Book Review – Geektastic by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd
Edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci
Hardback
2009

What happens when you put two nerds in a food line at Comic-Con? They start to talk about what would happen if “you were a Jedi and you woke up with a Klingon in your bed?”
So they pulled together their friends (hello, their friends include people like Scott Westerfield and Garth Nix), and did an anthology of geektastic stories.

The format is pretty simple; after the prologue, there’s a format of story followed by one page comic, then story, one page comic, etc.

And right away, in the very first story, we have the best line ever written, (even though it’s by a Klingon):
No. I couldn’t have. Not with an Ewok-cuddling, Force-feeling, Padawan-braid-wearing, lightsaber-rammed-up-his-ass Jedi.

And because no line could ever be that awesome… every story I read had a line that great.

So, I was going to tell something about all the stories, but I noticed something as I read the book. After a while I sort of didn’t care about the stories themselves, but I just was happy that there was a collection of stories about people who could very well be my friends…

Yes, some stories were better than others – I particularly liked Once You’re a Jedi, You’re a Jedi All the Way, by Black and Castellucci and Quiz Bowl Antichrist by David Levithan were really good, but Definitional Chaos by Scott Westerfield just left me with a headache and a couple others fell a little flat. And the comics weren’t exactly breathtaking, although they were cute.

But the thing is that even though I’d give most stories 3/5 ratings, the overall of the book left me with an overwhelming warm and happy feeling – like the kind you get when you get a new video game or the leather-bound copy of the Hobbit or a new Avengers movie is announced.

And for that, I’ll give it a 4/5 pages.

Book Review – Alice in the Country of Clover: Ace of Hearts

Title: Alice in the Country of Clover: Ace of Hearts

Author: Quin Rose

Illustrator: Mamenosuke Fujimaru

Format: Paperback

Written/Published: 2012

 

Being a bit of an Alice addict I decided to go in for another Country of Clover book and I am beginning to question this series as a whole.  I certainly liked the Country of Hearts series and I thought it would be fun to see Alice with some of my chosen favorite characters but now I’m not so sure.   Bloody Twins the first of the collection I read I enjoyed and yet gave it a not too strong of a rating and it seems like the rest of the books have fallen in comparison.  I was excited to read Ace of Hearts because after Boris Ace was my next favorite.

 

On the whole I found the book the be amusing and I was ready to give it a good rating based on the amusement I was getting from the beginning of the story particularly when all curse words were bleeped out and I mean quite literally – “That *Bleep*ing furball got away again” I laughed out loud at these instances cause it was funny even if I prefer a writer to just go ahead and use the language if it is to be used.  Yet the amusement could not continue sadly and the book had to go from fun and entertaining to very frustrating and annoying in 2.5 seconds.  It took one small scene at the near end to ruin the book entirely.  We had a happy moment where Alice is with Ace and she’s confessed to her love and they are just talking about it and it gets a little romantic and sensual all at once and then as they are talking you suddenly realize that Ace is starting to choke her remarking on how amazing it is how her heart suddenly races when nervous or scared.  He then probes her about how much she loves him as he tightens his grip around her neck, she accepts his trying to kill her and asks him to make it quick he backs off and says that he would never kill her and she ends up wondering why he backed off and sticks with him and then later claiming that she loves him despite how ‘dangerous’ he can be. WTF!?

 

I have been making this complaint recently to my friends but what is up with the objectifying of women.  I know it happens but it seems lately that I’ve been seeing a lot of it and to be honest it is rubbing me in a very wrong way.  I am by no means a feminist but I respect myself as a woman and I believe in women being strong and beautiful and yet this sort of crap keeps getting thrown in my face and I can’t stand it!  It is WRONG and giving people a bad idea of what relationships are about!  What really grates me is that this book is geared toward young adults, particularly young adult girls!  They are already struggling with understanding relationships and having self-respect they don’t need a book giving them the wrong message!  GRR!  Okay I will stop my ranting now and leave this book at a 1 page review… it would be less than one page if I could give it that.  We’ll say I’ll give the 1 page for the decent stuff at the start but it isn’t worth picking up garbage just for that so I say avoid this book entirely.

