El Title De Blog

'Tis a random place for me to write random things... like reviews and random thoughts that not everyone necessarily needs to know about.

Location: Deerfield, Illinois, United States

Ah... let's see. I always hate putting things here. I filled up my "About Me" section on myspace with a quiz. And the one on livejournal with randomness. And an Animorphs thing, of course. Umm.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Author: Cheryl Renee Herbsman
Published Date: 2009
Letter Grade: F

I haven't updated here in quite some time, but this book was so bad, I can't help myself. And also, the Amazon reviews are leaving me utterly baffled.

The book is about Savannah, a girl with a severe case of asthma who falls for Jackson, an older boy who's in town visiting his relatives after his dad dies.

First complaint: The entire book is in a very pronounced southern dialect. Not only that, but every bloody character sounds exactly the same, and there's no escape, because it's first person narration. It's not charming, or scene-setting, or anything like that. It makes everyone sound like an ignorant fool (which is not a statement against people who really talk like that, but Lordy, Herbsman is lending absolutely no credibility to Savannah's statements about how smart she is. She talks and thinks exactly like everyone who's supposedly less intelligent than herself.)

Second complaint: It's a load of rubbish. I take it I'm supposed to get that the girl's some kind of clairvoyant. I've actually read books where authors pull this sort of thing off, but I tell you, by the time I got to the last page I was so fed up with this girl's "feelings" that when I saw there was yet another heap of dung in the last paragraph, I shut the book. They lent absolutely nothing to the book. Nothing.

Third complaint: Oi, the angst! This is teen fiction. Teens have enough of their own angst. Just because they can relate does not mean that's all they want to read about. Savannah comes off as nothing but a whiny little brat. Her friends are whiny brats. Her family is nothing but whiny, stubborn, ridiculously cliche brats. And Jackson. I've met dust bunnies with more personality. Stereotypical teenage hero. And that BS about his ex-girlfriend sounds exactly what Chris said to me when he cheated on me. And Savannah forgives him with barely an argument.

Fourth complaint: Dysfunctional. Relationship. The cover says he helps her breath, and when he leaves to go home, she has to learn how to breathe on her own. She doesn't. Her mood goes up and down every time the wind blows, she's got asthma attacks every few chapters, whether Jackson the Mighty is there or not, and furthermore, they do underhanded things in the name of "helping the other achieve their dreams." Seriously. They've been together 2 months. And everyone else seems to buy into their garbage.

Complaint 4A: He's achieving his dream of becoming an artist by painting houses? Really? What the hell do those two things have in common? How does one lead to the other?

The only good thing I can see from this book is that it's short. 262 pages of nonsense.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak
Published Date: March 2006
Letter Grade: A+

This book has haunted me for some time now. I'd pick it up for a bit--at the bookstore, at home, after I'd bought it--and set it down again, only to have it follow me, silently plaguing me with its presence.

It took me quite a while to finally finish this book. Well over a month. I read the last 80 or so pages just now, and, upon putting the book down at last, couldn't stop shaking for several minutes.

It's an odd book.

Narrated by the most overused character in the history of the written word, Death himself, it's the story of Liesel Meminger, a young German girl who arrives in Molching, a little town of Munich, Germany, to live with her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, in January 1939.

There's more, of course. To quote Death's words on the inside flap of the cover: "It's just a small story really, about, among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery..."

As a general rule, aside from the occasion foray, I stay away from books taking place during World War II. Inevitably, what happens is this: I get angry. I cry. I want to hit some long dead fellow with a Chaplinesque mustache. Or if not him, any number of others. In other words, the experience is more emotionally draining than any funeral I've ever been to.

S0, with this sense to trepidation, I sat down to begin The Book Thief, knowing that, on some level, I wouldn't be the same when I finished it.

It's a rare book that does that to you. I have read a great many books. Hundreds of them. I'd go so far as to say thousands, or at least a thousand. Very few have had such an effect on me.

My Life-Changing Novels:
1. The Andalite Chronicles by K.A. Applegate
2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
3. A tale about a cat and a mouse, whose title I have long since forgotten.

