Saturday, December 8, 2012

Reached

Rating: 3 out of 5 Red Pills

After leaving Society and desperately searching for the Rising—and each other—Cassia and Ky have found what they were looking for, but at the cost of losing each other yet again: Cassia has been assigned to work for the Rising from within Society, while Ky has been stationed outside its borders. But nothing is as predicted, and all too soon the veil lifts and things shift once again.

In this gripping conclusion to the #1 New York Times-bestselling Matched trilogy, Cassia will reconcile the difficulties of challenging a life too confining, seeking a freedom she never dreamed possible, and honoring a love she cannot live without.

(from Goodreads. com)

 

I don't know what it is about trilogies, lately, and the Third Book Syndrome. Condie's trio has potential. And this is why I have a love-hate relationship with it. The idea is good, and it works, but it didn't work for me. I don't know. Condie writes beautifully at times. There were a few gems of wisdom in each of the books, commentaries on life and human nature that I thought were priceless, but there seemed to be a disconnect. 

Ok, compared to other YA fiction out there right now, Condie's novels have more depth and the love stories are a little more believable, but I couldn't help feeling like it was missing something. Cassia is likable, but she isn't relatable. I don't feel like her character, as the heroine, leaps out of the pages for any special reason. At least she isn't a moody character and she is determined all the way through to the very last page, but I think because she didn't have fluctuations in her mood is why she was so unrealistic to me. She'd cry or she'd have these flashbacks but she never got angry. Of all the people in this series to get angry, Cassia is the one who should have been screaming mad. I wanted emotion and all I got was a pretty monotone character. Her insights are beautiful, and she becomes a way for Condie to show that it is the arts and the ability of humans to create that is going to save us someday. 

Ky was the best character throughout all of it because he was the most in-depth. He had more emotion behind him. However, I hated that he was so okay with Xander being in love with the girl he loved. So when the characters have emotions in this series it doesn't feel like something a normal person would feel. 

Xander is okay. He seems to shine the most in this book and he doesn't get very much mention in the other two books. He's kind of a side figure. The poor fella who got Matched to Cassia who doesn't love him. And then we are introduced to Lei in a sad way to match him off with someone else so the Cassia and Ky can live happily ever after. It felt like the whole Renesmee/Jacob fiasco in the last book of the Twilight series. Hey, let's introduce a new character for my third member in the love triangle so he can also be happy and my main duo can have their love. I'm sorry, but real life doesn't work that way. It's messy. And I wanted there to be mess in this book. I wanted there to be raw emotion. I mean...hello, The Society is being overthrown and nobody seemed to care. I won't spoil it, but I just feel like that should have been handled differently.

 Now to the Pilot thing. My other big gripe about this. Two whole books of the buildup of "Who is The Pilot?" Then it's just some random guy we never heard of. Nor do we ever get a freaking name or a description of this guy. I'm not sure I understand the point of that. And then we suddenly had Pilots popping up everywhere. Indie was a Pilot? We are all Pilots? Meaning we all determine our own destiny? I was so confused. I wanted the Pilot to be Cassia or Ky or even Xander. That would have made literary sense. 

Ok. Enough of the gripes. I have to give Condie props for some really beautiful writing. Especially in the first two books. Her descriptions were very handy and well-crafted. Where story line and emotion seemed to fail, her writing picked up the slack. When I finished the second book, I wasn't sure I wanted to finish the last book because the whole business in The Carving felt plotless and too wander-y for my taste. But it was Condie's writing that brought me back. I will continue to watch for her career in the future because I definitely think she's a gifted writer. I just think she needs some help in the conveying emotion department. 

Addendum: Now that I think of it, this book actually reads a lot like Ayn Rand's Anthem which is an amazing and very short book. The plotline seems about the same. But, Rand was still able to convey some very real emotion in characters that didn't even have names. So it can be done.  


Friday, November 23, 2012

The Language of Flowers

Rating: 4 out of 5 Lisianthus (for Appreciation)

The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written debut novel, beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable young woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past. (from RandomHouse.com)

Diffenbaugh's debut is stunning and heartfelt. Going into it, I wasn't quite sure what I was getting into. I am usually annoyed with stories that start out so depressing and emotional as though I'm being force-fed or cajoled into sympathy and, as a reader, that is never a good thing. However, Diffenbaugh managed to swindle me into Victoria's story quite easily. I think what did it for me was the relationship between Victoria and Elizabeth which becomes a central piece of the whole story. 

This book is about relationships and communication, about what makes a family, and redemption and forgiveness. Victoria is a child who feels she will never belong with anyone because no one has kept her around long enough to love her. Elizabeth takes a chance on her and takes her in. Thus we see the blossoming of this unwanted girl into someone's daughter. We also see Victoria as a young woman, homeless and on her own. Diffenbaugh builds up the mystery of what happened between Victoria and Elizabeth with deft professionalism and nice storytelling. I found myself enthralled (I finished it in two days). 

I think the powerful part of this book is the message of redemption. Not only does Victoria seek redemption, but so does Elizabeth, in their own ways. Catherine is a ghost figure in the book, but she plays a huge role in all of it, as most of the mystery revolves around her. I won't give too much away.

Grant is a strong character and the romance between him and Victoria is built up nicely. 

I think where Diffenbaugh almost lost me was when Victoria has her baby, but I understand why Victoria had to become a mother. She had to experience what it was like to care for another human being. 

This book has it all. It plays out like a chick-flick movie. One of those I'm Woman, Hear Me Roar type movies. But the message it carries is valuable to anyone who reads it. I loved the underlying Language of Flowers, learning about that, and how the characters used flowers to say things when they could not communicate.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Every Day

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Inhabited Bodies

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.
(from Goodreads.com)

I read David Levithan's latest book in one day. Granted, it's not a mammoth of a novel, but it isn't short by any means either. To me, this is an indication of how good it is. 

The plot is strange. It recalls to mind Stephenie Meyer's The Host and Quantum Leap and Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall. Despite the strange premise, Levithan makes it believable and his protagonist is sympathetic and you want him to succeed and to figure out a way for things to work. 

It starts off without any messing around. A, our protagonist, is in the body of Justin. Right away he meets Rhiannon and finds himself connecting and attaching to her when he used to keep himself within the confines of his host's daily lifestyle. With Rhiannon, A starts breaking his own rules. She even becomes the first person he tells about what he is and what he does. Their mutual attachment is believable because Rhiannon doesn't give in right away. Her reactions are just what I would expect a normal person to do if faced with this situation. Disbelief, fascination, disgust, and so on. 

When it comes down to it, Every Day is a fantastic commentary on the human condition. This person sees life through the eyes of a different person every day. He understands bodily limitations because he's felt every single one. He understands addictions. He understands attraction and how it is not limited to gender. At the core of this is a love story. A and Rhiannon's love transcends rules and order, defies what we believe, because it shows that you can fall for what's inside a person, not what's inside. One of my favorite quotes from the book illustrates this point:

"What is it about the moment you fall in love? How can such a small measure of time contain such enormity? I suddenly realize why people believe in deja vu, why people believe they've lived past lives, because there is no way the years I've spent on this earth could possibly encapsulate what I'm feeling. The moment you fall in love feels like it has centuries behind it, generations--all of them rearranging themselves so that this precise remarkable intersection could happen. In your heart, in your bones, no matter how silly you know it is, you feel that everything has been leading to this, all the secret arrows were pointing here, the universe and time itself crafted this long ago, and you are just now realizing it, you are just now arriving at the place you were always meant to be."

I highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a unique love story with incredibly surprising depth and really good prose. It's a fast, quick-paced read so don't be scared to pick it up. I gave it a generous 4.5 out of 5 Inhabited Bodies. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Beautiful Creatures

Rating 3 out of 5 Magical Lollipops

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
. (from Amazon.com)

I always find that when I start skimming in a book that it is a sign of a merely mediocre, or less, book. Beautiful Creatures started out really good. The mystery was intriguing and the setup was nice, but then something stopped for me. Maybe it was just the style of writing. Maybe I just got tired of hearing everything from Ethan's point of view. I don't know what it was. The imagery is nice in the story and it has potential. I'm still very excited to see what they do with it for a movie (I can already tell you that the book and movie are NOTHING alike just from the previews) and the concept is, well, beautiful. There just seemed to be something missing. Depth, maybe?

Lena and Ethan aren't the worst couple I've seen in YA literature. There is actually enough tension and meaning behind their relationship that I was satisfied, but it still felt like they fell in love really fast. Call me old and cynical, so much so that I can't believe in young love anymore, but I was skeptical. If you're going to put two people together in a story and have it come down to life-and-death that they stay together, then make their love so solid and believable that I want them to be together. This, sadly, was just another case of "Hey, we're writing them this way so you have to go with it." I hate being forced to want two people together. However, I'm not entirely against it. I think what would have helped is to have interchanging points of view between Ethan and Lena. Ethan is reliable but, at times, he's too far removed from the central points of the story to be a main voice. Lena doesn't really fully develop and, even by the end, I don't feel like I fully understand her. I just see Ethan's view of her and that is skewed a little.

There are also scenes with rituals (Lena's birthday and Halloween) where it gets confusing. The descriptions, while sometimes beautifully written, are so shifty that it left me spinning. I didn't know what was going on so I'd lose interest because it was hard to figure out. The visions with the locket was interesting, but that line of the story gets dropped early. I liked the whole Civil War backdrop of the story and the old Ethan and Genevieve's story that parallels Ethan and Lena's. That was nice.

I don't know. This book was decent and I might read more, but I'm also okay with not. I'm interested to see what happens with Lena and her mom (a big part of the storyline that doesn't really get fully developed) and to see the continuing saga of Ethan and Lena and how their love develops. But, for now, I will probably leave Gatlin and return another time.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

I'm Back!

Hello, my affectionate readers! I have returned from the black hole I disappeared in for the last three months. I was at basic training for the US Navy since August and have now returned to civilization, reappearing in the warm and sunny world called Florida. Pensacola is a great place; it feels like summer here. I've decided there are only two seasons in Florida: summer and cool summer. It seriously feels like an Idaho summer here right now and this is their "winter." It supposedly gets cold here, but I have yet to feel it. Ok, at night it does cool down a lot and I have felt chilled, but I will take this over the frigid, frozen tundra I left in Idaho.

Basic was interesting. Not gonna lie, it was not what I was expecting. At all. Lots of folding clothes. Lots of sitting around. Lots of standing. Lots of getting yelled at for no reason. Basically 8.5 weeks of feeling like I'm worthless. I kept waiting for the "building up" period everyone told me about, but it never really came. Graduation was cool. There were some memorable moments and some moments I would love to forget.

Now I am at "A" school at Corry Station in Pensacola, FL. This is a small base compared to the NAS next door, but it is nice to have a more tight-knit group. Plus, it is a little more chill over here. I have been here almost a month and my classes will start this week.

I thought I'd give an update of where I'm at. My blog will continue! I will try and do more book reviews as I read. Granted, I will not have as much time to read as I used to, but when I do finish a book, expect to see a review on here. I am always taking suggestions on books to read, so please feel free to make recommendations.

Oh! Flyleaf just released a new album and I bought it. It is fantastic! I'm listening to it right now. They don't seem to do wrong.

Until next time...


Oh and this is me, today, at the Blue Angels Homecoming airshow!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Second Draft

I just finished the second draft of Befall last week!!!! I'm very pleased with the changes I've made in the story. Now I just need to work on the consistency issues and just make the thing pretty. I will probably also start writing the second novel in the series. All of this, sadly, is going on the backburner for an indeterminate amount of time as I am going into the military and won't have a whole lot of time to devote to it. However, it will be on my mind and the story will continue to develop as I go. I'm a writer at heart and the stories will continue to live on in my head. These characters that I have come to love will soon demand that their story is heard, so this is not the end. Merely a postponing. While it does sadden me to have to set it aside for awhile, I do think it will do me and the story and the characters some good to have some time to breathe and diverge for awhile.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day

It has been awhile since I've posted. This will also be sort of a book review for Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell. Really just a huge lumpy post that will hopefully make sense. I've felt the urge to get some thoughts out in the universe.

I am leaving in almost 30 days to start basic training and a subsequent career in the United States Navy. I'm feeling a huge mixture of emotions ranging from excitement to nervousness to fear to worry and doubt. It's funny cuz the excitement, when it comes, usually overshadows any of the negative feelings. I'm apprehensive because of the unknown. I'm not sure what to expect with all of this even though I've had a year to prepare. It will have been literally a year since I made the decision to when I leave for basic. Probably almost to the day.

I'm worried about leaving my family and friends and all the things I will miss. My nieces and nephews will continue to grow and change while I'm away and I will miss milestones. I try not to focus on the things I will miss and rather the things I will gain from this.

For the first time in my life I am fully comprehending the sacrifice it takes for someone to serve in the military. Days like Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day all take on a whole new meaning for me. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones to war.

I just recently read Marcus Luttrell's Lone Survivor. It was a tale of survival and the human capacity to overcome. It was a story about true fighting soldiers who gave it their all and the one man who lived to tell about them. My eyes misted over a couple times while reading as the men fought to their dying breath. I gave it a five-star rating and I think every American should read it just so they can get somewhat of an understanding of what our troops are facing.

I know I won't be on the front lines but I will be helping to gather the intel that will help those on the front lines make decisions. The US military is like a well-oiled machine especially if everyone works hard and does their part. I'm determined to be the best in my field, to be a reliable and helpful source, and to work my hardest. No time for slacking!

What if I'm not cut out for this? What if I mess this up? I want to be able to finish my service in the Navy, whether in 8 years of 20 years, and be able to say that I too gave it my all.

These are just some of the things I've been thinking about on this Independence Day. I've never been one for fireworks and, frankly, this year I've been worried about the state going up in flames with all the idiots out there playing with fire in the dry heat we've been having. So today I celebrated my independence by spending time with my family and friends and taking some time to think of my future in the military and of all those who have served valiantly before me. I hope to be able to live up to the standard they have set.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

City of Lost Souls

WOOT WOOT!

