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HowdyYAL

Howdy YAL!

I used to be the blogger called YAL Book Briefs, but I grew bored of the handle and changed my name to Howdy YAL. I also respond to MJ. I like to read, write, eat truffles, and watch bad Lifetime movies. 

Please, Please, Don't be Like the Movie Sequel

From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess - Meg Cabot

Truth be told, I was sort of worried about this book.  I think because I’ve seen a lot of disastrous YA spinoffs when they go into other genres may it be adult or middle grade.  Thankfully, this book didn’t fall down that path.

 

Overall, this is a cute little book.  I feel like it might be on the younger side of middle grade though.  Honestly, Olivia sounded more like ten than twelve, but that might just be me.  Regardless of that, it surprisingly worked really well for me.

 

For long time fans like me, it was a nice way to get reacquainted with these characters before Royal Wedding and for younger readers it’s a nice entrance into the main series.  Though when I was Olivia’s age I think that’s when I began reading Diaries.  So…

 

Okay.

 

Let’s avoid how old I am.

 

The point is, this one has all the charm of the original book series, but without all the things that made it for older readers.  And Grandmere is halfway normal in this book because Olivia hasn’t seen that shes’ a super villain in disguise yet.

 

I really liked the contrast between Olivia and Mia.  They are the same, but not.  And Olivia was an interesting enough character.  I really do look forward to seeing how she develops later on in this series.

 

As far as plot goes, this one is pretty bare bones.  I don’t even think the book is over two hundred pages if even that.  Sure, there’s the whole Olivia custody part-which I had to give the whole stink eye to as a lawyer-but that was overall pretty anticlimactic.

And seriously, what was up with Olivia’s Dursley like relatives.  She might as well been sleeping in a cupboard.  Two Ferraris, seriously?

 

 

To be honest, the abuse that she suffered shouldn’t have been as glossed over as it was.  Because while it wasn’t Lifetime movie bad, it was bad enough to issue Olivia a few sessions in Dr. Knutz’s office.  I really hope Meg explores this issue in future additions, but I really don’t think it probably will be.

 

The one thing I’m really worried about is how the whole royal thing will be treated in future books.  There were hints in this one-teh whole lady in waiting thing and Phillipe dressed in full prince regalia while he was just at home-that makes me think that it might be heading in a cheesy Princess Diaries 2 fashion.  I get that this is geared for younger audience, but I pray to the book gods that it doesn’t go there. The Nostalgia Critic reviewed that movie, I think that tells you right there that that’s not a good idea to try to imitate.

 

Another thing that I wanted more in this book was Michael.  I wanted an illustration of him damn it, since this was Meg doing the art work and it’s probably the closest representation I’m going to get to him-it’s sort of nice seeing how author’s view their characters and most of the drawings were pretty spot on to how I thought the characters looked, though Mia was a lot more glamorous than I thought she’d be.  But then I remember book ten and am like yeah…

 

Overall, this is a sweet addition to The Princess Diaries book.  I recommend it to any die hard Princess Diaries fan or if you have a princess obsessed tween give it to them.

 

Overall Rating: An A-.

 

Source: http://howdyyal.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/the-unofficial-princess-diaries-binge-read-from-the-notebooks-of-a-middle-school-princess-by-meg-cabot

There's Something There

The Wrath and the Dawn - Renee Ahdieh

There are things about this book that should really bother me, but there is something that is utterly compelling about this book.

 

And I couldn’t keep it down.

 

Likewise, there was something about this ship.  I shouldn’t have liked it.  It is the antithesis of what I like in ships.  But it’s a bonafide ick ship-a ship that even though it make my nose wrinkle I can’t help but be like I want them together.

 

I think the closest thing I can compare it to is like Rumbelle on Once Upon a Time or St. Clair and Anna in Anna and the French Kiss.  It is so messed up in this book, because dude has killed so many women-never mind, that he may or may not have a quasi legit reason for doing so-and he’s planning on killing her.  And said chick wants to kill him to avenge her best friend, even though she sort of acted like an idiot about it throughout the entire book by doing nothing but mooning over how he’s not so kissible.  And I will remind you that, dude has homicidal tendencies.

 

Seriously, who’d want to be with someone like this?  People in Ick Ships that’s who.

 

Yet somehow,  Ahdieh’s writing make me want to root for these two.  There was something about the way that these two interacted that you were able to see beyond the monster that Khalid is.  He’s still a monster though, even if he might have a semi valid excuse.

 

Much like this episode wanted me to root for this toxic couple.

 

I think the strongest thing this book had going for it was the writing.  The descriptions are just so luscious.  Usually I sort of get annoyed when author’s go into details about what so and so is wearing or eating, but here I loved absorbing myself in the world.

