Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hex Hall, Rachel Hawkins

So Sophie Mercer is a witch. Not in a "sacrifice goats and call up demons" way, but in a "my dad was a warlock who got my mom pregnant and then kinda neglected to tell her about that or the magic that ran in the family until AFTER I was born with the ability to make some really socially inappropriate people fall in love with each other," way. And Sophie isn't supposed to use her magic when normal people might see it, but she slipped one night at a dance, and things went DRAMATIC.

Wham, welcome to Hecate Hall, where Prodigium (faries, witches, and shifters) are sentenced invited to go when they can't "control themselves." She's gone from almost normal life, to reform school with people who can kill you with their minds. ^_^ To make things even BETTER, she finds out after she's there that her DAD, (remember the warlock who neglected to mention his war-lock-ness to her mom?) is now head honcho of the committee that's in charge of keeping Prodigium secret- which translated means that everyone she's going to school with has a grudge against her dad, and therefore her.

Oh, and the cute guy she's crushing majorly on is dating the mean girl who is alternately trying to recruit her into her lovely little "oh, let's raise some zombies on the weekend, it'll be fun and sparkly!" group and trying to sabotage what's left of Sophie's life. And Sophie's been in the "normal" world for most of her life, so she's behind the curve on most every subject that the twelve year olds think a teddy bear could master.

What does Sophie do? What any self-respecting teenager would do. Say "I hate my life," be sarcastic to teachers, make friends with the only other person who has a similar social standing (the pink-loving vampire who OMG, might have EATEN someone!) and sigh from a distance at the cute boy.



The summary I just wrote might not be entirely accurate to all the details. JSYK. I didn't want to spoil things for you. I want you to read the book, and when it hits the end, to have my exact reaction- OMWORD THAT IS FREAKY OH NO BODY COUNT WAH I TRUSTED YOU WHO CAN I TRUST EVERYTHING I KNOW IS A LIE. (That reaction might be a trifle louder than I am normally, but I just ate half a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Volume happens.)

Let's go over the points that I feel need to be communicated.

  1. You should read this book, so that Rachel writes many more books that we the general population gets to read. The fact that it is lovely and has a wonderful plot and I read it in one sitting is taken for granted, as related to the caps lock in the previous paragraphs.
  2. I love Sophie's sarcasm.
  3. I love Archer. I know things look bad, but that's only because the circumstances LIE LIKE A RUG. We don't have all the information! EVERYONE KNOWS THAT WHEN YOU HAVE ALL THE INFORMATION THINGS WILL LOOK BETTER.
  4. Jenna's story is wonderful. I need to make a note and put it on my wall so that I treat all "side characters" in a similarly made-of-stark-awesome way.
  5. I want Demonglass now. Plz?

I gave it four stars out of five. Go read it. I need to go find tea and learn how to communicate without shouting.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Command Decision, Elizabeth Moon

Continuing in the Vatta's War series! I read three books in four days, while working full time and pretending to write my own stories. I think you should know this. *nods* My total tardiness in writing the reviews is only because I am terribly slow at writing reviews, not because the books are slow. *nods again*

So, where were we?

Oh, yes. Kylara Vatta, her cousin Stella, her cousin's ex-lover Rafe, and her great Aunt Grace are all neck deep in political, military and economic machinations. However, I can't tell you about them, because of spoiler-related reasons. It's tragic, I know.

Oh, okay, maybe a little. Rafe goes home to check out his family, since as we all know, he's such a family man. I mean, when we first meet him he's acting as a fence on a disreputable space station, and he gets described as "roguish." Doesn't that say family man to you? Totally says family man to me. *nods* So he goes home. And then he finds that things aren't quite like he expected. For one thing, the plants are dead. For another, his room is exactly like he left it. For the son of a dedicated gardener, who was told to get out of the house and not come back, this is rather disconcerting. (Don't you think it's disconcerting? I think it's disconcerting.) So he starts looking around, and figures out that, well... You know how Bad Things have been happening to the Vatta family, and their company? They're not the only ones who've been hit with sudden bad luck.

