January 31, 2013

Who is Marcus Finch? (Day 8)

The Indigo SpellThe newest Bloodlines novel by Richelle Mead, THE INDIGO SPELL, comes out on February 12th and introduces the mysterious Marcus Finch.  But I'm guessing this secret will remove a bit of the glamor.  Unless you're into shabby, one-room apartments.  Hey, to each their own.

For more information, check out the Facebook page, the book trailer, or this excerpt of the first three chapters of THE INDIGO SPELL.  Or you could just win a copy of the book by filling out the Rafflecopter below.

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Review: The Madman's Daughter

The Madman's Daughter First in a trilogy
By Megan Shepherd
Available now from Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins)
Review copy

Believe the hype.  THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER is terrifying, sexy, and utterly enthralling.  Juliet Moreau and her mother where left to eke out an existence on their own after her father fled England following a scandal.  When her mother died, Juliet took employment as a maid.  But a young, pretty girl surrounded by students is not safe, and Juliet's life is a struggle to survive.  Then she finds Montgomery James, her family's former servant, and believes he can lead her to her father.

Those familiar with H.G. Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau probably know where the story will end up.  I've never read that classic, but I have read DR. FRANKLIN'S ISLAND by Ann Halam, so I had some ideas about what was really going on.  Juliet, on the other hand, prefers to think the best of her father.  After all, she remembers him being a good dad, even if he did abandon her.

Juliet and Montgomery are not the only one's on her father's island.  There's also Edward Prince, a castaway Juliet rescued from the sea.  She's drawn to him, even as the bond she and Montgomery had as children is renewed.  It doesn't help that both boys are excellent kissers.  But no matter who she likes or doesn't like, she's determined to get both boys off the island and away from its horrible experiments.

Debut author Megan Shepherd skillfully combines romance with horror.  THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER explores medical ethics and what it means to be a human, plus it has scenes of people being stalked through a jungle by a killer monster.  As for the romance, I hate how many books are making me enjoy love triangles lately.  But Juliet has off-the-scales chemistry with both Montgomery and Edward, and she's never worried about who she wants to kiss when she should be worrying about what craziness her father has unleashed.

Juliet is a fantastic character in her own right.  She's knowledgeable about medicine, from paying attention to her father when she was young and the labs where she worked at King's College.  In fact, she knows more than some medical students.  She's very practical.  Though she was born into wealth, she has little pride.  She's willing to take low employment to survive, but Juliet does not want to resort to prostitution.  Whenever the guys get onto her for coming to the island, she knows that she didn't have many options in England.  And, well, if she isn't a lady, she isn't going to act like one.  She'll travel with men, she'll do what she wants, and she'll keep something sharp at hand.  You go, girl.

It's only January, but I feel that I can safely say THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER is one of the best books of the year.  It's thoughtful, passionate, and chilling.  Bring on book two!

January 30, 2013

Who is Marcus Finch? (Day 7)

The Indigo Spell Yep, they claim to know nothing.  And we can definitely trust the Alchemists, right guys?  Yeah right.  The newest Bloodlines novel by Richelle Mead, THE INDIGO SPELL, comes out on February 12th.  For more information, check out the Facebook page, the book trailer, or this excerpt of the first three chapters of THE INDIGO SPELL.

Earn another entry to win a hardcover copy of THE INDIGO SPELL alone!  How much do you think the Alchemists actually know?

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Review: Prodigy

Prodigy Book Two in the Legend series
By Marie Lu
Available now from Putnam (Penguin)
Review copy
Read my review of LEGEND

PRODIGY lives up to the promise of LEGEND and then some.  It's much bigger in scope than the first novel and adds a great deal of complexity for the setting.  As Day and June become involved with the Patriots, they learn that the rebels' agenda might not be the best for the people and that the Colonies of America might not be that much better than the Republic.  Not to mention Day and June's relationship started very quickly.  When they're separated, they are forced to examine what they really want and how far they trust each other.

I really loved how Marie Lu handled the relationship.  The book alternates viewpoints, making it easy to understand what both Day and June are thinking and how they interpret each other's actions. June in particular is awkward.  She doesn't have any romantic experience and she's already off balance because fighting against the government is the exact opposite of what she expected to do with her life.  She keeps putting her foot in her mouth and not explaining what she really meant because she's afraid of compounding her mistake.  Their whirlwind romance didn't really work for me in LEGEND, so I appreciated that Lu slowed things down and gave those two crazy kids a chance to figure out why they were together, aside from attraction, and if they wanted to stay together.

Because they do have other options.  Aside from the obvious - breaking up - they each gain a love interest.  June's is Anden, the Elector's son, and the man June and Day are supposed to assassinate for the Patriots.  June, however, is not entirely convinced that he'll follow in his father's footsteps.  Day's is Tess, his companion from the streets with whom he reunites.  While he notices she's grown up, it felt very weird because I was used to him seeing her as about ten years old.  I didn't buy her suddenly being old enough to be a contender for Day's amorous affections.

But PRODIGY would be pretty lame if it was all about the romance.  The majority of the novel is about the politics of Lu's future US and what is the ethical path to the greatest good.  Lu's clearly spent a lot of time mapping out her world.  I loved getting a glimpse beyond the borders of the Republic and the Colonies.  What happens to the Republic is life and death for June and Day, but it's small potatoes to the world's population.  (And guess what?  A lot of African countries have become the major global powers.)

Of course, Lu is also proves to be excellent at tugging on your heartstrings.  Metias's death becomes ever more tragic as more about who he was is revealed.  Any deaths in PRODIGY have maximum impact.  And let's not even talk about the major reveal at the end.  One thing is for sure: I'm going to be back for book three.

January 29, 2013

Who is Marcus Finch? (Day 6)

The Indigo SpellYou can meet Marcus Finch for real (or fiction, I guess) when the newest Bloodlines novel, THE INDIGO SPELL by Richelle Mead, comes out on February 12th.  Until then you can follow the clues and make your guesses about this man of mystery in the comments!  (Plus, you get bonus entries in the contest by commenting.)

For more information, check out the Facebook page, the book trailer, or this excerpt of the first three chapters of THE INDIGO SPELL.

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Review: Stolen Nights

Stolen Nights The Second Vampire Queen Novel
By Rebecca Maizel
Available now from St. Martin's Griffin
Review copy

I have to hand it to Rebecca Maizel.  When I read INFINITE DAYS I knew there was a sequel on the way, but I couldn't imagine how she would continue the story.  Lenah Beaudonte had a complete character arc and defeated her enemies.  What was left?