The demon Lilith has been destroyed and Jace has been freed from her captivity. But when the Shadowhunters arrive to rescue him, they find only blood and broken glass. Not only is the boy Clary loves missing–but so is the boy she hates, Sebastian, the son of her father Valentine: a son determined to succeed where their father failed, and bring the Shadowhunters to their knees.

No magic the Clave can summon can locate either boy, but Jace cannot stay away—not from Clary. When they meet again Clary discovers the horror Lilith’s dying magic has wrought—Jace is no longer the boy she loved. He and Sebastian are now bound to each other, and Jace has become what he most feared: a true servant of Valentine’s evil. The Clave is determined to destroy Sebastian, but there is no way to harm one boy without destroying the other. Will the Shadowhunters hesitate to kill one of their own?

Only a small band of Clary and Jace’s friends and family believe that Jace can still be saved — and that the fate of the Shadowhunters’ future may hinge on that salvation. They must defy the Clave and strike out on their own. Alec, Magnus, Simon and Isabelle must work together to save Jace: bargaining with the sinister Faerie Queen, contemplating deals with demons, and turning at last to the Iron Sisters, the reclusive and merciless weapons makers for the Shadowhunters, who tell them that no weapon on this earth can sever the bond between Sebastian and Jace. Their only chance of cutting Jace free is to challenge Heaven and Hell — a risk that could claim any, or all, of their lives.

And they must do it without Clary. For Clary has gone into the heart of darkness, to play a dangerous game utterly alone. The price of losing the game is not just her own life, but Jace’s soul. She’s willing to do anything for Jace, but can she even still trust him? Or is he truly lost? What price is too high to pay, even for love?

Darkness threatens to claim the Shadowhunters in the harrowing fifth book of the Mortal Instruments series
(From Goodreads.com). 

Cassandra Clare has done it again. I absolutely love the world she has created in this The Mortal Instruments series. Her characters continue to astound, her writing is unforgettable and beautiful, and her plotting unstoppable. 

The characters continue to face their antagonists with an unending will. They are just flawed enough to be interesting and to keep you wondering if they have what it takes, yet they are absolutely perfect. Clary steps it up in this novel as the heroine. The way she fights for Jace is admirable and beautiful. While Jace is Not-Jace we actually learn more about him and he leaps out with depth by the end of the novel. He's not just a pretty face after all. I love their romance and their epic story that continues to be a favorite. 

It seems that Clare is darkening her story as well as making it more adult. The characters are getting older so it makes sense. That being said there is a lot more sex in this book than there has been in any other. I do not say this is a bad thing. However I do find it funny that Clare can write about premarital sex (there really isn't a lot of actual sex...but a lot of almost-sex and sexual tension that is actually quite delicious) and it's ok, but Stephenie Meyer can allude to wild honeymoon nights with no real description of how it all goes and she gets razzed for it. It makes no sense. (Yes, I think I just defended Meyer...go figure). 

Anyway...that was a random tangent that kinda leads into how I love what Clare is doing with the characters. While I was reading City of Lost Souls I noticed how it has become such an epic tale. Each of the characters have their own little plots that interweave and connect in very interesting ways. Maia and Jordan have a nice, tense past and they make a reliable and fun duo. Simon continues to be a favorite of mine, and I like the romance between him and Isabelle. Alec and Magnus are a delight but it breaks my heart how the end of this book leaves them. I hope Cassandra Clare plans on righting that, but I worry because a lot of this series seems to like the tragic. 

Cassandra Clare's writing is one of my absolute favorites. There is no one like her that I know of. She describes people and surroundings with such an astute observation that it feels like you're there looking at the person. She can turn a phrase with deft power and keen vision. The words and images seem to leap off the pages and filter into my mind with clarity. 

Her plotting is unstoppable. Just when I think I can predict what is going to happen, she throws in a wrench in the whole system. She manages to make you think you're smart by throwing in details in just the right way so you think you'll be able to predict the outcome, then she flips it on you all with a scheming smile. I wish I could be inside her brain. This woman never ceases to amaze. 

I look forward to the next installment in this series. Cassandra Clare, I am a dedicated fan for life.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Goddess Test

Boo!

It's always been just Kate and her mom--and her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate's going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear that her mother won't live past the fall.

Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld--and if she accepts his bargain, he'll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.

Kate is sure he's crazy--until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she suceeds, she'll become Henry's future bride and a goddess
(from Goodreads.com). 

Ugh. I cannot stress enough how sad this book made me. So much freaking potential and then a huge letdown. This is happening so much lately. I love Greek mythology. When I was younger I was pretty much so obsessed that I know just about every story there is to know. Well, of the popular ones. I know the gods' personalities and some of the lineage. I hoped that this would be a fun and modern twist on the mythologies, which is what it was meant to be, but it turned out to be a dull, superficial read. 

1. A Person has Three Dimensions not just Two. Kate doesn't leap out of the pages like a good heroine should. Considering that she is faced with losing her mother, she seems pretty nonchalant and I don't think Carter meant for it to come across that way. In fact I'm sure of it but I will get more to that later. There are moments where Kate will say something that shows a spark of originality, so I'm chalking this up to this being Carter's first novel. 

2. Show Don't Tell. How many times in my English classes was I told that it was better to show and not tell? I can't even count how many times. A plot is far more intriguing, a character far more personalized, a scene more realized when the writer shows what is going on rather than telling us. We are told way too many times that Kate is depressed or that she feels this or that. I wanted it to be expressed in dialogue or in exposition. Everything just seemed to fall flat and boring. 

3. Being Mysterious for the Sake of Being Mysterious. Henry is supposed to be Hades. Aimee, if you're going to sex up the god of the underworld, do it in a less cliche manner. Nothing about Henry screams leading man. We're just told that he's gorgeous (see Point #2) and he is supposedly brooding and whatnot but his dialogue just shows him as a thoughtful and somewhat pained guy. I didn't fully understand why they had gone through so many girls if they were gods. Surely they would have figured out the little twist a long time ago but, again, it is stressed that they are not omniscient. Ugh. I think it would have been far more interesting if Henry was charismatic and bright, everything that you wouldn't think the god of death would be, and that would make the revelation that he is Hades all the more surprising. 

4. A Twist just to have a Twist. Ok. The twist didn't really shock me. I knew something was up with either Calliope or Ella. 

5. The Gods must be Crazy. I wish the gods had been more identifiable. That would have been far more entertaining. And why would they all be hanging out in limbo? Not impressed. 

6. The Whore of a Best Friend. I didn't understand why Kate and (Enter Name Here) became friends. Ugh! And then Kate finally shows some emotion when what's-her-face sleeps around and gets one of the guys killed and they have this stupid fight that doesn't make sense, and I just want to slap Kate. At least I was feeling some sort of emotion. 