Murder on the Orient Express

Book: Murder on the Orient Express

Author: Agatha Christie

Format: Hardback

Published: 1934

On a cold winter’s night, the Orient Express comes to a halt, the train tracks covered in snow. By morning all seems well…until a body is discovered in a locked room. 12 suspects, all with alibis, all without motive, and all save one without so much as a connection to the victim. Even Hercule Poirot, the great French detective, will have his work cut out on this case.

I honestly should not have liked this book as much as I did. Perhaps it was because I was hearing David Suchet’s (who played Poirot in the movies) voice in my head. Perhaps it was the fun I was having with the varying accents (once again in my head). I have no idea. All I know is that I was unable to put this book down. I found the plot very intriguing, and loved all the twists and turns, and was overall well written. I only have two caveats, though for some they may be enough to deter. First, there were a fair number of phrases spoken in French, without translation (though it was easy enough to get the gist of what the characters were saying.) Second, while the plot is interesting, a lot of the story gets repetitious. The inspectors interview the suspects, get all the stories, they discuss all the stories that you have already read through, and then you get to hear the theories all played out…all while they are sitting in the dining room. As I said, I have no idea why I was unable to put this down, as the repetition should have been enough to drive my inner ADD squirrel crazy, and yet did not.

Overall, I give this book a 4. If you can get past the long repetitive scenes, it really is worth it, if for nothing else than the incredibly brilliant twist at the end.

Interview – Pavarti K. Tyler

TOUR BUTTON - WHITE CHALK

Let’s start with the basics.  Who are you?

Pavarti K. Tyler: entrepreneur, author, mother, trouble-maker, pervert and general rabble rouser.

 

…and a bit about what you’ve written…

My current novel is White Chalk.  It’s an insight into the twisted reality of far too many American girls.  I deal with issues of sexuality, power, the economy and various kinds of abuse.  It’s not a book for the faight of heart, but it’s one I believe in.  Chelle is the main character and I think most of us know someone like her or someone who could have been her at some point in our lives.

 

…and what you’re working on right now.

I just sent the final draft of my next project to my editor!  It’s called Sugar & Salt and is about a woman who owns a brothel and falls in love, while at speed dating!

 

What are your earliest book-related memories?

My father used to read to me every night.  Pinoccio.

What are your three favorite books?

That’s just a mean question.  Hmmmm.  The Clan of the Cave Bear books (I read them over and over.  The DUNE series and probably Stranger in a Strange Land, the uncut edition.

How many books to do you read at any given time?  What are you reading now?

Right now I’m reading Necropolis Now by Vincenzo Bilof and BETA reading a friend’s newest novel.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___

Stay there until I finish it.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.

I love to re-read but there are so many great books out there I don’t have the time to do that like I used to.  My To Be Read pile takes up two bookshelves!

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?

Quite likely, especially if it’s on the advice of someone whose writing I respect.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?

I do it all the time.  Check out my blog.  I try to review a book once a week when I can and when I love something I try to tell everyone.  I LOVE talking about books.  I only wish more people read the ones I do!  Check out The Silver Series by Keira Michelle Telford, The Habitat Series by Kenya Wright, Nira/Sussa by Julian Darius, I could go on forever.

What do you look for in a good book?

I am always looking for something to make me think.  A social statement, a scientific discovery, a moral dilemma.  I love books with some meat on their bones.

Why do you write?

Why do you breathe?  I don’t know how not to.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?

Well, I’m not just a writer.  I’m a mom, an accountant, a wife, an artist, a knitter, a daughter, a friend, a pervert.  If I wasn’t a writer I’m sure 5 or 6 other things would fill the void, but I’d be less happy!

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Everything.  The world around me is filled with people whose stories need to be told.  I’m just one person, but this is my tiny contribution to saving the world and the people in it.  If I can make you think, make you look at the world around you through another persons lens, even for just a moment, I consider that success.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?

Depends on who you ask.  My family is proud of me and happy to see me doing what I love.  My husband is beyond amazing.  Everyday he comes home and asks me “What did you write today?”

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?

To self-publish or not to self-publish.  The stigma of self-publishing still exists, but the tremendous success of authors like Amanda Hawking, Hugh Howey and Bella Andre make it impossible to ignore as a legitimate option.  It’s not easy, but neither is querying agents.

How do you deal with your fan base?

Well, I don’t think I have a fan base.  I have readers, followers, friends.  I wouldn’t think of them as fans.  Sounds too… I don’t know… commercial?  As for how I deal with them?  I love them!

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.

