Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Movie Review: If I Stay

If I Stay
Starring ChloĆ« Grace Moretz and Jamie Blackley
Based on the novel by Gayle Forman

My Forever Young Adult book club had the opportunity to see the pre-screening of If I Stay on Monday. I don’t do sad movies, as a life rule, but I broke it *justthisonce*. So I had to prepare myself: waterproof eyeliner and mascara were required. A bottle of water for when I needed to swallow the pain. And a box of Puffs Plus with Lotion (shown below).
All my preparations did little to disguise my red nose and bloodshot eyes when the movie was over. Nor did it keep my co-book club members from laughing at my expense (I’m looking at you, Noelle!). Seriously, I’m a sympathetic cryer - if someone’s crying, I am, too. Doesn't matter if it’s a real life situation, a book or movie, or that one time I binge watched Long Island Medium (don’t judge).

So about the movie: there will be tears. Unless you’re a robot. The rest of the review will hopefully be spoiler free, but read at your own risk.
Noelle, Rachel (me), and Jamie...and my Puffs
There were the usual complaints about things in the movie not matching the book (which I haven’t read, but the others told me about). Like Mia and Adam’s relationship issues were more pronounced in the movie. And the wreck scene wasn't as gory as it was in the book. But the biggest complaint had to do with a thing that Adam says at the end of the book that he doesn't say at the end of the movie.
CGM is of course a delight (though her perfect salon-styled hair made me a little crazy - I miss 90s teen movie hair, it was much more realistic), and I adored each of the minor characters: Mia’s parents were amazing, her lil bro was completely adorbs, and Kim is a damn fine friend even though we didn't see much of her. The actor playing Adam was appropriately dreamy (I thought) and if that was actually Mr. Blackley singing, then the kid’s got skills. He also had the cheesiest lines in the movie. I asked if it was that bad in the book, and apparently it just comes off better in print. Oh, and Gramps didn’t just make me cry, he made me ugly cry.
Like I said before, I hadn't read the book, but I was familiar with the story and knew where it was headed. However, some of the poor folk in the audience clearly didn't - the screen went black and there was an audible gasp from the audience, the kind that states, “this can’t be the end!” Then the credits started rolling and there was a lot of betrayed groaning noises. Hopefully it’ll prompt them to read the book! #TeamBooks #YAForever
Oh, and they were giving away a few swag bags, and because Jamie knew that CGM starred with Jim Carrey in Kickass 2, she won one!

Thanks to the lovely FYA crew for providing us with the tickets for the screening (and PenguinTeen who provided FYA with the tickets!); we had a great night!
The review was originally posted to our FYA book club tumblr page and can be found at: 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Book Review: Murder of Crows

Murder of Crows (The Others #2)  
By Anne Bishop
“Are there weapons in a bookstore?'
'It's a store full of books, which are objects that can be thrown as well as read,' Monty replied blandly.
The Crows cocked his head. 'I had no idea you humans lived with so much danger.”

― Anne BishopMurder of Crows
I am finding myself completely involved in this series. In this sequel (to Written in Red), Meg is a little more settled in the Courtyard, and the terra indigene (the Others) welcome her as their own, but where the conflict began in the first book, we now take the next step.

In most stories, I find myself rooting for the underdog; I think most people do. In this series, the terra indigene, though they can die, are far stronger than the humans (and elementals are off-the-charts BAMFs - do not tick off an elemental or their ponies!). The terra indigene had the "Americas" first - they just let humans rent space. And the humans are expected to follow certain rules (like don't pollute the water) or else they won't receive the natural resources they need OR they'll be evicted off the land OR they'll be eaten. 

In this world, even though the terra indigene are clearly NOT the underdogs, I'm still totally rooting for them. While not all humans are bad, and in fact, many are doing good things to pave the way for a more balanced relationship with the Others, there are some nasty pieces of work among the human element. These particular humans do some truly heinous things that were a little difficult to read - the text didn't get particularly graphic, but it only takes a few words to get a horrible mental image of what they're doing. So I was definitely cheering on the Wolves and Others as they tried to figure out who and where these problem people were. I love me some comeuppance, and the Others can certainly dish it out.

