Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Mean Girls

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Top Ten Mean Girls in Books:

10. Bridget from Here Lies Bridget by Paige Harbison - I actually hated this book, but the reason I did was because the main character was just so awful.  So she had to make this list!
9. Cathy from Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë - I've never read the book (though I've tried to more than once), but I'm familiar with the character from movie adaptations.  WTF is wrong with all the people in that book?  They're all in desperate need of some sort of therapy (or medication).
8. Georgia from Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison - Maybe she gets better by the end of the series, but the first three books were enough to convince me that Georgia is a little bitch who really needs a good bite in the ass from karma.
7. Bella from Twilight by Stephenie Meyer - If she's not jerking around the two supernatural men in her life, she's playing games with her human friends and family because they're not supernatural.  Self-centred, selfish, and an utterly shallow bore: what more could you ask for in a mean girl?
6. President Coin from Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins - Okay, so she's not the typical, catty mean girl.  But she's willing to kill children for her cause, which puts her pretty high up on the meanness scale.
5. Mrs. Coulter from The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman - This is one scary lady and definitely not to be trusted... even if she is your own mother.
4. Hattie from Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine - The character is a bit different in the book than she is in the movie, but she's still entirely unpleasant in any case.  I couldn't help but feel a tiny bit sorry for her, though, as she was very obviously a product of her mother's parenting; she didn't really have a chance to be anything other than mean.
3. Laurel from Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones - I don't like characters who stand in the way of true love, so Laurel had to be on this list.  She's nasty for another reason, too, but you'll have to read the book to find out what that is.
2. Attolia from The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner - She cuts off our main character's hand in the first few pages of the book.  I never could forgive her for that (and I never really forgave the author, either... Although the first book in the series is one of my all-time favourites, I couldn't get past this character's actions -- and the other characters' unrealistic reactions to those actions -- to read the rest of the series).
1. Sam from Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver - Sam is probably my favourite mean girl of them all... but not just because she was a pretty awful person at the beginning of the story.  Seeing how she changed throughout the book (thanks to Oliver's skilled storytelling) made me really like her as a character.  Sometimes the best mean girls are the ones who aren't just caricatures of evil; these are the ones who remind us that we all have a dark side, but that that dark side can be overcome if we just acknowledge it and commit to making a change.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review - Naked Heat

Naked Heat (Nikki Heat #2)
by Richard Castle
Date: 2010
Publisher: Hyperion
Reading level: A
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 304
Format: e-book
Source: library

Detective Nikki Heat and tag-along journalist Jameson Rook are back to solve another case. This time, when one of New York's most outspoken gossip columnists turns up dead, there's no shortage of suspects. Plenty of them have secrets, and some of them would kill to keep those secrets out of the public eye.

As Heat and Rook try to figure out who committed the crime, more murder victims turn up and the intrepid duo eventually find themselves in the killer's sights. And even once they figure out who did it, they still don't know why... or who might be the next victim.

Yep... This definitely falls into the category of "guilty pleasure" reading.  I love the TV show and the first book was passably good.  Unfortunately, "Richard Castle" just isn't that great of a writer... which is too bad, because the stories themselves are pretty entertaining.

I actually liked the plot of Naked Heat a bit more than that of Heat Wave.  It was more complex and offered more peril for the main characters (which always makes things a bit more entertaining).  There were so many suspects that I was really thrown; I had no idea who did it (although, to be honest, I'm rarely right when I try to guess the culprit in murder mysteries).

On the downside, though, the writing seemed a bit lacking.  I realized at some point that we have no idea what these characters even look like, which gives these books away as TV tie-ins; I'm guessing we're already supposed to be able to envision everything because we've watched the show.  At times, the dialog seemed kind of forced.  And I don't really buy the whole relationship between Heat and Rook.  They tend to jump into bed together after stressful situations, and it seems to come out of the blue, especially after Nikki has spent the last few chapters being pissed off by her "partner".

All in all, though, it was a fun read.  It's not award-winning fiction by any means... but it's still entertaining.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 3/5
Originality: 3/5
Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.14 out of 5

Sunday, April 10, 2011

In My Mailbox (42)

From Kobo:
At the Back of the North Wind
by George MacDonald

At the Back of the North Wind is a brilliant allegorical tale by George MacDonald. The protagonist Diamond befriends the beautiful and majestic North Wind. Her powers bring change where ever she goes. At first this awesome power seems to be a terrible force, but it becomes clear that all of the changes she has caused with her amazing power have been for good. A timeless classic.

