Archive | March, 2012

Bunheads by Sophie Flack

29 Mar

Bunheads

Author: Sophie Flack

Pages [hardcover]: 294

favorite characters:
bea & hannah

summary:

As a dancer with the ultra-prestigious Manhattan Ballet Company, nineteen-year-old Hannah Ward juggles intense rehearsals, dazzling performances and complicated backstage relationships. Up until now, Hannah has happily devoted her entire life to ballet.

But when she meets a handsome musician named Jacob, Hannah’s universe begins to change, and she must decide if she wants to compete against the other “bunheads” in the company for a star soloist spot or strike out on her own in the real world. Does she dare give up the gilded confines of the ballet for the freedoms of everyday life?

review:

I already knew a bit about the world of dancers coming into this and was excited by the prospect of a fresh in-depth view coming in a YA novel. While I wasn’t exactly disappointed and can say that Bunheads is both enjoyable and memorable, it fell bland at parts and I never actually got to feel for any of the characters.

Hannah, the main character, isn’t very happy with the way her career is going. It’s looking like she’s going to get promoted, become a soloist, getting everything she’d always dreamed out. But she’ll also miss out on her chances at life. With little free time, she can’t go out anywhere, or date anyone, make friends outside of the company, or even finish a book. She’s not sure she wants to commit the rest of her youth to becoming completely dedicated to dance. The reader is only given hints as to the hobby’s and passions she might have possibly developed if she had the time, from the ever-present copy of Frankenstein she has sitting around and her scribbling in her notebook every fifty pages or so. But, as this is told in first-person, I would have thought there’d be more insight into what she was thinking. The majority of her uneasy feelings don’t happen until near the end, and then I felt like I was reading about an entirely different person as there was little transition.

Her change of heart begins not because of something she wants for herself, but because of boys. Of course. There’s Matt and Jacob, and she’s inevitably confused for a while over which she should start liking. They both annoy me in different ways and while there were a few redeeming qualities to balance things out, Hannah’s own choices in response didn’t make much sense. What girl would react like that? Unless she was already considering something other than dancing, which I suppose the constant complaints from her were supposed to allude to, but all of the dancers in here complained a lot. They had much to complain about.

The ending . . . I didn’t like it, at all. While parts of it were good and natural, most of it felt forced as well as rushed. There was a neat little trick to tie it all together, which I thought was awesome, but by the last page, I still couldn’t feel much toward any of the characters. And I wanted to. I really did.

DANCE ON BY THIS ONE. 3/5 STARS

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

28 Mar

Pride and Prejudice

Author: Jane Austen

Pages [paperback] : 375

memorable quote:
Laugh as much as you choose, but you will not laugh me out of my opinion.

favorite characters: mr. bennet & mr. darcy

summary:

‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’ Thus memorably begins Jane Austen‘s Pride and Prejudice, one of the world’s most popular novels. Pride and Prejudice—Austen’s own ‘darling child’—tells the story of fiercely independent Elizabeth Bennet, one of five sisters who must marry rich, as she confounds the arrogant, wealthy Mr. Darcy. What ensues is one of the most delightful and engrossingly readable courtships known to literature, written by a precocious Austen when she was just twenty-one years old.

Humorous and profound, and filled with highly entertaining dialogue, this witty comedy of manners dips and turns through drawing-rooms and plots to reach an immensely satisfying finale. In the words of Eudora Welty, Pride and Prejudice is as ‘irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be.’

review:

 I’ve been meaning to read this book for years and when I finally went and bought myself a copy I knew I’d have to buckle down and get to it. Sometimes trudging through the sentence structures and word usage of a book like this can intimidate a person enough to make them put it down immediately. But I suppose if school’s been good for anything it’s taught me at least that things as daunting as this can get better as time goes on. So I persisted, and so I loved it. And came to love the wonderful, quirky word choices as well.

