Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Buys 12/16-30/11

Friday Buys are always - always always always - fun around Christmas.  After Christmas especially.  I haven't been able to buy books recently, so it's always nice to be surprised with a few when you've run out of book-buying money.  ;)

What I got -

Witchlanders by Lena Coakley
I absolutely LOVE this cover and when I read the first few pages I was entranced.  It looks incredibly beautiful (inside and out!) and I'm just plain stoked to readreadread!! :D

The Blackhope Enigma by Teresa Flavin
I've been watching this one for a while and am soooo excited to read it! :D

The Encyclopedia of the Exquisite
I wanted this book the moment I saw it in Anthropologie (I want most things inside Anthropologie).  When I read about it more I was soooo intrigued, and honestly, completely and utterly smitten by this cover.  Gorgeous, much?

My sister wrapped one of the books in this:

And then, in The Blackhope Enigma, I found THIS:
Happiest day of my LIFE!  Haha!  ;)
Joking aside, I thought this was the stinking cutest and most original gift for a freshly read and newly bred Harry Potter fanatic.  (Haha!!  See, I'm so inspired by him that I even start to rhyme!)  One picture for all seven years.  I love this bookmark soooo much and am hoping to get it laminated.  Yes, I love my sister.  Very, very much. :D

I also got 3 B&N cards - all of which went toward the little surprise something I will write a post about as soooon as I get it...  This one was just sooo cute.  I had to take a picture and share.  I love Where the Wild Things Are.  'Nuff said.

On top of all that, my dear mother bought me this GORGEOUS vintage geography book.  My heart melts a little bit every time I see it. :D

All of the books together -

Yes, life is good.

From NetGalley:
(I know, I know, I have a LOT of reading to do!!!  14 books waiting for me!!  And all of them look awesome!! The bottom 3, especially, are priority - I can't wait to see what adventures they hold!  :D)

So, what did you get for Christmas?  Or your birthday?  Or with a giftcard?  Or just because?  Or all of the above?!  Haha!!  Leave me links and your thoughts in the comments and I'll check out your stuff! :D
Happy reading! :D

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review: Fang by James Patterson (Maximum Ride #6)

Fang by James Patterson (book 6)
Pages:  309
Release Date:  March 15th, 2010
Date Read:  2011, September 14th-15th
Received:  Library
Rating:  4/5 stars (that's an extra star for personal enjoyment!)
Recommended to:  14+

 Max and the crew of Bird Kids are in Africa for a CSM feed-the-poor expedition.  They are happy to be free of people, Erasers, and things that should be dead chasing them.  And Max - she can't stop thinking about Fang.  He's on her mind all the time - and apparently, vice versa.  But what happens when a new bird kid is introduced?  Dylan is a new, 8-month-old clone with wings.  He doesn't know how to fly very well, but he's gorgeous and looks a little older than the original Flock.  And apparently, he's Max's perfect match.  Her other half.

And Fang is supposed to die.  Soon.

As I greatly love Fang, I cannot help but love this book.  I'm totally emotionally connected to the characters - especially Max and Fang.  because they're so amazing and perfect together.  The story line in this one was better than some of the others, including the mad-scientist stuff, which was beginning to go downhill.  But now the story is getting to the heart of things, the deep secrets of who, exactly, is going to try to destroy the world.

In all honesty, this book was sad.  It had a sad ending.  Don't read it unless you can get your hands on Angel right away.  If you love the characters just as much as I do, then you'll be dying to know!!

I'm not adding my normal character/story notes because I feel the same about them in practically every book.  Great characters who I love.  FANG.  And a fun story that varies from really good to really cheesy.  Most of the time it's fun-cheesy.  Sometimes it's stupid-cheesy.  Sometimes it's serious.  Seriously good.

And lemme say this:  if you've read a couple of the books and aren't attached to the characters, don't keep reading.  Honestly, to me, the characters make it worth it.  Without them, I wouldn't be here, writing this review for the 6th book.

FANG.  FangFangFang!!!!!  I neeeeeed to KNOW!!!!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling (book 6)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling (book 6)
Pages:  652
Release Date:  January 1st, 2005
Date Read:  2011, November 29th - December 6th
Received: Own
Rating:  5/5 stars
Recommended to:  15+

This summary contains spoilers to the previous books! If you have not read Harry Potter books 1-5 I suggest you do not read the Summary. The actual review holds no spoilers.