How about this: Rhode Lewin, her lover who sacrificed himself for her, is still alive.  So is Lenah.  And both of them are supposed to be dead because of the ritual.  Now vampires are hunting them for the secret of the ritual.  And those powering the ritual - the Aeris - have given Lenah and Rhode an ultimatum: they must fix their mess, or their pasts will be changed so that they never met.

Lenah, Rhode, and Vicken struggle to save their classmates as humans.  Their vampire powers are fading fast, so they're up against creatures stronger, faster, and generally more powerful in all ways than themselves.  Their main advantage is that they understand how vampires operate.  Lenah in particular understands the madness plaguing Odette, the leader of the vampires after them.

Meanwhile, they're finding it difficult to actually be human.  Yes, there is still room for Lenah to grow as a character.  Maizel has a real talent for creating complex characters, and I'd say that even if Lenah was the only person in INFINITE DAYS and STOLEN NIGHTS to show any depth.  She's that well fleshed out.  I'm not that big on the love triangle plot, mostly because it's obvious that no matter the obstacles, Rhode will always come first in Lenah's heart.  (And, well, Justin most definitely pales in comparison to Rhode.)

The always human characters don't get as much to do.  Lenah's boyfriend Justin is pretty petulant since Rhode showed up.  I can't say his arc entirely surprised me, but some fans of the character may dislike it.  Claudia and Tracy, the mean girls, grow as people after the death of their best friend.  Tracy in particular becomes a character you can really love.

I definitely suggest reading INFINITE DAYS before STOLEN NIGHTS, and perhaps rereading INFINITE DAYS if it's been awhile since you've read it.  Maizel's mythology is complex and her continuity is strong.  I love that, but it doesn't make STOLEN NIGHTS the friendliest book to new readers.

The Vampire Queen series is perfect for paranormal fanatics looking for another romantic, bloody read.  There's a nice balance between the action and the romance and the pages are filled with memorable characters.  The more macabre moments are balanced by bits of humor, mostly provided by Vicken.  Even if you're tired of vampires, I'd give the Vampire Queen a chance.

January 28, 2013

Who is Marcus Finch? (Day 5)

The Indigo SpellThat's right, Marcus Finch is the guy on the left of the cover.  I like to call him young Mark Wahlberg.  He doesn't strip down to his Calvins or rap, however, unless that happens in the next book.

The newest Bloodlines novel by Richelle Mead, THE INDIGO SPELL, comes out on February 12th.  Enter to win a copy today!

For more information, check out the Facebook page, the book trailer, or this excerpt of the first three chapters of THE INDIGO SPELL.

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January 25, 2013

Who is Marcus Finch? (Day 4)

The Indigo Spell The question is whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, isn't it?  What do you think?

The newest Bloodlines novel by Richelle Mead, THE INDIGO SPELL, comes out on February 12th.  For more information, check out the Facebook page, the book trailer, or this excerpt of the first three chapters of THE INDIGO SPELL.

I hope you've enjoyed the first week of clues!  Don't forget to enter the giveaway.

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Review: Tenth of December: Stories

Tenth of December By George Saunders (no website)
Available now from Random House
Review copy

George Saunders is widely regarded as one of the masters of the short story and his newest collection, TENTH OF DECEMBER, has be widely praised as some of his best and most accessible work.  I found it to be like most short story collections: some of the stories are great, some are good, some are meh.

Saunders does have style, though sometimes his style comes at the cost of the story.  His style is excellent for getting inside of his characters' heads and bringing each narrator to life.  And somehow, those his style is consistent, the narrators don't all sound the same.  TENTH OF DECEMBER's longest story, "The Semplica-Girl Diaries," was not included in the ARC.  It is, however, free to read at The New Yorker.

"The Semplica-Girl Diaries" is one of the weaker stories in the collection, but a good introduction the anthology's contents.  And why is it weaker?  Well, it's centered on a brilliant image.  One that's gruesome but funny, skewering materialism in a Three Stooges manner.  But it's structured in journal entries, and the epistolary form kills much of the momentum the story could have.

In my opinion, the best story in the collection is "Escape from Spiderhead," previously  collected in The Best American Short Stories 2011.  It's a futuristic tale of a man participating in an increasingly brutal lab experiment.  It's a chilling exploration of love and human empathy, or the lack of it.  It could be totally bleak, but the ending is strangely uplifting.

Some of the other stories I really enjoyed are "Exhortation," an odd little story that mocks corporate speak perfectly and "My Chivalric Fiasco," which combines strange theme parks, ye olde English, and an ill-timed affair.  I  would probably include "Victory Lap" in this list if the ending made more sense on a character level.

TENTH OF DECEMBER didn't persuade me to join the cult of George Saunders.  But it's at least worth checking out from your library in order to read the best stories. 

January 24, 2013

Who is Marcus Finch? (Day 3)

The Indigo Spell Who is Marcus Finch?  I hear the reason his hair is so big is because it's full of secrets.  Secrets about the Warriors of the Light, that is.  The newest Bloodlines novel by Richelle Mead, THE INDIGO SPELL, comes out on February 12th.  You can enter to win a copy now, through the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post!  You don't have to do anything to enter.

For more information, check out the Facebook page, the book trailer, or this excerpt of the first three chapters of THE INDIGO SPELL.

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Review: Jinx

Jinx First in a series
By Sage Blackwood
Available now from Harper Collins
Review copy

JINX is good.  JINX is really, really good.  JINX is an example of everything middle grade fantasy can be, one of those books that will appeal to both parents and their children, as well as other people who just want a good book with curses and enchanted forests and plucky orphans.

Jinx is raised by the wizard Simon after his stepparents attempt to abandon him in the forest.  You're safe as long as you stay on the path in the Urwald, but even then it's not an easy place to survive.  It's easier if you're clever and kind, but there are many dangers lurking for the unsuspecting.  Unfortunately for Jinx, he trusts Simon and ends up losing some of his magic as a consequence.  When he goes out to claim it, he meets two other cursed orphans:  Elfwyn and Reven.  Elfwyn is a fellow child of the Urwald and Reven is an outsider who could bring great danger considering how he never quite manages to understand the place.

Did I mention how good JINX is?  Because it's great.  It's full of moral complexity, from witches and wizards who might be evil to fellow plucky orphans who have motives that might be at odds with Jinx's own.  He relied on his ability to see people's feelings when he was younger and never learned to look much beyond that surface.  Part of JINX is his growing up and learning who to trust and when to trust them.  It can be hard, when some people seem more affable and decent than others, but might be nastier inside.

Beyond the subtle, detailed characters is a rich, fertile world.  In fact, there's far more to the world than just the menacing, yet nurturing Urwald and Jinx longs to explore it.  Sage Blackwood was clearly influenced by a variety of fairytales and other folklore, but she's created a fantasyland of her own.  There's a touch of Hansel and Gretel here, a sprinkle of Baba Yaga there, but there's enough invention to make JINX feel fresh.

Do you love middle grade fantasy?  Or do you just love fantasy, period?  Then do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of JINX.  Blackwood's debut is an absolute standout, and I cannot wait to read about Jinx's future adventures.

January 23, 2013

Who is Marcus Finch? (Day 2)

The Indigo SpellThe newest Bloodlines novel by Richelle Mead, THE INDIGO SPELL, comes out on February 12th.  For more information, check out the Facebook page, the book trailer, or this excerpt of the first three chapters of THE INDIGO SPELL.

Today is the first day of the giveaway, which will last through February 11th.  Everyone gets one free entry and you can earn an extra entry each day by commenting on the clue.  It can be anything - from your theories about Marcus Finch to why you love Mead's novels.  (Heck, just put "Team Adrian!")

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Review: Delusion

Delusion By Laura L. Sullivan
Available now from Harcourt (Houghton Mifflin)
Review copy

DELUSION is one of those books with a killer premise.  Twin magicians (as in Harry Houdini) are sent to the countryside during WWII wherein they find as school of magicians (as in Harry Potter).  Unfortunately, it takes a long time to live up to the promise of that premise.

The novel is narrated in omniscient third, although it usually sticks close to Phil Albion, that is.  After the death of her little foster brother in a bombing, she's determined to convince the sleepy, forgotten village of Bittersweet to due its duty for the cause.  When she stumbles upon the College of Drycraeft, she's just as determined to convince the magicians to fight in the war.  But the war has touched the village in some ways, as evidenced by wounded veterans Uncle Walter and Algernon.  The magicians present their reasons for staying out of it, including their determination to never use magic to take a life.  But it takes Phil a long time to even admit shades of grey exists and that she might not know what's best for everyone.

DELUSION slips into other characters' heads randomly, for a few lines or a few paragraphs.  It is not done smoothly and often provides clumsy exposition.  Those other characters include Fee, Phil's twin, who is particularly wasted.  She's a romantic and falls in love with one of the magicians at first sight.  She has almost nothing to do in the story aside from that.  As for Arden, the magician Phil falls in love with, he's a real winner.  He's a jerk and possibly his only redeeming quality is that he agrees with Phil that the magicians need to protect the country that shelters them.

But I didn't totally hate DELUSION.  Once Phil finally agreed with every other person around her that war is complicated, the story began taking on layers.  Before that, the only layers were people offering their differing views to a brick wall pretending to be a redhead.  Plus, there are some really exciting developments toward the end of DELUSION.  Basically, by the end of the novel I was loving it.  But it was a bit of a slog to make it to the good stuff.

If you are longing to read a historical fantasy, then go ahead and pick up DELUSION.  Otherwise, you might be a little wary.  I want to read the next novel, but where Laura L. Sullivan goes next will definitely affect my opinion of the readability of DELUSION.

January 22, 2013

Who is Marcus Finch? (Day One)

The Indigo Spell The newest Bloodlines novel by Richelle Mead, THE INDIGO SPELL, comes out on February 12th.  Between now and then I'll be participating in the "Who is Marcus Finch?" event.  Every weekday you'll get a clue as to who this mysterious man might be.  And starting tomorrow is my giveaway to win a hardcover copy of THE INDIGO SPELL.

For more information, check out the Facebook page, the book trailer, or this excerpt of the first three chapters of THE INDIGO SPELL.

Come back tomorrow for another fact and the start of the giveaway!  (Hint: There may be a way to earn yourself a bonus entry today.)

Review: The Darkness Dwellers

The Darkness Dwellers Book Three of the Kiki Strike series
By Kirsten Miller
Available now from Bloomsbury
Review copy

I absolutely adore the Kiki Strike series.  They're complex, intelligent stories featuring a cast of talented and ambitious young women.  The books are framed as Ananka Fishbein's records of her adventures with Kiki Strike and the other Irregulars.  Ananka has come a long way from the first book, but she's put in charge for the first time when Kiki goes to Paris alone.  She struggles to maintain control of the Irregulars in addition to preventing her classmates from becoming etiquette zombies and her friend Oona's reputation from being smeared by her long lost evil twin.

Kirsten Miller keeps control of multiple plotlines spread across two countries that end up intersecting in quite unexpected ways.  THE DARKNESS DWELLERS is a marvel of tight plotting and careful pacing.  There's hardly a lull as she switches between storylines, yet it's surprisingly easy to keep track of what's going on.  I do not, however, recommend THE DARKNESS DWELLERS to readers who haven't read the first two Kiki Strike books.  There's a quick explanation of who everyone is and what they do, but you might not care as much about each girl's story if you aren't already invested in the character.  There's too much plot here to waste too many pages on introductions.

I must also commend Miller for how she concludes Kiki's struggle to prove her aunt murdered her parents and that she is the rightful princess of Pokrovia.  It's been the overarching plot of the series and it isn't given short shrift in THE DARKNESS DWELLERS despite everything else going on.  And every time I thought Ananka was given the B story despite being the narrator, she'd do something rather important.

I also love that the Irregulars are all flawed despite their great talents.  Ananka can be petty.  Kiki isn't the most compassionate.  Oona has a temper.  But they find ways to overcome and get the job done.  Betty even proves that what everyone assumes is her weakness can be a strength.  (And let me tell you Betty fans, she has a great storyline in THE DARKNESS DWELLERS.)

Readers looking for books with action, puzzles, espionage, and teenage masterminds would do well giving Kiki Strike a try.  All three books are just plain fun.

January 21, 2013

Movie Monday: Oscars Prognostication

I am in no place to make an predictions this year.  I haven't been to the movies as much as usual, so I've seen almost none of the nominees.  (I've got until February 24th to catch up . . . which probably isn't happening.)  Instead, I'll throw it to the crowd.  Who do you think is going home with a gold statuette?

