Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

So don't say I didn't get you anything. Because seriously, what could you possibly want more than me writing a review of a Batman graphic novel?? Okay, probably pretty much anything. Fortunately, though, I was unable to go home to see my family for Christmas because I work in retail so I spent most of the day enjoying laying around, thinking about cleaning, and deciding to write a review instead since I read some Batman recently that's fitting for today. So, here goes, and you're welcome!

Batman: Noel by Lee Bermejo
4.5 stars (although, that's seriously never an option on any website so I round it down on Amazon and up on Goodreads, trying to be fair.)
I really wasn't sure what this was all about, I just knew it was a Christmas type Batman story and the artwork caught my attention. Boyfriend gave it to me a while back so I thought, "Hey, I should read this before Christmas this year." I am so glad I did! It turns out it was Dickens' "A Christmas Story" retold.
I hate that the Amazon blurb gives away which characters play the traditional roles of the story. I had no idea who would make an appearance and that made it better for me. Because it's pretty common knowledge, I won't worry about spoiling it with this review.
What I loved:
I liked the idea of Batman being portrayed as tortured and struggling to walk the line of justice and revenge. Too often, I feel like superheroes are above emotions. Batman has always felt more real and with this, we see a path he very well could have gone down, making the fact that he hasn't even more important.
I really liked Superman in this. I usually am not a big fan of his, but in this we see a gentle man who wants to bring reason and help a friend who needs him.
I love everything about the ghost of the future and the ending. I don't want to give it away, but it was just, well, it was amazing.
I really like Catwoman, and this graphic novel was no exception. She brings something to Batman's world that just can't be found anywhere else.
I love the narrator aspect. It gave something more to this story. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about having someone other than Bruce himself giving direction, but this really was a brilliant addition.
The artwork (which is always important to any comic/graphic novel, but usually not something I'd comment on) was breathtaking at times. This added so much to the book.
What I didn't like:
It was so, so short. While this was excellent for my attention span, I felt like so much was missing. The Robin and Catwoman parts were the parts I felt suffered the most. I think it would have been much more emotionally pulling if these had been given a little more. Usually, I hate extra fluff, but in this case, I felt there were some gaps.

Overall, I would recommend this one to anyone who loves Batman, or even someone who just kind of likes him. This is a story of beautiful artwork and hope and a reminder that no one is ever lost.

Happy Winter Solstice and Happy Whatever Holiday You Celebrate Today!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Surprise

I feel like it's always a surprise when I finally write up something to put on here, and here it is a holiday and I'm still posting! Well, I didn't do much else today so may as well.
As promised, the next review is for the book Faitheist by Chris Stedman. This is one that I was really looking forward to writing because I'm going to tell my own story on here as part of the review. (The Amazon version of this will be cut to exclude my personal business.)

Faitheist by Chris Stedman = 4 stars
This was a very different book from anything I have ever read about atheism. It was refreshing and wonderful. Mr. Stedman discusses his struggles with fitting in and wanting a community to belong to. He thinks he's found it at church, but is also coming to terms with the fact that he is gay, and this is not allowed. He has a silent struggle with this and it is heart breaking to watch unfold.
The important thing to note is that he does not leave the church or God because of this. He simply realizes that what he believes does not match up with the ideas of the church. He is unable to find a way to believe in God any more. He says it's like he came home one day to find that God was no longer there; that he had packed a bag and not even left a note. He was simply not a part of his life anymore.

