Thursday, July 29, 2010

Review - My Name Is Memory

My Name Is Memory
by Ann Brashares

Daniel has been blessed (or cursed) by the ability to remember every life he's ever lived. He's also spent centuries trying to be with the woman he loves. Now, at last, he's found her again. But will he ever get the chance to be with her, or will fate once again intervene and keep him from his one true love?

While the premise for this novel sounded intriguing, I was kind of nervous going into reading it. Reincarnation is a topic that hasn't been done all that well in fiction. In many cases, I get the feeling that the author read one non-fiction book on the subject (probably Many Lives, Many Masters by Dr. Brian Weiss) and then decided that they knew enough about the topic to write a novel. I got the opposite feeling here. I don't know what the beliefs of the author are, but the story made me think that she's at least investigated reincarnation in more than just a superficial way.

I thought the writing was quite good, and the story pulled me along and kept me interested. But what I really ended up falling in love with were the characters. Especially Daniel. He's wonderfully well-rounded and interesting (and a really nice guy), even though he could probably use some therapy. While the narrative does jump back and forth, filling us in on both the past and present lives of both Daniel and Lucy, the story is really Daniel's. He's the one who can remember and see the big picture.

The ending was slightly abrupt (and one heck of an unpleasant cliffhanger if this is a stand-alone book), but I really enjoyed it overall. I would highly recommend it, even if you don't believe in reincarnation; just view it as fantasy and enjoy it for the heart-warming love story that it is.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Originality: 5/5

Overall: 4.6 out of 5

Monday, July 26, 2010

Musing Mondays (19)

Musing Mondays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.

Do you review books? If so, for who?

If not, have you ever thought about doing so? Why, or why not?

Shouldn't that second sentence ask, "If so, for whom?" Sorry... grammarian in the house.

Of course I review books! Not professionally, though. I've never been asked to do anything like that (and I'm afraid I wouldn't have the time to do it, anyway).

I started this blog last June, but I'd already been posting reviews on for a while before that. And there was a period years ago where I kept track of every book I read in a little notebook, complete with a star rating and my thoughts on the story. That's pretty old-school, I guess, but it did the job. I like having a record of what I thought about all those different books; it helps me remember which ones I've read, too.

Monday's Question of the Day (18)

Monday's Question of the Day is hosted by Eleni at /-LA FEMME READERS-/

How influential are reviews when selecting a book to read?

My Answer:
For me, they're probably more influential than they should be. I'm coming to realize that my standards are pretty different from those of a lot of other readers.

I also find that I can't make a judgment call based on one review alone. It helps if I can see other reviews from that same reviewer, especially if I've read those books. That gives me an indication that we're more likely to be on the same page.

Bad reviews will definitely steer me away from a book. Good reviews... well, they used to steer me toward buying a book, but I've been burned so many times recently that I need to be more careful. Five-star reviews don't necessarily mean that I'm going to like a book; and if I don't like it, I'll spend the next few weeks wondering what the heck is wrong with me that I can't see the merits of a book that everyone else seemed to love.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Top Ten Picks: Favorite Male Literary Characters

Top Ten Picks is hosted by Jillian at Random Ramblings. This week, the topic is "Favorite Male Literary Characters". (I'm going to try to pick some different guys so my list doesn't look exactly the same as my list of literary crushes!)

10. Patch from Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

He's a big fat jerk and I'd never want to date him, but I couldn't help but want to see more of this guy. It helps when the leading lady is fairly stupid and always walking into trouble... and you don't know if Patch is going to save her or make things worse. I'm not attracted to the bad boy type, but I do think they have their place in literature, which is why Patch makes the list.

9. Lucius from Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Lucius Vladescu is probably one of my favourite vampire characters. He's not mopey and emo like some vampires (*cough*EdwardCullen*cough*). He's actually pretty funny, although I don't think he ever meant to be. If I remember nothing else from JGTDOTDS, it will be Lucius's amusing letters to his family back in Romania, complaining about (of all things) lentils.

8. Kent from Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Like most of the characters in this book, Kent was someone who seemed to come alive on the page. It's refreshing to see a "nice guy" as the romantic interest in a YA book; too often (for my taste, anyway) a guy isn't interesting unless he's a bad boy. Kent proves that nice guys don't have to finish last (at least from a favourite-character standpoint).

7. Max from Trader by Charles de Lint

Max was a character that I loved almost from the beginning of his story, when he wakes up in another man's body. The fact that such a nice guy had to deal with such an unpleasant situation really earned this character some sympathy points; I wanted things to work out for him.

6. Matt from The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Matt was the protagonist of this dystopian novel, and he was a very interesting character with a unique reason for being. It's one of those books that makes you wonder what you would do and how you would feel if you were faced with a similar situation. And when you think like that, you can't help but relate to Matt and his plight.

5. Edward Ferrars from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

I love a character with a real conflict. Poor Edward has to choose between his heart and his loyalty... and being the gentleman that he is, loyalty wins out. That's not necessarily good for Elinor, but we all know that everything works out in the end, right?

4. Daniel from My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares

Okay, I'll admit, I haven't actually finished this book yet. But Daniel is just plain awesome. Complex, intelligent, compassionate, and handsome (though that's just a bonus; I'd probably like him even if he were ugly), he's a lot of fun to read about.

3. Roald Dahl from Boy - Tales of Childhood and Going Solo by Roald Dahl

So this isn't actually a fictional character, but the way Dahl writes, he might as well be. I read these autobiographies years ago, and enjoyed them so much. There's plenty of adventure, and you can really see how some of his experiences influenced his novels.

2. Eugenides from The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Yes, Gen made both lists. I couldn't help myself. He's just made of awesomeness.

1. Nick from The Witches of Willowmere, The Warding of Willowmere, and The Wyrd of Willowmere by Allison Baird

There's really no way to satisfactorily explain why I like this character without giving away some major plot points, so if you really want to know, you'll have to read the books yourself.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Word verification Balderdash (29)

This fun meme was started by Sheila over at One Persons Journey through a world of Books, and is now hosted by Ryan G of Wordsmithonia.
This is the weekly meme where anyone who wishes to play along can take those crazy word verifications they have had over the past week and apply a fake definition to them (much like how you play the board game Balderdash).

Here are this week's words:

addoli - noun - a type of pasta that is stuffed with applesauce and roasted hare

chottive - noun - a dish similar to tapenade, but made using pickled radishes instead of olives; chottive is often served atop addoli

ephin - adverb - a euphemistic term used to indicate a high degree

humpe - noun - the bulge in an insecure man's pants created by a sock or some other stuffing material; humpes can also be found in pairs on some women's chests

mistaxic - adjective - refers to the feeling one gets at weddings; being mistaxic usually implies happiness along with being misty-eyed

virfed - adjective - refers to feeling exhausted by the symptoms of a virus

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday's Question of the Day (17)

Monday's Question of the Day is hosted by Eleni at /-LA FEMME READERS-/

When a book is made into a movie or TV show, do you read the book before watching it? Or it doesn't matter either way?

My Answer:
I'm not a particularly fast reader, so I don't usually get to the book before watching the movie or TV show. If I've previously read the book, though, I will get excited about seeing it on the screen.

So... I guess it really doesn't matter. Screen adaptations are rarely 100% faithful to the books, anyway, so it's not like you can't read the book after seeing the movie/TV show and still enjoy it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

5 Random Things in Your Room

Jillian at Random Ramblings tagged me for this fun little meme. I'm afraid I can't make my post look as good as hers (awesome photos!), but I'll do my best. So here are 5 random things in my room:

5. A ukulele

It's purple, of course. I did mean to learn how to play it, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. At the moment, it's sitting on top of some books on my bookshelf.

4. A candle

It's not lit at the moment. In fact, I think this particular candle in the picture is now just some gunky residue on the inside of my candle holder. That candle got a lot of use. It smelled like chocolate...

3. Pencil crayons

I have a thing for pens and pencils... art supplies... paper... all that stuff. I have a number of cups filled with writing instruments. While some girls like shoes, I like stationery. It's like my drug.

