Thursday, April 24, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Death of an Actor

This is a poem I wrote for my creative writing class in undergrad, so I was about 18 or 19...

Death of an Actor

I lay in my childhood bed in peaceful slumber.
I dream,
The curtains move along their chains.
The bright stage lights warm my skin.
Act well your part
for there all the honor lies.
I feel the applause wash over me.
The end comes
with surprising ease and excitement.
With surprising ease and excitement,
the end comes.
I feel the applause wash over me
for there all the honor lies.
Act well your part.
The bright stage lights warm my skin.
The curtains move along their chains.
I dream,
I lay in my childhood bed in peaceful slumber. 

All the world’s a stage

in life and in death.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski Review

“A rich emotion played across his features, offered itself, and asked to be called by its name.
Hope.” – The Winner’s Curse

My Synopsis: This is a star crossed lovers story. Kestrel’s father is a famous, big shot general in the conquering country, Valoria, where war and honor are everything. Arin, now a slave, was a citizen of Herran before the Valorians invaded and presented its people with the choice of death or becoming slaves. Volorian tradition requires all women by the age of 20 to either join the military or marry. At 17, Kestrel is too independent for marriage and wants no part of the military. She’d rather just play the piano which is very taboo because music was something the Herrian people valued. Although Kestrel personally loathes the idea owning another person, on an impulse she can not really explain she ends up purchasing Arin at an auction on the streets of Herran. Arin hates all Valorians on principle, but the General is literally from his nightmares, so his distaste for Kestrel is particularly potent. That is until they actually get to know each other of course. =) But Arin isn’t just any slave…

                I really, really, REALLY liked this book. I had a very odd reaction at the end of the book. When I sat there and was reflecting on the story, I couldn’t think of any part that just really stood out to me. While a lot of things happened in the book, a lot seemed to happen off stage. After a lot of thinking, I figured it out. There is action in this book, plenty, but the thing is when there was action the scene wasn’t about the action. It was about the betrayal or the honor or the love, etc. It was about the people and their emotions no matter what the action level was, which brings me to what I loved about this book.

                I LOVED these characters. I loved the romance. Now the romance was predictable BUT it was real. It was not insta-love, but hard-won love.  And not just won from the other person, but winning the battle against themselves to love the other. The characters were incredibly well developed. They existed outside of the story. There were characteristics of the characters that played no role in the story other than being part of the character, and I liked that. It was real. Honestly, the book was all around good, but the characters are what sold me. The story could have been horrible (it wasn’t though) and I would still pick up the next book just so I could spend more time with Kestrel and Aron. It is just amazing how you can see so clearly their hearts, their minds, who they are that you are sitting there reading and not knowing who the heck you are rooting for. Even when you pick a country (Herran or Valoria), you hate the idea of that side winning because of how it effects the other person! This book really exemplifies why I could never be in the military. While there may be a truly evil person on the other side, 90% of the soldiers on the ground are really just fighting for what they believe in whether you or I personally believe it is right or not, and they all have families at home praying to whichever god they believe will answer for their safe return.  I understand war can sometimes be necessary. I think it was necessary in this book, but you get to feel that conflict because you have 2 characters in the exact same position on opposite sides of a war, both of whom you fall in love with.

                Quickly on the writing, I loved it. I thought the display of emotions was beautiful. The way the characters would sometimes, often really, refuse to recognize or name an emotion because they wanted to ignore it was real and poetic. Like I said before the romance was pretty predictable, but despite the fact I knew what the characters really felt for each other, some of my favorite moments were the moments when the characters were shocked by the realization of their feelings. The scenes were written as if the character’s stream of thought was a street and the realization an unseen pot hole. They just stumbled into the realization suddenly and unexpectedly. I could almost hear the characters gasp when it hit them. It was just written perfectly, very real. 4, nearly 5, stars.

Can NOT wait until the next book. I'm pretty sure it is going to be even better. =)

Video review coming soon...

Monday, April 21, 2014

Rebel Belle By Rachel Hawkins Review

“If by ‘graciously volunteered,’ you mean ‘was threatened and coerced,’ then yes, I did.” – Rebel Belle

My Synopsis: Cheerleader, president of everything, Homecoming Queen, and true southern belle Harper Price is suddenly a magically super warrior with a sworn obligation to protect none other than her high school enemy and rival, David Stark. Neither wants the roles they have been dealt, but neither can walk away. Because of destiny, a word both begin to hate, or because of emerging feeling about each other, only time will tell. Until then craziness, cotillion, prophecy research, and history teachers wielding swords create a hilarious, yet surprisingly relatable story ensue.

