Sunday, 25 November 2012

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

*Thoughts on the movie trailers after the book review.
Published: December 2009
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Series: First book of the Caster Chronicles

                Ethan Wate has lived in the nearly non-existent town of Gatlin since he was born, just as his ancestors before him did. New and exciting are foreign concepts until Lena Duchannes (rhymes with rain) enrolls in the high school. She is beyond the cookie-cutter crowd of girls his age. She is a brunette with huge green eyes and wears whatever she likes, not what is in style, including a necklace with trinkets that most would call junk, and she reads poetry. Unfortunately, this means that everyone else hates her. Except Ethan. He has been dreaming of her, literally, before he even met her. They are linked.
                One day in English class she is the victim of her peers’ ridicule and suddenly the window behind them blows out into tiny fragments. From this point forward she is labeled a freak and a danger to the student body, but Ethan is not deterred. Mysteries begin to unfold, linking them together, spanning hundreds of years. Obviously, Lena and her family are beyond normal in a paranormal way. But, as it turns out, so is Ethan, in his own way.
Lena is counting down the days until her sixteenth birthday, when a monumental event will occur. She will be Claimed for either the Light or Dark. Basically, she will then be good or evil, and once you’re evil, you do horrendous things and are separated from your family to protect them. There is no choice in this. It is simply fate. There is no going back once you are Claimed. And to top it off, she has to deal with the ignorance of a community who do not accept strangers into their flock.         
And remember, witch is a stupid word. 

Narration/Male POV
                This book, beyond a doubt, has one of the best male, first person POVs that I have ever read. It’s so natural and non-alienating that girls can read it too. He’s sixteen, on the basketball team, tall, and is always hungry. He needs a haircut but he isn't too concerned about it. His mother died the year before and since then, his writer father has locked himself in his study, rarely emerging to shower or eat cereal. He isn’t angst ridden, though he does reminisce occasionally. Day after day he goes to school and deals with life, no matter how crazy.    

Love Story
                The love story is actually believable. They do not hang out for twenty minutes and decide that they must be soul mates. There is the supernatural element involved where they have been dreaming of each other, sharing dreams, and waking up covered in mud and bruises from the dream. They touch an artifact and they share visions of the past. Yet they do not immediately start gushing that they love each other. The supernatural elements aside, this one of the more realistic love stories that I’ve found in YA lit lately.  

                I am biased, but the librarian character is awesome. Chapter 10.13 is named for her: “Marian the Librarian”. She is educated, unique, and kind. Not a reclusive, dusty, shushing crone. Her quotes of famous people and works are some of my favourite moments in the book, and Uncle Macon does this too and it made me smile while I read. As a librarian is, she is the gateway to knowledge. She was also Ethan’s late mother’s best friend.  
“I’m just the librarian. I can only give you the books. I can’t give you the answers.”

The pacing is only a little wonky to me when they finally discover the story behind the locket and then it seems to be forgotten. The story moves on to the next thing to be figured out, but there is a gap where nothing much happens, aside from the social issues stuff with Lena and the school and some reading of an ancient text. It is interesting to read, but my thoughts are that this is the slow bit. Perhaps something else a tad more exciting on the magical mystery front could have been going on too? Or maybe…could some of the content have been cut?

The hardcopy edition that I read is 563 pages long. I enjoyed the ride, but having a massive book can be a double-edged sword. Some people LOVE lengthy books. Longer stories can make readers feel good about reading so much, etc. But it can also deter readers. I know when I picked it up, in my head I thought, Of course. I’m trying to get content out on a new blog and this book has to be nearly 600 pages long. This work was created from two creative minds, and it shows. Honestly, some of the explanations of Gatlin or Civil War history and customs seemed unnecessary. This book could have used some editing to make the writing tighter.  

This book is admittedly too big for a normal book club. However, it has a detailed and intricate paranormal story set in the contemporary South, and it sports a fantastically accessible male POV. It has the themes including mental illness, death, family, good and evil, pre-determined fate, and social issues. I resented any annoyance (i.e., life) that made me put it down. I highly recommend it for teens who are beyond the bland paranormal romances that have flooded the market. If they want more meat to their story, this will probably satisfy them.       