The first part of the book as well as the last went by in gigantic chunks taken all at once for me. I was incredibly interested by the introduction of the characters, as I immediately found most of them hilarious. From Mr. Bennet, laughing at the expense of his own family, to Mrs. Bennet, outrageously silly and ignorant, to all of the sisters and their exaggerated personalities, to Mr. Darcy himself. I didn’t know much about the entire novel, or the premise, or how it was supposed to end . . . Only that for some reason many people are obsessed with this Darcy fellow. As a result, I spent the majority of my time wondering what on earth everyone and their mother saw in him that was so wonderful. Then I finished the novel, and well, okay, I might love him a little bit, now.

The middle was the hardest to pull through, consisting of a lot of nothing. I knew some of it was important, though the rest seemed just like a dull waste of time. Until some sentence or other would pull me back in again. I still can’t get over reading about someone staying over at someone’s house for only 10 days and how ‘short a stay it would be’! Um. Ten days is not very short. I understand carriage rides aren’t exactly the same as driving along in nice comfortable cars, but that doesn’t mean I want all of my relatives to come live with me for months on end.

I can see why this book has been recommended to me by friends, teachers, and enemies. (Alright, maybe that was a lie, but I’m assuming they’d like it, too.) Yes, I did like the entire romance aspect of it. (What girl can resist that? Seriously? Seriously.) I could perfectly picture all of the settings, and the strict social rules as well as the ideals of each social class.

This book made me laugh so much! The little insights on everything were delightful. Many of them were still relevent to today, and I could easily see connections to people like Elizabeth and Darcy to those living now. One of my favorite quotes from the book has to be, “As soon as they were gone, Elizabeth walked out to recover her spirits; or, in other words, to dwell without interruption on those subjects that must deaden them more.” Okay, so who doesn’t do that? I know that I do, and most of the people I know do this as well. See? Still relevent! And people say they can get nothing out of classic literature. By ‘people, I here mean my fellow classmates.

If you’ve been tentatively considering reading this, or been intimidated by it, give it a go! You might just enjoy it as much as I did. (:

TIMELESS. 4/5 stars

Interview with Andy Gavin, author of The Darkening Dream

28 Mar

Today I’m happy to welcome Andy Gavin to the blog. I reviewed his book The Darkening Dream a few days ago. You should go check that out. But stick around for a few seconds first. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for me,

*What inspired you to write The Darkening Dream

There are two answers to that, the visceral and the cerebral. With The Darkening Dream, the visceral part was this image I had – and some might consider me disturbed – of a dead tree silhouetted against an orange sky, a naked body bound to it, disemboweled, and bleeding out. The sound of a colossal horn or gong blares. The blood glistens black in the sunset light. Bats circle the sky and wolves bay in the distance. But sacrifice isn’t just about killing. It’s a contract. Someone is bargaining with the gods. And on the cerebral side, I’ve always been a huge vampire fan and I’ve read and watched a large percentage of the oeuvre. But also as a history buff I wanted to write a supernatural story that was more grounded in real history and legend. I’m always thinking, “that could have been so much better if they didn’t make up the historical backstory” so I started with the villains. What kind of ancient evil creatures might still be around? What do they want? And what legitimate human reason would they have to destroy the world (Buffy-style)? I don’t exactly answer the question in TDD, because the motives of 5,000 year old baddies should be mysterious. But trust me, they have a plan, and the sheer audacity of it will literally shake the foundations of the heavens.

*Where is your favorite place to write?

My work space is extremely messy but with a great view of Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean. I write on a 12 core Mac Pro with two Apple 30” monitors. Yeah, I’m a computer geek, and an Apple weenie to boot. I write in Scrivener which is a totally awesome writer’s word processor. Any writer still using Word is crazy J.

Unless something distracting is going on I try to have my butt in the chair by around 10am (after working out) and more or less keep it there until around 6pm. If drafting new prose I try to do about 2000 words a day. I write, then I do a polish pass. If I had to rewrite significantly during that pass I’ll do a third sweep to cleanup.