Just so you know, the body count is rather startlingly high. Startling because I'm used to YA, yes, but also, well, I'm used to life being kinder. People just don't DIE like that! Don't they? *decides her family is unimportant, so there's no danger*

And speaking of Body Count, Ky is off being Ky. Things go Boom. People are motivated. Secret Technology is used. Pirates Pirate. Pirates go Boom. Good Guys go Boom. Pretty boys try really, really hard to go Boom. (Is that a euphemism? I'll never tell. ^_^)

And it all led up to a grand denouncement, and then the book stopped. GLEHHHHHH. If you're going to read this series, you really should know it's mostly like one book, just in five volumes. It's like her editor looked at the reams of paper Ms. Moon had just broken her desk with and said "Great book, let's draw and quarter it." But I gave it four stars out of five, so clearly I liked it. :D

Friday, April 23, 2010

Engaging the Enemy, Elizabeth Moon

This is the third story in the Vatta's War series. These are dense books, where almost nothing happens. I mean, things HAPPEN, in dramatic, deadly fashion, but a great deal of time is also given to the hazards of not knowing local manners in a new port, and side stories about racism which don't have much to do with the MAIN plot. And I love them. *huggles*

I, uh, can't really talk much about the plot without giving away spoilers for the first two books. *I ponder this* Let's see. Well, in the first book, everyone was just reacting. In the second one, they were scrambling to stay alive. In this one, they've finally got some time to think about what the heck just happened. So of course, everyone starts to distrust each other. Communications are still out, and with interstellar travel taking weeks, that means everyone has plenty of time to become suspicious of the insane suggestions everyone else is coming up with.

Oh, and Aunt Grace comes fully onto the stage. Before, she was just the devious old aunt who appears somewhat like Miss Marple. SHe seemed fluffy and pink to hide her incisive mind- and that's cool, right? Miss Marple is Cool! Aunt Grace is not like Miss Marple. She is honestly frightening, in a way that Kylara, with all her soul-searching, isn't. If there's an overarching character theme of this series, it's how to deal with being a natural-born-killer. There are three people in series so far who have this trait, and they all react to it a little bit differently.

Wow, this was rambling. Sheesh, I need coffee. I WAS a little bit disappointed by the Court scene, that seemed too easy. Everything else in the story has been hard, why does this obstacle just give up and die? But overall, I really enjoyed it. I gave it four stars out of five.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mist Brightly Wood Woven! Er, that's not right...

Alexandra Bracken and Leah Cypress are running a contest here. You can use it to win-

Clearly you should go enter this. I mean now. The link is here, the contest ends April 27th, and the books are shiny. GO NOW.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Marque and Reprisal, Elizabeth Moon

I really like science fiction. I like it for its scope, and its ability to comment on social and political ideas, and for its acceptance of detail, and for its technology. Oh, I do like me some technology. I like seeing how things work, and science fiction is a genre which reliably guides me through the working of all KINDS of things. And since it's it's in story form, it's fun and mixed up with treason, or something. :D

Squee banking!

Yes, I did say banking. Because this book manages to make banking interesting, and relevant to the story. Anyone who can do that has my wholehearted respect. Have I mentioned that I'm a bit of an Elizabeth Moon fangirl? Especially after reading this book. (And the series.)

So, here's a bit of the plot. Kylara Vatta was a promising up and coming young officer in Slotter Key's version of the Royal Military College, until she was nice to the wrong person, got kicked out, dumped by her boyfriend, and suddenly back in the family shipping business. BORING change from the military to moving parcels, right? Er, not so much...

That was last book in the series, and Kylara is several systems away from home, having defeated a bunch of terrorists and mutineers. It's time to restock and get back to making a profit. But first she needs to get through the necessary paperwork from last book, and talk to the family. She's in a call with the family when they are attacked by someone unknown, and communications go down. The timing of the call dropping is pretty providential, though, because she goes to see about fixing this, just in time to miss some assassins.

Assassins require more paperwork, much less the attempt to blow up her ship while she's explaining to the police that those men totally had guns pointed at her, and all the time it is becoming clearer that things are going seriously bad. You thought terrorist attacks and assassins were bad? Try freakishly co-ordinated terrorist attacks on everyone in your family, all over the galaxy- from what you manage to hear, because communications are down. Everything is hearsay, rumours and flying thick and fast, and the bank is declining to offer you credit so you can get your boat OFF of this place where people are trying to kill you! (I told you banking was relevant.) FINANCE IZ SEW STRESSFUL.

Oh, and you probably think I just gave away the entire plot. Not so. That's, hmmm, a skimming overview of the first couple of chapters. The plot is just like chain mail, I'm telling you.

And the characters are delightful. :D I heart Toby so hard. Only slightly more than Lee, though. And Rafe I heart from a FAR distance. Him and his limes.

I gave it four stars out of five. I really, really liked it. :D

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N. K. Jemison

(In the beginning)
Yeine Darr is named as a possible contender to a throne she has no interest in.

Her mother died. She doesn't know who killed her, or why.

Her cousins want Yeine dead, but find it useful to keep her alive. This is probably a bad sign.