The Jacket (Star-Rover)
by Jack London

Darrell Standing is a university professor serving life imprisonment in San Quentin State Prison for murder. Prison officials try to break his spirit by means of a torture device called "the jacket," a canvas jacket which can be tightly laced so as to compress the whole body, inducing angina. Standing discovers how to withstand the torture by entering a kind of trance state, in which he walks among the stars and experiences portions of past lives.

The Princess and Curdie
by George MacDonald

The sequel to The Princess and the Goblin, this story begins a year after Curdie, the miner's son, saved the Princess Irene from being carried away by the goblins who lived under the earth. It looked as if the kingdom would run like clockwork once again, but the goblins were back.

From the author:
The Unfinished Song: Initiate
by Tara Maya


Dindi can't do anything right, maybe because she spends more time dancing with pixies than doing her chores. Her clan hopes to marry her off and settle her down, but she dreams of becoming a Tavaedi, one of the powerful warrior-dancers whose secret magics are revealed only to those who pass a mysterious Test during the Initiation ceremony. The problem? No-one in Dindi's clan has ever passed the Test. Her grandmother died trying. But Dindi has a plan.

Kavio is the most powerful warrior-dancer in Faearth, but when he is exiled from the tribehold for a crime he didn't commit, he decides to shed his old life. If roving cannibals and hexers don't kill him first, this is his chance to escape the shadow of his father's wars and his mother's curse. But when he rescues a young Initiate girl, he finds himself drawn into as deadly a plot as any he left behind. He must decide whether to walk away or fight for her... assuming she would even accept the help of an exile.

I guess I'm leaning toward reading some more classics, though I may not get to them soon (I've got too much else in my TBR pile at the moment).  I just thought I should pick up these e-books while I had some coupons (making them almost free); I paid less than $1.50 for the lot.

I have The Princess and the Goblin on my Kobo (it came free with the device), but I didn't have the sequel.  And I've been wanting to read The Jacket for years. I could not find a decent synopsis on any of the book sites, so the one above is adapted from the Wikipedia entry.

The Unfinished Song: Initiate looks interesting.  I'm not sure if I'll get to it right away (it's for Kindle, and since I don't have a Kindle, I'll have to read it using the PC app... and I'm kind of tired of reading books on my computer at the moment... or, rather, my eyes are tired of it!).  I have to say, though... I really like the cover.  Very pretty.

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Review - One Night With The Fae

One Night With The Fae
by Claire Farrell
Date: 2010
Publisher: Smashwords
Reading level: YA
Pages: 51
Source: Kobo

When Cara stumbles into a strange party in the park on the darkest night of the year, she unwittingly finds herself in the midst of a battle between a number of faery factions, each of whom wants to use Cara for their own purposes.

Will she find any allies amongst the warring fae? Will she manage to escape? Or will the night end in bloodshed with Cara as a sacrificial victim?

Oh, my goodness. I'd never read any books published by Smashwords before, so I wasn't that familiar with their publishing model. Now I know.  It's basically just a self-publishing medium... and I have yet to be impressed with a self-published book.

The ridiculousness of this annoying (but mercifully short) book begins when Cara -- presumably a young woman, since she's out drinking with her friends -- decides to check out some odd lights in the park that only she seems to be able to see.  This, despite Cara telling us that "the park was usually full of life at this time of night between drug dealers and prostitutes..."  Really?  You're slightly drunk, you know the park is usually full of drug dealers and hookers, and you decide to quietly abandon your friends and sneak over there by yourself?  Shortly thereafter, she eats and drinks at the faery banquet of her own volition, despite mentioning that she remembered stories about faeries, and even obediently chomps into a magic apple given to her by a banshee.  SNS, anyone?

Things just get worse from there.  I don't mind multiple narrators, but in this book we spend most of the time in the heads of some very unappealing characters.  Everybody is scheming and bloodthirsty... but not very bright.  After Cara's initial chapter, we barely see her; the rest of the story is about a bunch of really immature faery morons decapitating each other and jockeying for position.  Very little time was taken to actually develop any of the characters, so I couldn't really care about any of them.

The writing itself is awful.  There are comma splices throughout the text, interspersed with (strangely) the correct use of semicolons.  I'll chalk that up to lazy editing.  But the writing style itself is weak and the dialog rather stilted.  The following passage exemplifies the writing you'll find in One Night With The Fae:

The girl sat on the bed, her face blank.

"I'm going to die."

"You won't.  Look at me, what's your name?"


"Good name.  I am Drake and I don't want to die tonight so I'm going to make sure we both get out of here."

"Why are you really helping me?"

"I...don't really know."