Then I print and run to my wife for instant feedback J. Next I email it to my Mom and my “story consultant” (one of my friends who reads it right away). Feedback is good. I find that I’ll often redraft a chunk on the basis of these early comments.

*What did you find most challenging about writing The Darkening Dream?

The endless re-reading and careful editing is more tedious (although I do a lot of it!). Sitting down to read the entire book again for the 50th time takes some serious will power. The agent query process is also horrible — and not nearly as productive. It’s really wretched and broken in every way, designed only for the convenience and efficiency of agents. But it doesn’t even really serve that. The process is loosely functional but frustrating for both sides in a way reminiscent of American Healthcare.

*If you could meet any literary character, who would you pick?

Dionysus. I’m sure he’d be great to party with.

*Have you been influenced by any particular writer’s style?

Tim Powers is a favorite for his ability to bring to life the fey in a grounded yet truly otherworldly way. Stephen King is another (not all his books but many) for his uncannily ability to characterize people in just a sentence or two and his unerring ear for dialogue. Dan Simmons for the massive scope of his world building and command of pathos. George R. R. Martin for his mastery at making his gigantic cast of characters feel developed and above all, human.

*What is your all-time favorite book?

Just one? I don’t know if I can do that. A Game of Thrones, Hyperion, Carrion Comfort, Dune, The Anubis Gates, A Fire Upon the Deep, Consider Phlebas, The City and the Stars, Time Enough for Love, Great Sky River, Wizard and Glass, To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Wyvern, Assassin’s Apprentice, A Horse and His Boy, The Silmarillion, and many more.

*Fun fact about yourself?

Besides having written two novels, thirteen video games, founded four companies, etc., I’m also an incurable foodie and certified Sommelier / Italian wine specialist.

—-

Thanks so much for the interview! For more on Andy Gavin, visit his website here.

The Darkening Dream by Andy Gavin

26 Mar

The Darkening Dream

Author: Andy Gavin

Pages [ebook]: 382

favorite characters:
anne & sam

summary:

Even as the modern world pushes the supernatural aside in favor of science and steel, the old ways remain. God, demon, monster, and sorcerer alike plot to regain what was theirs.

1913, Salem, Massachusetts – Sarah Engelmann’s life is full of friends, books, and avoiding the pressure to choose a husband, until an ominous vision and the haunting call of an otherworldly trumpet shake her. When she stumbles across a gruesome corpse, she fears that her vision was more of a premonition. And when she sees the murdered boy moving through the crowd at an amusement park, Sarah is thrust into a dark battle she does not understand.
With the help of Alex, an attractive Greek immigrant who knows a startling amount about the undead, Sarah sets out to uncover the truth. Their quest takes them to the factory mills of Salem, on a midnight boat ride to spy on an eerie coastal lair, and back, unexpectedly, to their own homes. What can Alex’s elderly, vampire-hunting grandfather and Sarah’s own rabbi father tell them? And what do Sarah’s continuing visions reveal?
No less than Gabriel’s Trumpet, the tool that will announce the End of Days, is at stake, and the forces that have banded to recover it include a 900 year-old vampire, a trio of disgruntled Egyptian gods, and a demon-loving Puritan minister. At the center of this swirling cast is Sarah, who must fight a millennia-old battle against unspeakable forces, knowing the ultimate prize might be herself.

review:

Okay, so I might have looked into this originally because the guy who wrote it helped create Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter. Those games are just awesome, so all the applause for that. But I’m not reviewing them. The premise of this sounded just as good so I started it. And kept reading, and reading, and reading, and then hated when it was over.

At first I was afraid, I was petrified, thinking that I wouldn’t be able to keep the many characters, good and bad, straight, the motives behind everyone, the entities and who was faithful and who had demons working for them. Actually, it was surprisingly easy to keep each person distinct. I really liked all of them, although in the beginning I was starting to think the minor characters would fall flat. That definitely wasn’t the case; actually, Sam and Anne, Sarah’s friends, turned out to be two of my favorites.