2. Artist trading cards

I made a few ATCs a while back. My intent was never to trade them, but to enjoy the challenge of working in a small medium. I've got a binder with a whole bunch of them somewhere...

1. Too many CDs

I'm bad about putting things away. So I end up with CDs all over the place. Often, they're ones I burned and forgot to label... so I'm not even sure what's on them!

I'm not going to tag anyone in particular, but if you'd like to participate, go ahead! Have fun!

Review - Prophecy of Days - Book One: The Daykeeper's Grimoire

The Daykeeper's Grimoire (Prophecy of Days #1)
by Christy Raedeke
Date: 2010
Publisher: Flux
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 352
Format: paperback
Source: Indigo

Can one (super smart) girl (who just wants to be discovered) decipher the cryptic Mayan calendar prophecy and SAVE THE WORLD?

When her safe-cracker mom and code-breaker dad inherit a dreary Scottish castle, sixteen-year-old Caity Mac Fireland is not happy. Ripped from her cushy life and friends in San Francisco, Caity’s secret fantasy of being discovered by a Hollywood agent, talent scout, or even just a pageant coach seems more unlikely than ever.

But when Caity stumbles across a hidden room in the castle, its walls covered in strange symbols, her life takes a bizarre turn. She finds herself center stage in an international conspiracy involving warring secret societies, assassins, the suppressed revelations of the Mayan Calendar and the year 2012, plus the fate of humanity.

With the help of her friend Justine back home, and Alex, a gorgeous and mysterious Scottish boy, Caity must race to decipher the code and reveal its message to the world before time runs out.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I really wanted to like this book. I tried to like this book. But, in the end, I just couldn't.

PODTDG is about a teenage girl named Caity who wants nothing more than to be "discovered" for something. For anything. She moves from San Francisco with her parents to live in a Scottish castle that her father has inherited. Once there, Caity discovers a prophecy about herself and realizes she has to save the world. (No pressure, right?)

Let's set aside for a moment the fact that shallow teenagers whose biggest goal in life is to be a "special little snowflake" don't make the best heroines... especially when there's not much in the way of character development. I never got much of a feel for Caity... or for any of the other characters. They were pretty stereotypical. There's the family friend, Uncle Li, who needs to "rest" a lot (I guess that's what older people do). There's the "whiskey-soaked" groundskeeper, Thomas (because, of course, all Scots are drunks). There's the hot Scottish love interest (whose looks sound more like a Black Irish person to me) who conveniently -- and rather unbelievably -- flies off the handle emotionally at one point to give the story some much-needed conflict. And her parents were just plain ridiculous. I don't know of any parents who go around saying what a genius their kid is... in front of their kid. In light of that, I guess it's not surprising Caity would be a bit self-centered.

Adults were considered evil until proven good, which I thought was pandering. It's also not a very good idea to insult a good portion of your audience (since not just teenagers read YA fiction). Have adults made a mess of the world? Sure. But implying we're evil and then using the technology that we developed (without which you can't even begin to save the world) seems a bit hypocritical.

But my biggest problem with this book was the lack of focus. Early on, I felt overwhelmed by all the different things that the author was throwing into the story. It was as if the author thought she was only going to get to write one book in her lifetime, so she had to throw absolutely everything into the mix. Either that, or she has a lot of miscellaneous knowledge and wanted to show it off. I started to make a list of all the weirdness:

  • Scottish castle partially built by a Chinese guy
  • overly sapient monkey that communicates by doing origami (no, I'm not kidding)
  • Mayan prophecy (2012)
  • Milky Way's Galactic Center
  • feng shui
  • a secret society (with evil Bavarian and Canadian operatives)
  • safe-cracking mother
  • code-breaking father
  • chemtrails
  • Drocane script
  • magnetic levitation
  • Sanskrit books
  • mosquito ringtone
  • Machu Picchu
  • Angkor Wat
  • Great Pyramids
  • Easter Island

I even wondered if UFOs were going to show up! Sadly, there actually was a UFO connection...