I honestly don't know the reasons why people leave religion. But I do feel like I need to share mine here because it's a story I don't tell. It's one that's hidden away because either people will a. not care to hear it or b. try to convince me to go back. (If you want to get back to the review just skip down, this is a personal insert break for my own therapy purposes.) Church was a safe place for me for a long time and it was a place to belong. For some reason I was more open there than at school. I was shy and didn't have friends at school so I made them at church. I was able to help people when I went on missions trips. That's what I miss the most.
I moved away and gradually fell away from the church. I began looking at other religions because I realized I had been very closed minded previously. I was fascinated by them all, but looked at them all objectively. They are part of people's lives but not mine. They are the motivating factors behind people's actions, but this does not directly affect my own thought processes. I slowly realized that I had nothing to base a belief in Christianity on, other than fear. And I found that fear, and the contradictions and hypocrisy found in the organized church were enough to not need it in my life.
I hid this. For a while. I was terrified to tell my parents that I was that awful term called an atheist. That I had turned my back on what I had been raised to believe. When I told my mom, I saw the fear and the heartache it caused her. It was painful and so very difficult. I broke it to her slowly, saying I didn't want to attend church and that I was questioning. We don't talk about religion anymore now. It's just easier that way.
For a while, I didn't openly admit that I didn't believe in God to anyone unless I was posed with the question. I wouldn't lie, but I didn't volunteer the information. I still don't go around advertising this piece of my life, but people who get beyond my first couple layers find out.
Stedman talks about feeling like an imposter pretending to be a straight Christian and hiding who he was, a gay agnostic. While I am not gay... I do relate to the hiding your beliefs because people don't want to know or don't like atheists.

This brings us back around to the book review part of this. A lot of atheists have a bad reputation because the loudest voices are ones that people find offensive (Hitchens, Dawkins, etc). There is finally a voice telling a story of not religion bashing, but wanting to work together to find a way to better the world regardless of religious affiliation. I enjoy reading the other atheists' works, but this is necessary as well. We can't be constantly bickering or nothing will change for the better.

What I liked: This was the easiest biography I've ever read. I was sucked into his life story and wanted to know more about him. I loved his explanations of how he was raised without religion and still turned out to be a good moral person.
This is a call to action not to erase religion but to find common ground. There are enough calls to end religion already.
He is so young and has already figured this much out, and is working to put his words into action.
What I didn't like so much: Toward the end, it got pretty repetitive about needing to work together. Probably could have cut out 20 pages of it.
I think the "New Atheists" or "angry Atheists," however you want to look at them, were/are vital. Atheists needed someone to stand up and say, "Hey, not everyone agrees with religion." There is tolerance for any belief system except the lack of one. There are so many books written about why people should be Christian, or Jewish, or Muslim. But there needed to be some about this as well. Stedman negates everything that this men say. While we do need balance, I think they did a great service to atheists by helping them come out about their lack of belief.

This was a wonderfully written book, truly engaging, and I would recommend it to anyone. Of faith or not. It finally offers the position of someone who wants to just get along.
*This book was received as a free advanced copy from the bookstore I am employed with*

Happy Thanksgiving :)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Since I Procrastinated All Day

I guess I will write this now, at 3 am. I spent so much time looking for my little notebook with all my notes about my books (yes, this does exist) that I was late getting my paper done (also I didn't want to do it so it took longer) and thus it is now super late, I still haven't found that notebook, and I really want my review done for Lost Prince. I have several other books to review at this point (they are all in the missing notebook too), but I want this one done first. So, without anymore back story, and without any idea what I was going to write (since I read this a couple weeks ago), here's that review much promised.

Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa - 2 Stars (And I think that's being a little too nice)

This is the 5th book in the Iron Fey series, well kind of. The first 4 all go together and wrap up very nicely by the end of book 4. (See previous review for that one since I REALLY loved that series). This, though, is the tale of Megan and Ash's son (that's kind of a spoiler, but not really because it's not a hard thing to figure out, especially if you read Iron's Prophecy). So anyway, we have Kierran (their son) and Ethan (Megan's brother) and their trying to save all the half-bloods and exiles in the human realm. They don't know what's  destroying them (also, not hard to figure out if you've read the other 4), but they're determined to risk their lives to find out. Ethan has also managed to charm a girl into coming with them, without actually meaning to. Mostly, Kenzie is just being really stubborn and is bored with her life. That's the plot without giving much away.

What I liked: Not a whole lot, honestly. I liked having Grimalkin around again. I liked a few scenes of Ethan with his martial arts. I did really like getting a glimpse at how the Iron Realm was doing after the fey wars. I also really liked Kierran and his girlfriend. I wish the story had been about them. Kierran reminds me of Puck, but in a good way. I liked seeing Puck and Ash for the 15 seconds they show up, but I was lead to believe they'd be in the story more than they were.