Below is the list of nominees:

Best Picture
Beasts Of The Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life Of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Best Director
Michael Haneke, Amour
Ang Lee, Life Of Pi
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts Of The Southern Wild

Best Actor
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts Of The Southern Wild
Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

Best Original Screenplay
Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom
Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty
John Gatins, Flight
Michael Haneke, Amour
Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

Best Adapted Screenplay
Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin, Beasts Of The Southern Wild
Tony Kushner, Lincoln
David Magee, Life Of Pi
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Chris Terrio, Argo

Best Animated Feature
The Pirates! Band Of Misfits
Wreck-It Ralph

Best Cinematography
Roger Deakins, Skyfall
Janusz Kaminski, Lincoln
Seamus McGarvey, Anna Karenina
Claudio Miranda, Life Of Pi
Robert Richardson, Django Unchained

Best Costume Design
Colleen Atwood, Snow White And The Huntsman
Paco Delgado, Les Misérables
Jacqueline Durran, Anna Karenina
Eiko Ishioka, Mirror Mirror
Joanna Johnston, Lincoln

Best Documentary Feature
5 Broken Cameras
The Gatekeepers
How To Survive A Plague
The Invisible War
Searching For Sugar Man

Best Documentary Short
Kings Point
Mondays At Racine
Open Heart

Best Film Editing
Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers, Silver Linings Playbook
William Goldenberg, Argo
Michael Kahn, Lincoln
Tim Squyres, Life Of Pi
Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg, Zero Dark Thirty

Best Foreign Language Film
Amour (Austria)
Kon-Tiki (Norway)
No (Chile)
A Royal Affair (Denmark)
War Witch (Canada)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel, Hitchcock
Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell, Les Miserables

Best Original Score
Alexandre Desplat, Argo
Mychael Danna, Life Of Pi
Dario Marianelli, Anna Karenina
Thomas Newman, Skyfall
John Williams, Lincoln

Best Original Song
“Before My Time,” Chasing Ice (music and lyric by J. Ralph)
“Everybody Needs A Best Friend,”Ted (music by Walter Murphy; lyric by Seth MacFarlane)
“Pi’s Lullaby,” Life Of Pi (music by Mychael Danna; lyric by Bombay Jayashri)
“Skyfall,” Skyfall (music and lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth)
“Suddenly,” Les Misérables (music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil)

Best Production Design
Rick Carter and Jim Erickson, Lincoln
Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer, Anna Karenina
David Gropman and Anna Pinnock, Life Of Pi
Dan Hennah, Ra Vincent and Simon Bright, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Eve Stewart and Anna Lynch-Robinson, Les Miserables

Best Animated Short
Adam And Dog
Fresh Guacamole
Head Over Heels
Maggie Simpson In “The Longest Daycare”

Best Live Action Short
Buzkashi Boys
Death of a Shadow

Best Sound Editing
Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn, Argo
Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton, Life of Pi
Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers, Skyfall
Paul N.J. Ottosson, Zero Dark Thirty
Wylie Stateman, Django Unchained

Best Sound Mixing
Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin, Life of Pi
Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson, Skyfall
Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes, Les Misérables
Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins, Lincoln
John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia, Argo

Best Visual Effects
Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson, Snow White And the Huntsman
Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick, Marvel’s The Avengers
Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill, Prometheus
Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott, Life Of Pi

January 19, 2013

Review: Gun Machine

Gun Machine By Warren Ellis
Available now from Mulholland Books (Little, Brown)
Review copy

Warren Ellis is mostly known for his work in comics, and I think there's something comforting in his work in comics that isn't there in plain text.  There's a picture, right there, of something gruesome, and it's almost always a little funny because some things become too much when they're drawn.  But when the brain matter flies in GUN MACHINE, you imagine it.  And I've got a good imagination.

Detective John Tallow's life as a cop wasn't that exciting until the day his partner dies.  It leads him to discover a giant cache of guns, each connected to an unsolved murder.  He's uncovered a prolific serial killer and there's no real evidence in sight.  Even though he's supposed to be on leave due to his partner's death, he's assigned the case because no one else wants to go down with the ship.  The only help he has are two CSUs, Bat and Scarly.

Tallow drives the plot of GUN MACHINE through sheer force of will.  He's on the verge of a breakdown, but he's determined to catch this guy.  But even as he begins to see the patterns at work it isn't enough because there is no evidence.  It's nice to read a story about a cop who is preoccupied because he's close to solving the case but can't prove it.

GUN MACHINE periodically slips into the mind of the killer, who is completely crazy.  He's not the only crazy person in the book, but he's distinguished by being the craziest.  As chilling as he is, however, the people who are complicit in his actions are even scarier because they aren't raving mad.  GUN MACHINE is full of bad people doing bad things, but it's not a downer.  In fact, it's far more optimistic than most noir.  It's an exciting, fast-paced maze.

If you love pulpy, modern noir, then pick up a copy of GUN MACHINE.  It's quick and dirty and sometimes it's even funny.  And I love the cover.  You can't see it in a thumbnail, but there's a map superimposed on the gun.  If you do read GUN MACHINE, pay attention to the maps.  They're important.

January 18, 2013

Review: Exposure

Exposure Book Two of the Twisted Lit series
By Kim Askew and Amy Helmes
Available now from Merit Press (F+W)
Review copy
Read my review of TEMPESTUOUS and my interview with Kim and Amy

EXPOSURE is a contemporary young adult novel inspired by Shakespeare's Macbeth.   Craig Mackenzie, our Macbeth, is on the local hockey team along with Duncan, and his girlfriend Bree Matthews is a cheerleader.  The narrator, Skye Kingston, has been friends with Craig since he moved to Alaska and had a crush on him for just as long.  When Duncan dies of exposure after a party in the woods, Skye remembers a cryptic conversation she overheard between Craig and Bree.  Almost instinctively, she protects her friend, but starts to ask questions.

TEMPESTUOUS, the first Twisted Lit novel, had very little in common with The Tempest aside from character names.  EXPOSURE hews a bit more closely to Macbeth, but it's often its own thing.  Which is fine, because it's a good story.  I noticed a few editing errors, unlike TEMPESTUOUS, but I'll chalk that up to reading an ARC and assume it was cleaned up in the final copy.

Skye's motives were hard to understand at times.  I can see why she didn't immediately turn Craig in, just on the basis of a half-heard conversation, but I'm not entirely sure why she sticks by him when he treats her terribly in the throes of his guilt.  At the same time, it's hard to fault a character for being loyal.  Plus, I loved the scene where they finally talked to each other about the things they hadn't discussed with each other before, such as why he dated the ambitious Bree in the first place.

Plus, I have to recommend EXPOSURE for its take on the witches.   Cat, Kaya, and Tess are three arty girls who crack jokes and see pretty deeply into their classmates.  They're wicked fun.  Actually, a lot of the characters who populate the novel are pretty fun, such as the guy who wants to go to prom with Skye and never catches on that she's trying to let him down gently.

I recommend EXPOSURE to Shakespeare fans looking for something lighter than tragedies, as well as contemporary fans looking for a bit of mystery and a hint of romance.  I hope Kim Askew and Amy Helmes have more modern takes on Shakespeare on the way, because I found their first two outings very enjoyable.

January 17, 2013

Review: Gates of Paradise

Gates of Paradise Book Nine of the Blue Bloods series
By Melissa de la Cruz
Available now from Hyperion (Disney)
Review copy
Read my reviews of THE VAN ALEN LEGACY and WOLF PACT
Read my interview with Melissa and her guest blog

The Blue Bloods series had a strong premise and a great beginning, but it foundered for awhile.  The series always followed several narrators in each novel, but there were always some plotlines that didn't have the urgency or sizzle of the others.  Even in GATES OF PARADISE, Schuyler Van Alen goes on a side adventure that involves hanging out at a college party.  I mean, it's not like she should be worried about leading the charge against Lucifer and preventing him from invading Heaven or anything.

That being said, I think GATES OF PARADISE was a fitting end to the series and lived up to the promise of BLUE BLOODS.  It finishes answering the questions of Allegra's past (a plotline began in LOST IN TIME, Book 8) and reveals just what happened in Florence.  Mimi Force completes her redemption, and not a moment too soon.  I have longed to never read a point of view from the self-absorbed, bratty Mimi ever again, but she managed to change enough that I no longer wished an unhappy end upon her and was a little afraid that might happen.  And I do recommend that you read the serial WOLF PACT before GATES OF PARADISE because otherwise you'll have no clue what's up with Bliss or who those people with her are.

(But if you haven't read the series in awhile and are curious as to how it ends, you can probably pick up GATES OF PARADISE and figure out what happened in the mean time.  And no, not all of the books in the series are essential reading.)

The final battle does involve a touch of deus ex machina, but I can be more forgiving about that in a series that revolves around fallen angels who are vampires.  It's still an exciting scene that tugs on the heartstrings.  Melissa de la Cruz is determined to make her characters work for their happiness, which is only fitting.  Redemption is hard.

I can't help but feel that the Blue Bloods series might have worked better as an adult series.  It's come a long way from it's Gossip-Girl-with-vampires origins.  Given how many characters get married (or the metaphysical equivalent thereof) and all the past lives giving them knowledge and experience, it hardly feels like Schuyler or her compatriots are actualfax teenagers.  But I can't complain too much.  The series as is is pretty good.  Cruz's mythology is complex and involved and her plot is a delicate, crazy house of cards that somehow managed to hold together.

There are series I've been much sadder to part with.  But I'm happy these characters went out with a fitting end.  Schuyler, Jack Force, Bliss, Oliver Hazard-Perry, Kingsley Martin, Mimi . . . they're a group of teens who started out spoiled New Yorkers and ended up fighting the Biggest Bad of all.  It was quite a ride, and the highs were definitely worth it.

Review: Blue Bloods: The Graphic Novel

Blue Bloods Graphic novel adaptation of BLUE BLOODS by Melissa de la Cruz
Adapted by Robert Venditti
Art by Alina Urusov
Cover by Fiona Staples (Read my review of SAGA)
Lettering by Chris Dickey
Available now from Hyperion (Disney)
Review copy
Read my reviews of THE VAN ALEN LEGACY and WOLF PACT
Read my interview with Melissa and her guest blog

With the release of the final book in the Blue Bloods series, GATES OF PARADISE, it's nice that the graphic novel adaptation of the first book is coming out now.  I read it before GATES OF PARADISE to remind myself where Schuyler Van Alen and her friends started, eight books ago.  I think other fans of the series will also find it a pleasant refresher, although I don't know if they'll continue to read the graphic adaptations.

The story is still good.  Young prep school kids are getting murdered.  Others find out that they're actually vampires-cum-fallen-angels and the killer might be one of their ancient enemies, risen again.  It's not as smooth in comic form.  Robert Venditti chose to preserve the dialogue, but not the narration, and Alina Urusov's art can't convey everything the characters are thinking.  It makes for a brisk but shallow book.  I'd definitely forgotten how much actually happened in the first book.  It's a tad overwhelming when condensed.

The real standout in BLUE BLOODS is Urusov's art.  The characters may not be exactly as I pictured them, but each character design is distinctive and lovely.  The backgrounds are extremely impressive and I liked that the color scheme changed to suit each scene's mood.  Sometimes cover painting can feel like false advertising, but Urusov's work lives up to Fiona Staples' terrific cover.

BLUE BLOODS may appeal to comics fans, but I suspect most of the readers will be fans of the series who are eager to see a new interpretation.  BLUE BLOODS: The Graphic Novel is worth picking up for the novelty, but the original version is better.

Come back later this morning for my review of GATES OF PARADISE.

January 16, 2013

Review: The Sin Eater's Confession

The Sin-Eater's Confession By Ilsa J. Bick
Available now from Carolrhoda LAB (Lerner)
Review copy

When local football player Del dies, Ben volunteers to help his family around the farm and eventually takes a job there.  He takes Del's little brother Jimmy under his wing, but things change when Jimmy places second in a national photography contest.  One of the photos is a sexually charged image of Ben that fuels much gossip and speculation in their small town of Merit, Wisconsin.

You know where Ben ends up from the beginning.  THE SIN EATER'S CONFESSION is framed by Ben in Afghanistan, serving as a Medic, and writing a letter explaining what he knows about Jimmy, then deciding who to send it to.  They mystery is what happened to Jimmy, and not even Ben knows the whole story, though he probably knows more than most.

THE SIN EATER'S CONFESSION reminded me strongly of WHAT HAPPENED TO LANI GARVER and ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS.  It felt regressive at times, given how bigoted and unaccepting the people of Merit are.  But the novel makes a valid point in the novel that not every town is progressive, and right now being born somewhere where being gay is okay is still a matter of good luck.

The strengths of THE SIN EATER'S CONFESSION lie in Ben's voice and the ambiguity of people and events.  Ben is profoundly affected by people making assumptions about him, so he tries to refrain from making assumptions about others.  (He's also pretty clueless about when people are obviously into him.)  At the same time, he has his own prejudices that color his perceptions.  Although sometimes he is clearly right, because Jimmy's dad is a piece of work.