7. Greeks were Whores. Ummm...The whole infidelity/adultery/lust thing was too freaking much! WTF?!?!? The Greeks were sluts. Especially the gods. To go on forever about how it was terrible that Kate and Henry did the nasty is just stupid and goes against the whole Greek mythology and ideal. Read just one myth about Zeus and you see how much of a player that man was. The Seven Deadly Sins thing has been done and redone. Get over that. 

I may or may not read the second one. This did not leave me intrigued enough for it. With all this ranting I think it is safe to say that this book has good parts. I just didn't focus on them in this review because, for the most part, I didn't like the book. This book, however, might be good for younger teen girls but I would also tell them to steer clear simply because it is another one of those books that glamorizes immortality. Plus there's the whole premarital sex stuff. So yeah...I don't know if I'd recommend it to anyone. There ya go!

Here is a review by Anna from Goodreads that I loved:

(Warning: Contains Foul Language)

Here's the thing about this book: it was decent enough. Not nearly as good as what I was expecting, but decent.

Now, I have been having a love affair with Greek mythology since the 2nd grade. I love it all- it's like a soap opera times 100. It is some of the most entertaining and sinful group of stories I have ever had the pleasure to read. Hear that, Ms. Carter? Sinful. And here leads to what I didn't like about this book.

The. Greek. Gods. Sinned. Like. Motherfuckers. Literally, if you catch my drift. (Sorry, children.)

Look, I understand - and appreciate - artistic license. You can bend your material a bit. But when you have ZEUS - the king (haha, pun!) of promiscuity saying that lust is wrong...? You know you've done something wrong. You made a wrong turn somewhere, Ms. Carter.

Let us ponder.

I think I know.


YOU COMBINED GREEK MYTHOLOGY AND CHRISTIAN IDEALISM.


Look, both mythologies are interesting on their own, and I get the idea that everyone goes where they imagine/want when they die, and I even kind of like that. But do you realize that Greek mythology came about before Jesus was even a twinkle in the great God's eye? Zeus was fucking his sister in peace thousands of years before that, Ms. Carter. Shall I draw you a time line? I think I shall!

A REALLY LONG ASS TIME AGO: Kronos ate his kids.
A LONG ASS TIME AGO: Zeus married his sister, killed his father with the help of his brothers, and fucked every other female member of his family.
A LONG TIME AGO: Jesus came out of Mary's magnificently holy vagina.

Was that amazingly crude time line enlightening?

I really hope so. Wanna know why? Because I actually have some hopes for this trilogy.

And here is where I talk about what I actually liked about this book and why I gave it three stars.

1) Kate's relationship with her mother (AKA: Demeter) really was lovely.

2) I liked Kate and Henry (Hades) enough (Oh, Lord, that is a sad statement. Enough? That's just depressing). Especially 'cause he's Hades, AKA god of badass-ery, but she totally got him wrong in a few ways. The fits of rage were good, because that's fitting for any Greek god, really, but she made him a VIRGIN. A virgin I tell you. I'm really sick of these sexy as hell men in these YA books who have been alive for forever and yet never manage to get laid. Oh, I know! Maybe he's saving it for the Lord.

*snort*

3) I didn't see that shit with Calliope coming. You got me there, Ms. Carter, I'll admit it. I like to be surprised.

4) It wasn't entirely boring. Kate held my attention well enough. I don't hate her. I don't love her, but I don't hate her. She's kind of on the fence for me right now. We'll see how the second book goes.

5) The book smelled amazing. True story, bra.

And so, if Ms. Carter can pull her shit together and stop talking down to us good readers, and cut it out with that Seven Sins bullshit, and let Henry fuck, I will enjoy the second book. I really will, Ms. Carter. Overall, you had a good idea. So please, please, grant my wishes and don't let me down like most books I read nowadays. Please?

PS - I feel I should add this in: Look at that cover. That is one beautiful cover. Sometimes I pull this down from the shelf just to smell/ogle it. IDK I'M JUST A COVER WHORE DON'T JUDGE ME.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fever

Woot Woot!

Running away brings Rhine and Gabriel right into a trap, in the form of a twisted carnival whose ringmistress keeps watch over a menagerie of girls. Just as Rhine uncovers what plans await her, her fortune turns again. With Gabriel at her side, Rhine travels through an environment as grim as the one she left a year ago - surroundings that mirror her own feelings of fear and hopelessness.

The two are determined to get to Manhattan, to relative safety with Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan. But the road there is long and perilous - and in a world where young women only live to age twenty and young men die at twenty-five, time is precious. Worse still, they can’t seem to elude Rhine’s father-in-law, Vaughn, who is determined to bring Rhine back to the mansion...by any means necessary.

In the sequel to Lauren DeStefano’s harrowing Wither, Rhine must decide if freedom is worth the price - now that she has more to lose than ever.
(from Goodreads.com)

What I'm loving about DeStefano's series is that it is unlike anything else I've ever read. I try to compare it to other young adult fiction I've read recently and I can't do it. Sure, it's another dystopian novel, but so many of the other dystopian plots out there at least have a glimmer of hope to them. DeStefano has created a completely hopeless world filled with young people who see no reason to waste time because their lives are so short. While the premise might seem a little odd and somewhat romantic DeStefano manages to shed the gloom and doom on a world that is slowly dying like all of the characters. 

We find our lovebirds, Gabriel and Rhine, on the run only to get caught in a morbid, creepy scarlet district headed by an old woman referred to as Madame. This is just the first in a series of events that show a broken world that is darker than Rhine had remembered. Gabriel seems disappointed in the world void of holographs and beauty. 

The relationship between Gabriel and Rhine is beautiful. They have chemistry and love between them that DeStefano describes beautifully. While many young adult novels are utilizing the love triangle plot, DeStefano has not gone that route which is quite refreshing. Linden seemed to be a part of a love triangle in the first book, but I don't think Rhine loves him in the way that qualifies as competition to Gabriel. Here is yet another proof that DeStefano's series is going against the latest mold in young adult fiction. 

DeStefano's writing is superb. Her prose is pitch-perfect. While her characters are drugged or sick, the reader can feel the fever and the dreamlike state just through the words on the page. 

In Whither Rhine was strong and defiant, willful and quietly scheming. With this followup we find our heroine broken just like the world that surrounds her. She is disenchanted pretty quickly once she is captured by Madame. When she was a prisoner in Linden's mansion, she seemed larger than life, bigger and capable of escape even though her situation was so futile. When she was supposed to be free, she wasn't actually free, but she seemed smaller and more and more hopeless throughout this book. It is a story that is masterfully told and the reader is taken on a journey through a world of despair. 

In closing, DeStefano manages to use imagery to show this dying world. A ferris wheel at Madame's twisted carnival that still turns. A malformed child. Girls in the scarlet district stripped of their identities and assigned colors as their names. A broken pitcher used to become Rhine's only means of escape from Vaughn's iron grip. A fortune teller woman with tarot cards.

I look forward to DeStefano's final installment, Sever, so that I can see what happens to Rhine and Gabriel. Will she finally find her brother, Rowan? Will she discover what her parents were keeping from her and her twin? Will she be reunited with Gabriel? Will the world be cured from the virus? So many questions! I hope DeStefano answers them. And I also look forward to the other adventures she has in store for us. 