Harry Potter is very unsure of what to expect from his 6th year at Hogwarts.  There is a new Minister of Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour, and after what happened at the Ministry of Magic, Harry's story of Voldemort's return is finally looked upon as true.  He's even being called "The Chosen One".  Plus, there's a new Professor to take over Umbridge's job, Defense of the Dark Arts.  But even with all this, he can't help but wonder what's wrong with Draco Malfoy, who has been acting extra suspicious, even for Draco.  With the help of his friends Ron and Hermione, private lessons with Professor Dumbledore himself, and the amazing Potions notes he found in his used Advanced Potions book, Harry must discover the truth behind Malfoy's behavior before the worst comes to pass.

Ok, so, I knew about that big thing at the end (sucks, huh?) and also who did it (extra lame, I know), but GEEZ!  I was still soooo engrossed.  And sad.  So, so sad. :(

I have no different thoughts/feelings/emotions toward toward this book than the last one - they're just heightened and about to freaking burst inside of me!  I mean, how is this so amazing?!  My mind is befuddled by this amazing accomplishment that is Harry Potter - and I am full of love for this extraordinary cast and - how am I going to survive?!

Ok, I'm done being dramatic.  Moving on.

Fred Weasley, I am madly in love with you and forever will be.  I would like to be your wife.  Please say you'll marry me and take me away to your joke shop, where we will have many red-headed pranking children and live happily ever after forever and always.

Besides my undying passion for a particular Weasley twin (and yes I know about him already...), I must add a  few new observations.  You know how in my review for the previous book I mentioned how Harry is always a bit more revealed in each book?  Well this time around I noticed how respectful he is.  To friends, to teachers - to Dumbledore.  The way he treats everyone as he would treat he talks to Dumbledore and how he's "Dumbledore's man through and through" - that almost brought tears to my eyes. I really really love Harry.

Ron and Hermione continue to grow as well, and still stay geniusly consistent.  I love the development of mutual feelings between them!!

However, I can't forget Ginny, the new part of my Top 3 Favorite Harry Potter Characters since book 5.  WOW, that girl - she's amazing.  Tough, but sweet.  Totally kind, but will stand up for herself. Dang.  She blows me away.

The story progresses very intensely in book 6.  So much that you get that feeling of "It's going to end...really soon."

This book is quite a bit spookier than the others - the inferi totally had me gaping with their intense creepiness.  The climax was, as usually, quite incredible, with amazing reveals (totally was not expecting the Half-Blood Prince to be that person!) and a bittersweet ending that'll leave you dying for book 7.

I really loved the way Malfoy's character shift affected the story.  That, too, was something I had not expected and it exposed Malfoy in a very interesting way.

The relationship between Harry and Dumbledore really affected the story in the greatest of ways.  I love how they bonded - even when Harry didn't know a lot about Dumbledore.

So - now I'm dying to know the rest of this fantastic story and how it all plays out!  To say I'm hooked would be the biggest understatement of the history of the world!!  Glued, stuck, plastered, never-to-be-parted-from - those don't even say enough!  I'm in love!

What an excellent 6th book!! (I think I say that with every book...  It's true, though!)  Deathly Hallows - come to Mama!  ;)

Lots of kissing (aka snogging) and spooky dark magic.  15+

Friday, December 23, 2011

Review: The Ring of Fire by P. D. Baccalario (Century Quartet #1)

Ring of Fire by P. D. Baccalario (Century Quartet #1)
Pages:  304
Release Date:  September 8th, 2009
Date Read:  2011, November 12-22nd
Received: Borrowed
Rating:  2/5 stars
Recommended to:  10+

Fernando of Melodia, owner in part of the Domus Quintilla hotel in Rome, has made a huge mistake.  He came to the airport, expecting to pick up a French woman and her daughter to transport them to the hotel - but now three other families are all saying they booked the same room for the same night!  Fernando's daughter, Elettra, makes room for the foreign children in her own room - Sheng from China, Mistral from France, and Harvey from America.  Things seem to go smoothly until the children discover they all have something extraordinary in common.  When they are given a briefcase by a man who is clearly in trouble - and later killed - the four children team up to discover what this briefcase is about, before another murder is committed.

There are books out there that are childish but timeless.  Childish in the manner of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, or in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  These books are not rare, but they are not easy to come by, either.  If you think I'm going to say that Ring of Fire falls into this small category, you will have to forgive me - I will say no such thing.  I wish it wasn't so - I really wanted to love this book - but it fell short in a lot of areas.

The writing is very short.  Like...  Oh, it's strange.  It's also a translation, and some of the phrases had me cringing.  For one, they often described the MC as "the girl" or the Antagonist as "the man".  Soooo annoying.

In the end, I just skimmed.  How sad.  I don't feel remorseful at all.