The main weakness is that the plot gets increasingly preposterous as the story goes on.  By the end of THE SIN EATER'S CONFESSION, Ben has done so many bone-headed things that it's amazing he's still alive and not in jail to enlist.  I don't want to refer to enlisting as a bone-headed thing.  Ilsa J. Bick is pretty fair about the pros and cons of the armed forces and why people might choose to enlist during a time of war.  But by the end of THE SIN EATER'S CONFESSION, I was having trouble suspending my disbelief.

This is the first book I've read by Ilsa J. Bick, though I know her Ashes books are very popular.  The end notes state that this is the first book she sold, and so I do feel a little as if I should approach THE SIN EATER'S CONFESSION as a debut work as well as a novel by an established writer.  It's got a great voice and raises some interesting questions, but it's pretty messy.  Recommended for fans of unsolved mysteries and LGBTQ themes.

January 15, 2013

Review: Level 2/The Memory of After

Level 2 Book One of The Memory Chronicles
By Lenore Appelhans
Available now from Simon & Schuster
Review copy

Disclaimer:  I know Lenore.

Felicia Ward has been dead awhile.  She's not sure how long, but it seems like forever.  Forever, simply rewatching her best memories and trading for the best memories of others.  Uninterrupted in-depth reads of books are particularly valuable.  Then Julian, a figure from her past who belongs to memories she prefers to leave unexamined, shows up.  He brings news of a rebellion against the angels who are keeping people in Level 2 instead of allowing them to confront their lives and move on.

What follows combines action, romance, and conspiracy thrillers.  See, Felicia doesn't trust Julian because of their past.  But she's willing to follow him because he knows where Neil, her boyfriend, is.  Meanwhile evil angels are chasing them down and the rebellion is proving to be fairly morally suspect itself.  I like how Lenore Appelhans handled the love triangle.  Felicia much prefers Neil to Julian, but it's actually Julian who gets the screen time.  The intensity of their relationship is shown before much is revealed about Neil and Felicia.

I also liked the way Appelhans handled religion.  I hate when a book involves angels but tries to pretend that angels have never been involved in any theology ever.  The Morati of LEVEL 2 are certainly different, but Felicia looks for clues about what's going on in her own memories of church and mythology.  And yes, Felicia met Neil through a church youth group.  LEVEL 2 is never preachy, and Felicia certainly isn't a religious character, but church groups are a big thing for many teens but the only other YA books I can think of that involve them are SMALL TOWN SINNERS and THE DARK DIVINE.

I felt the foreshadowing at the beginning of LEVEL 2 was a bit much.  Felicia references her shameful past many times and I kept hoping she would either reveal it or shut up about it.  And, well, her past mistakes seem pretty innocent at first.  Luckily, when Felicia finally faces her demons, they do turn out to be appropriately traumatic.

The Memory of AfterI'm pretty excited for the next book in The Memory Chronicles.  The ending of LEVEL 2 is just lovely, and I'm glad the characters have some happiness, but I must know what comes next.  Appelhans' version of the afterlife is well realized, from the original purpose of Level 2 to how the Morati perverted it, and I am eager to see what she'll create for Level 3.

ETA: The title LEVEL 2 will be changed to THE MEMORY OF AFTER for the paperback release on September 3, 2013. LEVEL 3 will be released as CHASING BEFORE. Lenore explains the reasoning behind this change here.

January 14, 2013

Movie Monday: The Samurai Trilogy

The Samurai Trilogy The Samurai Trilogy chronicles the early life of Musashi Miyamoto in three films: Musashi Miyamoto (1954), Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955), and Duel at Ganryu Island (1956).  Like many movies based on real events, they're highly fictionalized and a large number of love interests are added to the story.  Clearly, just telling the story of one of the greatest warriors who ever lived-who also happened to be a gifted artist and writer-would be boring.

That's not to say the films are bad.  Hiroshi Inagaki is a wonderful director.  The Samurai Trilogy is very old fashioned, even by chanbara standards, but there is enough art there to inject some timelessness.  The final duel of the series, in particular, is just gorgeous.  All silhouettes and sunset.

Toshiro Mifune, as Mushashi Miyamoto himself, was the only actor I recognized in the films, and he does a wonderful job.  It's very different from his performance in the contemporary Seven Samurai.  Here he is more contemplative, fighting only when he must.  Okay, he fights a little more at first, but the films follow him maturing into his philosophy.

The other actors do an excellent job as well, particularly Kaoru Yachigusa as Otsu, the faithful woman in love with Mushashi who seems slightly stalkery by modern standards.  She manages to convey her characters depth of feeling without seeming too melodramatic.  Honestly, I'm not very fond of any of the romances in the films, but it's not the fault of the actors.  It's just not my kind of romance and I'd prefer more sword fighting.

The Samurai Trilogy isn't my favorite, but I'd recommend it to anyone who likes Japanese history or samurai films.  There's are many excellent scenes, but at more than four hours there are some slow parts.  (Although nowadays a trilogy that clocks in at four and a half hours seems rather brisk.)

January 11, 2013

Review: Broken

Broken First in a trilogy
By A. E. Rought
Available now from Strange Chemistry (Angry Robot)
Review copy

I've been meaning to read basically all of the Strange Chemistry books, but BROKEN is the first one I got to.  A. E. Rought's debut young adult novel is an update of FRANKENSTEIN, with far more romance, fistfights, and high school gossip than the original.

Emma Jane Gentry is still recovering from the death of her boyfriend Daniel.  He fell to his death right in front of her, which definitely left an impression.  Then Alex Franks transfers to her school.  He's got a weird disease and his dad is creepy, but Emma is still drawn to him.  He reminds her of Daniel in the strangest ways, but he's also a decent guy in his own right.

The fact that BROKEN is based on FRANKENSTEIN diffuses some of the tension.  The dark secret behind Alex's connection to Daniel is pretty easy to deduce.  Fortunately, Rought doesn't focus the story too much on Alex's secrets.  Instead, Emma's recovery and her romance with Alex drive the story.  And it's a good romance.  Their relationship builds throughout the story, and they actually talk about making it official.  It's very high school, and sweet, but still driven by an intensely physical attraction.

I also liked how much time is spent within the walls of the high school.  Emma goes to class, she hangs with friends, she avoids the guy who tries to get her attention in all the wrong ways, and she has homework when she goes home.  She also has two parents, both of whom are involved in her life.  Her mother isn't afraid to ground her for getting up to standard paranormal romance shenanigans.  And when she fractures her hand, it continues to be a problem throughout the story.  These things aren't present enough to interrupt the momentum of the story, but it's nice to actually see them in a paranormal.