One opal cloudlet in an oval form

Reflects the rainbow of a thunderstorm

Which in a distant valley

has been staged--

For we are most artistically caged. 

--Vladimir Nabokov, "Pale Fire"


Monday, April 30, 2012

Grace

Woot Woot!

Unable to ignore the haunting photographs that 13-year-old Trevor Kennedy brings in to be developed, Crystal, a store clerk dealing with her own loss, finds her life colliding with this troubled boy whose family is about to be pushed to the breaking point. (from Google Books)

T. Greenwood is a favorite of mine. Her prose is pitch-perfect and heart wrenching. She manages to capture the human experience with a keen eye. I cannot rave enough about her. Her latest novel, Grace, is no exception. We return to Two Rivers to meet the Kennedy's and a teenage mother who just gave up her baby for adoption. The way their worlds collide is significant, dramatic, and so real. 

Kurt is a lovable character. One thing about Greenwood is that she is able to show character flaws in a beautiful light. Each of her characters are very human, realistic. The patriarch of the Kennedy family is flawed but he is heroic. He may not handle things the way he should. He doesn't realize until the end just how poorly he's treated his son, but the reader is left with a glimmer of hope that he has changed. His father is an ass and that seems to occupy a lot of Kurt's thoughts. 

Elsbeth is someone who made my heart ache. She longed for things she would never have. There was always such a sense of loss with her. And the juxtaposition between her and Crystal was a stroke of sheer brilliance on Greenwood's part. The woman who kept the baby when she was a teenager, married the boy, and stayed is yearning for freedom while Crystal, who gave up her baby and the boy who impregnated her won't have anything to do with her, wants that life. 

Trevor is an interesting character. I felt bad for him because he was the scapegoat for everything. And the topic of bullying has been a huge one lately, and I think Greenwood captured the significance of the problem perfectly. 

Crystal was probably my favorite character. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because, out of all the characters, she was the one who stood up for herself. She made her decision and went with it, rather than letting life happen to her. 

All of these characters encircle Grace. She is always in the background but she is such a poignant centerpiece for the whole novel. 

What I love about Greenwood is her characterization, among other things. Each character breathes with life and becomes more than just names squished between the pages in a book. They become people I am familiar with, like an old friend. Her plotting drives forward like an avalanche and I often wonder where she is going with things and then she throws in surprise curves that make you keep reading. 

Grace is compelling and dramatic and beautifully written. It is not escapist literature by any means, but it is enjoyable to read and her words carry you away on a comforting ride. I highly recommend this novel and any by T. Greenwood to anyone looking for intelligent reading.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lundyn Taylor Chacon

On March 16, 2012 my sister gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. They named her Lundyn Taylor Chacon. She was 7 lbs. 14 oz. and 20.5 inches long.

On the day she was born with Grandma Chester. 

First picture with Uncle Jake. I was just getting over being sick for 4 weeks so I had to have a mask on. 

Kate's friend, Lennie, took newborn pictures of Pumpkin. You can visit her blog here.http://lenniemariephotography.blogspot.com

This is Lucky Lundyn in the outfit I got her. 

She is an incredibly snuggly baby. I love it!

I took this picture on my phone when I was babysitting. It has become one of my favorites of her. 

Look at her so peaceful in her elephant chair. 


Needless to say I am a proud uncle and she's already got me wrapped around her delicate little fingers. We were all a little surprised by her shock of dark hair because the twins had come with barely any hair and what hair they had was really blond. She looks a lot like Gigi did when she was a newborn.



Sunday, April 15, 2012

Up to Date

Time for a quick update on me. I guess it's been awhile since I've posted anything about my personal goings on.

I'm less than four months away from my departure date! The reality set in when I realized that I would, originally, have been leaving this coming Tuesday, April 17th. I would definitely be a basket case right now if that were the date now. It is still on for August 9th and I'm stoked. I've been working on my memorization and I've been working hard to train physically so that basic isn't such a shock to my mind and body. I'm pretty sure, however, that no matter what I do to prepare I will not be completely prepared for basic. So I'm just going to continue doing what I'm doing. I ran my best 1.5 mile yesterday with a 13:56. I will need to knock down at least a minute off that by the time I get in. However, if I don't I'm right in the good range to where I will be able to pass the final test easily. Hopefully.

I'm still doing CrossFit. It is a kick in the pants and I love it. There are days I want to curl up in a fetal position and say "No more!" But I go again the next day. This has got to be a sign of some sort of mental illness to actually crave this kind of pain.

Kate, my sister, had a beautiful baby girl on March 16. Her name is Lundyn Taylor Chacon. She's a cutie patootie and I'm glad I will get to spend a few months with her before I go. I am sure I will post a few pictures of her on here. In fact, I might do a whole post dedicated just to her.

My novel is still coming along. It has taken a back burner to all the insane preparation for the Navy, but I still have it in the back of my mind all the time. I have been itching to write lately and I'm about 75% through the 2nd draft. After this, I am going to do some edits and I might have a class at the university rip it to shreds, and then I will try to get more serious about getting it published. The timing is just terrible. I will keep you all posted on how that goes. If you are on Facebook, you can "Like" my book's page here.

I will be dj'ing my third dance this weekend. It is, again, for my friends and all their kids who are taught at home. It is quite the experience and I've also been getting ready for that. I found a new way to express my love for music and that is by dj'ing.

Gigi is turning 5 in June! She got screened for kindergarten this week and scored a 53 out of 56 so she is very ready. I can't believe she's old enough for kindergarten! She's growing like a weed and stands up to my hips.

Morgan and Wyatt are also growing. They've matured just in the past few weeks since Lundyn was born. They are still active and a little unruly but boys will be boys. They turned 3 in January. 

It doesn't seem like it, but I have been really busy. Work and exercising and Navy and all that has sucked up all my time. In my spare time I'm hanging with family and friends, soaking it all in because I'm not sure when I will have any of these moments again in my life. There are days, still, that I wonder what I'm doing as far as the Navy goes, but I know this is what I want to do with my life. Something needed to change and the Lord provided this as a way for me to improve myself and the world around me. I'm excited for these great changes coming up in the next few months.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Pandemonium

WOOT WOOT!
 
I’m pushing aside the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
push,
push,
push,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame. 

(From Goodreads.com)
 
Lauren Oliver has done it again. She continues to astound me with her electric prose and her exciting plotting. She is a master at creating a mood and getting the reader completely sucked in. There were seriously moments, during the reading of Pandemonium, that I was so engrossed and I would look up and realize where I was. It is a mark of a sheer genius who can make you believe the characters are real because you identify with them so much and you empathize with them. 
 