Elettra was a really neat character, I'll give her that.  Sharp, witty, kind, and willing to work hard.  My only problem?  She seemed a bit too sharp.  Like, too smart and knowledgeable and trained for a 12-year-old.  Slightly unbelievable, don't you think?

The other children were just...meh.  Harvey - serious in an unrealistic too-mature-for-an-American-teen-his-age.  Sheng - I found him quite stupid (while he tried to be funny).  You'd think he'd start babbling off in Chinese every once in a while in his nervousness or fear; but no, the only Chinese he ever said was, "Hao"...for everything.  And Mistral - just flat.

Jacob Mahler, the villain, wasn't near enough spooky or intimidating or nasty mean.  Based on his description (he carries a violin that entices people when played and makes them fall asleep; it also turns into a weapon from a horror film) you'd think he'd be amazing.  But no. I mean, maybe the point-blank writing style takes away the mystery and excitement.

Too easy.  Waaaay too easy.  Maybe not to the typical 11-year-old who hasn't had a full taste of the world and good literature yet.  But to an adult who has read nearly 500 books and who has written a few (drafts) - just, stop, ok?  No more.  I can't take how easy it is.  There are no disappointments, setbacks, or frustrations.  Even for a children's book, that's just not very good story-telling.

There was one scene in the very middle that struck me as really cool, but it was the only scene.  The children are searching a professor's house and they discover something very interesting about it - and it turns into something intense and - stops.  Things lull.  Holes form.  Beatrice suddenly gets a whim to save the girl.  Why was she here in the first place?  You know what, nevermind, I don't care.

A lull of boringness.  Oh, my sister, how I wish I could have liked it.  I'm sorry - I really tried.

Nothing For the Parents.  10+

Read my other reviews!

Last chance!!  Ends on Monday!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Review: Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore  (Magic Under #1)
Pages:  225
Release Date:  December 22nd, 2009
Date Read:  2011, October 12th-13th
Received: Library
Rating:  2/5 stars
Recommended to:  13+

Nimira is a Trouser Girl, a lowly singer for a company.  But her voice is beautiful, and it catches the eye of a man who has something very special in mind for her.  He owns an automaton, which plays beautiful music on the piano; Hollin Parry, the gentleman, wishes Nimira to come sing with the automaton as a full-time job.  A few other girls tried the job, but they all claimed the automaton is haunted!  When Nimira discovers that this is, indeed, true, will she have the courage to do whatever it costs to free the man locked inside the clockwork piece?

I've wanted to read this book for about a year now.  And as most of you know, when you've had a book on your list for a whole year, you kind of want it to be good.  Well, I'll speak honestly and plainly - I thought Magic Under Glass was stupid.  I hate using the "s" word in reviews, but there it is.

I thought it had potential to be good (probably not great, but good).  It had nice characters and decent writing, with a sweet love story.  But there was no room to develop, and the ideas the author used to make the story go faster (that's what it felt like) weren't strong or fascinating or awe-inspiring.  If she had built a little more and allowed herself more room, honestly, I probably would have liked it.  It was too crammed in, like she was trying to force 200 pages instead of 300.

These characters were good enough, but they didn't grow after page one.  They stayed the same, never learning or growing; never developing more for the reader to enjoy.  I guess this is not exactly possible in 200 pages, but I expected more.  I felt that not even the basics of building characters (and story - see below) were displayed.

Some of the characters were also super...I dunno.  Out of character?  Immature?  Some of the conversations seemed strained.  Things have to flow naturally....  If a scene doesn't flow, then I'm reminded that I'm reading, that I don't belong in the story, that it's all make believe.  I dislike that very much.

This could've been an adorable fairy tale.  Instead, it was full of some weird characters, a world that felt unestablished and removed, and had a very strange ending with lots of holes.  There was so much room to grow, but that room, I felt, was not utilized.

The end was very abrupt to me, too weird for my tastes, and just stupid.  I felt like I did when I read The Pirate Captain's Daughter - all the mysteries and dilemmas were soon solved, leaving no suspense for the reader.  Nimira hears the name of the Queen of the Dead, once, then decides she needs to call on her to free Erris.  She learns the incantations and summons the Queen, who mutters a chant and disappears.  Viola - 4 pages later, and we've moved on.  No dwelling.  No details.  Oh, and get this - the wicked Queen of the Dead who is extremely dangerous...she came in love because of love. ?????

Forced.  And, well...stupid.  I'm kind of sad I wasted my time.  Oh, and what was with the weird Jane Eyre copying?  Seriously?!
I know my reviews aren't normally this scathing, but this one really got to me, and as a reviewer I have to be honest.  A lot of people have really enjoyed this book, but I just couldn't.