I’m actually a drag queen trapped in a house wife’s body.  No, I don’t think that’d be much of a surprise to ya’ll 🙂

Book Review – Crossroads of Twilight By Robert Jordan

Title: Crossroads of Twilight
Author: 
Robert Jordan
Format: 
Paperback
Written & 
Published: 2003

If you’re still reading the Wheel of Time by book 10 in the series, then you deserve a commendation medal for perseverance. Or you’re a masochist. Perhaps, like me, you’re just a fool who is willing to throw perfectly good hours at a painful project, hoping desperately that it will pay off in the end.

Without wanting to go too deeply into spoiler land – a remarkably hard thing at this point in the series – something significant actually happened at the end of book 9. I was elated, and considerably relieved, that the series finally seemed to be going somewhere again. Then along came book 10. My elation and relief promptly left in disgust.

My copy of the book is the large, trade paperback size. The prologue begins on page 15. It is page 540 before the main character appears. For a novel that ‘only’ has 680 pages, I consider this impressive.

Obviously, there is a lot that happens in 500+ pages. There was, um… Well, let’s see. Perrin bought some grain. Ooh, grain! There were also beans. Thrilling. I’m sure 20 pages were dedicated to descriptions of the gilding and carvings on various pieces of furniture. We probably lost another 15 pages to pouring tea into Sea Folk porcelain. There were the obligatory pages describing the dress worn by each woman, and far too many observations about breast sizes that we have already observed in previous books. Setting the scene is important, but the limits are stretched beyond reason.

The main thrust of this novel was making sure nearly every character we have ever been introduced to got their chance to react to the main event at the end of book 9. Any character who was at risk of doing something about it was glossed over; why would readers want an action scene instead of a laborious conversation between characters?

A standard piece of wisdom for the writing community is “show, don’t tell”. This relates to the tendency to say “Elayne felt angry” rather than demonstrating Elayne’s anger. This piece of advice has been enthusiastically ignored in this book, replaced with “show and tell”. It’s an utter bonus for readers who are tuning out of the story, because you can skim the three paragraphs that describe the emotional reaction and skip straight to the summarising statements. Perhaps future copies of the book could highlight these sentences to save readers time and effort.

In the interests of being fair to the book, I do have to concede that something significant happens in it. Of course, to be fair to people considering reading it, I feel obliged to point out that the significant event takes place over the last 3 pages. The significance of it might be lost in the vague storytelling that supports the chapter, especially for readers who skimmed over an incredibly dull passage several chapters earlier. But don’t worry if you miss the point – it is explained in detail in book 11.

Following the decline of the series to this point, I give this book 1 out of 5 pages. It is too large and sprawling to include a clear story arc, and I consider a cohesive plot to be essential to any novel. Especially painful is the knowledge that other books in the series are substantially better, and that the problems here are not the result of an inexperienced author.

Book Review – The Southern Chapter of the Big Girl Panties Club by Lynda Stephenson

The Southern Chapter of the Big Girl Panties Club
A Frankilee Baxter Story
Lynda Stephenson
Paperback
2013

Okay. Reviewer Bloggers like myself have several options to obtain books, and this came from one of those. I requested it, because I thought it sounded really interesting. From the back cover:
The year is 1958 and the schools in the south are reeling against the 1954 decision of Brown V. Board of Education. In the beginning Frankilee Baxter, a freshman at Athena College, is not concerned with racial issues. Instead, she is determined to improve her looks, pledge a sorority, find a steady boyfriend, and make her name as a journalist at the college newspaper…
I’ll spare you the rest of the back cover. In other words, the world is changing and Frankilee just wants to be a regular gal until she finds herself in the thick of things. I expected a bit of southern chick lit, one of those happy-go books that you read with a cup of tea (even though I don’t drink tea).
By the second page, I was so over the southernisms that I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be ill or throw the book across the room. They were so obnoxiously over the top that I actually flipped to the author bio to see if she was making this shit up or if she thought she lived it. And I was seriously surprised to see that it was an older woman who had spent her life in Texas and Oklahoma. Because for every cottin’ pickin’ Mercy Maude still butterin’ a biscuit, I groaned a little louder. (For the record, I just flipped to a random page and all three of those were on the same page…)
The book progressed, and nothing really happened. There was one hazing incident where Frankilee’s beanie is stolen (be still my heart!), a dance, and of course pledge week. We meet her roommates, and we hear that one of them *gasp* swears because she says FRACK. Maybe Texas in 1958 was different, but where I grew up, frack would have been a totally acceptable word because it’s meaningless. Oh, and as a cuss word, it’s kinda nothing. Nevermind that Frankilee says several low-grade words of her own all the time. And if the suitemate is really saying something other than frack, well, the author is pretty much doing all she can to make her MC sound like the stupid, frail, southern thing that everyone pictures in steryotype.
The biggest thing that happens in 80 pages is that Frankilee’s roommate Pickles (*ahem*) doesn’t make a sorority and Frankilee goes to the Dean to complain. Wait, what? Just… *facepalm*
The leap to start the Big Girls Panty Club (BGPC) is a shallow, stupid moment, of not getting into a sorority and the dean getting all up in Frankilee’s face because she said “hell” in her office. It was at this point that I wanted to slam my head against the wall a few times.