For the first, I'd attribute the cause for a period in my life which literally saved my life. For the third, well... the third was the first book on which I ever based a fanfic. Though, being only 6, I didn't know that's what it was, and at any rate, thirteen years later I'm still writing because of it.

As for the second, I'm not quite sure what the lasting effect will be. Certainly I couldn't see that ahead of time for either of the others. However, having experienced the earth-shaking effects of a life-changing book before, I know what it feels like.

The book itself goes on for a good 550 pages. We are handed the tale of Liesel and people of Himmel Street, Molching, secondhand through Death, who tells us of the book thief and the books she stole. And of a German Jesse Owens. And of an old woman and the spit-stained door she aims at. An accordian-playing promise-keeper. A Jewish fist-fighter who hides and writes and lives in a basement filled with painted words. A crazy Nazi shopkeeper. A lot of pigs (Saumensch. Saukerl. What terms of endearment)

And, of course, the Fuhrer. Yes, him, too.

Funny thing about the Fuhrer. For a man who so upheld this so called ideal of the "Aryan" race, he looked an awful lot like that which he was so keen to destroy.

How, I ask you, could no one see that?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Author: J.K. Rowling
Published Date: July 21, 2007
Letter Grade: Good Question.

Oh, all right. So I was a teensy bit off the mark. Some of you may recall this review from back in February, where I most vehemently argued against some of the speculations put out by MuggleNet.com.

Well. All right. So I was wrong. On most counts. I still dislike the chapter on Dumbledore, for the record.

Speaking of Alby, I have to say that I got the sneaking suspicion the entire time I read the book that JKR was having a bit of fun with we the readers. For instance, each and everytime someone pointed out that, yes, "Dumbledore is dead," I half expected it to be followed by "Despite what the folks at dumbledoreisnotdead.com say..."

Anyway. I really don't think I need to give a synopsis for this one. And if I do, you're probably not that interested in it, anyway.

So. My feelings about the book. Aside from being thwarted in my views at the very end, that is. (*spoiler warning!*I can take some comfort in the fact, though, that I was starting to waver ever so slightly in the Snape- good or evil? issue. You can imagine how frustrating that was.)

Basically, I loved the book. I hated putting it down. Absolutely abhorred it. Because, much to my annoyance, it kept me up at night when I most needed to sleep.

Strangely enough, I didn't cry at all in this book. I've cried in three out of the seven: Chamber of Secrets (when I thought Ginny was going to die,) Order of the Phoenix (at Sirius' death, of course), and Half-Blood Prince (at the long questioned death of Albus Dumbledore.)

Considering some of my most loved characters died in this book, as happened in the three mentioned above (or at least nearly died,) I'm a little surprised. I'm especially surprised at the characters whose deaths most affected me. That one I wasn't expecting. Though, it did take me a bit to realize why the character particularly wished for Harry to look at them at that moment. It seemed a tad out of character till... well, till I read the next chapter and thought it through.

I hate writing so as not to spoil. Considering how paranoid I was about having this book spoiled for me, you'd think I'd be especially sensitive to that.

I was a little disappointed with Wormtail, though. Not that this is surprising, mind you. There's little about Wormtail as a character that isn't disappointing/hateful/etc. I expected more. Maybe too much, considering the character, and considering Voldemort, but still.

I will say this though: Speculation is fun, but sometimes it's just ridiculous. The symbol on the spine of one of the UK editions of the book (I forget if it's the children's or adult) led to tons and tons of speculation by the hosts of MuggleCast. In the end, it was nothing anyone could figure out without having read the book. Imagine, all that energy spent on deciphering a tiny little symbol, only to have the entire endeavor be a waste of brain power.

And, all right, I'm still smarting a little from the rest that they were dead on about, but I found out about the symbol before anything else.

At any rate, I really don't know how to grade this book. It was unquestionably fantastic. It kept me up at night. I'm itching to reread it, though I know I won't. I only reread HBP and OOTP this past semester because I knew Deathly Hallows was coming. Aside from the first couple chapters of Sorcerer's Stone and Prisoner of Azkaban, I haven't reread anything else.