In addition to this main story arc, we are introduced to a new people group, the Intuits, and we get a little more detail into the Humans First and Last movement. We also see a relationship developing between Meg and Simon, though neither of them have any idea about how relationships work in general, so that was fun to read - it added a little lightness to some of the darker elements of the story.

Highly recommended.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Book Review: Grave Mercy

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)  
By Robin LaFevers
“Why be the sheep when you can be the wolf?” 
― R.L. LaFeversGrave Mercy
I enjoy learning about history, particularly British and European history, but the time period of Grave Mercy is one that I'm not terribly familiar with. The story takes place in the late 1400s in Brittany. The country is struggling to maintain its independence against the French, while dealing with turmoil and infighting within its ranks. Ismae is a young woman who was raised by an abusive father and finds a better life when she's spirited away from her new husband and brought to a convent. At the convent, she discovers what it means to be the daughter of Mortain - one of the old gods given the title Saint to allow them to continue worshipping him in the Christian world. Mortain is Death, and Ismae is one of Death's Handmaidens, and she learns to be an assassin at the convent.

Grave Mercy was different in tone and voice from other YA novels I've read. The story is very politically minded; the major plot line is the struggle to make Anne a duchess of Brittany and keep her from the hands of scheming suitors, as well as the French. Poor Anne is only 12 or 13, and it's difficult reading about her situation when you remember her age. 

There is a romance subplot, but the romance feeds the overall story and Ismae's journey, rather than being the focal point. And it's not full of teenage angst; these characters have more important things to think about. So while these feelings are disconcerting to our heroine, they don't pull focus when it's time to deal with the fate of the country, and overall, they're dealt with maturely. 

I really enjoyed this book, particularly the historical elements, and the paranormal element was new and intriguing. I'd recommend this series to anyone looking to dig in to a YA book.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Book Review: Written in Red

Written in Red (The Others #1) 
By Anne Bishop
“There would be a spike in the number of girls who went out for a walk in the woods and were never heard from again. There always were when stories came out portraying the terra indigene as furry humans who just wanted to be loved.

Most of the terra indigene didn't want to love humans; they wanted to eat them. Why did humans have such a hard time understanding that?” 

― Anne BishopWritten in Red

This book is a little hard to categorize. I was expecting a typical urban fantasy, but this was anything but typical. It was more like a fantasy world built on top of ours. TVs and cars were still a thing, but the names of the week, countries, and cities were all different. The background to the story is that when the humans were created, the Others were created, too. The humans were kept separate so they could thrive, but when they started venturing out, they discovered that they weren't alone. While it's not explicitly said that it was early American colonists who met with the Others, Bishop describes colonists coming to the New World and getting eaten by the natives/Others before a smart leader decided to trade shiny baubles and ask for permission to use the land. 

In the present day, the Others (which are a people group that are able to change shape and can choose to take human form) are basically running things - they control all the natural resources (considering that elementals are included among their numbers, this makes sense - that having Water around means they control the water supply, and so forth), and they're far more powerful than the humans and could easily wipe out humanity, but they like human inventions, so there's a sort of truce in place among the Others and the humans. Enter Meg, a human on the run from some shadowy group, who finds shelter among the Others. And considering the fact that the Others look at humans as Meat, finding herself feeling safer among them than the humans she's running from makes for an interesting story.

I love what Bishop did with the characterizations. Many of the others have an animal form - one they took on for themselves a very long time ago - and because they've had this form for so long, they've taken on many of the attributes of that animal. So the crows like shiny things, wolves occasionally sniff crotches, and the horses like sugar lumps. 

The mystery of Meg, what she was, who she was running from, and what she could do, was intriguing. And like Kaylin Neya of the Chronicles of Elantra series, she finds herself being liked by and under the care of some very powerful creatures, creatures who normally have little patience and even less respect for humans.