I also liked that this was slow on the world building, we are given pieces of the world, but it’s not all given out to the reader on a plater.  The magic aspects of the book are only hinted at which I liked because it allowed the reader to get a view of the non-magic world of this book.

 

In addition to the ship being an ick ship, there is also a love triangle in this book.  Though it is a light love triangle at book, more or less a past relationship.  It actually didn’t bother me as much as I thought.  It actually added to the book showing that Shazi had other relationships before Khalid and adds dimension to the ick ship.

 

Though, the other guy is a bit of an idiot.

 

A brave idiot, but an idiot.  Much like Gaston on Once Upon a Time.

 

Seriously, I keep comparing this ship to Rumbelle.  There is something wrong with that

 

Another, Rumbelle gif for the win. See they can (sort of) be healthy.

 

Ships aside, the two leads are done well enough.  I sort of wanted more character development, but since it’s an intro to a series I’m giving it some slack.  However, I do think character development would’ve given the ick ship less ickness.  There were just some things like Shazi’s marrying Khalid without a plan to how to kill him to Khalid not even trying to get out of his awful situation that just had me baffled a bit.

If this book would’ve caught me on a bad day….

 

It should just be glad that it’s use of language and quick dialogue made up for it.

I am recommending this one.  If you’re extremely picky it might grate on you, but as a debut it is lovely. I have lots of hope for it’s sequel.

 

Overall Rating: A B+  I thought about giving it an A- but as I reflect on it the writing itself hid a lot of problems.

 

Source: http://howdyyal.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/i-cant-help-myself-the-wrath-and-the-dawn-by-renee-ahdieh

A New Blog Post: Reading Schedules

Where I talk about reading schedules and trying to avoid staying out of a reading slump.  And oh, look a poll (in the blog post).

When Regina George Goes to Prom

The Fill-In Boyfriend - Kasie West

I really liked the Kassie West books I’ve read, but I haven’t loved them like so many people do.  The Fill in Boyfriend had so many things going for it, but at the end of the day it didn’t wow me and I did have a few issues at it.

 

 

That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t recommend the book.  For a quick light hearted soon to be forgettable read, I say go for it.  It’s a nice story.  Perfect to read for a beach read, but there’s nothing really memorable about it.

 

There are better contemporaries out there.

 

But it’s not bad.

 

I liked the character progression of Gia for the most part, and Not Bradley was a pretty swoon worthy guy.  And I think the romance really worked for me.

 

In fact, it was probably the best thing about this book.

 

But there (obviously) were things that didn’t work for me. Mainly, the fact that a lot of the supporting characters were assholes and there was a lot of girl hate in this book.

While I understand that a lot of these secondary characters weren’t going to be perfect people, what I didn’t get was that we saw no explanation or no consequences for their a-holeness.  In particular,  I really couldn’t stand Jules and Gia’s brother.

 

Truly horrible people there.

 

But in the end, the brother barely gets a slap on the wrist for doing something that pretty much traumatizing and Jules well basically gets her cake and eats it too.

And yes, I know it was realistic to a degree.  But I’m reading I want some consequences where something bad happens to horrible people.

 

Because real life sucks.

 

I just felt like all the consequences were thrust on Gia, and a lot of the time she didn’t deserve it.  While she did do some stupid things, she wasn’t horrible like many of the above mentioned characters.  So THAT’S what I had a problem with.

 

I also hated the girl hate in this book.  Yes, Jules is a jerk, and I hated her, but I hated how female relationships in general were treated as if everyone is some sort of frenemy with each other.  Why can’t there be healthy female friendships in this books?  It felt like all the female friendships, save for maybe the tentative one that one that is formed between Gia and Not Bradley’s sister at the end of the book rely on the good old Mean Girls trope.

 

Whatever though.  Other than those two issues and some utterly groan worthy predictable plot twists ones, it was okay and what I expected.  Kassie West can write a good romance it just doesn’t hit the same swoon levels as say Meg Cabot or Stephanie Perkins books do.

 

Source: http://howdyyal.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/or-regina-george-goes-to-the-prom-the-fill-in-boyfriend-by-kassie-west

Blurb Mistake 101

Sophomore Year Is Greek to Me - Meredith Zeitlin

Blurb Mistake 101: Do not make comparisons that you can’t live up too.  Comparing yourself to Meg Cabot falls in the same category as comparing yourself to JK Rowling-but for fluffy books not fantasy.  Add the fact that your blurb compares it to such titles as Anna and the French Kiss and you’ve set the bar probably too high for yourself.  Unless, you are like the second coming of fluff.

 

 

And I really doubt that’s possible.

 

It might be though.  Who knows.

 

The thing about Sophomore Year Is Greek to Me, is that it’s not a bad book.  It’s actually an enjoyable book if you force yourself to take the time to get through it.  Because it takes a good sixty some odd pages just to get to Greece.

 

Which for a book claiming to take place in Greece, this isn’t entirely a good thing.  Add to the book that it doesn’t really feel like you’re in Greece, until the book shifts from being in Athens into Crete…well, there’s some issues there.

 

I will credit the Crete scenes though.  Once the book moved there, I really started getting into it and Greece became a character of its own.  Much like Paris became a character in Anna and the French Kiss.  But unlike Anna, it took such a long time for Greece to develop into its own thing in this book.

 

And I really didn’t feel the Meg Cabot here.  For one thing, there really wasn’t much  swoon.  And I was okay with that.  There is mentions of dating and a nice guy that Zona finds while in Greece, but romance wasn’t (and shouldn’t) have been the focus of this book.  It was really more or less about family which was nice for a change for a YA book.  Just not, you know, very Meg Cabot-y.

 

I think my biggest problem with this novel, besides not utilizing its atmosphere to its fullest, was that there were just some of the books that felt like filler melodrama.  There were actually two extremely melodramatic moments that I just rolled my eyes to.

One of them felt extremely disjointed and out of place, while the other just came out of nowhere.  No build up.

 

Additionally, the use of newspaper clipping throughout the book felt a little jarring .  While a nice addition (at first) there ended up being too much of them and it just interrupted the flow of the novel.

 

If you want something light, but with little to no romance totally pick this one up.  It’s highly memorable or anything, but it did make for an enjoyable Sunday afternoon.

Overall Rating: A solid B.

 

 

Source: http://howdyyal.wordpress.com/2015/05/07/blurb-mistake-101-sophomore-year-is-greek-to-me-by-meredith-zeitlin

TSTL Because Hey Got to Have that Sequel

Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke - Anne Blankman

I was really excited for this sequel,but when I started reading it I was like…

 

 

There’s no reason why a sequel was needed.

 

Seriously, everything was wrapped up nice enough, and when the catalyst was moved forward for this book I was just kind of like you stupid people.

 

It reminded me a lot of the whole Natalie and Aaron situation on The Winds of War, which if you haven’t seen it is this eighteen or so hour miniseries that takes place prior to World War II.  Just like this book.  And just like this book there are character that could’ve gotten out of danger  but they still our dumb enough put themselves in danger time after time again until they almost get killed.

 

To be fair, I should’ve known as much when I opened the book.  But I was really hoping that Blankman would’ve had a better explanation for these characters heading back to Hitler’s viper nest than they did. Prisoner of Night and Fog was really my favorite dark horse read of 2014.  This not so much.

 

It doesn’t mean that the writing suffered.  It was quite good.  The book was also well researched and I did feel like I learned a lot from it. The thing is, it wasn’t necessary.

Plus, I just grew tired of the relationship.

 

I’ve honestly never shipped these two together.

 

But the romance was tolerable in the first one.  Here it might be a little too on the innocent side.  I get that people weren’t as open with PDA and that there would less likely be anything beyond (if they even got there) second base with these two before marriage, but I didn’t even feel like these too emotionally were connected.

 

Or for that matter felt really any chemistry.  Their relationship, if anything was a plot point.  Which is a shame because I wanted to love this ship.

 

I just didn’t though.

 

I think in the end Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke isn’t a bad book, but it just didn’t do it for me. I blame it partially on how much it’s predecessor wowed me.  It’s not a book, the core elements are there, but it was just sort of a meh.

 

Overall Rating: A solid B.

 

Source: http://howdyyal.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/conspiracy-of-blood-and-smoke

Toto, We're Not in Smallville Anymore

Lois Lane: Fallout - Gwenda Bond

Lois Lane is one of the best and one of the worst characters in comics.

It really depends which version you read and whether she has to be rescued by Superman all the time versus calling Clark Smallville and mocking his Smallville ways while using an uzi.

 

My first exposure to this character was in the early 90’s when Lois and Clark the New Adventures of Superman aired.  I wasn’t that old to really appreciate the show-I have sense watched it in reruns mainly to be amazed that Terri Hatcher used to not looking like a walking skeleton and to of course do some pre-Lifetime Dean Cain staring.  That show though, really did focus on the character Lois and despite her not realizing who Clark is idiocy she is pretty savvy.

 

Flash forward to about fifteen or so years later when Superman Returns came out.

God.

 

That Lois Lane was…lame.  About as lame as the bad dye job that Kate Bosworth had in it.