A few minor cuss words.  Some reference to affairs.  Some dark magic is involved to free Erris.  Overall clean.  13+

Monday, December 19, 2011

Review: Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder (Healer #1)

Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder
Pages:  394
Release Date:  December 20th, 2011
Date Read:  2011, December 1st - 15th
Received: NetGalley
Rating:  4/5 stars
Recommended to:  17+

Avry is hunted, a criminal on the run. Except, she's done nothing wrong. She is a healer, a woman who can take sickness onto herself, completely removing it from its host.  She and her kind are on the run, hunted for something Avry is sure they didn't do.  After being caught and almost killed, she is rescued by a band of men who want her healing powers for themselves to save an old friend.  As they begin their journey through the forest, hiding from mercenaries and soldiers, encountering magicians of all kinds, Avry discovers more about what happened during the plague when she was separated from her family.  She also suspects the men - Kerrick, Belen, Flinn, and the others - have more to their request than meets the eye.  And with armies rising on all sides, kings being overthrown, and the world going hungry, Avry, Kerrick and the other men may have to sacrifice more than they bargained for the well-being of all.

I really enjoyed this book!  Based on rave reviews, I hoped for something a bit more...refined.  But I was pleased with the end result!

My few issues:
Everything (especially in the first half) felt a bit too fast.  Not the pace of the story - the actual events.  They happened in the blink of an eye.  I felt like this took away from the emotion and depth of the story.  Toward the middle, one character dies and everyone's sad - and then suddenly it seems as thought they've gotten over it.  I'm sorry, I felt it needed a bit more time to dwell on things.

Which leads me to the writing.  It was...ok.  There were some good descriptions, but for the most part the writing was quick and short-sentenced, leaving very little room for anything more than sparse description.  For the most part this wasn't a bad thing; actually, I would say a lot of the quickness to it came from Avry's character, who is a to-the-point kind of girl.  The rest of it, however, made me think the word "lazy" more than once.

Oh, and what was with the dialogue?  I mean, it wasn't terrible, but it felt weird...out of place.  It had some spunk to it, and made me laugh with all the funny sarcasm and bantering, but I guess it was one of those things I was expecting to be refined.  It was super slang-y.

I loved a lot of these characters; others, I just didn't get.  Avry, Kerrick, Jael, Daneen, Winter, Sepp, Flea, Ryne, and a few others all sat well with me.  They were fun to read about and created a great atmosphere.

However, Quinn and Vain (for the first half), Belen, Tohon, and so on - they fell short.  They were either cheesy formula characters or hard to envision.  I wanted to like Belen so badly, and I did to some extent, but he just wasn't believable.
And, I must say, what was with Tohon?  Womanizer with a slightly feminine edge?  Really??  (At least, that's how I imagined him...)  I was slightly...confused.  But whatever.  Getting passed that, I did think he was a great bad guy, and his plans made me grimace in pain.  He's a scary person! :/

Avry herself - so great.  Kicks some butt; doesn't let herself be taken by emotion, but is capable of loving greatly; has an incredible gift and the heart to bestow it upon others; she is totally relatable.  I felt like a friend, for sure.  Not a bestie, but definitely a friend.

Kerrick - phew!  What a jerk - at first.  My gosh I wanted to slap his face SO many times.  But by the, I loved him.  He'd been so hurt, you can't really blame him.  I seriously loved every moment with him - good and bad!

Boy, do I love a slow-moving romance.  One that takes months of hardships and getting to know one another.  One that creates beautiful tension.  One that heals broken hearts.  One like this.  Avry and Kerrick's romance made me sooo happy.  Every step of the way I rooted for them to be together.  I loved their pride-fights, their cold glares, their working together - and their warm embraces.  it was so amazing - gave me butterflies and made my eyes prickle with tears.

The rest of the story, despite its slightly too-fast pace, was very fun and intense and crazy.  Just crazy.  Fascinating action and really neat ideas about magicians and magic in general.  The death and peace lilies were so original and I hope there's more about them in the second book!

Avry's journey definitely awed me.  Her purpose, her need to heal this man she'd never met.  She affect she would have on the kingdoms.  Really, really neat!

It sparked my imagination - and my emotions.  A fun read in a fascinating fantasy world!