I am still, however, immensely curious about the things I could have sworn we were supposed to hear about in this final book:

-The Ford Anglia (though I did love the mention of the motorbike)
-Someone using magic late in life (eh?)
-The Department of Mysteries (while somewhat mentioned, only in passing.)

All so terribly interesting and yet I must be left in suspense. JKR has a way of doing that.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Twilight, New Moon

Author: Stephenie Meyer
Published Date(s): September 2006 (T/paperback, NM/hardcover)
Letter Grade: A+

The varying reports on vampires as I've seen in fiction:

Amanda Ashley (Deeper than the Night, A Darker Dream, A Whisper of Eternity, etc.)

How to become one: Aside from descriptions of various myths (my personal favorite: being the seventh son of a seventh son,) the generally accepted method is another vampire has to drink a person's blood nearly to the point of death, and then "feed," if you will, it back to them.
Reversable?: Almost always no.
How?: Complicated (i.e. can't remember that well, it only successfully occurred once) but the general jist of it is that it requires another vampire who happens to be willing to help, and who can be trusted not to leave them out in the sun to burn up.
Sun Burns?: Yes
State of Soul: Probably gone.

Teresa Medeiros (After Midnight, The Vampire Who Loved Me)

How to become one: A vampire again has to drink the person's blood, and then at the last moment suck out their soul.
Reversable?: Yes
How?: They have to find the vampire who created them, or if that vampire is dead, the vampire who created them, and so on, and then kill them and take their soul back. It helps if you don't particularly care for them. And if you're brother doesn't kill the one who made you in an attempt to save the woman he loves. Very tricky.
Sun Burns?: Yes
State of Soul: Currently dwelling in someone else. You may, though, have someone else's.

Stephenie Meyer (Twilight, New Moon)
How to become one: A vampire just has to bite you. Apparently vampire fangs are venomous. Assuming they don't lose control and kill you, it takes three days for the venom to spread, eventually reaches the heart, and the heart stops.
Reversable?: No.
Sun Burns?: No, but it does give you a certain... quality that is best not seen by mortal eyes.
State of Soul: Depends on who you ask.

And then you get things like Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, which doesn't deserve mentioning here. All in all, anyone who wanted to start their own book or series on vampires based on what anyone else has already come up with as "general rules" would be sorely confused.

So. I finally gave in and read these books after much pestering, and I finished the combined 1000+ pages in a record two and a half days.

The general synopsis, for those who have not yet given in: Bella Swan moves to Forks, Washington, probably the rainiest place in the pacific northwest, to live with her father after her mother remarries to a mediocre strictly-minor-league baseball player. On her first day, she encounters Edward Cullen and his "siblings," who happen to be vampires. The usual avoidance, non-avoidance, avoidance again bit that I'm now well familiar with ensues, with all the mumbling about how everyone smells. It's especially amusing, though, when you throw in the werewolves in New Moon.

Anyway, what you should gather from that ill-phrased paragraph is that Edward, despite all his misgivings and warnings that every vampire hero comes equipped with, is especially drawn to Bella and romance and danger and good fiction-y things like that ensue.

I don't think there was anything about these books that I disliked. You know it's a good book when I'm in love with half the male characters by midway through. For instance, because my copy of New Moon comes equipped with temporary tattoos, I was seriously considering where best to place "Edward" and "Jacob," even before I knew why Jacob would be remotely important, besides as Bella's father's friend's son. Personally, I would have gladly switched out "Bella" for "Jasper" if only because I feel uncomfortable tattooing a girl's name in any of the highly inappropriate places I was contemplating for her male counterparts.

Aside from that-they are fabulous. There was enough suspense and romance and various other important things to keep me reading till the wee hours of the morning. If I was ever impatient, it was probably during New Moon when I was waiting for Edward, or at least some Cullen to appear. I settled very easily for Alice, who currently holds a three-way tie with Jasper and Edward for my favorite.