          I went to see Silent Hill: Revelations 3D in theatres and a trailer for the Beautiful Creatures film came on in the previews. At that moment I knew I had to read the book. Surprisingly, it was still at the library!



            Lena looks...ok. She doesn’t have that “I clearly don’t belong here” attire. She just looks...pale. But she smiles occasionally so at least she’s not trying to be Bella Swan.
          The Youtube videos have enough comments about Ripley no longer being blonde. Personally, I think it makes more sense to make the whole family brunettes. It gives Lena a visual family. They look like her. They are her kin. Ripley lacks the rocker look she had in the book, though she is still a femme fatal. I thought Ripley was an awesome and complex character in the book so I am looking forward to seeing what she does in the film.
          Ethan...poor Ethan. It looks like he’s being played by a 30-year-old. He’s supposed to be 16 and he needs a haircut. This guy...needs to date girls his own age. While the Youtube comments have declared him ugly (which I think is unfair), I think they should find actors that at least look the age they are supposed to be portraying.

          Macon looks pretty close to what I was imagining. For some reason I imagined him with a curled handlebar villain mustache for a while. I don't know why. He is wise yet unavailable. Around...yet absent. He might be evil...but Lena trusts him and loves him dearly. For his actor...he looks ok? 
          “Marian the Librarian” appears to be absent from the trailers!

          Looks like Amma takes over part of her role. I am disappoint.  

          Now might be a good time to remind people that when you take a book and make it into a movie, it is called adaption. Taking the story to a different media (book to movie) will make it different because the way we make movies and write stories, and what works in books and what works in movies, are different. Very different. To make these ventures successful ($$$) the movies adapt, which is defined as “to make suitable to requirements or conditions; adjust or modify fittingly”. Like it or not, films will change aspects of the books they are based on because the screen is different than the page. If you don’t like change, stay home.

Release Date
          Release date is scheduled for February 13 2013. Naturally, I’m already reserved to take some teenaged fans. I genuinely want to be blown away, so I can’t wait for February! Hopefully the world doesn't end.  

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Rootless by Chris Howard

Published: November 1st 2012
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Series: (Nothing released yet...)
Website: Author Website

                Banyan is young, but he is an exceptional tree builder. In this future, there are no trees. The trees he makes are made from scrap metal, and he specializes in seasons. The rich pay him to make metal forests rigged with LED lights. The only plant that still grows is corn. The world has become barren dirt. Locusts devour anything that is editable. People are snatched regularly on the roads. Like his dad. When people are taken, you assume that they have died. Or worse. It’s best not to think of them anymore.
                One day he meets a woman who has a tattoo of a tree of her body. Her daughter, Zee, has an old camera with picture…of his father, chained to a tree. Surrounded by a forest of trees. Believing that this place, The Promised Land where plants can still grow, has his father, he gathers a ragamuffin team to make the journey. But there are others who wish to exploit The Promised Land, and the journey is nothing close to uneventful, especially considering that it is impossible to trust everyone you meet.

                Excellent use of action and dialogue. None of the dialogue struck me as boring or unnecessary. When people were speaking, it was for a reason. Authors sometimes forget that dialogue should be the brightest green light to advance plot. When Rootless characters are speaking, they are not wasting pages speaking about the weather. Everything pertains to the plot.
                This book is about travelling from one place to another, essentially. Travelling in general is dangerous, so nothing goes according to plan. There are dust storms, the shortage of food, water, and gas, slavers, thieves, pirates, an evil corporation...and the odd people Banyan keeps picking up in his vehicle.  

The book is full of colourful characters. Too bad I found it difficult to connect to most of them during the first half of the book. Even Banyan was a difficult character for me to get into. It’s not as though the protagonist is a bad person and we’re not supposed to like him. We’re supposed to like him, yet I could not care about him too easily. That said, there is a whole stock of interesting characters. Zee, the child who wants to find the trees. Her mother, a strung-out addict who knows something about the trees, but cannot remember. Zee’s step brother, Sal. Frost, who is also after the trees. Crow, Frost’s body guard who is more than just a body guard. My favourite character by far was Alpha, followed by Lockjaw. They’re pirates. Mostly morally good pirates. You can’t go wrong with pirates.
I found that Howard uses the words “suck(s)” and “sucker” a lot, especially towards the end of the book. That really stood out to me and I found it annoying.