Remember to beware of the staff. 
They are 
1.) Family
2.) gods
3.) Slaves
4.) Very, very dangerous. 
(Including the children.)

Nothing is as it seems. To trust anyone is a surefire way to wind up dead- in extremely cruel ways.

Cruelty is the only way to survive;
if you want to become the kind of person who survives. 

I LOVED the voice of this book. It was a strange stream of consciousness type thing, changing viewpoints all over the place, and I adored it passionately.

Here, have a quote from the opening.
I am not as I once was. They have done this to me, broken me open and torn out my heart. I do not know who I am anymore.

I must try to remember.

My people tell stories of the night I was born. They say my mother crossed her legs in the middle of labor and fought with all her strength not to release me into the world. I was born anyhow, of course; nature cannot be denied. Yet it does not surprise me that she tried.

My mother was an heiress of the Arameri. There was a ball for the lesser nobility — the sort of thing that happens once a decade as a backhanded sop to their self-esteem. My father dared ask my mother to dance; she deigned to consent. I have often wondered what he said and did that night to make her fall in love with him so powerfully, for she eventually abdicated her position to be with him. It is the stuff of great tales, yes? Very romantic. In the tales, such a couple lives happily ever after. The tales do not say what happens when the most powerful family in the world is offended in the process.

But I forget myself. Who was I, again? Ah, yes.

My name is Yeine. In my people’s way I am Yeine dau she Kinneth tai wer Somem kanna Darre, which means that I am the daughter of Kinneth, and that my tribe within the Darre people is called Somem. Tribes mean little to us these days, though before the Gods’ War they were more important.

I am nineteen years old. I also am, or was, the chieftain of my people, called ennu. In the Arameri way, which is the way of the Amn race from whom they originated, I am the Baroness Yeine Darr.

One month after my mother died, I received a message from my grandfather, Dekarta Arameri, inviting me to visit the family seat. Because one does not refuse an invitation from the Arameri, I set forth. It took the better part of three months to travel from the High North continent to Senm, across the Repentance Sea. Despite Darr’s relative poverty, I traveled in style the whole way, first by palanquin and ocean vessel, and finally by chauffeured horse-coach. This was not my choice. The Darre warriors’ council, which rather desperately hoped that I might restore us to the Arameri’s good graces, thought that this extravagance would help. It is well known that Amn respect displays of wealth.

Thus arrayed, I arrived at my destination on the cusp of the winter solstice. And as the driver stopped the coach on a hill outside the city, ostensibly to water the horses but more likely because he was a local and liked to watch foreigners gawk, I got my first glimpse of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms’ heart.

There is a rose that is famous in High North. (This is not a digression.)

So far, this is sounding like a book which is written expressly to delight me. The characters are lovely, complex and devious, the world building is expansive, and the plot is-

Well the plot is why the book didn't attach its self to my soul and make a nest there, the better to colour all my life choices afterwards. You see, you have about seven eighths of the book that are awesome, and then at the end, everything changes. Most of the characters literally change, the voice of the book changes, and the plot goes from Machiavellian intrigue (cruelty is the way to live, or of course you can die slowly if you want) to Love is all you need! *Happy, sultry music*

And the sultriness. (Uh, yeah. I guess I'm gonna have to put this under a spoiler cut...) So that little scene really freaked me out. Maybe I'm hopelessly provincial, but when the descriptions make me picture the MC being ravished by an octopus, that just spoils the mood entirely. Less Romance, more Ick. An amorphous cloud just doesn't seem attractive to me. In any way. I don't go for jellyfish, OR Ganesh, OR energy-beings. Srysly. OH, and the Free Love aspect. What, is it not possible to love someone WITHOUT sleeping with them? I notice that Parent/Child sex wasn't encouraged, or Brother/Sister, or even Woman/Woman. But as long as one or more of the participants was a (mostly) male god, we're all good?LolWHUT? Those things disturbed me. Just- there are ways to show someone that you trust them, OTHER than sleeping with them. Let's try rock climbing, I hear that's good and fun!

So I gave it three stars out of Five. I still want to read the next book in the series, but I might wait till it hits the library system.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins

*BEWARE of Spoilers for The Hunger Games*

So I read the first book in the Hunger Games series. I both loved it and was furiously annoyed with certain things that Katniss did or did not do. When I read THIS one, (book two) I realized that these annoying things were there to show character development! Ms. Collins is so wise.

So, plot-ness. Katniss and Peetah won the last Hunger Games together! This thrilled the reality-tv junkies in the capital, inspired everyone else out in the districts, and really, really annoyed the Government. The Government being the kind of people you don't really want to annoy, but you knew that already. (The kidnapping children to kill each other in a televised contest every year was MY tipoff, what was yours?)