And the villains! It’s been a while since I’ve seen such a unique array of bad guys. A centuries old vampire, a warlock who plots with demons, a gigantic dung beetle . . . Otherwise known as an Egyptian god. The things they would do to people are definitely the stuff of nightmares, so those with weak stomachs be warned.

I loved the writing style, not very formal but not lax enough for the time period this is set in to be forgotten entirely. I also liked the alternating viewpoints, providing a chance for every perspective to be shown. That doesn’t mean that every secret is revealed as there are several twists and turns along the way. Especially the ending! I love the ending. It makes me want a lot more, now.

I definitely recommend The Darkening Dream. It’s got a little of everything. Romance, vampires, magic, adventure, danger, suspense, horror, humor. I don’t think it’s possible for me to name everything; you’ll just need to go and see for yourself.

GRIPPING. 4/5 stars

Books to Movies: The Hunger Games!!!!!!!!!

25 Mar

Hold on for a second…

AHHHHHHHHHH1340384530UT0R349TU4#^%&^%#

It’s here! It’s finally here! I’ve been waiting years for the Hunger Games movie to become reality and on Friday I ACTUALLY SAT IN THE THEATER AND WATCHED IT AND WAS NOT HORRIBLY DISAPPOINTED AND ACTUALLY KIND OF LOVED IT!!!!!

Ahem. I meant for this to be a diplomatic review, but, well…. I’m allowed to squee a little, right?

So, because I know not everyone was as anxious to see it on the day it came out as I was, this will be a movie spoiler free review. Just saying.

When I first heard some of the casting I was disappointed and worried. I love Josh Hutcherson but didn’t think he could pull off who I considered to be Peeta. He went above and beyond my expectations. Same goes for Haymitch (a.k.a. Woody Harrelson) and Cinna (Lenny Kravitz). I’m so completely happy that they really sold their parts and proved my assumptions wrong!

Some of the scenes from the book that I found most important were translated beautifully to the screen and made me a very happy fan. Others were excluded for no reason that I could see and that made me sad. Some of the camera work was odd; at some points it was shaky constantly and it really messed with my eyes and detracted from my enjoyment because I was obsessing over everything that I was missing. I wanted to be able to see the entire thing, not just choppy bits and pieces!

Overall, though, I don’t have much more to complain about than I already expected. I mean, the book’s always better than the movie, right? I knew they’d have to cut a lot out and change some things. I really liked some of the differences I could spot. It made it easy for people who never read the book to understand what was happening, to make all the right connections without being forced to fill in the blanks for themselves. Because while reading we can see exactly what’s in Katniss’ mind, we can’t exactly show all of that on the screen. Being able to manage most of that . . . That deserves a round of applause!

Also, I liked being able to see outside reactions to the Games, because it isn’t all from Katniss’ point of view.

Overall thoughts? Go see it! Whether you’re a fan, haven’t read it, are still indecisive . . . It’s more than worth your time. I think I’ll need to go see it again soon.

If you’re up for a laugh, check out these youtube videos. Still no spoilers about the movie, though the one does spoil the book a bit if you haven’t read it yet!

 

Teeth: Vampire Tales edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

25 Mar

Teeth

Editors: Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

(Because I’m too lazy I’m not going to list every author because there are like 20 but suffice it to say they’re all equally talented and awesome. Yeah, I know right? You’d think with this many stories they wouldn’t all be that good. But they were. I’m getting ahead of myself.)

Pages : [paperback] 452

memorable stories: things to know about being dead, all smiles, vampire weather, &  best friends forever

summary:

Sink your teeth into these bite-sized tales exploring the intersections among the living, dead, and undead. Features stories by Neil Gaiman, Melissa Marr, Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, Garth Nix, and many more.

review:

I ended up randomly choosing to check this book out at the library last week, not expecting much from it as I haven’t been very into vampires lately. Not because of a specific book, just . . . tired of it all, I guess. But I was sucked in by seeing the great authors mentioned on the cover (which I suppose was the intended purpose of them doing such a thing) and ended up not just enjoying but loving this!