                Most of my complaints about this book are personal pet peeves. First, I hate the valley girl, Patty Simcox, ‘like,’ ‘you know’, ‘ew!’ voice. It is a personal thing because I was that girl in high school. Cheerleader, student body president, homecoming court etc. and I get unreasonably insulted when fictional characters in similar positions have this stereotypical tone. However, this became less of a thing as the book went on and came to a more realistic and true to character level. My only complaint that others may agree is that Harper jumped to “I must have superpowers” a little quick to me. It happens in a lot of books where characters jump to the needed conclusions a lot faster than any reasonable person would in real life. Not that I think that Harper reacted necessarily inappropriately when she came to the conclusion, she just stopped looking for other more reasonable or does not defy laws of physics etc. explanations for what happened. Further, I though David’s reaction to every discovery was very realistic.

                But those are all my complaints. I really liked this book. I usually go for darker fiction, but this book is a great light version of the books I usually read. To be clear, it was not overly light. It was more than just fluff and rainbows. It definitely has some sad, serious stuff, but everything is dabbed with humor which honestly is probably how a lot of people would react to sad, serious stuff in their lives, and definitely how a lot of people would respond to this kind of craziness in their life.

                As I said earlier, I was basically Harper when I was in school, so I can say that I really think (after the valley girl-ish beginning) she was very real and spot on. I found her very relatable. A lot of the choices she made, I thought were spot on for what a real teenage girl in that situation would make. In books, the main character, while usually flawed in some way, is usually very honorable and selfless.  Ex. Katniss, Tris, etc. One of my favorite things was that Hawkins wasn’t afraid to let Harper be a little selfish and spoiled. She wants her own life and not to give it up for someone else. That is true for any real teenager, particularly that girl, president of everything etc.

                The ending. I obviously do not want to spoil anything, but let’s just say a new player gets added to David and Harper’s team that I think is going to add a very interesting dynamic in the next book. Also, the closing scene and line, I thought, were perfect. Everything in this story was wrapped up, but the next story in the series was prompted, and I want it NOW.  Please and thank you. =)

Video review coming soon...

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Searching for Sky by Jillian Cantor Review

“I think about the island, and I wonder if it’s possible, if you can ever really go back to a place you’ve left behind.” – Searching for Sky

My Synopsis: This book is basically part II of all the Blue Lagoon movies, but with a slight twist. Sky has lived on Island for as long as she can remember. It was just her, her mother, River, and Helmet, but it has just been her and River for the last year. Each has their own jobs and enjoys their lives. To Sky, her and River, Falls and Shelter, Rocks and Fishing Cove, Island is all there is. Until a boat comes. Sky and River are separated, and Sky must learn the truth of her past and learn to deal with her present in a world much bigger than the only universe she’s ever known.

                First, I gave this book, a contemporary 5 stars. It is a story I have been wanting to read or watch since I first saw the first Blue Lagoon movie. And Jillian Cantor did not just give you what you wanted to hear. She told a real and honest story. She was not afraid to make you mad or make you cry. I mean I LOVED this book…until the last page which thoroughly confused the heck out of me. It had me wondering if there was supposed to be a sequel. (Not that I would mind a sequel. Would actually welcome one greatly.) It wasn’t so much a cliff hanger as it was the start of another story. More accurately it was either the start to another story or a poorly executed metaphor for hope.

NOT ragging on Cantor writing. I loved it. First, read the above quote. Very pretty, but realistic, not flowery language. Further, I loved seeing how Sky’s voice changed as she learned about our world. Even better was how Sky’s voice stayed the same despite what she learned. Just if the last page was suppose to be symbolic or some sort of metaphor… it did not come across clearly. So was it symbolic or literal? I would really like to ask the author… I have chosen to simply ignore the existence of the last page because unless it is literal and there will be a sequel, it really does not affect the story, so… 5 stars! =)

The best part of the book was Sky’s relateblity or realness. You can feel Sky’s frustration, and as Sky was yelling at the people around her, whether in her head or out loud, I was yelling right alongside her. I was so frustrated with everyone! I began to agree with her that everyone here in society was cold and a skeleton. You really saw the world through her eyes. What would you think of stairs if you had never seen any? What would you call a car if no one told you its name?

Warning: You will cry. Cantor is not scared to rip your heart out or make you scream at people’s stupidity. And she does it well because you will fall helplessly in love with every one of her characters even when they are being idiots.

This book has not yet been released. I received an ebook ARC from netgalley. Searching for Sky will be released May 13, 2014. I will post a video review closer to release.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Throwback Thursday: What is normal?