I found myself fascinated with Bishop's world and her characters, and I can't wait to read the next book in the series, Murder of Crows.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Book Review: Cast in Flame

Cast in Flame (Chronicles of Elantra #10)
By Michelle Sagara
eGalley provided by NetGalley

"On the second day after her return to Elantra, the city she policed as a groundhawk, Private Kaylin Neya fell out of bed, daggers in hands, knees bent. After one confused moment, she sheathed her daggers, took a brief look around the otherwise empty royal guest chambers that served as her temporary home, and let loose a volley of Leontine curses." --Cast in Flame, Michelle Sagara

I really, truly love this series. Every time I pick up a new book in The Chronicles of Elantra, I think that I should re-read the previous titles to refresh the story (these books are dense and a refresher would be helpful), but I can never put off reading the newest book! And after a chapter or so I'm so deep in the world that it doesn't matter anymore.

In every fantasy world there are rules for how the world works, and generally those rules center around some kind of magic. In Sagara's world, there's plenty of magic, but the power in the magic is in "true words." I love that there's a whole fictional world built on the power of words. I also love that Kaylin (our heroine), though armed, generally saves the day by compassion and hope, rather than epic sword-fighting or laser-beam eyes.

In Cast in Flame, Kaylin has just arrived back in Elantra after her eventful trip to the West March. She's still homeless and living (uncomfortably) in the Palace. Her dragon roommate is having issues with the Dragon Court, and the Barrani that returned from the Green are causing trouble, too. Kaylin has to sort out a new threat AND find lodging that will accept a dragon and the Dragon Court's intrusion, and she's not sure which job will be more difficult.

A great addition to a great series!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Book Review: Fangirl

By Rainbow Rowell
“To really be a nerd, she'd decided, you had to prefer fictional worlds to the real one.” ― Rainbow RowellFangirl
I'm not sure I know how to put into words the love I have for this book and the joy I took in reading it. I devoured it the way that Magicath's fans devoured her entries of Carry On, Simon. I felt connected to Cath in a way that I haven't felt connected to a character in...well, maybe ever. 

I don't want to go into too many details, since so many of the situations that affected Cath and who she was and how she related to the reader felt more powerful for me not knowing about them in advance. But a quick rundown: Cath, full name Cather Avery, is an identical twin (her sister is Wren), a freshman in college, and a majorly popular fan-fiction author of Carry On, Simon (fic for Rowell's fictional story-within-a-story creation similar in feel and popularity to the world of Harry Potter).

Fangirl follows Cath as she struggles through her freshman year. The story sucked me back into my college years (which aren't terribly far removed, but still pre-YouTube) and the excitement and anxieties (especially those) related to that time in my life. And if I had known that fan-fiction was a thing, I totally would have been involved in it; maybe not as a writer, but definitely as a reader. So while my experiences weren't like Cath's, I feel like we're almost a little kindred. 

I don't feel like I'm doing this review justice; it may be too close still for me to coherently express my feelings, other than grunt "unngg, LOVE." But I will add this: Levi is my new book boyfriend. He rates right up there with Gilbert Blythe and Forney. No, actually, he wins. 

This book completes me.

P.S. I love the fact that this is a stand-alone novel, that the story is complete and I don't have to wait for the next installment, but I do wish it could go on (I guess that's what fan-fiction is for).

P.P.S. Isn't that the best cover ever? I think it's the best cover ever.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Book Review: Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet

Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet (Charley Davidson #4) 
By Darynda Jones

“I lowered the gun but didn’t holster it. Not just yet. She could turn out to be psychotic. Or a door-to-door salesperson.” 
― Darynda JonesFourth Grave Beneath My Feet

A little background on the series: Charley Davidson is a PI and helps out the cops as a consultant, namely her dad as she was growing up and now her uncle. It turns out it's a lot easier solving homicides when you can talk to the murdered folks. Charley not only sees dead people, but she's the grim reaper -- she helps the dead with their unfinished business and they can pass through her to the other side. She's also incredibly sassy, which I love. Oh, and she's kinda dating the son of Satan (literally, not figuratively).

Back to Book #4. In most urban fantasies, the main character goes through a lot -- much of it violent and bloody -- but generally they bounce back from horrible events pretty quick. In Third, Charley was tortured. In Fourth, there are actual ramifications for that torture. One thing I really liked about this book is that Charley suffers from PTSD; she's afraid of leaving her apartment and feels fear with the slightest provocation. It brought more reality to the fantasy.