Language scattered throughout.  (B**t**d, d**n, and a few others.)  Some sensual comments/scenes, especially involving Tohon.  There are a few details.  He uses magic to make her desire him - she expresses that "emotional Avry" wants things that are quite awkward (she says a few times what she wants and how he has her at his mercy).  Besides that - Kerrick and Avry kiss and have sex toward the end of the book.  Literally 3 paragraphs cover this scene (in future pages, it's referenced that they sleep together multiple times in the following days) but even in such a small amount a lot is said.  A few physical details, but mainly emotional.  Kind of unrealistic, as she is (spoiler!) dog sick with the plague at the time.  Recommended 17+

Read my other reviews!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Buys 12/2-16/11

Friday Buys here again!

I've been holding back...not going to thrift stores and cheap book stores and the like - I'm trying not to repeat last Friday Buys...HA!  So far I'm doing ok...shockingly, I haven't bought anything.  WOW.

However, I did realize that last week I forgot to include a book that I bought about a month ago, $2.00, almost brand new:

The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas
Pretty copy, never read it before, but if you've read my thoughts on the newest movie, you'll understand why I could not pass this up. ;)

Besides this great buy, I discovered about two weeks ago that I WON A GIVEAWAY!!!  So, I've decided that winning giveaways never gets old, and there's a rush that comes only from winning a book and having it come in the mail and you holding it knowing that all you did was put your name out there.  WHAT?!  I mean, come on, best feeling EVER.

So, I won this wonderful hardcover copy of Eve by Anna Carey:

And, *ahem*  IT'S SIGNED!!!!  WHOOOHOOO!

From by best friend for my birthday I received these AMAZING vintage beauties -

I love the pages...


What have YOU bought/received recently?  Link me in the comments! :D

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
Pages:  410
Release Date:  This edition - 2008; first edition - 1938
Date Read:  2011, October 14th - November 12th
Received: Own
Rating:  5/5 stars
Recommended to:  15+

Summary -
"Last Night I Dreamt I Went To Manderley Again." 

So the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter remembered the chilling events that led her down the turning drive past their beaches, white and naked, to the isolated gray stone manse on the windswept Cornish coast. With a husband she barely knew, the young bride arrived at this immense estate, only to be inexorably drawn into the life of the first Mrs. de Winter, the beautiful Rebecca, dead but never forgotten...her suite of rooms never touched, her clothes ready to be worn, her servant -- the sinister Mrs. Danvers -- still loyal. And as an eerie presentiment of evil tightened around her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter began her search for the real fate of Rebecca...for the secrets of Manderley.  (From Goodreads)

My thoughts -
Golly goodness I really really really love this book.  It is one of the most unique, thought-out, and weirdly fascinating books I have ever read and probably will ever read.  It was recommended to me by so many people and I found it for less than $2, almost brand new, at a 2nd hand store, and couldn't pass it up.  I've found myself getting into the idea of Gothic novels and was quite interested...

By the end of this reading experience (for it is an experience), I had been shocked so many times it was almost impossible not to give it five stars on the spot.  But not only did it shock me - it made me love it, incredibly so.  I love this book; and for that, five stars in inevitable.

Character notes -
The second Mrs. de Winter is quite extraordinary, for many reasons.  One is her name in and of itself.  I say this because she does not have one.  As the story is told in first person, she does not introduce herself;  her name is mentioned once as being hard to spell, that people usually get it wrong; and after she marries Max she is called by everyone she knows as "Mrs. de Winter".  It was quite shocking for me to discover half-way through the book, that I had missed her first name, and I that I was such a terrible reader for missing such an important detail like that.  I re-read parts of the beginning, asked around and discovered the truth:  she has no first name because it is not important.  What is important is that she is the second Mrs. de Winter.
Besides that, she amazed me by totally getting on my nerves sometimes and still being a fantastic character who I could relate to and love.  How did she annoy me?  Her lack of ability to speak out sometimes drove me up the wall with thoughts of, "Goodness!  Why won't she just say something?!  After being so ill-treated!"  But it was her character; she became like a friend; I could love her in spite of that fault (and whatever others to her name...or lack thereof).  And in the end - well, she's quite the lioness at the end.  I love books with changed heroes/heroines. :D

Besides Mrs. de Winter, the other characters are so perfectly drawn for the reader that it is hard to forget them.  Frank (one of my top three favorites - he was soooo awesome), Maxim's sister, Max himself, Mrs. Danvers, and Favell especially, but there are others, and they, too, are profound.

And Rebecca, even being a mere ghost of a character, is still shockingly real.  Everything about her made my skin crawl - and I didn't even know why.  You won't know why either.  There is no exact reason why I felt that way, and you will wonder... Oh, you will wonder.