Oh, hell. I'm not going to write a coherent review, I can already see that. This review should have merely ended with: Go. Read it. NOW!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Secret Diaries of Miranda Cheever
Author: Julia Quinn
Published Date: July 2007
Letter Grade: A-

You know you are a devoted fangirl when, having spotted the newsletter from your favorite author that, without fail, arrives on the last Tuesday of June every year for the past four years, appears in your e-mail inbox, you know you are giving up all plans for an early night to bed, ignoring your exhaustion after a long day at work, and hunting down that book at Borders even if you have to overturn every godforsaken bookshelf in the place.

And so is how I spent this past Tuesday evening.

Well, all right. I didn't overturn all the bookshelves in the evil Borders that I unfortunately now live near. I did have to work uncommonly hard to find Ms. Quinn (because this borders, for some reason, does not differentiate between "romance" and "erotica" when naming its sections. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever actually seen the erotica section labeled anywhere) and when I finally found her, I found all of her other lovely novels. But not this one.

I finally managed to track it down, as it was hiding in the most random of places (not unusual for this Borders) and because of this wonderful stroke of luck (and determination of a crazed fangirl) I am bringing to you my first JQ review.

I've been reading Julia Quinn novels for about five years now. My first, How to Marry a Marquis, was one of the very first romance novels I ever read. I've read every book that she's written, and all but one novella (only because I have a weird aversion to Scotland as a setting. Which does not make much sense to me at all, so don't ask me to explain it.)

I caught up with her somewhere in the midst of her Bridgerton family series (brilliant, by the way) and while I am still hard pressed to admit that it was a sound idea for her to not write a book for Edmund and Violet Bridgerton, I have to concede that this novel was worthy of following after such a fabulous series.

But only grudgingly. Because, well, she's Julia Quinn. And the book was good.

Anyway. Miranda Cheever (thank God I liked this girl, otherwise every mention of her last name would have sent me into the same peels of laughter that "Karen Sue Hankey" tends to illicit) has pretty much been head over heals for Turner (real name Nigel, "Turner" referring to his title- Viscount Turner), her best friend's older brother, since she was 10 years old. Somewhere between 10 and 19, he got married to the odious, heart-stomping-upon, witch of a woman, Leticia, and was blissfully (not to be insensitive, but the woman was a real bitch) widowed at the beginning of our tale.

Actually, the first chapter opens with her funeral, and Turner's ruminations on all the good things about him that his late wife mercilessly squashed. Repeatedly. Heros with unfaithful dead first wives tend to like to use the word "cuckold" an awful lot, I've noticed. This goes for heros of many authors. Well, by "awful lot" I mean more than once or twice. It's not as though they're the only ones who ever use it.

Anyway. Miranda and Olivia, aforementioned best friend, end up in London after the required mourning period (for Olivia, anyway. For Turner it's supposed to be a year. You can imagine how readily he tossed aside that notion) for their first season.

I love reading about the marriage mart. Don't ask me why. London in the 19th century, especially the nobility residing in London at the time, interests me more than I can understand.

I was a little annoyed with the way all the men at those balls and such ignored Miranda (or, well, you know, not quite ignored) in favor of Olivia. Why is it that there is such an insistance in romances for the heroine to be only attractive to the hero? It's hardly ever as often true in the reverse, where the hero is only attractive to the heroine. Honestly. I can't tell you how often I read the words "she wasn't classically beautiful." Once in awhile I'd like to read about a heroine who actually was. The heroines always seem to be the ones who are allowed physical "flaws." (I use that term extremely lightly.) A heroine can be fat, or at least be plumper than normal, she can be half-blind and need to wear spectacles constantly, she can have big feet, or a long face, or unfashionable hair ("unfashionable" would, by the way, describe the majority, since "unfashionable" brown hair tends to be a dominant trait. Unless the nobility happens to have a bit of Viking blood in them or something from their raping and pillaging days). The hero on the other hand, never seems to have any of these things.

I realize these books are geared towards women. But after roughly 200+ romance novels, it gets a little old.

Sorry. Ill-timed rant.

Anyyway. I read this book in a little over a day. Quinn needs to start writing longer books, not that I think it'd help very much. 373 pages might take a while for a mediocre book. But a Quinn? No chance in hell. I had to stop last night within the last 50 pages and couldn't stand to put the rest off till my lunch hour, so I read it on the way to work, diminishing the page count to around 20.