                I think this book would make an awesome film. Most of it is action. Stuff exploding. Shooting. I imagine the setting would be a barren wasteland similar to The Book of Eli. The characters and the metal trees would look fantastic visually.

                What this book does exceptionally well is reaching a wide audience. It sports a male protagonist that guys will love, but he’s not such a male as to alienate all female readers. It is dystopian post-apocalyptic science fiction. There is some blood and violence, but surprisingly, it is not too bad, considering where I’ve been finding guts and gore lately in YA literature. No sex, minimal love story, but there is one.    

                An excellent sci-fi book for boys or girls interested in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world with an active storyline that just keeps going. This is book one, so it is great for teens who want to get into a series. The whole book isn’t just a cloak to write a romance story. It would make a great book club title.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Wake by Amanda Hocking

The Watersong Tetralogy Reviews
Published: August 7th 2012
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Series: #1 Watersong (sequel, Lullaby coming November 27th 2012)
Website: Official Blog 

 Tourists flock to the ocean side town of Capri. This year, three drop-dead girls arrive. There used to be a fourth girl in their click. Now, they have their sights set on swim-star Gemma Fisher. There is something creepy about Penn, Lexi, and Thea, but when Gemma parties with them one night and wakes up on the rocks battered and ill, she knows that there is definitely something seriously wrong with them. And from that point on, she herself begins to change. She is an even better swimmer. She’s faster, stronger. And the water is calling out to her, to leave behind everything she’s ever known to become part of it...for a price.
The next book in the Watersong series is Lullaby, which will be released month. The book is on its way to me and I’ll be reviewing that shortly. I figured it would make sense to review the first one instead of diving into the second book.

            Mermaids are coming up big in YA lit right now. It’s an interest for me, so I’m not complaining. At least these lame vampires stories will finally go away. However, this story is simply not about just mermaids. Of course not. They’re sirens. The author uses Greek mythology as the explanation. They are not The Little Mermaid kind of mermaids. They’re the kind that lure males. The ones you’d actually find in mythology. So if you’re looking for a magical journey of seashell bras and talking fish, you’ll not find that here.

            Gemma gets a new summer romance that should make the teen readers go “aaawwwww!” and her older sister, Harper, gets a love life. So, romance. There’s one genre. There’s the paranormal element. All good. But then this book also has some darker moments. Passages describing rotting corpses. In detail. It’s romance and happy butterflies and rainbows, but then...some horror. Aside from the beginning where there are two girls with blood stains talking ominously, it had been a pretty standard, slice-of-life affair. In fact, it was a bit boring at times. The whole, there’s something paranormal about those three ridiculously pretty girls is laid on pretty thickly. It’s too obvious. It’s not scary at all. So I hesitate to let it fall in the horror genre, but the moments of bloated corpses lying around are jarring. Like the author couldn’t quite decide who she was trying to market the book to.

            I hate the name Gemma. It sounds like it’s short for something, but it isn’t. I know everyone is supposed to have interesting names. Gemma sounds like you’re talking with your mouth full. Harper points out that people can’t pick their birth names, and it’s not nice to make fun of people’s names. Which is true. So I’m just saying that out of all the “unusual” names out there, why Gemma? Harper is a cool name. Penn is great (reminds me of Jake’s original name from Adventure Time with Finn and Jake). Thea is a different name. Lexi is normal. Too normal. Alexia or the variants of it can be turned to Lexi. Not special at all. By the way, if your name is Gemma, sorry. I really am.
            The beginning is S L O W . Yet Gemma’s relationship with Alex feels rushed with me.
            Gemma isn’t the most convincing character. She’s flat. She starts finding scales that are obviously coming off herself and she doesn’t freak out. Unbelievable. She’s also majorly level headed about everything. Yet she decides to get life-altering advice from her mentally ill mother. Right.