The President is annoyed enough that he comes down to visit Katniss, which is a subtly chilling thing, the more you think about it. He has the power to kill her by any manner of imaginative ways and have it filmed, and she just defied him on national television. The scare-factor of the visit goes up a notch when Mister President reveals that he has visited for one reason. To tell her that he wasn't taken in by her little performance with the berries, but he's giving her "the benefit of the doubt." (Somehow, that phrase spoken by Machiavelli isn't convincing. Et tu?) But if she manages to convince the nation, and him, that she's blissfully, madly in love with Peetah, he might let her and her family and everyone she cares for live. Maybe.

Just makes you want to vote for the man, doesn't it?

So, this makes sure that Peetah and Katniss are nice little trophy victors. (Mostly.) They behave well on the tour, propose on cue, act stunned with joy- and it's all for naught.

No, I am not saying more about the plot here, which lack of information makes me want to chortle evilly. Though that is my default state, so perhaps that doesn't mean much. *EVIL CHORTLE*

Last book, I was annoyed because Katniss got through a death tourney, with having killed almost no one. This book, it's not like that. :D Character Development, Hello there! Nice to see you! And nice to see how you've decided to visit almost everyone except Gale, to boot! You spent a nice lot of time with Haymitch too, and Cinna, which makes me both endlessly delighted and want to gut you! How could you do that to them!?! See how many exclamation marks you make me use!?! You meanie!

Oh, and aside from the obvious themes of death, terror and freakish machinery -"let's have a tidal wave of BLOOD! Awesome, yes!"- I noticed a theme of information not being communicated to the MCs. They're blundering around stages watching old men be shot, while in the background people in the know plan things and tell everyone ELSE what's going on. Given the acknowledged presence of torture in this world, I can hardly blame them, but it still makes for several moments where I experienced that so-familiar teenage angst. WHY DON"T I KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING?

So yes, the book still annoyed me, even while I loved it. :D I just loved it more and was less annoyed than by Hunger Games.

Oh, and the ending. So called. Oddly enough, the "ending" for this annoyed me FAR more than the "ending" in The Summoning, which I recently heard compared to this one. I mean, in The Summoning, at least it ends conversations. THIS BOOK ENDS IN THE MIDDLE OF A SHOCKING STATEMENT. That's just CHEAP TRICKS, People! Yanking my chain like that. *grumbles*

I gave it four stars out of five. Can I have Mockingjay now please?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Quick post before I run back to work!

Here is the Wordle of Karma Police, which I think broke 120k last night. (I'm so worried about the fact that "like" made it into the wordle. I AM ENTIRELY COVERED IN SHAME.)

No, that word count is not a good thing, but at least I'm not breaking 200k yet, which is where I was with Expendables. Yay Epics?

I have now reached the happy place where I both hate and love this book with a kind of weary passion. We've been together for almost two years, and it keeps trying to get away. But I am still too stubborn for that. ^_^

Have an excerpt. Sorry about the language, Ewan is, just that way.
Adam had left the lamp on. It shone away in the corner of the room, right in the corner of his eye. Ewan considered throwing a pillow at it to stop the stupid hateful light, but decided burning to death in the inevitable fire wasn’t worth it. He got up and turned the thing off, and then someone knocked on the door. He yanked it open. “What now?!” He growled at the person on the other side.

The person on the other side was not Adam. Ethan and a short, curly haired girl were standing there arm in arm, a little wide-eyed. He cleared his throat. “H-hi, Ewan. Up for a stroll?”

Ewan reflected that maybe he should have kept his shirt on before he went to sleep, but how was he supposed to know Ethan was gonna take his girls calling? “No.” He said shortly, crossing his arms. “Who’s your new lady friend?” He looked her over, taking stock of the mittens on strings, the scarf striped and pompomed in five colours, and the knitted hat with a pattern of happy sheep. “What is she, twelve?”

She glared at him under her eyebrows. “I’m fifteen.”

“Good job.” Ewan nodded, then looked at Ethan. “She’s fifteen. Is that even legal?”

“This is Islay.” Ethan said tightly. “Islay, Ewan, Ewan, Islay. We’re all friends here, and we’re all legal. Right?”

Ewan looked at him, eyes half-closed. “Why are you here?”

“To visit my only friends in town, and to take a walk.” Ethan was somewhat standing in front of his girl now. He grinned. A very believable grin, as usual. “Islay knows all the nice places, and last time we talked, it looked like you weren’t getting out enough. Coming out? We can wait.”