I enjoyed BROKEN.  I'm curious as to how Rought will launch a series from this title, as it stands alone just fine.  But I'll definitely read the next book, because BROKEN is a good start.  I feel like I haven't read much paranormal fiction lately, so it was nice to start the year off with a fun example of the genre.

January 10, 2013

Review: What We Saw At Night

What We Saw At Night First in a series
By Jacquelyn Mitchard
Available now from Soho Teen
Review copy

Allie Kim and her friend Rob take up Parkour in order to keep up with Juliet, the other kid their age in town with Xeroderma Pigmentosum.   One night, they see something suspicious in an apartment.  Then Allie sees it again, and the other two have only her word to go on.

WHAT WE SAW AT NIGHT is gripping.  The potential murders often fade into the background of Allie's relationships, but so much of her life is driven by Rob and Juliet that its understandable.  Without them, she's close to alone in the night.  And if there is a murderer, then that's when you want your friends by your side.

I liked the characters and how their relationships developed.  Allie and Rob tend to follow Juliet's lead, since she's more worldly and bolder.  But there's something wrong beneath the surface, driving her wild actions, as Allie begins to discover.  And while Allie might crush on Rob since he's the main guy in her life, he's definitely a crushable sort.  He's reliable, trusts Allie to take care of herself, and has a car.  (Big deal when you can't drive, a significant other with a car.)

But there were a couple of things that bothered me about WHAT WE SAW AT NIGHT.  Why is there so little night life?  The three kids are often alone in the night.  But their town is supposedly the center of XP research.  There's a hospital people move from all over the world to go to.  Allie refers to an older XP guy who died and there are other patients in the hospital when she goes for a check up.  There are also references to medical trials, which need a decent number of patients for significance.  I'd assume there are at least twenty-five to fifty people with XP in the town.  Why are none of them ever out at night?  They can't go out in day without great difficulty and staying in all night every night would probably drive them nuts.  And if the town's main industry is this research, why aren't there shops open at night?  I don't just accept that it's a small town.  I live in a small town.  The tattoo parlor is open late and the farmers wake up early.

The other thing is the ending.  I expect many people will complain about the ending.  That's because it sucks.  Just when things are getting really good, the story suddenly spins its wheels for a chapter then ends.  There's no resolution.  Not to the mystery, not to the relationships, not to Allie's character growth, nothing.  I don't even want to read the next book, WE LOST IN THE DARK, because WHAT WE SAW AT NIGHT's ending is so lame.  It's not a cliffhanger; there's not enough momentum for that.

WHAT WE SAW AT NIGHT has an excellent beginning, an interesting protagonist, and the XP and Parkour add some nifty atmosphere to what could be a standard mystery.  But as it goes on the plot gets ridiculous and hard to follow until it just ends.  It's disappointing and I had very high hopes for this book. 

January 9, 2013

Review: Just One Day

Just One Day Forthcoming sequel JUST ONE YEAR
By Gayle Forman
Available now from Dutton (Penguin)
Review copy

 JUST ONE DAY was not what I expected.  I highly respect Gayle Forman, so I was expecting to love the novel.  But I expected a romance.  Allyson and Willem meet and have a whirlwind day before he disappears.  In my head, based on the summary, I figured JUST ONE DAY would be all about finding Willem again and the true lovers reuniting.  As Forman is an excellent author, what she delivered was much better than what I'd assumed.  JUST ONE DAY really is Allyson's story.  Willem shook her world up, for better or worse, and she has to decide how she wants to live her life and repair her relationship with herself before any sort of  romance is going to work.

Upon physically looking at my bookmarks in the book, Willem and Allyson's relationship is not insignificant.  At least two thirds of the book are basically what I expected.  But that third that was so unexpected lingered in my mind.  Allyson's freshman year of college is not easy.  She's hurting, she's separated from her best friend and not doing well at making new ones, and her grades aren't what they were in high school.  As everyone must, however, Allyson learns to adjust and reassess her goals.  Part of the shock of college is being truly responsible for your life choices.  Allyson's college experience doesn't resemble mine in any way, but it was emotionally authentic.  Sometimes it was hard to read because her struggle hit so close to the bone.

If there's one thing Forman does really well it's play your emotions.

I have to give props to the entire cast.  I'm sure many reviews will go on and on about how hot Willem is.  I'll admit that he's intelligent and fun, but he has some douchebag qualities.  Part of Allyson's growth is not idealizing Willem and figuring out if she wants to be with the guy who actually exists.  But I want to say a few things about characters who might go unheralded.  I love Kali, who emphasizes her words, and all of Allyson's other roommates, who might not be the people Allyson first assumes.  (Who is?)  Dee the chameleon is priceless and I want a book all about him.  I like that Melanie falls in and out of the narrative because she has her own life and is adjusting, albeit in a different way than Allyson.

You should read JUST ONE DAY if you have any interest in contemporary YA, amateur Shakespeare, Paris, or impeccable characterization.  Forman is one of YA's crown jewels and I think her new duet will only add to her reputation.  I'm certainly looking forward to companion novel JUST ONE YEAR.

January 8, 2013

Review: The Wrap-Up List

The Wrap-Up List By Steven Arntson
Available now from Houghton Mifflin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Review copy

I loved the premise of THE WRAP-UP LIST, even as I fretted that the novel would leave me in tears.  In Gabriela Riviera's world, one percent of all fatalities are due to Departures.  You receive a red envelope warning you you're about to depart and you then have a short time to put your affairs in order and try to earn a Pardon.  Gabriela just received an envelope and has one week to get a first kiss for herself and her three best friends: Iris, Raahi, and Sarena.

There are other ways Gabriela's world is slightly different from ours.  Her US is not only at war; the draft has been instituted.  It seemed like a throwaway detail at first, but the war becomes more entwined with Gabriela's fate as the story goes on.  The Deaths are also explored more as Gabriela's Departure draws closer, which was a welcome development.  But there are many ways it is the same.  Gabriela's family is Catholic, but she's been questioning for a long time.  Her parents hope she'll find comfort at St. Mary's, but she thinks many of her priest's answers are unsatisfactory.

Gabriela's entire background is very well done.  Her family is a large part of the story, as much as her friends.  I did think that Raahi and Sarena faded into the background too much at times, but Iris is always a large part of Gabriela's life and the person most determined to save her.  I loved the characterization in THE WRAP-UP LIST.  Her impending death makes Gabriela not only face herself, but the people around her.  She learns things about her friends, her family, and her crush that she mind never have even wondered about before.