The Good
            While Gemma was boring, Harper is a much more detailed character. Their father works long hours to support the family, her mother is mentally unstable, and Harper has to step into the mother role. Some might find her overbearing. And yes, in reality she would be. I found her to be realistic. She’s trying to keep everyone safe and everything in order so much she has not really been living life. I found her eventual love interest to be more believable than her sister’s. I have to wonder how the sister got more detail than the protagonist, though.
            Also, the hardcover’s dust jacket has a cool image of a girl underwater reaching for a boy. I lent this book to a teen and she pointed it out to me. I would have never noticed! The cover is beautiful too. 

           Great for teens who are into paranormal romances. I’d recommend it to girls who have exhausted the vampire genre and are seeking to move on. My sister, who is nearly 13, loved it. I don’t recommend this for boys. There will be boys who will love it, of course. But for the average male teen, I don’t see the appeal for them. It’s very girl central. However, Daniel is my favourite character. Alex is actually an awesome, geeky guy. The father is typical. But the story is centered on Gemma and the three girls, with Harper on the side. Writing-wise, this book isn’t the greatest penned work of all time. But it delivers a story and it gives you some entertainment. The beginning is slow, but if you can get over that hurdle there are bits of gold in here.

Monday, 12 November 2012

After Obsession by Carrie Jones and Steven E. Wedel

Cover of Awesome.

Published: 2011 (2012 Paperback) 
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Websites: Carrie Jones
Steven E. Wedel

            After Obsession is about Alan and Amiee, two teens who have mysterious gifts bestowed to them from their absent parents. Courtney, Alan’s cousin and Amiee’s best friend, has lost her father to the ocean. A sinister presence begins to linger and bestows the town with violence and hate. Courtney begins to change. She becomes mean. Everyone around them begins to fight and argue. Amiee knows this evil. She lost her mother to the river. It is The River Man. Alan has just arrived, but being half Navajo, he has studied and is attuned to things beyond the rest of the town. Together, they have to save Courtney and town from something that has existed for hundreds of years.  

           My first post to this blog will be a review for the paperback edition of After Obsession by Carrie Jones and Steven E. Wedel. This was published in 2011 but the paperback was released just this month, making it kinda sorta new. I know, it’s not really new. It’s the newest thing on my shelf until I can get to the library. And I love Carrie Jones to no end. She and Wedel co-authored this book together with fantastic results. I’ve never read anything by Wedel at this point, and After Obsession is his debut into the YA world.
I’ve read some possession stories and watched a LOT of possession movies. You would think that this topic has been done to death, but the authors make it their own. What I love the most is that it stays away from the typical God and the Devil Catholic route. Alan is half Navajo and he uses the rituals from that culture to banish the evil. Yet the book does not absolutely say that the Navajo beliefs are the only true beliefs. I got the feeling that the universe is probably multifaceted with many names for everything. This aspect kept the possession angle fresh without defining exactly how the universe is run.

Appeals To
This book even appeals to boys. It has the scary and suspenseful moments. The book alternates in POV from Alan and Amiee, and Alan is a believable male teenager. He wears a lot of black, has long hair, is an athlete, and is finding his own spiritual way. He doubts himself, though he always tries to fix what is wrong. He doesn’t want to cuss out his mother, he doesn’t want to start fights in high school. But he also knows that he has to stand up for himself. He isn’t an angel, but he tries to be good. These are issues that most boys face.  

I did dislike the way that Blake and Amiee break up and Amiee dates Alan about a day or so later. They start doing the whole “OMG I LUV VU” thing a few days after that. Yes, that’s what some teens do, but we are meant to believe that this love is very real. As an adult, I am filled with doubt. Relationships that occur consecutively after a breakup are usually...not forever. In reality, yes, they sometimes work. For teens, not so much. It breaks my suspension of disbelief.    
And I hate the name Courtney. 
"...That's your name."
I know. 

I read on the internet that this book was supposed to be titled Ghost Sickness at some point. I think it’s more appropriate, or maybe River Man would have been better, with some kind of spooky noun or verb in there. The cover is absolutely stunning though. We do judge books by their cover, and this one does not disappoint. 

This is a wonderful book for boys or girls who like a scary story. There is some romance, as it is obvious that the two protagonists will end up with each other. Perfect for teen book clubs with both boys and girls. Not too much blood or gore, no melodramatic moments that aren’t tongue-in-cheek. Mention of sex, but no sex at all. As long as they are willing to get into a horror story, I highly recommend this.