Story notes -
This is such a unique story - and so weird.  Everything happened in a way that made me weirded out with no real explanation whatsoever as to why.  (See above comment on the character Rebecca.)  And then - BOOM!  There's an explosion, and you'll be holding on for dear life, because there's no possible way this could really be happening.

At least, that's how I felt.  I was on an airplane when I read the climax - the EXPLOSION - and holy crud don't ever do that.  Confined to a chair with quiet people all around me and flight attendants scanning the rows with narrowed eyes, searching for disturbance of any kind  - yeah, don't ever try it.  Best to wait until you've landed, read it when you get home, and whoop and holler and scream and stare in shocked silence as much as you want.  All I could do was hyperventilate in a very quiet manner.  Haha - just kidding!   Sort of.

Summing it up -
Shocking, to say the least.  I did not expect it to be the way it was, with the writing style or the set-up or the conflict or the climax or the resolution.  All of it was unexpected and perfect.  Please, do yourself a favor and read this book, now.  Unless you have the tendency to scream when shocked and are currently on an airplane.  If this unfortunate combination applies to you, please wait until you have reached a safe environment before expression appropriate feelings of exuberance and/or show signs of sudden startled or disconcerted emotions.

For the Parents -
This is a classic, and should be treated as such (which means everyone should read it at least once).  However, themes are slightly more mature, and I wouldn't recommend to anyone younger than 15.  Some brief strong language and lots of...death.  But I can't say anything else!! ;)

A Necessary Death

I sit here, at my computer, having just written for nearly two hours.  My back is beginning to ache and my eyes are unblinking.  My inspirational music plays in the background (Clint Mansell - one of his more depressing songs).  The sky has gone completely dark in the time I've been sitting here, and now the only light comes from the computer.

My heart is heavy.

I have just killed off a character.

I didn't even like him - he isn't supposed to be likable, but he is a good guy, fighting for the good side, so I'm quite distraught over it.

While this is not nearly as terrible as a real death, it still makes me sit back and want to think about it.  Or talk about it.  Therapy, maybe?

You know that feeling when you read a good book (or a great one) and a character sacrifices his/her life, and you're sitting there thinking about how attached you were and how many great things he did and how he affected the story?  Maybe you're shouting, "NONONONOOOO!" at the book or considering flinging it across the room.  Maybe you're shedding tears.  It's ten times worse for a writer.  I discovered this character lurking in the inmost depths of my story-building mind, I built him up and made him act and gave him words, and he compliantly went along.  And while I knew his life had to come to an end sometime, I didn't actually think I would come to it.

For a while, before the first draft is completed, most of the story is still a daydream.  So when I knew that I'd have to kill off this character, I never thought it'd come so soon.

But that's not the worst part.  Describing a sudden, violent death (like his was) isn't nearly as hard/sad as describing the reactions of those around him.  In this case, it's in battle, and another character, the deceased's brother-in-law, has now lost every single person in his family to an early grave.  He is almost completely alone in life - and he must act accordingly.  Writing out such feelings (in battle, when he's already worked up, and he sees it happen) is...hard.  And slightly emotionally draining.

But I must say, reading about the death of a character is still different than writing about it.  While reader feels distraught and sad and possibly angry, the writer feels distraught and sad but knows it must happen.  It's a sense of impending doom that I'm sure most authors feel before writing a death scene; and afterwords, they know they've made the best choice.  Sometimes the reader doesn't feel that way.

And it makes you think:  How would this story be affected if this character didn't die?  How many others would die in his place?  How would the lives of his friends and family have been different?  Sometimes, the whole story, the climax and everything is affected.  I realized as I wrote it that even if I put it off, he would have to die sometime later.  He wasn't supposed to belong in the story for very long; if he stayed, it would unnecessarily complicate some of the relationships I'm trying to build, not to mention the climax.

It was the right time.  It had to happen to save the story - to build relationships and set into course a chain of events that will forever affect the characters' lives.  But oh, how strangely difficult it is.

I'm not certain that every author feels this way.  I'm absolutely certain, in fact, that many will disagree with me.  But as to me and mine - this is how it is.  I've been at this novel writing business for 10 years now; I've killed off a good amount of characters; I've even killed a few lead roles.  It's hard - but worth it.  If it makes the story stronger, it usually means it's ok.

What do you all think?  Any aspiring (or published!) authors out there who agree?  Or who disagree?  I want to hear your thoughts!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling (book #5)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling (book 5)
Pages:  870
Release Date:  June 21st, 2003
Date Read:  2011, November 18th-28th
Received: Own
Rating:  5/5 stars
Recommended to:  15+

This summary contains spoilers to the previous books! If you have not read Harry Potter books 1-4 I suggest you do not read the Summary. The actual review holds no spoilers.