All right, there were things that annoyed me. Turner got on my nerves sometimes, but the rest of the time, mostly I wanted to hug him, and, well, other things. Damn his fictionality.

I did have to raise an eyebrow at the timing of it all though. Roughly four months after becoming a widower? Not that I think any sort of mourning period should have been observed, but I'm reasonably familiar enough with the thought process of the period that even I find that a little scandalous.

I'm not complaining, naturally. I like scandalous.

Anyway. The point of the matter is- I adored this book, as I do Julia Quinn books. She made me very happy with the mention of Alex, the hero of her first novel Splendid. Though, I would not have been at all disagreeable to the mention of my favorite person in the whole wide world of romance (that's saying something, she has to compete with the likes of Derek Craven and Peter Quick, formidable competition indeed), Lady Danbury. I haven't seen her in two whole books, I miss the old biddy.

Apparently this book was written in 1994, and Quinn has only now had a proper opportunity to publish it. Thank God. Or thank Avon. Or thank both.

Hmm. And it should be noted: Although there was no mention of Lady D, no Julia Quinn novel would be complete without an important mention: the dedication to Paul, her husband, which always either amuses me or makes me go "awww," every bloody time. (I was amused this time, in case you'd wondered.)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Duke's Indiscretion

Author: Adele Ashworth
Published Date: May 2007
Letter Grade: D-

What, I ask you, became of my fabulous run of good books? Here I thought I was going soft, but now I have to wonder if I'm starting to be too hard. Maybe, but I hardly think so with this book.

Julia Quinn, for the first time ever, has failed me. Since she hasn't come out with a new book since I started this blog, I haven't been able to expound on my feelings for my favorite romance author's writing. But I have been a great fan of hers since my second or third romance read ever, her How To Marry A Marquis. Generally speaking, I have found great success with other books and authors that she has reccommended over the years, so when I came across Ashworth's novel on Avon Publishing's New Releases page last month, I remembered that Quinn had reccommended Ashworth about the time of the woman's first novel. Naturally, I thought this to be a promising sign. To reccomend it further, Lisa Kleypas, an author I enjoy to only a slightly lesser degree than Quinn, was quoted on the front cover, praising Ms. Ashworth.

And so, armed with the high praises of my two favorite authors, and having read an enjoyable sample chapter on Ashworth's homepage, I bought the book with every hope that it would be a wonderful read.

The book started somewhere at a "B-," then steadily delved into the "C's" as it became increasingly mediocre, and then dove into a sinkhole of badly executed plotline, boring characters, and implausible endings. Basically, it became utter crap.

Two things saved this book from an F:
1) The first three and a half chapters were interesting enough.
2) There was a good twenty pages, give or take, where I felt a certain lack of annoyance at the novel.

To give you the basics: Colin, the Duke of Newark, who works for the Crown, has been infatuated with the opera singer, Lottie English, for years, and manages to sneek in a meeting with her. Lady Charlotte Hughes, sister to a not-very-nice man who happens to be deeply in debt, has been moonlighting as Lottie English. What follows is Colin's superior making an excuse for him to really meet Lottie (that is, as Charlotte, not in full costume) and Charlotte, for some reason, propositioning Colin in a decidedly different way than he intended (i.e. as his wife, not his mistress.) Random mishaps and misunderstandings follow, plus a bit about something valuable that Charlotte owns and someone else seems to want (the "someone" is pretty much answered the minute you find out there's a valuable something at all, but this, as with many things, Ashworth seems to quickly forget.)

The whole thing, past the first three and a half chapters, alternates between frustrating and just plain boring. The "mystery" isn't much of a mystery, the bits where Colin reveals various things about himself weren't really that interesting at all, and Ashworth seems to have a knack for creating needless conflict between the characters just for conflict's sake.

Something that annoyed me very much was that, at the very beginning of the book, both characters say "...had been in love with...for three and a half years" but then, about halfway through the book, when the subject of love is brought up, they acted as though the idea had never crossed their minds. This is especially frustrating with Colin, when his obsession with Lottie English was so built up early on (by "so built up," of course, I'm speaking relatively. Nothing was built up well enough to be believable in this book.) That, and throughout the book, characters talk about what a rake Colin had been, but Ashworth hardly builds up this impression at all.