 

The thing with Lois is you have to remember she kicks ass, even though out of all of the characters in the Superman mythos she’s probably physically the weakest (with the exception of maybe Jimmy Olsen), but she has mad skills that puts her on a level where you can actually see her with Supes.

 

Though after that  “World’s Finest” episode in the animated universe, I oddly like her with Bruce Wayne.

 

There’s no teenage Bruce Wayne in here to lust over.  Or really even Clark Kent.  While Clark is obviously Lois’s online friend, she doesn’t know it.  And I kind of like that twist.  Plus, it really allows Lois  to be centered change.  And even though Clark’s not physically there, we still get the banter (well, sort of).

 

 

None of this though, unfortunately

 

I liked Bond’s version of Ms. Lane though there were some moments she felt oddly cartoonish-oddly throughout the entire time I had Dana Delany’s voice in my head (she played the animated Lois).  That wasn’t necessary a bad thing, but there was just something that felt unrealistic about the whole thing.

 

Yes, I  get it’s fiction.  But I like my superhero mythos having a tad bit of reality in there at least where I can relate to the characters.  Some of the things Lois does….shudders.

Then again, this is a character who will have to be rescued from falling out of a building like fifty odd billion times.

 

I did wonder though if the characterization here was done like this on purpose.  To be authentic to the source material.  It was a very strange thing to read.

 

The overall plot of the book was pretty ludicrous too.  To be honest, that didn’t bother me that much because Lois and Clark the New Adventures of Superman got pretty far out there in the alter seasons too (don’t ask me about Smallville, alas I never got to view it since I was usually practicing my flute at the time and am not usually up or around to watch reruns on TNT).

 

One thing I did like about this version is that more focus was put on Lois’s relationship with her friends and family than romance.  There’s definite sparks between her and Clark, but they’re not going to be making out any time soon.  And I’m okay with that.  Honestly, with the way the relationship was written it could’ve been weird if it was written in more detail. As it stood, I really liked the banter.

 

There really was something off with this book that I just can’t pinpoint what it is.

I really did enjoy it though, flaws in all.  There were some nice throwbacks here and there to various Superman media.  And Lois didn’t fall out of a building.

So, Bond right there you have a plus on most versions.

 

If you’re a huge Lois Lane fan or Superman fan you might want to give this one a whirl.  If it was written as it’s own thing, I don’t think I would’ve found it as entertaining as I did.  But for what it’s worth, I didn’t regret my purchase.

 

Source: http://howdyyal.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/toto-were-not-in-smallville-anymore-lois-lane-fall-out-by-gwenda-bond

This Book Needs a BAMF

Written in the Stars - Aisha Saeed

This book is brutal.

 

 

And you should read it.

 

It’s the sort of book that makes me so glad thankful that more diverse books are getting published.  I’ll let you in on a little secret, the reason I love diverse books so much is because I like to emerge myself into people’s lives who are completely different than mine.  And I especially like diverse contemporaries like Written in the Stars because these characters live in my world but at the same time live completely different lives.

This book especially touched my heart because of a seminar class I took on Human Trafficking in law school.  While the book discusses forced marriage, not trafficking, it shares some of the same aspects-and you could even make a valid argument that Naila’s family trafficked her.

 

God did I want Liam Neeson’s character from Taken to come in this book and kick these bad YA parents’ asses to the Moon.

 

They are that horrible.  And upon reflecting on it, I don’t know which one I disliked more.  The mother was annoying beyond belief and needed to be shaken, stirred, and then booed off Jerry Springer seven or eight times but the dad is just as bad in a different way.  But the thing is Saeed wrote them in such a way where they actually feel realistic.  And in the beginning of the book, you could almost buy them as misguided.

But then you totally want to hire some action star like Liam Nesson or Chuck Norris to come save Naila from them and bring them some good old fashion Lifetime justice or something.

 

I have to say that was one of my issues with this book, I didn’t get the resolution I wanted with the parents that I wanted.  I don’t think really any resolution would’ve been okay, given the circumstances.  But I was sort of meh with how that relationship was resolved.

 

Besides the arrange marriage drama that this story evolves around, it brings up several other issues like the rights of women.

 

Women’s rights are very limited in parts of the world and I like how this book sort of goes about showing this.

 

Even though, I loved this book for the most part I couldn’t help that maybe it would’ve benefited being fleshed out in certain parts a bit more.

 

For such heavy themes it’s a short book.  I like the fast pace, but I felt that parts of the book could’ve been more gut wrenching if certain characters and scenes were developed further.

 

If you want a contemporary that discusses real word issues that are often overlooked read this book.  While I wish some things were fleshed out more it was very thought provoking.

 

Overall Rating: A-

 

Source: http://howdyyal.wordpress.com/2015/04/26/written-in-the-sats-aisha-saeed

Worst Book Genie Ever!

Becoming Jinn - Lori  Goldstein

Dear Book Genie:

 

Your Book Genie service sucks.  You told me you’d give me any sort of book I wanted.  I said I wanted a jinn book full of culture,diversity, matriarchy, and you gave me…

Well, shit.

 

Becoming Jinn was such a devastating experience.  It was like on the shallow surface it had everything I desired, but then when I actually read it.

 

My head exploded and not in a good way.

 

I get that you should be careful about what you wish for, but come on Book Genie did you really have to  butcher it up so much.  Let’s look at the following things I wished for and what you freaking gave me:

 

1) A strong female heroine who fights against her faith.

 

Azra seems strong from the blurb-right.

 

Whiney is actually a better word to describe her Book Genie.  An annoying and whiney brat.

 

She doesn’t do anything to fight her faith other than whine.  Even after her mom commits a big no no of ignoring her wishes of inviting people she specifically asked to NOT be invited to her birthday party, she just shrugs it off with little to no action.

 

Seriously?  Book Genie.

 

I had hopes at the beginning when she was trying to use power tools to get off that bangle that was pretty cool.  I was like, maybe I could like this character.

 

But as the book progressed she did nothing to change her faith.  Other than being sort of silent and bitchy towards her Zar sisters she did nothing.

 

Oh, but moan about her dead bestie and moon over a boy whose personality was like sandpaper and get courted by another sandpaper-ish boy.

 

But apparently she’s really talented with magic and that’s suppose to make the book.

It doesn’t.

 

2) A unique mythology not exploited to death in YA.

 

Jinns haven’t been totally exploited in YA.  Actually, compared to most paranormal/mythological creatures they’ve hardly been explored at all.  And for the most part, I have really enjoyed the jinn books that I’ve read.  Save for Fire Wishbut this book made Fire Wish look like a freaking masterpiece.

 

I couldn’t even stomach it enough to finish this thing because nothing of interest was happening.  The set up seemed interesting enough and if it would’ve gone through the ideas that it pitched it would’ve been interesting.  But as it was it was a lot of nothing with an over the top ridiculous magical makeover consisting of a new hot bod and butt length hair.

 

Why did you make me lose my dinner, Book Genie?

 

You suck so much.

 

3) A matriarchal based society.

 

This is probably what attracted me to this book more than anything else.   I like books that focus on storng female friendships and relationships, I was hoping to see a bit of this with the Zar sisterhood.  But instead, most of the Zar sisters are just annoying with pretty much blah personalities.  Save for the obligatory nice one and the bitchy one that’s just jealous of Azra’s awesomeness-rolls eyes.

 

This is not what a matriarchal society/sisterhood is, Book Genie.  You took the most cliche elements of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Wonder Woman and tried to put them together. It didnt’ work.  If there were bonds between these girls, I didn’t see them.  Instead, the only thing they have in common is that on their sixteenth birthday they become Xena Warrior Princess look alikes without the bad ass-ness.

 

Lame.

 

4) Interesting Plotting:

 

Where was my plot, Book Genie?  Nothing was happening and I got through a good hundred and thirty and some odd pages of the book.

 

Surely, something had to happen than not so supple nods that Azra is a super special powerful genie.

 

Oh, and becoming hot.

 

Instead of making me want to read this book, it made me want to quit this book.

 

5) An intriguing love interest:

 

Ha!  Ha!  Ha!

 

Book Genie, you gave me the epitome of boring.  And a love triangle that was even more pointless than the one in Twilight.  I really could care less.  I am Team Neither of these boys because they were just equally boring and bland (again, like sandpaper).

 

I couldn’t honestly tell you what the difference between the two of them was other than one was a neighbor and one was a lifeguard-who is automatically suppose to be hot because he’s a lifeguard.

 

 

Conclusion:

 

So thank you, Book Genie.  NOT.  I hope you are happy. You didn’t fulfill my wish the way you wanted.  Some lousy genie you are.  I guess I should’ve just used mesh up of various media like most blurbs do  when I asked for my request.  Because you failed-big time. And just for the record the perfect jinn book for me would consist of a Buffy-ish main character with Harry Potter action and Ken Burns accuracy to detail.

 

Regards,

 

MJ

Disgruntled Book Blogger

 

Overall Rating: DNF

Source: http://howdyyal.wordpress.com/2015/04/26/worst-book-genie-ever-becoming-jinn-by-lori-goldstein

Take Your Mog to the Prom

The Prom Goer's Interstellar Excursion - Chris McCoy

There are a lot of things about this one that I loved.  I think the best attribute of it is that it is different. Okay, there is a definite formula and I could very easily see this in film, but for YA it’s not the sort of story you’d typically see published.  Though, there is one unfortunate borderline trope in it (that I’ll discuss in a bit).