Summary -
Fifteen-year-old Harry has just seen the unbelievable - during the Triwizard Tournament, he saw Cedric Diggory killed; he saw the Dark Lord rise again before his very eyes; he saw the Death Eaters come to follow their master.  Harry dueled the Dark Lord himself, barely escaping alive.

Now he is back on Privet Drive, tormented by the Dursleys and unable to gain any information: everyone seems intent on keeping him in the dark, including Dumbledore!  But when Dementors attack Little Whinging, Harry is immediately found by a group of wizards and taken to the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, the same Order that fought against Voldemort the first time.  For outside, Voldemort is rising, and he may be connected to Harry in ways neither of them yet understand.

My thoughts -
Fifth year - two years left - Oh my holy goodness I can't stand the suspense and yet I'm dreading to continue.  I'm dying to know and yet I'm so scared to find out...and for the suspense to be over.

Can you tell?  I'm conflicted.  Intensely so.

And yet, the pull to continue forward is stronger - DUH - so how can I not?  I mean, if books 4 and 5 were genius, I can only imagine what pure awesomeness lies ahead of me.  I use the awkward phrase "pure awesomeness" here for a lack of a better phrase.

In any case, this book had me in a riot - laughter, anger, boiling-over-mad, happy, gleeful, squealy, and more.  I was so infuriated at all the horrible things that happened - and then I was laughing about how the students retaliated .  It truly is amazing!

Rowling definitely grew as a writer/story-teller since the first book.  I take this as she really has a gift in writing, because she started out great and continually gets better ad better.  I love her style:  her words choices and descriptions are priceless and the way she builds intensity with words is stunning!  It's like she's yelling "STUPEFY!" at you as she builds.  ;)  I've got a lot to learn from this woman.

Character notes -
I have really grown to love Harry.  He's like a bestie now; I feel as though I've gone through all his adventures right beside him.  In this book he is a teenager growing into a man, and I'm very impressed.  His own personal struggles and triumphs add their own kind of severity to the story.

With every new book I feel as though I get to know Harry better - and I usually notice one or two new things about him.  This time, I noticed what a wonderfully caring person he is.  While he could have shunned the less popular boys and girls because he is "the boy who lived", he instead became friends with the less popular crowed, the one more likely to get made fun of or to not be as talented in wizardry.  He has never once regretted this - and his kindness is so apparent in the fifth book.  Hagrid is a mess and absolutely foolish at times, but Harry still loves him.  Ron isn't the best at Quidditch, but Harry keeps encouraging.  Neville is a bit annoying and the brunt of all joke and tricks, but Harry sticks by him.  And all of this has payed off, as we see at the end.

Besides Harry...I still really love Lupin, but Fred Weasley is my hero.  Not even kidding - I was whooping and hollering when he and George made their grand exit!

Ron and Hermione were amazing as well, so clearly exhibited.  I love how everyone brings something different to the table.  In one case, Hermione will think of some grand scheme, Ron will encourage, and Harry will have the guts and skill to do it.  Harry is not perfect; he doesn't come up with every good idea or smart plan.  They balance each other out.

Now, while Fred and Harry are quite amazing, it seems as though I have a new favorite - one who ties with Harry and Fred - one who I was entirely NOT expecting.  Ginny.  Holy smokes that girl!  I couldn't believe it - all of a sudden she's grown up, and gently pushing her way to the main scene.  And I loved her.  She had me laughing - and also sitting on the edge of my seat in awe.  She has gumption, that one, and has made me her 100% biggest fan!

While the leads of this book are perfectly lovely, the antagonists are also worthy of being mentioned - and worthy of your deepest fears.  They had me boiling with anger - so well-written and placed.  They really are epic - and will continue to be so, I am sure.

Story notes -
How to describe a story like this?  SO many layers, so many excellent twists and shocking events and hilarious riots that it's hard to describe.

Some of my favorite aspects of this book are:  Umbridge's detention for how chilling it is;  Fred and George for their general overall perfection and for their very epic escape; the end, for its climax and imagery; the sense of ill that comes with it - you know something bigger than ever before will soon happen; the development about James Potter and Severus Snape; the growing friendships; and Neville.  I just loved his role in this story.

So, was I impressed?
Well, let's just leave it at - "WOW!!!!"

Summing it up -
Dazzling, in a dark, foreboding kind of way.  I don't believe I've ever read anything quite like it; even the previous books have a totally different feel.  They all do, but the uniqueness is becoming more and more distinct.