And now the fifteen year old semi-nerd was telling him what to do- again. Ewan flipped him the finger. “Like hell.”

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You, Ally Carter

Okay, when it comes to heist stories or spy stories, I love them both, but I like the spy ones better. For one thing, the spies get better GADGETS. (And I like tech. Have I mentioned this? My favourite character in Iron Man was the computer Geeves.) But also, the stakes are usually higher. They do things for more reasons than just personal safety and money, and if you get caught, well, jail for spies is generally less nice than jail for thieves. Also, well, I like spy stories. ^_^

With that said, I expected this story to be less spy story and more teen romance. (*yawn*) I was mainly reading it to vet for my little sisters. I mean, it's a debut novel set in a girl's school. How good could it be?

Well, I gave it five stars out of five, just to give you an idea. I heart this book so HARD. ^_^ (And yes, I loaned it to my sisters and my brother. Then I went harassing them for my copy back shortly afterwards. "What, you're not done? But you've had a WHOLE HOUR!" I'm such a just person.) It's a good book. (Also, I remembered that I love stories set in girl's schools.)

I guess I should pause my gushing to give you an overview of the plot.

Cammie Morgan attends an exclusive all girl-school, Gallagher Academy. The local population thinks that it's a school for rich snobs with socialization issues. The truth is that the girls don't get out much, but that's because they're busy studying college-level chemistry, learning fourteen languages, and practicing self defence. (Don't challenge these girls to Rock, Paper, Scissors.) They take self-reliant grrl to a new level. Not that they need your approval, thank you. Cammie has been perfectly happy in her exclusive life with its traditions and gadgets and friends, until her Sophomore year at the school. She starts to realize just what this life means, (see above: torture and death, experience and witnessing of,) and what she'd be giving up to take it on, (see implied: romance, girly things and wrist corsages.)

And yes, there was a romance, but I am not sure that it was the main focus of the story. (Though maybe I just missed the main focus. I've been known to do that.) What I needled in on, and loved, was the support of her schoolmates- even when she was a jerk- and her gradual understanding of the big picture. I also loved how lost she was in social situations! (Maybe because I've spent too much time in books and generally feel lost in social situations, BUT IT STILL COUNTS, OKAY????) Oh! Also the adults were awesome, which makes me smile. I like side characters who have lives, they do not just exist to fill space. And spy gadgets and talk. ^_^

Er, yeah, five stars. Whew, I need to work on my run-on sentences. Sorry.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I love Japan! And Exclamation points!

Oh, new contest! Must warn you!

Emily Horner is giving away three ARCs of her upcoming Debut, A Love Story: Starring My Dead Best Friend. ALSO she'll give the winners something cool from Japan! AND *drumroll please* it's open internationally!

*happy squee about international contests*

Here's what she has to say about it!
I am giving out THREE ARCs of A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend, and each winner will also get a nifty thing from Japan. Will it be something from the Ghibli museum? Something from the youth culture mecca of Harajuku or the geek culture mecca of Akihabara? Traditional Japanese handicrafts? I don’t know! If you have a preference, please say so when you enter the contest, but I won’t guarantee anything beyond it being something I personally find cool, and wouldn’t necessarily be able to get in the US.
You can enter here! Go! Comment! Dream of pretty things from Japan!

Lucy the Diamond Fairy, Daisy Meadows

First of all, full confession. I read this while I was waiting for the kettle to boil. It took me 4 minutes and 56 seconds. Not exactly the most challenging book I've ever read. But it amused me, so I put it up here. ^_^

Rachel and Kristy are friends with a *sparkles* MAGICAL secret!!!! They're friends of fairies!!!! OMG OMG OMG HOW EXCITING. And the plot of this story is basically the same as all the other Rainbow Magic Books. Jack Frost stole some magical item, which is causing problems in fairy land. The fairies need Rachel and Kristy's help!!!!

So Rachel and Kristy help, JF is vanquished, and there's a party.

I'd noticed these books around the house before, but I'd never actually read one through. When I read this, I was surprised to see how much danger there actually was. If you're the intended audience, this would be quite a stressful book. I mean, Rachel and Kristy are flying after JF, who is THROWING ICE LIGHTENING AT THEM. *small girls everywhere panic* And when Rachel was hit by the lightening, it froze her wings, and she was plummeting towards the ground, *small girls everywhere upgrade to hyperventilation* But then she was caught by Pegasus, so it was all good.


There was Pegasus, how could I not enjoy the book? I gave it three stars out of five. It was better than watching the kettle or reading the seed catalogue again.
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