"Can I touch your wings?"

He sighed.  "Go on then."

"They're soft, softer than I expected."

Drake enjoyed the light touch of her fingers on his wings and sighed again.  He tried to cover his obvious pleasure by speaking harshly to her.

"Your fringe is too long.  You should cut it."

Because nothing shows disinterest in a girl more than insulting her hair while being hunted by bloodthirsty fae!

All in all, there's really nothing I can recommend about this book.  The awful writing set my teeth on edge and the characters were so one-dimensional that don't think I would have cared even if they'd all been decapitated.  It read more like a high-school creative writing assignment than a professional piece of writing.  Skip this one... unless you're really bored, are feeling masochistic, and don't mind parting with one of your hard-earned dollars.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 0/5
Pace: 1/5
Writing: 2/5
Editing: 1/5
Originality: 2/5
Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 1.29 out of 5

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hunger Games movie men!

The boys of The Hunger Games have now been cast.

What do you think of Liam Hemsworth as Gale and Josh Hutcherson as Peeta?  My first reaction was, "They got them backwards!"  They cast a blue-eyed blond as dark-haired Gale and a brown-eyed brunet as blond-haired, blue-eyed Peeta.  What the...?!

What I take from this is that they were casting based on character... not looks.  Which will probably turn out to be a good thing.

What are your thoughts?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Kobo Coupons!

I've got some coupons for those of you who use Kobobooks.com!  Maybe you want to fill up your TBR pile.  Maybe you need some more books for the E-Book Reading Challenge.  Here are a couple of deals you can take advantage of.

The first is for $1 off a Kobo e-book.  It's good until April 30, and you can use it as many times as you'd like.  Considering that there a lot of really inexpensive books on the site (including many classics), you can easily fill up your library without breaking the bank:

Get $1 Off select Kobo eBooks - KoboSpring1

The second is for 30% off a Kobo e-book.  It's only good until April 4th, but it can also be used as many times as you'd like up until then:

30% off select eBooks - MarchKobo30

Enjoy these deals while they last!

Kobo WiFi eReader

In My Mailbox (41)

From Kobo:
One Night With The Fae
by Claire Farrell

A collection of short stories told from a different character's involvement and point of view. A young girl is lured to a faery festival hosted by the Irish fae. To survive she must avoid the attention of two warring Queens but the faery who helps her fears something even more sinister is going on.

I actually managed to get this one for free, since it was only 96 cents to begin with... and I found a $1-off coupon. I love bargains.

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Review - Eli the Good

Eli the Good
by Silas House
Date: 2009
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Reading level: YA
Pages: 304
Source: library

It's the summer of 1976 and ten-year-old Eli Book is dealing with a lot: his father's flashbacks of the Vietnam War; his teenage sister's rebellion and anger at their parents; his free-spirited aunt's presence in their house, a source of conflict that the children can't quite understand; and his best friend's tumultuous family life.

As the hot Kentucky summer stretches on, Eli learns a number of important things about love, history, and friendship, all of it set against the backdrop of the U.S. Bicentennial.

I chose to read this book because I needed to get started on the YA Historical Fiction Challenge.  This isn't the type of book I usually read.  I do like some historical fiction, but the setting of this one is fairly recent.  To be honest, I almost gave up after 75 pages or so.  I'm used to books having more plot, with a beginning, a middle, and an end.  But I found that I didn't really want to give up on this one, since I'd been drawn in by the characters.  I think that's actually the point here; Eli the Good has some nice themes, and the excellent characterization held my interest and conveyed those themes well, even after I accepted that there wasn't going to be much plot to speak of.

I really enjoyed the writing in Eli the Good.  There was a certain sense of nostalgia for my own childhood that bubbled to the surface as I read Eli's descriptions of that summer in 1976, a time and a place seen through the innocence of a child's eyes.  Though this story took place before I was born, there was a sense of familiarity that really drew me in; it seems that things have really only changed in the last ten years or so.  When I was a child, we still played outside, pushing the boundaries of the curfew-by-streetlight, rolling in the grass and letting it prickle on our skin, and studying the myriad bugs we managed to capture (and then release, of course).  This is a young adult title, and I'm not sure how much of this would be familiar to today's teens... so how much they can relate to is uncertain.  But the themes in the book -- about family, friendship, and growing up -- are pretty universal.

Despite the slow start, I really enjoyed Eli the Good.  By the end, I'd come to know the characters well.  I can't say that I liked them all or even agreed with their choices, but I think that was part of the message the book was trying to convey.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Editing: 5/5
Originality: 4/5
Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4.14 out of 5