 

This is such a fun book.  There is a touch of romance, but more or less it’s not about it.  And I’m glad because the romance was one of the biggest flaws of the novel.  The best part was the bits and pieces of dialogue.  There are several lines that made me laugh out loud.   If you watch any show about aliens-to make fun of said show-this book and you are going to gel.

 

There were even bits and pieces that sort of reminded me of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy-one of my favorite books of all time.  This one doesn’t hit such of a brilliant note, but it is close.

 

What I did not like about this book is that sometimes it tried just a bit too hard with the one liners and it showed.  And it got to be too much like ludicrous speed.  Maybe it would’ve been better in another form of media-I noted from the author’s bio that McCoy has had screen writing experience.  It shows.  This reads very much like the typical movie you’d see Michael Cera star in back in the day.

 

 

That’s who I kept imagining Bennet as anyway, while reading it.

 

The other problem I had with this book was the girlfriend, Sophie.  There were shades of the MPDG (Manic Pixie Dream Girl)  trope that I hate here.  I do like how the relationship eventually resolved itself, but I do not like the MPDG trope.  I wonder if guys feel the same way about women’s presentation of guys in YA.  I mean, the stereotypical YA boy is severally unrealistic just like the MPDG, I think the only difference is that the MPDG is more of a distinct trope in some ways-I mean, I imagine all of these girls looking like Zooey Deschanel from New Girl.

 

Anyway, if you like aliens and want a not so serious romp read this.  It’s fun, it’s quirky, and a little out there.  Overall, it’s very enjoyable, but not special.

 

Source: http://howdyyal.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/take-your-mog-to-the-prom-the-prom-goers-interstellar-excursion-by-chris-mccoy

In Which Molly Ringwald is Eaten by Zombies

This is Not a Test - Courtney Summers

I decided to check to see what my local library had the way of offering in Courtney Summers after seeing the press in the blogosphere for her new book.  I’ve always been interested in This is Not a Test because, well, zombies and I was pleasantly surprised with this one.  But it was not exactly what I expected.

 

While I knew that Summers wrote deep thought provoking YA, I have heard that This is Not a Test is a little bit of a departure for her.  But all the trademark Summers’ trademarks that I read about were there (aka emotional angst).  But I don’t think i would’ve liked the story as much if it didn’t include the zombies.

 

And it’s not even as if the zombie mythology is that well thought out.  This is truly one of those cases where  the paranormal element to this dystopian world is not fleshed out at all and it totally works.  I think it’s because of where we are in this point of when the world falls apart so the characters really have no idea how things came to binge.  Just that the  undead is now out there and there are no post apocalyptic cops cops out there to help them-just Rhys.

 

Who’s  almost as good as a post apocalyptic cop.  Okay, most of these characters in this book are pretty bad ass all things  considered, but their badassery isn’t what makes the book.

 

What makes the book is how the emotional turmoil parallels all the exterior events in the book.  While most of the story focuses on the main character Sloane, we get to see bits and pieces of the Zombie Breakfast Club (as I call them) and you do grow close to them.

 

 

The closest thing I can get to Breakfast Club zombies.

 

But seeing as this is a disaster themed book,none of them are safe.  And that means if certain characters get maimed or dead you’re actually going to care.  It’s not going to be like when Bill Pullman’s wife got it in Independence Day.

 

And that’s what was the biggest payoff of this book.  You cared about what happened, and then the resolution…so not fair.

 

Another Summers trademark from what I understand.

 

While I really enjoyed This is Not a Test, I wouldn’t say it’s a perfect  book.  There were some problems here and there.  For one thing, I wanted a little bit more explanation to some of the things going on.  I really don’t know if that was possible though.  If there was more explanation or resolution the book might’ve lost some of its charm, but at the time I did feel like things were left unresolved.

 

And the climax…well, could more of The Breakfast Club save for the ones that did survive?  Is that too much to ask?  It just seemed a little cliche, who survived that is.

Anyway, I am definitely going to check out more of Summers books.  This is Not a Test is quite clever. It combines real world problems with zombie apocalypse with a little bit of Molly Ringwald and the crew doing “Thriller”  and oddly it works.

 

 

Source: http://howdyyal.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/this-is-not-a-test

A Hot Mess

Princess of Thorns - Stacey Jay

I had been looking forward to Princess of Thorns for awhile.  I put it on hold though for awhile, due to some drama that occurred in January.  I didn’t want it biasing my review of the book, so I gave enough time between it so that I could distance any feelings I had.