I wrote this back in 2006, so I was 15... I think it was for an English class. I don't really remember all the details, but I enjoyed the topic. =)

What is Normal?

As children we aspire to stand out, but as teenagers we beg to blend in. We plead to be considered “normal” by mediocre standers. One question must be asked. What is “normal”?
            It is a mocking reality that we at tender ages could see what we are now blinded to. A kindergartener always has Mommy put her pretty picture on the refrigerator, but a teen plays dumb just so they won’t be labeled a “nerd”. It is as if we are born wise but allow ourselves to regress due to society’s stupidity.
            The wisdom from our childhood permitted us, consciously or not, to comprehend the complexity of normal through na├»ve eyes. As time passed, we learned the dictionary definition of normal and even allowed ourselves to put characteristics to it, but we let ourselves lose our innate insight in this intricate quality. What we perceived then that we are now ignorant to is that normal does not exist.
            We all can define it. We each can paint a picture of it. The question, though, is how many of these portraits will even resemble another. Since we all have unique images of what normal is, then whose is correct? Which normal is normal?
            Back when I was not much more than a rug rat like my favorite cartoon characters, when my gentle eyes were still glazed with innocence, I wanted red hair, auburn or strawberry blond to be exact. I wanted blue eyes, bright blue eyes the color of the sky. I wanted to be left handed. I wanted to be different.
            I blinked. Now I’m nineteen years old. My hair is now blonder not redder. My eyes are standard hazel. I’m still a righty. Even though I am fortunate enough not to have completely lost my immature views on things such as normal, I find myself conforming. I fight it. Normality can be viewed as a big black hole, not even light can escape it. You will lose yourself in it.
            We must regress in age to enhance in insight. Now look upon this mere utterance and see what is not there. Normal may be me, it may be you. It is an essence labeled by ones imagination.
            Normal can be defined as a setting on a washing machine or, as it is in Webster’s dictionary, conforming to the usual standard, type, or custom. Since every individual holds their own characterization of normal, giving it no standard, normal is ironically so very not normal.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira Review

“I mean, words can’t be good enough for a lot of things. But, you know, I guess we have to try.”  – Love Letters to the Dead

My Synopsis: Laurel lost her sister a few months ago and is now starting high school. A different high school than the one her sister went to because she doesn’t want people to know, doesn’t want them to ask questions because there are secrets that Laurel just can’t say aloud. Then Laurel’s English teacher gives her the assignment to write a letter to a dead person. Laurel writes to Kurt Cobain because her sister loved him, but she doesn’t turn it in. Instead, she continues to write to a whole cast of characters that died too soon. Through these letters (and with the help of some awesome friends with struggles of their own) Laurel tells her story and discovers life, love, and herself.

                        First let me say that I find that I am harder on contemporary books when it comes to the star system, so I gave this book a 4 out of 5 stars. I really liked this book. The fault that lead to a 4 instead of a 5 stars is that it did drag a bit every once in a while, but honestly that is to be expected in such an introspective, character driven book. The voice in this book is amazing. It had an emotional core that kept you attached to the characters, but at the same time all the events that happened were being told to a third party, the dead, which gave a unique perspective.

                        Another beauty to the letters was in who they were written to and who they were not written to. As Laurel discovers things about herself and her sister and the world, the letters begin to reveal more and more of what Laurel really wants to say, and it pulls at your heart strings as you, the reader, begin to release who she is really talking to even when Laurel still believes she is writing the Kurt or Jim Morrison or Judy Garland.

                        The friends in this book are amazing. They see everything that Laurel needs even before she knows she needs it. You will very easily fall in love with all her friends and be rooting for them in their own struggles. And first love. =) Of course, there is a first love. It is… real. All of the members of this little group are very real. They each have weaknesses and each have strengths. In the romance, in all the romances, you watch in frustration as their weaknesses pull them apart and back together and apart and back together again.  

                        Comparing Love Letters to the Dead to other books, I would say it is a mixture of Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and Looking for Alaska by John Green. (May, Laurel’s sister, really reminds me of Alaska.) In other words, you will cry. A lot. 
            Video review here.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Throwback Thursday: What Reading Means to Me

I wrote this when I was 16 as part of a Hastings summer reading contest. In 200 words or less, I had to explain what reading meant to me.

What Reading Means to Me?

