been neatly bared down. Dashner weighs down his dialogue with expository weirdness that doesn't do anything for the flow of the story.

Where he was heavy in exposition he was light on description. I never really felt like I was there in the Glade with these boys. It just felt like I was distanced from it because the descriptions were just so sparse. And the characters are never really described. We never get a full description of what the main character looks like. Some may argue that that allows the reader to imagine what he looks like, and maybe Dashner didn't think it was necessary to describe him. What little character descriptions we do get are sparse and leave something to be desired.

Before I get too carried away with all this, I do recognize that this is teen fiction and the writing in this genre is usually simplified to gear it toward that demographic, but for some reason it grated on me a little.

The relationship between Thomas and Teresa is intriguing, but it feels forced. My favorite character was Minho because he seems to have his head on straight most of the time. That being said, sometimes he'd have random mood swings that just didn't seem to fit with his character and seemed like a convenient way to have Minho out of the picture for awhile.

Overall I like the book. There are just some things that bugged me. And I was annoyed that it took me so long to get through because I should have been not wanting to put it down. Some of the scenes in the book, namely the final battle scene with the Grievers, was fascinating and I could picture most of it being turned into a movie. I gave it 3 out of 5 Grievers because, to me, it was likable but not wonderful. Here is hoping the next installment, Scorch Trials, is a little better.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


My manuscript has been e-mailed to a handful of my friends so I can get some good feedback from them. I cringe to think of some things they will say. Honesty, however, is the best policy especially when it comes to art. That being said it is also still very nerve wracking simply because it is like I am sending out a piece of myself with them. It is hard to separate myself from my writing because those are characters I spend lots of time with (arguably more time than with anyone else) and get to know better than most anyone else I know. And it is a story that I firmly believe in and that I treasure because it is full of potential.

I remember when my skin was not so thick when it came to critique. When I was younger (junior high to sophomore in high school) I had a friend who I shared art and stories with. We would trade fan fiction short stories and drawings of them along with notes. This friend became not only a really good friend but, in some ways, my art guru. I was learning and I was obsessed with getting better at the craft. Sometimes I would get notes from my friend that weren't the nicest. She is the type that tells it like it is and it was hard for me to stomach that at first. At the time I hated it, but now I appreciate it. She prepared me for the even tougher skin I would have to develop later on.

Once I got to college I tried to be an art major. One of my teachers ripped my pieces apart. I only had one art piece that he even remotely liked. All of the others he would tear down with words that stung. Art became not so fun anymore. It became drudgery and work. I didn't like that.

Writing, on the other hand, is a completely different story for me. I love getting hardcore critiques. Rip my stuff apart; I say BRING IT ON! The only way for my writing to get better is if people tell me what is not working for them as a reader. During my time as an undergrad I had to develop a separation, a thicker skin, when it came to my writing. Otherwise, I would go insane and be so depressed and down on myself for sucking it up. When it comes to writing I don't like the pacifist route. Hit me with your best shot. This thick skin I've developed can take it.