It is an unfair comparison, but I kept thinking about Crossed by Ally Condie. While I enjoy the story and the idea in Condie's trio, I think the writing is lacking. Where these two are both the second in a trilogy it seemed appropriate to see where one was winning and one was lacking. Condie's second volume is good, don't get me wrong. I have a review of it on this blog, but I remember shutting it at the last page and thinking "Nothing even happened!" And now, as I recall, all I remember is a lot of running, some climbing, some hiking, twists and turns, and nothing real progressive with the plot. I think another reason I compared the two, in my mind, is because they both dealt with tunnels or being out in the forbidden "Wilds." Condie's wilds are alien and unapproachable. I had no idea where to even plant myself in them. Oliver's Wilds are realistic and, exactly that: wild. The pain is real in Oliver's book. I felt each pang of hunger, each twist and turn as the characters turned on each other because they acted human and real. 
 
Oliver also did an unfair thing. She introduced a love triangle. I wanted to cry out, but the progression of the love Lena gains for Julian is natural and quite beautiful. This is truly a triangle I'm going to struggle to pick a side for. Both of them are good guys and I'm pretty sure Oliver has a good answer for it. The third book will be very telling. Julian was an interesting addition to the mix and I grew to empathize with him. And it was also an interesting twist that suddenly Lena takes Alex's place and "infects" Julian just like Alex did to her. 
 
Lauren Oliver moves her story forward like an unstoppable avalanche. It rumbles and bursts with power, sometimes managing to take my breath away. Back to Condie's book: I don't remember being rendered breathless with her story. Yes, her words are pretty, but when you match plot to that, she's seriously lacking. Lauren Oliver has managed to partner the two to make a genius and remarkable story in the young adult fiction world. I highly recommend this trio and anything else that she writes.  

Monday, April 2, 2012

Part of Me (Outrage)






I saw on the news the other day that there is controversy over Katy Perry's latest video for her single "Part of Me." This is a fantastic song. Perry has proven herself to be a star that can hold her own with her album Teenage Dream. Her songs, her face, her touch is everywhere these days. I'm not complaining. I love Katy Perry, and I have ever since she kissed a girl and she liked it. Maybe that's making me biased for this whole war of words between Katy Perry and feminist author Naomi Wolf. Or maybe it's the fact that I am going into the military and I have a soft spot for people who are serving. The fact that a celebrity with Perry's panache has decided to put a positive light on women in the military is fantastic.

This is what Naomi Wolf's Facebook page said:

“Have you all seen the Katy Perry Marines video? It is a total piece of propaganda for the Marines…I really want to find out if she was paid by them for making it…it is truly shameful. I would suggest a boycott of this singer whom I really liked — if you are as offended at this glorification of violence as I am .”

Glorification of violence? Really? Naomi Wolf, screw you. I'm sick of groups getting on these crusades. Boycott Katy Perry. How about we boycott you? No one ever knew about you until you started making your snide remarks about Katy's video. Should we boycott you and your need for your voice to be heard and for your 15 seconds of fame? Do you really want to be known as the woman who fought against women being in the military?

This video does not in any way glorify violence. I am fighting the urge to use some very vivid language to describe how I feel about Naomi Wolf right now and any other stupid activist who thinks that this video is anything but a video about a women empowering herself. Sure, it's not realistic. Katy Perry is an entertainer and a damn good one at that. Sure, she's wearing makeup and looks hot at basic. That is beyond not realistic. Get over it. Her point was not to glorify violence. The point was to send a message to women and girls that they can. They can be stronger.

Perry's video gives a whole new meaning to the song. I thought it was just another song about a bad breakup. Knowing about Perry's history and her recent divorce, it is not a big surprise that her new single would be about a breakup.

If you're going to harass Katy Perry for a video that makes women look bad look at "California Girls" where she shoots whip cream out of her bra. Yeah. Ya don't see feminists getting mad about that one, do you? That is more degrading to the image of women than seeing Perry in her fatigues, carrying a gun, and looking badass for our country.

So, maybe I'm wrong. Shame on you, Katy Perry, for actually being a good role model to our young girls and the women out there who feel they can't make anything better of themselves. Shame on you for not being a total slut to get famous. Shame on you for actually being patriotic.

The morale in our country has been terrible the last few years. Perry is being crucified for this because she's actually showing some patriotism and so that's called propaganda. Oh please. Like the military needs people right now with the economy being so bad that people are flocking to join because it's recession proof. Thanks for that, Obama. Not going to lie, that was one of the bonuses for me joining. It's a job that won't go away any time soon. However, I really don't think Perry was telling anybody to join the Marines. I think she was telling young women that they can rise above. Whatever they come across in life, they can become better because they have the power within themselves to do it. If anything, feminists should be applauding her move instead of making her a martyr.

So, to you, Naomi Wolf, I say Shame on you. Shame on you for using Katy Perry's video as a platform for your own bitterness. You made something beautiful and powerful into a joke. You could have taken this chance to align yourself with Perry as a role model for young women, but instead you made the efforts of women in the military over the past several years to become equal and noticed something to laugh about. Boycott her all you want, Naomi Wolf, Katy Perry is not going anywhere. Shame on you.

To watch the video, go here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spell Bound

Woot!
 
Just as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary magical powers as a demon, the Prodigium Council strips them away. Now Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn enemies—the Brannicks, a family of warrior women who hunt down the Prodigium. Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a surprising discovery. The Brannicks know an epic war is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one powerful enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t as confident.

Sophie’s bound for one hell of a ride—can she get her powers back before it’s too late?
(from Goodreads.com).
 
This is such a good series. Rachel Hawkins created not only a world but a culture of magic that was believable, fun, and entrancing. One of my favorite parts about this series, too, is the humor that goes along with it. You can tell that Hawkins doesn't take things too seriously and likes to have fun when she writes which makes it all the more enjoyable. Sometimes humorous writing is almost too light and there is not any depth, but Hawkins plays this balancing act really well. 
 
This final installment in the Hex Hall series (I'm assuming it's the final installment, but don't quote me on that) is decent. When compared to the other two it isn't so great. As far as plot goes it feels rushed and surface-level where the other two were a little more complex and exciting. I hate to say it but Hawkins dropped the ball. Somewhat. What it lacks in plot development it makes up for in funny quips from the characters. Those are always entertaining and it seems that both Sophie and Archer are extra funny in this book. All these plot points that she spends a long time building up end up being no big deal. It just seems very blase. Hello, they go to the Underworld aka Hell. Yeah, Sophie gets nervous. Yeah, she gets claustrophobic. Yeah they see some scary scenes. And that is it. The scene in the cellar where they discover what Lara is hiding is very noncommittal also. The discoveries, twists, and plot points in the story seem so casual and easily overcome that it's hard to take them seriously. All the buildup doesn't add up to what you get.
 
Before I get haters who absolutely adored this book and want to send me death threats for even considering negative things about it, I would like to add that I did not re-read the other two before I read this one. Some of my time was spent trying to recall what had happened. My opinion may change once I've read all of them at once. This is one series that I would re-read and that says a lot for it because I never re-read. I actually re-read Hex Hall but didn't have time to re-read Demon Glass. 
 
With that little addendum, I do have to add that the final installment should be able to stand by itself. It seems to be the ongoing trend that, in these trilogies, the last one always seems rushed and not quite as impacting as the beginning. The Hunger Games is a fantastic trilogy but Katniss' character is significantly weaker, more whiny, and passive in the final book. Breaking Dawn in Stephenie Meyers' Twilight series is a sad ending to a creative and beautiful love story. I was hoping Hawkins would break the mold but it seems she succumbed to the pressure and didn't really give it her all. 
 
My final point is about love triangles. If you're going to have a love triangle, carry it through. The love triangle between Sophie and Cal, and Sophie and Archer is good. Hawkins spent, from what I remember, a good bit of time getting the reader to like Cal in the second book and there was definite chemistry between the characters. The answer just seemed too simple and I wasn't a fan of the ending to that whole scenario. It just seemed like a copout. Read it and you will see what I'm talking about. If you disagree with me feel free to comment. If you agree, you can comment too. 
 
All in all, it is still a good series. I would recommend it for anyone wanting a light read and likes a good bit of magic in their books with a sense of intrigue.     

Friday, March 16, 2012

Hounded

Boo!
 
Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil
(from Amazon.com). 

I had bought this book on a whim. I'm fascinated by anything Irish, and it is definitely a weakness of mine if you couldn't tell. I loved the concept of this book. The idea is awesome. 
Kevin Hearne did not do well with this idea though. The writing is stifling and wordy. The dialogue doesn't flow naturally. Everyone talks like they're from the Iron Age. They are from the Iron Age, but I would think a smart Druid like Atticus O'Sullivan would have figured out the lingo. And if he could then I'm pretty sure the gods and goddesses he came across would too. It just felt immature and overwrought because of how much explaining he had to do. 
Atticus is supposed to be some hunk. I never really got that vibe. Hearne kept having to have Atticus tell me how much a sexy beast he was instead of showing me. And the only real way he showed me was by throwing Atticus into this random, casual sex relationship with Flidais, goddess of the hunt. I just think he could have had a lot more fun with this whole thing instead of feeling like he had to explain every little thing. 
The book is filled with Atticus meeting people. It gets annoying. One goddess leaves, another one comes in, she leaves and a witch comes. By the end I was exhausted because of the constant flow of the plot. There didn't seem to be any twists or excitement. Atticus was too good at what he did. He was too confident in his abilities too. A character that is much less learned or has some flaws is a lot more readable and accessible. 
His relationship with his dog, Oberon, is cool, but I could not stand Oberon. The damn mutt talked like a teenager. I'm sorry, but I don't think my dog wants to be Genghis Khan. There were a lot of things Oberon would say that were cheesy and they only made me think "Do dogs even know what that is?" I don't think dogs care enough to understand the details of our lives. I think they sense things differently and if they could talk it would be more sporadic and spontaneous, not full-on conversations that actually make sense. Oberon was my least favorite character and he was probably supposed to be the entertainment in the book. I am still unsure as to why he's there. 
The revelation about Granuaile comes too late in the story. Hey, I'm going to introduce this character near the end of the middle of the book then I'm going to have her plot suddenly become pertinent at the end even though it doesn't tie with anything else in the book. I wanted to scream. 
The only reason I didn't hate this book was because of the history of Ireland it provided. I could tell it was very well researched and I'm pretty sure I just don't fit the mold of who this book was written for: teenagers who love fantasy and like a good sword fight and no depth to their reading whatsoever. Atticus could be an interesting character. I might read the other two installments just to see if they get better. I did end up skimming at the end of this one which is never a good sign. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Four Years






Four years ago today my sister passed away. March 15, 2008 will forever be ingrained in my head as the worst day of my life. There is not a single day goes by that she does not pop up in my mind at least once. I see her in the face of her beautiful daughter and I am so grateful for the little piece of Brittany that was left behind. It's funny because I thought I was coping, and I thought I was doing better. I am. Doing better, that is. But it still hurts. And I can see the pain it has inflicted on my parents to lose a child. In the process of losing one child, however, they gained another with Gigi.

I look back on what has happened since then. Who I have become since that fateful day. I am a stronger person both physically and emotionally. I feel as though I have seen a glimmer of what hell is like, but I have been rising above it. I stand today as a testament that I have made it through. There will always be tough days. I miss my sister a lot. She was my ally in several ways I can't even begin to express. Funny that I did not realize that until she was gone.

A friend of mine told me today that she knew Brittany was proud of me. Not only did my friend have a feeling about it, but she felt as though someone had whispered it to her. My friend knew that my sister was proud of me and my choices and she loves me. That, above all today, has been the greatest gift ever. I know Brittany is watching over us and I consider her my guardian angel. I can feel her presence sometimes when I'm with Gigi or when I'm distraught or lonely. I know she's there reaching out for me to lift me up.

I know for a fact that Brittany is especially proud of my decision to join the Navy. She always admired the people in the armed forces, and it was she who really understood the power and the beauty of serving your country. I have only just begun to see it. So it is for her that I will go to basic in August. It is for her that I will serve my country. It is for her that I will become a United States Sailor with honor, courage, and commitment.

I love you, Brittany.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Wither

Woot! Woot!
 
By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children. 
 
When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape--before her time runs out?

Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?
(from Amazon.com)

What I've been finding in the YA fiction world is a lot of dystopian premises. And the thing about it is it seems the plots just get weirder and weirder. This one took me awhile before I finally picked it up mostly because I was uncertain about the plot. Was it enticing because of its weirdness? Yes. That's why I bought the book. But I wasn't sure. Mostly because the main plot of the whole thing included a polygamist marriage. Seems like people are obsessed with polygamists these days and I've not been able to hop on that bandwagon.

DeStefano's writing rings clear as a bell. It is often poetic and quite often very symbolic and rigorous. I grew attached to the characters immediately. Rhine is a reliable heroine who is smart and quick on her feet. She doesn't do anything that makes me want to reach through the pages and strangle her. One thing I was unsure of was the attraction between her and Gabriel, but there was enough chemistry there that I accepted it for what it was.

The premise is odd. Let's go back to that. The virus isn't explained, and kind of glossed over, but I'm actually glad she didn't get into too much detail. Her whole dystopian world is built around the idea that men only live until they are 25 and women only until they're 20. This makes 13 year old girls into women in their prime. I really think DeStefano captured the significance and the impact that this whole virus would have on society. It's quite a mental shift as you read her book, but I really liked it.

And the whole sister wives and polygamist thing. While it was off-setting at first, I found that I really liked it. It would make sense in the setting and in the world that DeStefano has created that men would marry multiple wives in order to continue their progeny. I think, however, what really did it for me was the relationship between the three girls. Rhine seems to be the glue that holds them all together. I never really cared for Cecily. Jenna is a remarkable character who sits in the background but is the backbone of the story. I loved the dynamic between them and also their relationship with Linden. It became fascinating to me to see how it all unfolded. It is summed up near the end in the best way: "Jenna was the disposable one. Cecily was the baby factory. And I was to be the apple of his eye."