So… I wrote the review somewhere around chapter 8, because I was at the point where, honestly, I was so put off by the main character that I didn’t care about her story at all.
The sentences are technically perfect. But the writing feels like a young adult book circa the early 80s where young adult just meant that the characters were older than 10, not the adult series that it’s supposed to be a part of (this is apparently book two, according to the author bio). I forced myself to get as far as I did, and yeah, I could force myself further, but I have absolutely no desire to do so.
In the end, I only give the book a 2.
And I know somebody’s going to say “but you didn’t even finish it!” which is true. And had the subject matter not engaged me, that would have been one thing. But since the author’s style was what disappointed me in the story, I think that deserves a rating. I think this book had potential, but since stuff that was presented as no big deal was the catalyst for the next 300-ish pages, well, that’s a bit telling, don’t you think?
In the end: the book is technically written well, but that’s the only thing going for it. If you have it laying around and it’s a rainy day, read a chapter or two for mindless entertainment, but I’m pretty sure you won’t be upset if you never finish it. I’ve had the book sitting *in* my bed for two weeks now that I haven’t had any urge to read further.

Book Review – Vampire Knight Vol 2 by Matsuri Hino

Title: Vampire Knight vol 2

Author/Illustrator:  Matsuri Hino

Format: Paperback

Written: 2005

Published: 2005

Translated: 2006

After I had read the first Vampire Knight book, I was less than enthused as I was driven mad by the repeating story line, but if you had read that review you may recall that I mentioned how the story seemed to possibly get interesting when a character was suddenly revealed as a Vampire.  I decided after a while that I would give the second book a whirl, and I’m glad I did!  There was only one story re-cap at the start of the book, each mini volume in the book just continued the story where it left off.

Now if you wish to remain spoiler free from the big reveal at the end of book one, I suggest you go ahead and skip to the last paragraph to get my rating because I am going to name who was revealed to be a vampire here as I recap the story.  After discovering that Zero was a vampire, Yuki tries to bring things back to normal between her and her friend, and yet it seems like that is not possible as they are faced with an E class Vampire who has met their end, having gone crazy with blood lust, a direction that all human turned vampires go.  This is a direction that Zero will eventually go based on this information, as he is a human turned vampire.  This adds a new level of intrigue to the story and helps to explain why at the end of volume one Zero wants Yuki to kill him if he goes too far.

Yet, this discovery is only a third of the story as we learn that Zero is a vampire hunter as well and is now being sought after by his former master, who wishes to kill him!  This is a ‘yikes’ moment, particularly when it is complicated with the fact that zero is not handling the blood tablets well.  Yuki then fights for Zero’s life and offers up her blood to him which is a forbidden act but the only way for Zero to continue and survive. I admit I love a good plot twist and this is a fun one for certain.  In addition to all this, there is a reference by Kaname, head Vampire of the night class, that Yuki is his girl.  Not only does Kaname call Yuki his but that he should be ripping Zero to shreds for drinking her blood, and he isn’t simply so he doesn’t lose Yuki.  Can we call this a future plot point and twist?  Yes we can, and I’m looking forward to it!

Over all, I’m glad I stuck it out with the second Vampire Knight manga because I may have finally found a series that caters to my style and is something I will enjoy. So if you can get over the boring first book, or have no problem skipping it, volume 2 is very much worth your time and I would have to give this one a 4 out of 5 pages which is a rating I seem to rarely give for a manga!

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: