Friday, March 21, 2014

Well…that was unexpected

I just realized that I haven't posted on here in uh……about 8 months. Kinda didn't mean for that to happen…but it did….and I don't have a TARDIS, so I can't undo it. But hey, I'm back!

*crickets chirping*

cough, cough, so yeah, I'm going to start posting again. The reading hasn't ever stopped, I've only just been caught up in other things (and no, it wasn't a whirlwind romance with a superhero who can't share his identity…this is reality after all….sigh….in all honesty I've just been busy. Not with anything important, but apparently I needed a bit of a break).

Slacker time is over folks! Back to the Reading and the Writing and the avoiding of Arithmetic!

*Note: math is cool. I'm just not very good at it…yet. One day I will be…maybe….

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Review: The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

Source: Library

Reading Level: MG

Publication Date: October 2007

Short SynopsisIt all starts with a school essay. 

When twelve-year-old Gratuity ("Tip") Tucci is assigned to write five pages on "The True Meaning of Smekday" for the National Time Capsule contest, she's not sure where to begin. When her mom started telling everyone about the messages aliens were sending through a mole on the back of her neck? Maybe on Christmas Eve, when huge, bizarre spaceships descended on the Earth and the aliens called Boov abducted her mother? Or when the Boov declared Earth a colony, renamed it "Smekland" (in honor of glorious Captain Smek), and forced all Americans to relocate to Florida via rocketpod? 

In any case, Gratuity's story is much, much bigger than the assignment. It involves her unlikely friendship with a renegade Boov mechanic named J.Lo.; a futile journey south to find Gratuity's mother at the Happy Mouse Kingdom; a cross-country road trip in a hovercar called Slushious; and an outrageous plan to save the Earth from yet another alien invasion. 

Fully illustrated with "photos," drawings, newspaper clippings, and comics sequences, this is a hilarious, perceptive, genre-bending novel by a remarkable new talent.

My Review: This one flew under my radar completely when it came out. True, I wasn't really into the blogging world yet, but all the same.

When I did find out about it, I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it. I don't know what it was about it, but there you have it. I saw a lot of really good reviews, though, so decided to give it a try and it ended up being not half bad! I thought that Tip was an amazingly spunky character and a great narrator. She was courageous but true to form (she beats up an alien, since her mom has been taken and her plant invaded...and then befriends him, cause he's a really really nice alien...which to me seemed like the things a real kid would do).

What I found odd about this book was that there was all of this destruction and death and loss, and even though it's in there, it doesn't feel uber depressing. I would read something, say parts of buildings vanishing, and then just continue on, and then my brain would process it and be like, "no wait! People just died! How can you be ok with that?" I don't know how this book got away with it, but as a kid reading it, you might not pick up on it at all. As an adult, I knew what was happening, but only when I thought really hard about it. It was weird. Not weird bad, but just odd.

J.Lo would have to have been my most favorite character. He's in a tough situation (being one of the invading aliens) but really makes the most of it. Adorable would be another good word to describe him.

The reason this is only getting 3 stars is the above stated oddness with how much bad stuff happens but 'not' (it doesn't gloss just doesn't stick), as well as the last half of the book wasn't nearly as interesting as I thought it was going to be. It all ended up being kind of a let down. Good stuff happens, great actually, but it was just kind of like 'yeah, so it's over'. Not necessarily skimming the details (though there was a bit of that) but more along the lines of it wasn't that important (kind of like the death and destruction in the first half of it) and so not a lot of detail went into it.

The drawings were a real delight though. They helped in picturing the circumstances as well as seeing more into the characters, so that part was fantastic.

Ah! epiphany time! This was book was written from the point of view of an eleven year old (as a school essay) and since it is from the point of view of an eleven year old that type of focus (on rebuilding, death, destruction, etc) isn't given. Well...that more positively disposes me towards this...but all the same. I didn't love the book, just liked it.

The best thing to come out of this book though (and I say this in all honesty) is Tip named her car (her special alien modified floating car)


Most awesome car name EVER!! I am naming my next car that, watch if I don't!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Review: Ender's Game (Ender's Saga #1) by Orson Scott Card

Source: Own

Reading Level: YA (though the protagonist is young, under 12 for most of the book, there are mature elements to the story - fighting, bullying, violence, death - but not overly so)

Short SynopsisIn order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister. 

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender's two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives. 
Ender's Game is the winner of the 1985 Nebula Award for Best Novel and the 1986 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

My Review: Ender's Game is the first real SciFi book I can remember reading.

It was amazing.

To this day it is still one of my most favorite books. I have yet to read the rest of the series, but this first one is phenomenal.

(confession though, I may like Ender's Shadow just a teensy bit more because it tells how things happened behind the scenes and Bean is a great character. That's how it was at least the first time through. We'll see about with the re-read. I do know that they are both amazing books regardless).

It's hard to go into any detail. The world building is all inclusive, the characters, even the side ones that we don't know that much about, have incredible depth. A very immersive and incredible reading experience.

From what I can tell on the periphery, there has been some issue with the amount of violence in the book. I never thought of it as too much, or even too in your face. It didn't feel out of place and I don't think it sets a bad example. Humans, even little kids, don't always make the right choices (Lord of the Flies), so this type of thing is bound to happen. It can present an example of how to deal with it, or how not to, as the case may be.

One of my most favorite things about the book is our introduction to the Battle Room. I WANT TO GO THERE SO BAD! It sounds like the ultimate game of laser tag, added in with strategy and weightlessness and I dream about it...I really do. *sigh*

I've been wanting this to be made into a movie for the longest time too. I thought that the little kid from the Sixth Sense (Haley Joel Osmint) would have been perfect for the role. That ship sailed long ago, but looking at the special effects that they have for this, I'm actually kind of glad that it has taken so long as the movie making capabilities have been refined to truly make something that looks like it will be spectacular.

At first I was upset that they were going to be using older kids for the characters. Part of what makes Ender's Game so amazing is that it is little kids that are in charge of saving the universe, that have to grow up and be on their own, with no one there to love them or protect them, but to only see how far they can be pushed. It doesn't have the same effect with kids that are getting into Teenage Mode. I still think it will be a good movie, and the special effects, as stated above, look amazing!, but the two will be somewhat separate in my mind.

Overall, an 'out of this world' (yeah, I went there) book that I recommend whole-heartedly. A great example of the science fiction genre, but one that fans of anything can still enjoy. 

For your viewing, and convincing, pleasure, the trailer:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Search for MG/YA SciFi: Definitions of MG and YA

What I decided I needed to do before I officially started off on "this soft of", was define the parameters. What is MG? What is YA?

It's doesn't particularly matter, a good book is a good book at the end of the day, but I wanted to see, in my own little way, if there is enough out there of each. If laws are going to be passed to make it so that SciFi needs to, awesomely, be incorporated into High School and Middle School curriculums, then we should by golly hope that there is some out there, and good stuff too!

As I started doing research to define YA and MG (I had an idea of course, but wanted to make it more official like by seeing what others had to say on it) I found that these terms were actually a lot more ambiguous than I had originally thought and much more all encompassing. That isn't to say there aren't definitions, there are, but it wasn't one handy little sentence as I had hoped it would be.

That crossover appeal exists (hello! Adult reading MG and YA books here!) goes completely and utterly without saying...though, this is kind of saying it....moving on!

NOTE: I reserve the right to arbitrarily adjust and change these as time goes on. They will never be perfect, and that isn't my goal. This is simply so that when, in a review, I say something is MG (or not), people can come back to this and see how I came up with that criteria.

Age of protagonist: between 8-ish and 12-ish (pre-teen)
Extreme content (profanity, sex, physical/emotional violence): minimal if at all, never graphic
Length: shorter (not a hard rule)
External vs. Internal: External, what happens outside of them is more important and drives the plot

Essentially what this boils down to is I felt the book could be made into a G or PG movie.

Age of protagonist: 12-ish and up
Extreme content (profanity, sex, physical/emotional violence): edgier, more graphic
Length: Longer (not a hard rule)
External vs. Internal: Internal, their growth and examination of themselves is what mostly drives the plot

And basically this one becomes a PG-13 or above rating.

And by all means, if you have different definitions or I have forgotten something, let me know in the comments!

Here are some of the resources that I used to come up with my above definitions. Hopefully they are useful to you as well! (just googling 'YA vs. MG' as well gets you on the right track).

Middle Grade? Teen? Where do you draw the line? - by Upstart Crow Literary

An Introduction to Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction, Part 1: Definitions - by SFWA

What is Young Adult and how does it differ from Middle Grade - on YA Highway

Theory: A definition of YA Literature - by Brooklyn Arden

Review: The Dark Unwinding (The Dark Unwinding #1) by Sharon Cameron

Source: Library

Reading Level: YA

Publication Date: September 2012

Short SynopsisWhen Katharine Tulman's inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his remote English estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of childlike rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London. Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she has grown to care for—a conflict made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a mysterious student, and fears for her own sanity. As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle's world at stake, but also the state of England as they know it. With twists and turns and breathtaking romance at every corner, this thrilling adventure will captivate readers.

My Review: I had heard about this book and loved how it seemed kind of steampunk/ gothic romance. It had quiet a few good reviews but a part of me was hesitant to start it because what it if was just fluff as sometimes the hyped up books end up being?

I am happy to say that this one was not fluff!! Katharine was quite analytical and I could relate to her wanting to look out for herself but then falling in love with the people that she came to know.

There wasn't really steampunk, but I didn't mind. There were creative characters and I found myself laughing out loud more than once. The storyline was inventive and I am looking forward to more!

I will say that there were some...confusing parts...that I thought were resolved a little later than I would have liked. I get frustrated when I can't figure something out and those bits tantalyzingly on the edge frustrated me just a little bit. Sometimes it doesn't, but this time it did.

Also, the ending. It was ok. Hmm, I can't really say a whole lot without giving away stuff (and I hate spoilers so I won't do that to you!). Needless to say, it wasn't my favorite. Not just for what happened, but how people acted. Some acted spot on and I thought were really great. Others though, not as much.

Another point in the books favor though was the attraction between Katharine and another character. It was slow to happen, but made complete sense. I'm just looking forward to it resolving more in the next book!

A Neil Gaiman Children's Book Read-A-Thon Review: The Dangerous Alphabet

(Part of my personal
Neil Gaiman's Children Book Read-A-Thon)

Source: Bought

Publication Date: April 2008

Short Synopsis (Goodreads)
A is for Always, that's where we embark . . .
Two children, treasure map in hand, and their pet gazelle sneak past their father, out of their house, and into a world beneath the city, where monsters and pirates roam.

Will they find the treasure? Will they make it out alive?

The Dangerous Alphabet is a tale of adventure, piracy, danger, and heroism told in twenty-six alphabetical lines—although even the alphabet is not to be relied upon here. A delightfully dangerous journey from national bestselling author Neil Gaiman and the monstrously talented Gris Grimly, The Dangerous Alphabet is sure to captivate and chillyoung readers.

My Review: I was first drawn to this book because of the pictures and art style of Gris Grimly. That it is actually written by Neil Gaiman was a happy bonus.

The tone of this book is a bit darker than your normal Alphabet Books. I did, however, buy this to share with my future kids. But it won't be one that I let them read alone without explanation (there is even a Sweeney Todd reference in the pictures...but I'd probably let that one go over their head till they're older). 

That being said, this is a most amusing book. There is a note at the beginning that says "the alphabet, as given in this publication, is not to be relied upon." hahahaha, that just really makes me laugh. 

It's also fun that for each of the letters there are usually items that start with that letter in the picture. They may be grisly, like maggots on the M page, but hey, it's a part of the alphabet, right?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Audiobook Review: Girl of Nightmares (Anna #2) by Kendare Blake

Source: file provided by AudioGo for free for an honest review

Publication Date: Book&Audio - August 2012

Short Synopsis (Goodreads)It's been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can't move on. 

His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they're right, but in Cas's eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.

Now he's seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he's asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong...these aren't just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

Cas doesn't know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn't deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it's time for him to return the favor.

My Review:

Audio Book (read by August Ross) - Somehow this guy had the perfect voice for Cas. Now, if I were to read either book in the Anna series it would be his voice narrating in my head.

He did seem a bit stilted reading, sometimes, however. And every once in a while I wasn't able to tell if he was reading something that was in Cas' head or if it was something that was said out loud. Maybe that's just because I am still getting used to audiobooks (I had shunned them for the longest time) though. Still, overall good reading.

Actual Story - This book was a bit harder for me to get through than I had originally anticipated. To start off, I hadn't been expecting a follow up book. 'Anna Dressed in Blood' didn't end perfectly, but I was actually ok with it. When word of 'Girl of Nightmares' came out, and especially after seeing the amazing cover, I was super excited for it. Finally we would get a chance to get to know Anna better.

No such luck. Most of the time is spent with Cas searching for a way to get to Anna. I think it's noble that he wants to save her from a life of torment, especially after she had saved all of them, but I didn't understand his attraction for her. I was hoping that getting to know her better would reveal that, but it didn't happen.

Don't get me wrong, Ms. Blake has created an interesting segment of the ghost hunting world with the athame and everything, but even though a considerable amount of time in the book was spent discovering that world, it wasn't enough for me. Maybe I'm just too used to sweeping epic fantasies and am unjustly applying that standard to this one, but all the same, it was interesting and I wanted more but didn't get it.

As with the first book, this is for mature audiences. Still in the YA category, but certainly the swearing and gore put it pretty high. I will say this though, the gore wasn't overly done. This is a ghost book after all, so there had to be some, but I didn't feel that it was overly focused on or anything, which was nice. Set the tone, but didn't progress past that.

Two final points are that the story kind of dragged for me and Cas didn't man up nearly as much as I expected him to, he just kind of stubbornly insisted on doing things the hard way.

For all that though, I'm glad that I read the book, if only to find out what happens (nothing earth shattering, but it does have more closure than the first book).


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