 

Princess of Thorns is a clusterfuck of the book. It’s really the word that describes it best.  It was like Jay put everything and the kitchen sink in this one book and it’s just exhausting.

 

 

There are some nice things about the book though, I’ll give it that.  But the book really felt desperate.

 

Desperate for me to love it in its mix of every fairytale under the sun.  Let’s see there’s Sleeping Beauty, there’s that Swan story with all the brothers, Little Red Riding Hood, and some Rapunzel in it.

 

And it’s just a mess.

 

I can sort of get why Jay wanted to write a sequel because there was too much going on in this world to have it resolved in four hundred pages.

In fact, one plot point is completely unresolved.

 

And a pretty big one at that.

 

I know unresolved plot point equals sequel, but the way this plot isn’t even attempted to be developed is just sort of annoying. It really felt like it was just added there for a sequel.

 

And the likelihood of one actually happening now is like zip to none.

 

I did like the lead for the most part.  There were times that I did get annoyed with Aurora, like there were some scenes where she borderline slut slammed, but she wasn’t horrible.  At least when she wasn’t thinking about Niklaas.  That ship.

So not happening.

 

In a lot of ways Aurora was a bit of a cliche of what the typical protagonist in YA fantasy is today-a variant of Celaena from Throne of Glass but not as vain.  I really don’t know why everyone thinks that every fantasy heroine is going to be a bad ass, but I’ll admit Aurora has some moments.  And then she has some (okay, a lot) of Bella moments.

 

Especially when it came to Niklaas who I could not stand. Especially when Aurora talked about him.

 

God, girl was hit by the nasty stick of insta  love.

 

And Niklaas-who I call in my head Nik-ass was nothing to really droll over.  He’s a jerk wad that is fairly banal.  He out right tells Aurora- who he thinks is a boy (more about that in a bit) that he just wants to marry Aurora for his own purposes. And no one is going to stop him.

 

 

Hmmm, you know who this reminds me of.  A certain Disney character.

And no, it’s not Prince Eric or Aladdin.

 

It’s Gaston.

 

Yes, Nik-ass is totally Gaston.  You know how Gaston was like I don’t even need to ask Belle to marry me because I’m Gaston, Nik-ass was the same way.  Except unlike Belle, Aurora’s an idiot and likes Gaston.

 

Maybe this is what happens to Gaston after he’s pushed off the cliff…maybe he doesn’t die!

 

Oooh, total conspiracy theory there.

 

Okay, on a more serious note it’s pretty disgusting thinking that this ship is should be one that is rooted for.  Based on Nik-ass’s behavior alone I wanted Aurora to ram her knee in his nuts.

 

Alas, that did not happen here.

 

In addition to being a complete ass, Nik-ass has to be one of the dumbest individuals know to man kind. Seriously, he doesn’t know Aurora is a girl because she’s wearing armor.

 

 

Yet, he mentions what a feminine looking boy she is every other page.

 

Here’s my beef.  If you’re going to do the Mulan trope, a trope that I actually do like, you need to do it right.  Doing it right means that the girl needs to actually look like a passable guy and act like a passable guy.  Chop off the hair.  Have her put dirt on her face to hide her lack of facial hair.  Have her actually try to act masculine.  Just pulling up her hair and wearing a suit of armor is really not enough for a delicate fairy woman (that’s what Nik-ass later calls her-or a variant of that) is just insulting to the intelligence of your characters.

 

The again, Nik-ass basically is a Gaston variant.

 

If you loved Of Beast and Beauty and expected the same with Princess of Thorns you’re going to be disappointed.  While there are some interesting ideas and nice moments in this book, it is overall a mess.  There’s way too much going on in here to properly be resolved in four hundred pages, and to me having so much crap in the book is almost gimmicky.

 

It’s like I dare you not to give me a sequel.

 

Well, unfortunately for this book I doubt it will get it’s sequel.

 

Despite the fact that Princess of Thorns annoyed me, there were still bits an pieces of it that showed that Jay is skilled at stringing sentences together.  However, next time I think she should leave some of the plot devices in the kitchen.

 

 

Source: http://howdyyal.wordpress.com/2015/04/10/princess-of-thorns-by-stacey-jay

The Final Stretch

Princess on the Brink - Meg Cabot Princess Mia - Meg Cabot Forever Princess - Meg Cabot

So, it’s the final stretch in this binge read.  Next month the middle grade spinoff series will out and then in June Royal Wedding will come out and I won’t talk to you because I’ll be too busy reading and wondering why can’t I write swoon like Meg Cabot because God…Michael Moscovitz (though, I still think Jesse de Silva is the ultimate Cabot man).

I will say, that rereading this series was fun.  I got to revisit books that really helped me get through my teen and early college years.  While there were some aspects of the series that were a little lackluster, overall my appreciation for the Diaries series still remains.