I listed a few of my favorite stories above and it was hard to even narrow it down to four out of . . . nineteen? I think there is something like that many stories. I liked every one of them. Really. How often can you pick up a collection and say that? And one where every story is about vampires! And they were all unique! I loved how some of them took the idea of a vampire from various cultures around the world, all slightly differing from one another, and made it their own. There were funny stories that had me laughing uncontrollably, devastating ones that made me want to cry, ones that were hopeful and ones where you lost all hope . . .

Altogether, a great mix. There wasn’t too much of any one thing. Male and female protagonists and antagonists, first person narration as well as third and a bit of second thrown in one. (Read it to see what I mean. Come on. Do it.) Love and romance and betrayal and creepy creatures that will definitely give me nightmares.

It’s hard to find many things to be critical of because each short story was so unique and interesting and I definitely can’t analyze each in turn. Maybe I can just say that I was sad that it ended? This anthology really surprised me in the best way, coming up and getting me addicted. Just goes to show that once you think you’re done with a certain topic, authors unite to drag you back into it. I’m not going to complain.

FANG-TASTIC. 5/5 stars

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

16 Mar

The Princess Bride

Author: William Goldman

Pages [paperback]: 456

memorable quote:
Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.

favorite characters: inigo & fezzik

summary:

As Florin and Guilder teeter on the verge of war, the reluctant Princess Buttercup is devastated by the loss of her true love, kidnapped by a mercenary and his henchmen, rescued by a pirate, forced to marry Prince Humperdinck, and rescued once again by the very crew who absconded with her in the first place. In the course of this adventure, she’ll meet Vizzini-the criminal philosopher who’ll do anything for a bag of gold; Fezzik-the gentle giant; Inigo-the Spaniard whose steel thirsts for revenge; and Count Rugen-the evil mastermind behind it all. Foiling all their plans and jumping into their stories is Westley, Princess Buttercup’s one true love and a very good friend of a very dangerous pirate.

review:

I’ve wanted to read this book, badly, ever since I first randomly caught the movie on TV. I loved the humor of it, and the adventure, and the romance . . . And I’m happy to say that I loved the novel just as much. Maybe more, because there was much more to offer. The details, a writing style until any other I’ve come across before, the little quips the characters make . . . Is it possible to be in love with a book?

What always grabs me about any favorite book of mine is that it’s different from the norm. ‘Different’ can be an entire range of things, from out of this world characterization to insightful ideas to, what caught me in The Princess Bride, a unique narrative voice and a story that held both a satirical and fairy tale quality to it. I think anyone who can pull that off is pretty awesome.

This is a book that actually made me want to read the introduction. I know. Usually those are only included in things I need to read for school, are dull and droll and dry. Basically the last thing I need to do is make myself hate the story before it’s even begun. Completely different case here. I expected to read a page or two, get bored and skip to the actual story. Didn’t happen. It actually made me look forward to the story more, like the author a whole lot more, laugh at loud and make everyone around me think I was crazy . . .

Well. Not everything can be perfect.

This is a book where you can like the minor characters as much as, and more than, the major ones. In the beginning, I thought I wouldn’t like Buttercup at all because, well, she can be a real idiot. But she’s funny. And that makes all the difference. Once I got over her (about ten pages in) it was easy enough to accept everyone else. I particularly loved Inigo and Fezzick, their rhyming together, and generally amazing abilities to not die.

This is a book I’ll read again and again and again. And I really want to watch the movie right now. It’s been a while, but while I was reading I could see clearly which movie scenes fit in where and which lines had been put directly into the film. That was fantastic as well. To anyone who’s watched the movie, go read the book. Please. If you haven’t done either, do both. And if you’ve just read the book . . . Go watch the movie already.

A NEW FAVORITE. 5/5 stars

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