What I did not like: I feel like I've already read this, really. There are so many elements of this story that were too much like the first series: There's a new type of Fey and the Fey world is going to have to learn how to adapt so they can all live happily together.
 Ethan has a macho attitude and it's just silly a lot of the time. Kenzie is said to be this strong, brave warrior type heroine, but really if I have to be told that's who she is, rather than shown, it's not the same. I felt like she was annoying and in the way for the most part. Kagawa writes a few "shocking" moments in, but they are foreshadowed so blatantly that it's not a shocking moment at all.

I felt about this book the same as I did the first one of the first series. It doesn't seem like Kagawa knows her characters well enough to write them. And it seems she is riding the wave of the popularity of the first 4. Maybe the second one will be better. This faerie world was one I was so engulfed in that I didn't want the first 4 books to be over so I picked this up as soon as we got it in at work. I will still read the rest of the books that go with this as they come out, but I think I could have been happier just ending with the original Iron Fey series. If you read the first ones, I would not recommend this. I have no idea how this book got such great reviews, unless a lot was overlooked and/or the audience reading this did not read the others.

Next up: Faitheist


Sunday, November 11, 2012

I'm Such a Slacker

Well, no I'm not really, but between work and attempting to hopefully eventually finish this whole college shebang, I'm just taking a really long time to get any reviews put up on here. I know I said in the last post that I'd be putting up The Lost Prince next, but I can't really do that yet because I have to review The Iron Knight first. I won't be giving a great review to Lost Prince so I feel I owe it to the author to first rate my favorite of her series, and the reason why I read the last one at all. Also, since very few people read this, it's not like I'm really letting anyone down. I'm pretty sure no one reading this is going to read the teen books I'm recommending, but I shall do so anyway.

Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa (fourth book of the Iron Fey series)

Ash was one of my favorite characters throughout the entire Iron Fey series, and when I read in one of the reviews that he and Megan don't have a good ending in the Iron Queen, I actually put the series away for a while. I asked a friend who had read them if it was worth reading and on her recommendation, I finished the rest of them. It was so worth it.
**Warning** **There are a few minor spoilers!**
In The Iron Queen, we finally see Megan get a backbone and stand up for herself. She annoyed me up until this point, but redeemed herself. At the end of Iron Queen, however, Ash has to leave because he can't stay within the Iron Realm with his queen without dying from the poison of the iron. In Iron Knight, we are able to get inside Ash's head and we finally see his emotional side. We see how much he loves Megan and how he would do anything for her. It's one thing to see it from Megan's side and hear him say it, but when he commits to being her knight and doesn't quit even when she becomes part of the Iron Kingdom, we really see it.
So what I liked:
Seeing Ash and Puck work together. After the Twilight books, it seemed everyone was "Team Someone." In this, however, we see them bickering still, but they are former best friends and they work together for what is best for Megan.
The wolf, especially when interacting with Grimalkin. Grim started out as a play on the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland, which was frustrating since it felt like she stole a character, but he turned into my favorite of the characters. He took on a life of his own. And we get to see him being more helpful in this book.
I loved everything about the quest and Ash's persistence. The quest for Ash to become human really brings into question what it means to be mortal and whether it is worth it. While he would gain a soul and would be with his queen again, he would have to give up everything it means to be immortal and a winter prince.
The ending. Everything is sorted out and every aspect is addressed and tied up well by the end of the book.
What I didn't like (**Spoiler**):
Ariella: She is necessary on so many levels, but I didn't like that Ash even has to question who he wants to be with for a minute. (At the same time, I thought this was handled very well and realistically.)
Some of the writing still annoyed me. There were times that were repetitive or silly (I thought Ice-boy was probably the worst nickname I'd ever heard of). This was true throughout the entire series and it had to simply be overlooked for the most part. By this book, most of that was gone and the writing was much better, but there were still times when I thought to myself  "really??" before I kept reading on.

Overall, one of the best finales to a series. It truly made the series what it was. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants a fae story.

I've got the notes written up for The Lost Prince and a couple others so I'll get to them soon. Until then have a great day!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

New Project Time!

I feel like I start projects that I never finish all the time, but this one won't really be hard to keep up with. J asked me recently "What's the most books you've ever read in a year?" I realized I had no clue. My guess is probably around 50-60. I usually average a book or so a week, making around 4 books a month, putting us around 48 if it's 4 per month up to 52 if it's a book a week.
This got me really interested in whether or not I really read as much as I feel like I do so I'm going to track it. If you don't follow me on Goodreads, well, that's where my  list will be. But I also want to put up reviews of many of the books on here. I will also be including a few graphic novels to indulge the nerdy side. Before the project begins, though, there were two books I wanted to write up reviews on mostly because they had such high ratings, and I did not feel either deserved it. The first book was Comet's Tale by Steven Wolf. The second was The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa. I've written up the first, but will do the second later so as a precursor to the project and to make this posting a little longer, I'm adding the review of Comet's Tale here.

I am such a sucker for any animal stories. I have read a few so far, but mostly have a long list of them to read still. This one caught my attention because my mom is disabled and has her own service dog. I have recently been looking into how the service dog training works and how I can get involved so this struck a cord instantly. That being said, I had to force myself to finish this book, and I read a lot.So what I liked: I liked Comet. I am not usually a fan of the greyhound breed, but I did like (some) of the descriptions of her personality and appearance and found myself smiling at times when he talks about her. I liked learning more about the breed itself. Wolf goes into the history of the breed, and I thought that was very interesting. I also really liked that she was brought from such a life of despair to being able to help someone and get so much enjoyment out of life. I loved the way her love of men in uniforms was portrayed. I found that very funny.What I did not like: The descriptions were so redundant. I read about her cinnamon coat and elegant manners so many times and often in the exact same phrases. The outline of the book itself was jumbled. Wolf would go from talking about how well she was doing training to talking about the history of the greyhound (which was interesting, the first time around). It would have been better if he had talked about his research on the breed all at once and taken care of it in one shot. It may have also saved his readers from having to read some of his repetition. Also, while I understand that he was going through a lot, his attitude really did not make me like him at all. I know he was trying to convey what he was going through, but he put everyone (Freddie, his daughters, his dogs) on a pedestal and beat himself up. This was very repetitive as well. Seeing a trend?I really think this could have been a much better story had he been a better storyteller or had the person who co-wrote had more input. I hate sounding so very heartless, but this was just so hard to get through.

The review of The Lost Prince should be forthcoming soon(ish) so I know you'll all be waiting with bated breath. Also, as a fair warning, I'm on a paranormal romance kick so there may be some "garbage" titles coming up soon in this project now that I've found some new series!

Have a wonderful day!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Between the Lines: Had So Much Potential

I'm trying to play a little catch up and get some of my reviews done so I may be posting multiples at a time. Hopefully, I won't be going 2 months between them again.

This was my third Jodi Picoult book (19 Minutes and The Pact were the first two). I loved both of her other works and understood that this one would be much different. I knew that this was an idea based on something her daughter brought to her. I knew that this was directed toward a younger audience. This being said, I was still disappointed.
***Warning: May contain minor spoilers!***
What I liked: I loved the artwork in this book. There are doodles on the sides of many pages and art at the beginnings of the chapters. It was eye catching, and I liked seeing how Oliver would look. While I can often imagine a character, it was nice to see one of them painted out for me this time to see how the author wanted him to be seen.
I loved the idea of a character interacting with the real world and even trying to join it.
What I did not like: I wonder how much of this was actually written by Jodi Picoult and how much may have been penned by her daughter. The writing was not on par with her other works. It was often repetitive and borderline obnoxious. With as much as the same ideas were repeated (told rather than shown), the book probably could have been cut down 50+ pages. The "daddy" issue was a little overplayed. I understand growing up without a dad is difficult, but she still had a mother who was there and cared for her. This honestly made me feel like she was being kind of an ungrateful brat. I know she's a teenager, but even still, I was not a big fan of Delilah's.
The ending was so anticlimactic. The resolution takes place in the last 10 pages or less, and fairly predictable, with only a slight twist.

Overall, it wasn't terrible. It wasn't something I'd reread, but it wasn't a complete waste of time. I read a lot of teen fiction so I didn't have a problem with it being geared toward a younger audience, but with Jodi Picoult, I simply expected better writing. I don't think the writing had to be subpar simply because the content was different from the usual. It was a great idea, but I wish it had been better.