What a world; what an amazing journey; what characters to love and hate and a story to dive into.  I'm very much in a Harry Potter daze! :D

For the Parents -
The students are getting older and some are entering relationships.  Harry and a girl kiss but it is only reference to.  Snogging is also referenced to (just another term for "making out").  A few D words, some intense violence and dark magic, which may be too much for young readers.  I'd say 15+ is a good age!

Read my other reviews!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Quotes)

"Give her hell from us, Peeves."
And Peeves, whom Harry had never seen take an order from a student before, swept his belled hat from his head and sprang to a salute as Fred and George wheeled about to tumultuous applause from the students below and sped out of the open front doors into the glorious sunset.

- Chapter 29, page 675

Favorite. Quote. EVER. Fred...I so dearly love him.

Review on Monday!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Thick VS Thin

People have a lot of different reading styles.  One of the different aspects of the different styles is whether or not a person likes to read thick books or thin books.  What is the difference?  Why do people choose one over the other?  I've been thinking about this a lot lately because quite a few thick books have come in from the library for me lately (or I'm about to get them in), and it dawned on me that a lot of people would look at those books and grimace in mental pain.  But not me!  I surge through them, happy for the chance to lose myself in complicated worlds and deep characters.  I just wish they didn't take me so long...

Thin Books

I'd say a thin book ranges from 125-250 pages.  Examples of this would be Keeping the Moon, The Water Wars, and Magic Under Glass.  While I like some thin books, like Keeping the Moon or Aurelia (pictured above), others drive me crazy.  I can't stand it when a book is so short that it loses its developing charm right within the first 100 pages.  Some books seem so short and underdeveloped that it's hard to connect with the characters or be interested in the story.  I felt this way about Magic Under Glass, which seemed like it was running on an empty tank to me.  This is not the first time I've felt this way about a book that size.  So, for me,you have to really wow me with when it comes to thin novels.

However, there are others who feel quite differently about thin books.  One of my favorite book reviewers and book soulmates, Small Review, really enjoys a lot of thin books, even some that I have found quite dull in their shortness.

Medium Books

So these aren't a major part of this post, because it's thick VS thin, but I don't think it would be fair if I skip over this size of book because it is the most popular and pretty much everyone can handle a  medium sized book.  Page count would range from 250-450, I'd say.  Like the above book, Airman.

Thick Books

As you've probably already guessed, I tend to lean toward the thick spectrum of things.  I don't go for the above pictured type of big all the time, but when I do, it's glorious.  The richness of the story is something I find I only get when reading something long and drawn out.  Page count would be higher than 450 pages.

Thick books are usually the type of books you read when you get into a long, drawn out fantasy series - or even just a trilogy.  And while I could sit with a good, long, thick series for weeks, there are some thick books I did not enjoy.  Wildwood, which was a good book in some aspects, was just too long and too descriptive for me to really enjoy.  It could have been cut down to 450 pages and it would have been beautiful.  However, the description was too much, and I found myself longing for simplicity.

Now, many would say that about the above featured book, The Count of Monte Cristo, one of my all time favorite books.  I'll admit myself that it has quite a few random details that probably could have been left out.  But for some reason, I loved them.  I sucked in every detail and didn't care one bit if it affected the story or not.  (The details usually did affect the story...just maybe not until later, and not how you'd expect.)  It was all interesting to me.  But others tell me, "If only an editor would come through and get rid of all that stuff and make it smaller, but not take away from the story."

(Oh, and if you're one of those people who's afraid to pick up the unabridged copy of The Count of Monte Cristo, then I recommend the Barnes and Noble copy.  It waters it down just enough for you to not have to deal with so much extra stuff if you don't want to, but it's still the full story, in old English, and beautifully translated.  I own both copies, just in case I want a lighter read of the story, that's still thick and is still amazing.  But in my eyes, the original will always be most amazing. EVER.)

The Verdict

My personal choice - thick.  In rain or shine, thick books keep me most company and I feel I can appreciate them more for their depth and character and story and general amazingness.
It's all a matter of opinion - thick or thin - and then after that it all boils down to what you have time for, what you're in the mood for, and what interests you.  You could be in the mood for a thick book because it's summer and you have time, you're in the mood for something sad, and you like paranormal.  If this is the case, I suggest Before I Fall.  ;)

Leave me your thoughts!
I want to know how you all feel about thick and/or thin books and what you prefer!!

Can I get an applause for amazing, beautiful models -

They worked so hard and did everything right - you should all go support them today because they're just that amazing.

Monte Cristo