I read THE WRAP-UP LIST very quickly.  The day-by-day structure, following each of Gabriela's last seven days, keeps the story moving.  Not that I wouldn't have read quickly anyway since I wanted to know whether Gabriela would be able to perform the right altruistic task to save herself.  (No, I will not give the ending away.)

I highly recommend THE WRAP-UP LIST.  It has great characters, an irresistible premise, humor, and a touch of the paranormal.  It's the strange not-one-thing-or-another type of genre story that YA does so well.

January 7, 2013

Movie Monday: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit It's been a long time since I've read THE HOBBIT.  I wasn't one of those who read it in elementary; my father first gave it to me then, but I didn't get into it.  Then The Fellowship of the Ring came out and I just had to read the books so I would know how it all turned out.  Waiting for the other two movies was not an option.  But yes, I started with THE HOBBIT.  I loved the books, but I haven't read them again since.  I'm not sure why.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - movie version - contained the two scenes not involving Smaug that I remembered most clearly, the trolls and the riddle game.  There were a few things that I knew were absolutely not in the book, such as there being both goblins and orcs.  (Also, a necromancer?  What?)  Other things I've found afterwards were small details in the book expanded to ten minute action sequences.  And that makes sense to me - action sequences play even better on the screen than in a novel. 

I honestly have no clue why Peter Jackson is turning The Hobbit into a trilogy.  I think most of the changes he made worked.  This version will tie in tightly to his Lord of the Rings.  But while I enjoyed this film, I have no clue how there is enough of THE HOBBIT left to make two more films.  But honestly, the man has delivered good films so far, so I am inclined to trust him.  I was quite wary of An Unexpected Journey, and then I absolutely loved it.

Jackson has a knack for casting.  Even when I knew the faces, they tended to disappear into their roles.  I didn't realize Kili was Aiden Turner (Mitchell in Being Human) until the credits rolled.  And he's incredibly lucky, because apparently Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett, and Hugo Weaving haven't aged in ten years.  It's uncanny.

The Hobbit Sountrack Although he adds in scenes to tie The Hobbit more closely to The Lord of the Rings, Jackson's adaptation proves that he understood the difference between the books.  This is a funnier movie, and he keeps several of the songs.  I am very tempted to buy the soundtrack.  I feel sorry for anyone in anyway related to high school band, because I am sure a large number of shows next year will be based on Howard Shore's score.  (I can still remember all of The Lord of the Rings shows I sat though in high school.  Thankfully my school couldn't afford the popular stuff.)

I did attend a high-frame rate showing.  In case you haven't heard, Jackson shot The Hobbit at twice the usual frame rate.  Reports so far haven't been glowing.  I didn't hate it, but I didn't think it added anything to the movie.  (My dad concurs.)  It was most noticeable in brightly lit scenes.  If you ever watch making of documentaries, it looks like when they show bits of raw footage from angles that weren't used in the final film.  As for the 3D, it didn't really add anything either.  It's a beautiful film, but not one where things are leaping at you.  I highly recommend seeing it on the big screen, but I don't think you'll lose anything by attending an el cheapo 2D showing.

If you were sitting on the fence, I say go for it.  You may not enjoy the movie as much as I did, but if you do, you'll regret it if you miss your chance to see An Unexpected Journey in its full theatrical glory.

January 2, 2013

My Most Anticipated Releases of 2013

For each month I (mostly) picked one sequel, one book by a debut author, and one book by a more established author.  There are books I'm anticipating that aren't on this list because I already have a copy.  Despite organizing them month by month, many dates are tentative (and some were made up by me).  Sometimes I fudged the dates a little to make things fit.  I gave up on December really.

I am sorry guys, but I have no clue what I'm gonna read in December.  Eliminating books from earlier in the year took all the fight out of me.

Hooked January: Shades of Earth by Beth Revis (Across the Universe, Book 3)
 Paper Valentine by Brenda Yovanoff
Hooked by Liz Fichera

February: The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead (Bloodlines, Book 3)
Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter (Heist Society, Book 3)
City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster

The Summer Prince March: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Spellcaster by Claudia Gray
Poison by Bridget Zinn

April: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers (His Fair Assassin, Book 2)
Sweet Peril by Wendy Higgins (Sweet Evil, Book 2)
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Doll Bones May: Dr. Radway's Sasparilla Resolvent by Beth Kephart (Companion to Dangerous Neighbors)
Doll Bones by Holly Black
Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan

June: Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund (For Darkness Shows the Stars, Book 2)
Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey
Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn

All Our Pretty Songs July: Drachomachia by Rachel Hartman (Seraphina, Book 2)
Vortex by S. J. Kincaid (Insignia, Book 2)
Starglass by Phoebe North

August: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke
Antigoddess by Kendare Blake
All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry

Battle Magic September:  Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan (The Lynburn Legacy, Book 2)
Currently untitled by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Cycle, Book 2)
Taste Test by Kelly Fiore

October: Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce
Reality Boy by A.S. King
A Point So Delicate by Brandy Colbert

November: Currently untitled by Laura and Lisa Roecker (Liar Society, Book 3)
Tandem by Anna Jarzab
Landry Park by Bethany Hagen

December: Currently untitled by Alexandra Bracken (The Darkest Minds, Book 2)
Paradise by Janet Fox

I'm considering this an unofficial Waiting On Wednesday, which is hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine.

January 1, 2013

Cybils Finalists

The Cybils finalists are up now!  Below are the graphic novels on the short list.  I've included the blurbs that I wrote and please feel free to ask me for details on any of the titles.

Middle Grade:
Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert
Giants Beware! by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado
   "Claudette wants to be a warrior like her father was, before a dragon ate his legs and arm, so she sets out to slay the local giant with the help of her best friend and little brother. Their fathers each set out to protect the children, although they just might have the skills to protect themselves. Rafael Rosado's bright, kinetic art is the perfect match for the action and humor of Giants Beware! Fans of fantasy and adventure will both flock to this tale of friends, family, and the ultimate unimportance of fame."
Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson
Little White Duck: A Childhood in China by Na Liu and Andrés Vera Martínez
   "Na Liu recounts eight stories from her childhood in communist China shortly after the death of Mao Zedong. Her memoir is a funny, sad and magical exploration of Chinese history, mythology and culture. Liu's words pair perfectly with her husband Andrés Vera Martínez's art to fully evoke the time and place. The context might be unfamiliar to readers, but the emotions of a child dealing with change are very easy to relate to."
Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad! by Nathan Hale

Young Adult:
Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White by Lila Quintero Weaver
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
Ichiro by Ryan Izana
Marathon by Boaz Yakin and Joe Infurnari 


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