 Don't let this be the only Picoult book you read. She has much better work out there!!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Jemima J. Not Worth the Time to Read It

I picked up this book used for just a few dollars, and thought it had a pretty good premise with some potential. This is the second book I've read by Jane Green. The first (Bookends) wasn't great, but not so bad I swore her off completely. This, however, was one of the worst books I think I've ever read.
***Warning, this will contain minor spoilers.***
What I liked (short list): I liked the narration for the most part. I liked that it went between Jemima's first person and third person. I liked the voice of the third person and that it addressed the audience directly.
What I did not like:
Jemima was probably the most self-concerned, superficial, obnoxious character I've ever read about. She talks about how she's a good person, but no one sees it because she's overweight. I don't see her being a good person at all. I see her trying not to eat so much, but this isn't really helping anyone else. Once she does lose the weight, she still judges other people by their weight and is more judgmental than she blames others for being.
I hate that all of her relationships are based solely on her being thin. I understood that she lost weight for Brad. But the fact that Ben only really notices her when she's lost weight does not make me like their relationship either.
There were too many parts that were super repetitive. There was a lot of telling instead of showing. I think this was why I liked when it switched back to the third person narrator. I was so annoyed by Jemima.
This was incredibly insensitive to anyone overweight and the only time Jemima is even portrayed as being healthy is in the epilogue. We are told she's healthy, but really we don't see this. She is either "way" over weight or anorexic. As another reviewer said, I pictured her as 5'2 and 300+ pounds, not 5'7 and 200. While that is still overweight, it's not by 100 lbs (as the back of the book says). And it's doubtful she would have 3 chins, even in a picture. I don't think Ms. Green has much experience with this topic.

I don't think I'd recommend this book to anyone. I was hoping for a strong heroine, but instead lost respect for and interest in Jemima J. the more I read about her. I will give Ms. Green one more book to change my mind, but it may be a while before I can be ready for another disaster like this one.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

First Book Review!

Forbidden by Syrie James

I read a lot of Young Adult fiction and also a lot of the supernatural/paranormal type romances. I have gotten so sick of vampires that I have been reading books mostly concerned with faeries (Iron Fey series, Fever Series). This was the first one I had read with the fallen angel theme, though. I don't know how similar it is to others (again, being my first one), but I thought it was a fantastic quick read. Even between work and schoolwork, I got it read in two days.

Things I loved (May contain *minor spoilers*!!):
Alec and Claire begin to have a connection before they realize who the other one is. While their natures may be part of what draws them to each other, you also get to see an actual relationship develop without just being about protecting the other. Of course, they find out quickly and that is probably a huge reason why they keep seeing each other, but it's not the first and foremost. This was a nice change.
The protagonist is actually able to rely on friends! This was a big deal to me after so many other paranormal type books make the heroine (yeah, it's usually a girl) completely on her own. While it's great to see a woman who is strong enough to handle everything she's given without the help of anyone except that one man, it was so nice to see additional characters developed a little more. We don't see Erica or Brian's side of the story, but they still play a major role in helping Claire figure everything out. She also is able to rely on her mother later on, which is, again, a nice change of pace. This, to me, is in someways more realistic. While it would be difficult to come out to your friends and say "Hey guys, I think I'm psychic...", it would also make dealing with it much more manageable.
The third person was really well written! I usually hate it beyond all belief, but the authors managed to use it to show both main characters perspectives clearly and showed the emotions very well.
All of the *good* characters were so likeable! Even the minor characters had distinct personalities and they drove the story because you want to know what happens.

Things that weren't quite as great:
While the authors did a great job developing the characters, I still felt like it wasn't quite enough. I wanted to know them even more. This is a lot to ask of just one book, though. I've gotten into the habit of only reading series because I love to get immersed in the lives of well written characters. I knew going in that this was only a one part story, but because it's pretty recent, I'm hoping there may be a second. The end ties up well enough to allow this book to stand on its own, but it is still open enough to continue, which I hope it does!
I think I would have liked a first person narrative better. The third person was so well written, but it's just a personal preference.

I really wanted to give it a 5 star. But I feel like without having anything to compare it to, this would not be a fair assessment. Although, I may have to come back and change it if, after reading some other books like this, it turns out this is far above the others. My next pick is the Fallen Series by Lauren Kate!