Now, it's a rare event for me to guess the mystery before it's revealed, so it's not strange that the mystery and twist with the PI investigation came as a surprise to me, but I still like it when that happens. And the danger-level (as well as what Charley is able to do with her as yet undiscovered powers) was also raised this time around, so I'm looking forward to where the story goes in book five.

Highly recommended.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Book Review: Half-Off Ragnarok

Half-Off Ragnarok (InCryptid #3) 
By Seanan McGuire
“Let's go commit senseless acts of science.” 
― Seanan McGuireHalf-Off Ragnarok

I've been reading (and loving) Seanan McGuire's InCryptid series. The first two books follow Verity Price as she works to keep the Cryptid population of NYC safe from the Covenant (Cryptids are creatures that aren't scientifically recognized as existing - think Big Foot and chupacabras. The Covenant is an organization that hunts and eliminates monsters, aka cryptids.) while trying to maintain a professional ballroom dance career. In these books, most of the cryptids are vaguely humanoid in appearance, or, at least, can hold a conversation (Aeslin mice are the BEST).

Half-Off Ragnarok took me by surprise. I assumed after reading the first two books that the series was focused on Verity and her adventures. Turns out it's more of a Price Family series. This time around we meet Verity's brother, Alex. He lives in Columbus, Ohio with his cuckoo grandmother, revenant grandfather (Alex's mother, their daughter, was adopted), and his unwell cuckoo cousin. Alex works at the zoo in the reptile house, where he's supposedly doing normal zoo-type research, but he's secretly breeding basilisks in the back room. Suddenly people are being petrified, his girlfriend may know more than she's letting on, and the local gorgons may be involved.

The switch from talking cryptids in the big city, to more animalistic monsters in the Midwest was kinda cool. I wasn't expecting the change, but it made this new book really fresh. But we also got to stick with the family, so the characters were familiar and comfortable. Another great addition to a fantastic series!

And now I really can't wait for Antimony's story.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Audio Book Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot, #1)  
By The Great Agatha Christie
Narration by: Hugh Fraser
Book: ****
Narration: ****
“Sometimes I feel sure he is as mad as a hatter and then, just as he is at his maddest, I find there is a method in his madness.” 
― Agatha ChristieThe Mysterious Affair at Styles

From Goodreads: 
In World War I England, Styles mansion residents awake to find Emily Inglethorpe fatally poisoned. Guest Captain Hastings enlists his old friend, Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, of the magnificent mustaches. Although evidence mounts against one family member, Poirot uses the unique deductive technique of his "little grey cells" to find the truth in his first appearance.

From Me: 
This is my first Agatha (who is just as fascinating, if not more so, as her stories) and I really enjoyed it. Her writing is very accessible, even 100 years later, and despite the very particular nature of the mystery and the solution. I completely love Poirot - I found him adorable. Captain Hastings, poor dear, was almost too stupid too live, but since he never actively put himself or his friends/comrades in danger, I'll just label him "doof."

I listened to this audio book in the course of one work day, and it made the time fly. The only thing missing was the giant wasp.

From Doctor Who episode 4.7 The Unicorn and the Wasp

Friday, June 20, 2014

Audio Book Review: Bossypants

By Tina Fey
Narration by Tina Fey
Book: ****
Narration: *************

“To say I’m an overrated troll, when you have never even seen me guard a bridge, is patently unfair.” 
― Tina FeyBossypants

From Goodreads:
Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.

She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon—from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.

(Includes Special, Never-Before-Solicited Opinions on Breastfeeding, Princesses, Photoshop, the Electoral Process, and Italian Rum Cake!)

An unabridged recording on 5 CDs (5.5 Hours).

From Me:
Tina Fey reads the audio book. LISTEN TO THE AUDIO BOOK. You know how a bad narrator can make a good book awful? A kick-ass narrator like Tina Fey READING HER OWN BOOK makes a good book magic. 

Tina Fey is magic.