I just read another review on this book and, while this review is pretty surface level, the reviewer did mention something I found interesting. Linden is an interesting character. At first he seems to be the bad guy although I never really sensed the hostility or antagonism from him that I got from Vaughn. Sure, he's rich and snobbish. He's also a fragile character and I'm not sure why he's so...soft, but I do like the dynamic between him and Rhine. There is chemistry between them and she fights it because he is the one she's supposed to hate. Really it makes for a great love story. So it makes me wonder if Rhine only hates him for what he represents (slavery) and loves Gabriel for what he represents (freedom) or if she does, in fact, love both of them in her own way.

This book has it all: romance, intrigue, action, people-killing virus, under-handed rich people, fantastic illusions, and beautiful writing. The subject matter is a little more mature so I wouldn't recommend it for younger readers who aren't able to understand/comprehend/deal with these things in a more serious fashion. 
 
 
 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rereading

I am not a rereader. A book has to be damn near exceptional for me to even consider rereading. To this date there are only a handful of books that fit that category. Off the top of my head I can think of a few: The Sword of Truth series, As I Lay Dying, Unearthly and Hallowed, The Hunger Games trio, Delirium, and Rachel Hawkins' Hex Hall trio.

Hawkins' final installment in her trilogy is coming out in March so I decided I would reread the first two books.

This time around was a whole new experience, and I'm actually becoming a fan of rereading. It's amazing how time and what you bring to the book can change your perception of the writing. Originally I had given Hex Hall a perfect 5 out of 5. I think it still ranks right up there, but I don't know if it was a perfect score. I still really enjoyed it and found myself remembering things I'd forgotten. The twist at the end didn't surprise me, of course, but this time I could see what Hawkins was doing to build up to it.

I still enjoyed the wit and humor all throughout it. Sophie is a really great character. Like I said in my original review of this book, she actually has a spine. And she's smart. She figures things out and takes action. And she's not whiny. Oh, how I love that she's not whiny and emotional.

I had said that Archer isn't that deep of a character. That was probably a little harsh. He isn't meant to be a deep character. Yet. Part of the draw Sophie sees in him is that he's a mystery. His relationship with Elodie is a mystery. His sometimes obvious/sometimes not so obvious interest in Sophie is a mystery. Everything about him is mysterious. It makes for a great beginning of a romance, but it does, admittedly, seem weird when Sophie admits she's in love with him. I guess I just wanted there to be more development with their relationship. 




So, from now on, I guess I won't be so adamant against rereading books. I'm a fan of seeing things from a different perspective. While I did skim a little because I knew what was coming, I still read just about every word. That, right there, is a sign of a great book.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Crypto Tech

I just realized that I hadn't made this announcement on my blog. It is a little bit old news now, but this seems to make it even more official.

I've joined the Navy. That's not the news. I got the job I wanted! There were some bumps in the road to get it, but I would go through it all again in a heartbeat. My new rating in the Navy is cryptologic technology technician (crypto tech or CTT for short). Let me explain how it happened.

My recruiter has been amazing and I owe him a lot for having my back. He called me up saying he had an information systems job I could take. I was iffy about it so I told him to give me some time. Even though he was reluctant to give it time because it wouldn't last very long, he let me think about it. I did some research on IT and saw that it is very translatable to civilian life and that it is just a really good job. However, I couldn't shake the feeling that it would be settling or that I wouldn't like it. But, I figured it was better than doing the rating I was in (to avoid conflict I will not tell what that rating was). So I decided I would call my recruiter in the morning and take the IT job if that was really my only option right now.

Well, I called him and told him just that. He laughed and said "You're a big pain in the butt, you know that?" Apparently I missed my shot for the IT rating. Truth be told I was relieved. It was more a mixture of relief and despair that I would be stuck in my original rating. Then he told me there was a CTT job opening leaving in April!

That next morning I went in to answer some questions about my background and then I signed a paper and we faxed it back in. Then it was the waiting game. We didn't wait long. They called my recruiter and said that it was a typo and the job wasn't leaving til August. They did not want to push my departure date back so it looked like we were back at square one.

Discouraged and saddened, I left the recruiter's office trying to think of the positives about my original rating because it looked like I was going to be in it no matter what. I worked out some of my anguish at Crossfit, even though deep down I felt like things were still going to work out. Whether that meant I was going to be in my original rating and find out that I loved it or I was going to get the job I wanted, I was not sure at the moment.

Once I left my Crossfit gym, I saw I missed a call from my recruiter. I didn't even listen to the voicemail, I just called him right back. He said "You've been selected for the CTT rating. You can either leave in April in your original rating or you can go in August in the CTT rating."

August? Six more months of waiting? A whole year after I swore in at MEPS?

I decided to go with the CTT rating despite the wait. Really, that's the only downer in this whole predicament. I got the job I wanted and it's going to rock!

So, my official departure date has changed from April 17 to August 9. More time to prepare, get in shape, spend time with family and friends before my life changes drastically for the better. It is amazing how little stress I feel lately. I didn't realize that my job change had stressed me out so much. My recruiter is trying to get my departure moved up, but it might not happen. I will keep ya'all posted!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hallowed

WOOT!

For months Clara Gardner trained to face the fire from her visions, but she wasn't prepared for the choice she had to make that day. And in the aftermath, she discovered that nothing about being part angel is as straightforward as she thought.

Now, torn between her love for Tucker and her complicated feelings about the roles she and Christian seem destined to play in a world that is both dangerous and beautiful, Clara struggles with a shocking revelation: Someone she loves will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.

In this compelling sequel to "Unearthly," Cynthia Hand captures the joy of first love, the anguish of loss, and the confusion of becoming who you are (from Goodreads.com).

I have been anticipating the release of the sequel to Unearthly ever since I finished the first one. If you know me, you know I raved about the first book for a long time. I absolutely loved it. It had drama, humor, angels, and romance. And Hand's writing is fantastic and compelling.

Hallowed is a good followup to its predecessor. The overall tone, however, is an impending doom and a little more melancholy than the first one. We find Clara a little more determined to decide her own fate, but I worry that she's becoming a victim. She still remains a very well-formed and developed character with loads more dimension than, say, Bella in Twilight but I wasn't as impressed with the Hallowed version of Clara. At first she is ready to bring the fight and not accept the vision, but I think she hesitates because of how badly it turned out the first time she went against her purpose.

There are some beautiful aspects to this book. The gathering is fascinating. The description of Clara's father is great. I love what Hand has done with the mythos of the angels. She has truly made it her own.

This book is also full of surprises. Hand proves that she is a master at the craft by revealing new information in just the right way and at the perfect moment.

Love triangles. Yuck. Clara even talks about how much she hates love triangles (and goes on to compare herself to Bella which I found funny because there is no comparison. Go Team Clara!) and I find that I agree with her, yet we're pushed into this love triangle story that only gets deeper and more involved. I don't think it's resolved yet. At least I hope it's not. The third book has a lot to answer for the way this one left off. However, I do have to say, usually there is one obvious better choice in a love triangle, but Hand has done a good job of making it seem like both would be a good choice. That makes the ultimate decision that much harder.

Finally a YA fiction series with smarts and good writing! I'm totally a fan. The only reason I only gave it one Woot! was because there was a little disappointment because it wasn't as big a page-turner as the first one. Is that unfair?