I’ve been to Venice, Italy, and to another planet in another galaxy. I’ve been a goddess, a witch, and a frightened child. Books are tickets to another’s world. An author’s words are the paths you must follow. It is on these paths we find unimaginable truths in these imaginary worlds. Truths that reality is too shy to share. Even our basic morals are taught to us through story books in the form of evil witches and handsome princes. Reading is what prepares us to face the subtle, yet brutal realities of our world. Reading is also what allows us to escape from these brutal realties.
I live among a generation where imagination has become “unnecessary”. Technology has caused us to have no need to pretend. Reading keeps imaginations alive which is crucial because imagination is the only material we have to build our dreams. Authors are dreamers and their words are the frozen essences of our thoughts and feelings. It is essential for us to open as many ink and paper imaginations as possible. It is not essential for survival but essential to making survival worth wild. Reading makes dreams come true and imaginations run free. I read. I dream.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas Review

“One of them has to break…Only then can it begin.”
– Crown of Midnight

My Synopsis: Caleana has become the king’s assassin, but she is doing her best to balance her obligations to the king (under threat to the lives of those she cares for) and her true loyalties. More mysteries unfold that once again fall to Caleana to solve. Honestly, it becomes a bit of a scavenger hun, a very dangerous and exciting scavenger hunt. Still while this careful balancing act causes many ups and down and she still has many secrets, Caleana manages to find happiness at least for a little while. Then everything falls apart, but then again maybe everything is actually finally coming together. At the end, a great number of secrets are revealed that leave everyone, characters and readers alike, questioning everything and everyone.

            Once again, I LOVE CALEANA! I loved this book and gave it 5 out of 5 stars. Since the majority of the review will be a rave, I’ll start with the one thing that bothered me. The love interests in this book are great. I love them both and would be happy no matter which Caleana ends up with. However, I thought the beginning of the book just focused a little too much on the romance too fast. In Throne of Glass there is the love triangle, but a lot of the feelings are really more hinted at and barely recognized by the characters themselves. Now I am never one to complain about to complain about a book having some romance, I just thought in the beginning of the epic fantasy about an assassin the romance was all that was going on. I wanted a little more of the rest of the story mixed in the beginning.

            Comparing Crown of Midnight to Throne of Glass, Throne of Glass is basically the book the introduces the world and the character with its own story, but Crown of Midnight is where you are introduced the actual story that the whole series is about. Now, a lot of people have said that they really preferred Crown of Midnight over Throne of Glass. However, I would give the slight edge to Throne of Glass, but let me explain. To me, Throne of Glass was 5 stars from the first page to the last. Crown of Midnight was 4 to 4.5 stars until about half way through then it was all caps FIVE STARS until the end. Seriously. I hit a certain point in Crown of Midnight and could NOT put it down. I had a very long, tired day of classes because of this. I think the issue is that I had just finished Throne of Glass and was so excited and heard that Crown of Midnight was ever better, so I had to be let down a little by the beginning. I didn’t want to be eased back into the story because I hadn’t left. Also for me, literally no time had passed between the events in Throne of Glass and the beginning of Crown of Midnight, but in the books months had passed.

            The rest of this review is going to be an absolute RAVE! I loved this book. It was exciting. There was tons of mystery. And for all the complaining I did about the placement and pace of the romance, OH THE ROMANCE! *Swoons* Now this book is really hard to talk about without giving spoilers, so I can’t really say a lot, but I'm going to try. I talked a lot about the unanswered questions in Throne of Glass. Well first, after reading Crown of Midnight, I know why there were so many unanswered questions because they are all SO important in this book that Maas just couldn’t give. Also, in Throne of Glass these unanswered questions were hinted at, but they were never really posed. They were background we wanted, but nothing that was really necessary for the story at that point. In Crown of Midnight, it was more like Maas would lead you to the edge of the cliff, give you a gentle push until you are teetering, and then move on to lead you to another cliff without letting you know if you were going to fall off the first one or not. So many times I found myself growling in frustration “I HATE THIS…I LOVE THIS… OH MY GOD THIS BOOK!!!!” Now Maas did wrap up the story. You know by the end of the book which cliffs you fell off of and which you didn’t (mostly), but it was that whole “we will get the results after the commercial break” phenomenon. In the long run, I loved that about this book. At the time, my sleep deprivation had me pulling my hair out because I couldn’t go to bed until I knew.

            Basically, amazing book. Go read it now. I am now read The Assassin’s Blade because I just must have more Caleana. However, I’m going to be honest. After reading Crown of Midnight, you will be like I was I’m sure. Pacing back and forth muttering “I need the next book. I need it NOW!” over and over again. J Hang in there. We only have until September 2 until Heir of Fire. Only… I really do need the third book NOW!