By the time I'd gotten to the last few pages, I was so ready for the book to be over. I never cared what happened to Caity (how much can you relate to a rich girl who has a pet monkey and lives in a castle?), and I never felt that the stakes were that high, despite being told they were. I was also completely unimpressed with the book itself. I'm going to give the author the benefit of the doubt here and assume that she did not, in fact, leave out periods at the ends of sentences (to give an example). The finished book is worse than some first drafts. It was also full of comma splices, though, about which I'm not so inclined to be forgiving.

If you're really into global conspiracy theories and paranoia, you might like this book. Other than that, I can't really see it having a broad appeal. Perhaps if the characters had been a little more interesting (and a simple collection of traits does not make one interesting), I might have liked the book a bit more and wanted to keep reading. As it is, I think I'm going to give the rest of the series a pass.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 1/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing: 2/5
Originality: 3/5

Overall: 2 out of 5

Friday, July 16, 2010

Top Ten Picks: Favorite Books to Movies

Top Ten Picks is hosted by Jillian at Random Ramblings. This week, the topic is "Favorite Books to Movies".

10. Jurassic Park (1993)

This movie was a huge deal when it came out. It was also pretty darn good. If I remember correctly, I read the book after I saw the movie. I liked both. Unfortunately, I can't say the same about the sequel; the book was way better. Oh, well... you win some, you lose some, right?

9. The Little Princess (1939)

Just once, I wish someone would make an adaptation of this story that's true to the book. I do like the characters and most of the story, though. Sara Crewe is a pretty cool kid. And while I like the look of the 1995 version better, Shirley Temple's perkiness is a lot easier to take than Liesel Matthews' breathless, cloying style.

8. The Time Traveler's Wife (2009)

I read this book years ago and loved it. And then I heard that Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston had bought the movie rights... and then they broke up. Years later, the movie finally got made. And I think it turned out pretty good. I was worried that all the time travel might be confusing, but it wasn't.

7. Lantern Hill (1990)

I absolutely adored this made-for-TV movie when it came out. The settings and costumes were just gorgeous (I can't recall when the book was set, but the movie was set in the 1920s or 1930s). When I read the book years later, I was surprised at the differences (the lion incident never made it into the movie... and I think that's probably a good thing). This is a tricky movie to find, but it's a great screen adaptation of one of L. M. Montgomery's works.

6. Ella Enchanted (2004)

I'm probably the only adult who likes the movie version of this book. I saw the movie first, and was then very surprised when I read the book. Aside from the characters' names and Ella's curse of obedience, the two are nothing alike. As a straight adaptation, the movie fails. But if we just say the movie was "inspired by" the book, then both are winners!

5. Matilda (1996)

I honestly can't remember whether I was exposed to the book or the movie first. No matter. They're both excellent, brimming with Dahl's wonderful sense of humour and empathy for children. The movie version gave us Pam Ferris as Miss Trunchbull... a truly unforgettable villain.

4. The NeverEnding Story (1984)

This was one of those movies that I watched over and over again as a child. It wasn't until years later that I finally read the book, and I absolutely loved it. Plus, I finally got to find out what Bastian's mother's name was (I spent years thinking it was something like "Mariah").

3. The Princess Bride (1987)

Like The Neverending Story, I never read The Princess Bride until years after I saw the movie. I never knew what I'd been missing! It's pretty funny, and I wish I had been able to read it first. It would have been awesome to see how nicely it was adapted.

2. Sense and Sensibility (2008)

I was never that crazy about the 1995 version of Sense and Sensibility. Emma Thompson, while an excellent actress, was just too darn old to play Elinor. It brought up some disturbing questions and hinted at a very dark few years for the Dashwood family (back then, there wasn't usually that much of an age difference between siblings unless quite a few had died)! Essentially, Sense and Sensibility is a story about two teenage girls... and I thought this version conveyed that much better. Plus, the guy who played Edward is hot.

1. The Secret Garden (1993)

While this probably isn't my favourite book of all time, it was made into one of my favourite movies of all time. I just love the look of it: the juxtaposition between the cold manor and the garden brimming with life... the costumes... the garden itself. I could sit and watch this movie many times... and I have! It's by far my favourite adaptation of this beloved story.