This book is chock full of inconsistencies. It's as though Ashworth wrote the first three and a half chapters, and then promptly forgot everything she wrote there, and carried on her merry way. From that point on, it was utter pointlessness followed by more utter pointlessness. Conversations that led nowhere interesting, sex scenes that usually made me yawn (though this may be an effect of having read too many. The only way to surprise me now is to write none in at all) and a resolution to the whole "mystery" that was just plain stupid.

And the ending. Lordy. Who cares? What did that really have to do with the plot as a whole?

And, why, oh why, did she have to harp on all the French in the book? I kid you not, it was as though she had posted a blinking, neon sign above certain characters that screamed "FRENCHWOMAN!!" I really don't care that they're French. It has no bearing on the plot whatsoever. Olivia's advice to Charlotte about the whole Charlotte vs. Lottie thing made. No. Sense.

My advice to anyone who wants to read this book: Read the first three and a half chapters, than make up the rest of the book as you see fit. You'll probably do a much better job than Ashworth did with this beyond sorry attempt.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Have You Seen Her?

Author: Karen Rose
Published Date: February 2004
Letter Grade: C+

Karen Rose is one of those unfortunate authors who seems to be very confused about what genre they are actually writing for. You see this often enough--Stephanie Laurens, for instance, my least favorite writer, seems to be laboring under the impression that she is writing some sort of detective novel, but really, it's just awful smut in obscenely large quantities, even by romance standards.

Ms. Rose's issue, it appears, is a decided confusion between "mystery" and "romance." There is such a thing as Romantic Suspense, but at some point you cross the line into just plane "Suspense" with a little "romance" thrown in for good measure.

The story's about Special Agent Steven Thatcher, a widower with 3 sons, the oldest of whom has taken a pretty sudden turn in attitude, the youngest of whom was kidnapped 6 months earlier, returned physically unharmed, but emotionally scarred (I haven't read it, so I can't be certain, but I think I might have seen a synopsis for one of her other books that eluded to this event), and the middle kid just likes turkey a lot. Anyway, Thatcher's trying to solve a series of disappearances/murders of local teenage girls, which brings us to the primary "mystery" part of our tale- Whodunnit? Whydunnit? Who-didn't-but-seems-to-havedunnit? What's with the detective from Seattle who's got an apparently personal beef with this case?

Throw in for good measure Dr. Jenna Marshall, Son #1's concerned chemistry teacher who has a thing against passing a failing student just because he's QB and his dad is determined that his kid be seen by college scouts.

What you get is a bunch of horny thirty-somethings acting like teenagers, a murderer who is a teenager, but thinks he's smarter than everyone else (they usually do) and a mess of false leads and Thatcher turning into Sex-y McSexSex the Jealous Type and various other things.

It was... eh. The book had its moments. The end made me raise an eyebrow (a little random? Yes, I think so) and Son #1's sudden and complete turnaround was undeniably random and abrupt, the reasoning behind it... eh. Not enough there to make me believe that a previously fabulous student could suddenly turn into a sullen, failing student.

I was a bit surprised by Whodunnit. I was figuring it wasn't going to be who they thought. I've read one other book by Rose (I'm Watching You) and am well-versed in the it-isn't-who-you're-expecting solution.

The book wasn't bad per se. Like I said, it had its moments where I really enjoyed it. I learned many new things about drugs. Don't quite remember if they ever really explained the little symbol they kept harping on. That, and props for writing a book with a redheaded hero. You don't see much of that. Plenty of redheaded heroines, though. And plenty of violet eyed ones--no props on originality for that one.

It's a decent read. It's long (499 pages) but it goes by fairly quickly. Both readingwise and book time-wise. (This one lasts about a month. "I'm Watching You" was a whole week. She's upping it, I see.) Like I said, it has plenty of mystery in to be at least somewhat interesting. And it's only 4.99. Y'all know how I feel about book prices...