Video Review found here.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas Review

"You could rattle the stars," she whispered. "You could do anything, if you only dared. And deep down, you know it too. That's what scares you most." -Throne of Glass

My Synopsis: This is the story about a girl and an assassin, whom happen to be the same person, Celaena Sardothien. She is a very flawed human being with a lot of unrevealed baggage, but she also has the potential, unseen by most, to be a hero. A prince with daddy issues, Dorian Havilliard, tracks her down where she is in a prison camp in order to sponsor her as his champion in a competition put together by his father, choosing her mainly to annoy his father. The winner of the competition will become the King’s Champion and after serving a term of years will be freed and forgiven of all crimes. She comes to the castle to win her freedom. She is trained and carefully watched by the Captain of the Guard, Chaol Westfall, and she befriends a foreign princess, Nehemia Ytger. However, things are complicated when Celaena’s competitors begin being brutally murder and for some reason it falls to Celaena to do something about it.

            I think it is very fitting that since this is my first official book review I use the words of some of the characters I fell in love with during this book to explain a philosophy I always follow when critiquing anything whether it be in judging some competition or reviewing a book.

What's the point in having a mind if you don't use it to make judgments?"
"What's the point of having a heart if you don't use it to spare others from the harsh judgments of your mind?
 ” -Throne of Glass

            Put simply when I critique something I like to give at least one example of something that was bad or needed improvement (because I have a mind to make judgments and nothings perfect) and at least one compliment (because I have a heart and there is something good in everything).

            So, since I loved this book, I will start with something I didn’t like. So many unanswered questions! Now this book is not a stand-alone but the first in a series that is supposed to be like 5 or 6 books, so obviously not everything could be explained, not all questions could be answered. However, particularly with Celaena, the main character and assassin, there was a lot of background information that was hinted at without going into any detail. I assume that her past is going to be a big deal in the future, but I would have liked just a little more. Or if there was really nothing else that could be revealed about Celaena’s past, I would have liked to hear more about Dorian or Chaoll. I’m always big on back stories, so… I have the bind up of the novellas so hopefully that helps. And of course I have already started Crown of Midnight, the next book in the series.

            Easily my favorite part of this book is Celaena. Honestly I loved all of the characters! At least all of the characters that I was supposed to love. I thoroughly hated the characters that were, well, evil. But Celaena… I have not identified with a character that was so unlike me ever before. (Not that I’m perfect by any means. I’m just differently flawed.) There is a blurb on the back of the book by USA Today that says “[Celaena is] a truly remarkable heroine who doesn’t sacrifice the grit that makes her real in order to do what’s right in the end.” I could not put it better myself. Celaena is vain, arrogant, competitive, angry, overly distrustful and selfish at times. This is a girl who was complaining about how dirty she was while she was chained up in a death camp! Yelled at a cue ball because she missed! She is an assassin! Still you fall in love with her. She is very flawed, but more precisely, she is beautifully flawed. Like the worn cover of your favorite book.

            While Celaena now has a comfy place as one of my favorite characters of all time, she was not the only thing I loved about this book. I loved Dorian, the prince, and Chaol, captain of the guard. Both of these men could easily be any girl's prince charming, but what I found so interesting about these characters was how Maas used them to show this world she created, and Celaena specifically, in two very different and both accurate lights.

            I don’t want to have any spoilers in this review even if they are pretty obvious one, so I won’t say much about the villains in this book. The villain, at least the true villain, you don’t really see much in the book, but when you do… you feel it, physically feel it. There is just enough of this evil presence in this first book that you can began hating and, honestly, fearing him or her ;). I think that is what I loved about how the villain was presented in this book. You always have someone you can hate, but I can’t think of the last book where I actually feared the bad guy.

            As for Erilea, the world where all these wonderful characters live, I want to see more. This first book takes place largely just in the castle, so understandably we haven’t seen much. The characters also seem to have a lot to learn, so we can’t as readers know what they do not. A lot is hinted at and some history is reveal, but I just want more. So I’m going to get off here so I can start reading Crown of Midnight!

Oh! And any book that both recognizes the power of books and the power of music wins for me. =)

“Libraries were full of ideas–perhaps the most dangerous and powerful of all weapons.” 

"It was a mournful piece, but it made her into something clean and new...She forgot about time as she drifted between pieced, voicing the unspeakable, opening old wounds, playing and playing as the sound forgave and saved her." 
-Throne of Glass

Here is a link to my video review: Throne of Glass Review & Discussion


"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one." 
- George R.R. Martin