 

My Favorite Book Of All Time In This Series: A Lot of People Hate It

 

Here’s the thing about this one.  A lot of people hate it.  And I get it, but I really think that this book in the long run made the series.

 

Yes, the breakup was painful.  But it really was inevitable and I think in the long run it strengthened M&M.  The thing is, when I first read this book I was ready for Michael and Mia to break up.

 

 

Yes, them breaking up was like a getting pushed into the fountain scene for me. Sad and sick but true.

 

I love the couple, but Mia was grossly immature at this point.  And thankfully, Meg showed that the immaturity had consequences.  I don’t think that’s something that is often seen in YA.  That being said, I wasn’t exactly a fan of Michael in this one either.  

He really should’ve been more open about his sexual history than Mia, rather than to

have her make gross assumptions.

 

I.E. I think he should’ve brought it up in book six.

 

It makes him human though, so again I think it was good characterization.  But I see lots of people putting the breakup entirely on Mia.  When I really think it was both of them-though mostly Mia.

 

Reading the series again, the JP plot becomes blatantly obvious.  I don’t even know why I shipped Jia way back then.  Probably because I was sort of done with M&M and maybe I was suppose to ship Jia at that point.

 

The book was surprisingly fast to read.  I think it’s only a few pages over two hundred pages or so.  Definitely one of the more thinner volumes, but then again I don’t think this is a volume where you really want to get into Mia’s head that much.

She is at her absolute worse here.

 

Lilly, as annoying as she can be, is actually a very sympathetic character.  I think because Mia is just bat shit insane in this one, that you can’t help but feel sympathy for Lilly.  Though, I’d think she’d get a clue about JP.

 

Overall, this is a very well written book.  While the break up is heart breaking it needed to happen and I thought the way it was done was well done.

 

Also, Mia,your precious gift….no one cares.

 

Overall Rating: An B+ I liked this one while a lot of people hate it.  Whatevs :P  I’ll admit though, I thought parts of the book could’ve been fleshed out.

 

She’s Not Clinically Depressed (Okay):

 

This was a really well book except…

 

Mia’s not clinically depressed.

 

 

I’m sorry.

 

She was only in her pajamas for a week.

 

Try living with someone who is clinically depressed and then try saying Mia is depressed.

 

Um, no.

 

That’s from my own personal experience though.  Maybe if I hadn’t grown up with someone who suffered from depression, I wouldn’t have mind Dr. Knutz evaluation so much.

 

And Mia’s parents, you really didn’t need to send her to a shrink.  My parents would’ve just dragged me out of bed and threw me in the shower with my Hello Kitty pajamas on.

Oh, and took my door off when I was in the shower.

 

Or they would’ve just made me go to school in my pajamas.

 

And if I ate all the leftovers and the Chinese food my sister would’ve probably decked me.

 

Mia has it easy.

 

That being said, while I thought a depression diagnosis was a little out there, one thing that I wish was addressed with Mia’s anxiety issues.  But Dr. Knutz’s just kind of ignores that.

 

He really annoys me.

 

Then again, most shrinks do, so he was probably in character on that.  Or as much as you can make a cowboy shrink be in character.

 

I think what I liked about this one that it was really thought provoking.  You had the mental illness factor and then the whole democracy for Genovia.

 

All I can say is thank God for them because can you really imagine Mia as a leader?

 

Um, yeah…didn’t think so.

 

As much as I appreciate the idea of a giant cat rescue palace, it’s not exactly going to help a country’s GDP grow.  Or for that matter, not getting in a war with Monaco or whoever about olive oil prices.

 

Genovia really dodged a bullet there.

 

I found the whole cover up with the grandmother and father a little eyebrow raising and wish we would’ve had another book or two to go through this.

 

But again, there was a lot of good stuff here.

 

I didn’t even mind the Jia stuff here.  Though, it does make me sort of sad that they seemed sort of cute and enjoyable in this one and then…well, read Forever Princess.

 

Overall, I gave Princess Mia an A-.  It had it’s issues.  But I like what it’s trying to do.  And it’s probably one of the stronger Princess Diaries book.

 

Noooooooooooooo It Can’t be Over:

If I was to give my initial rating after reading this one it would be A++++++, however, once I sit on this book I feel a little differently.  There are some definite structural issues with Forever Princess and I really think the series would’ve been better with an additional book or taking one of those sophomore slump books out and making a book that took place in late junior early senior year.

 

It’s just really hard for me to buy Jia as an established couple when they haven’t even had a whole book together, versus five or six books where Michael and Mia were exchanging saliva.

 

 

Tell him you loathe him Mia, tell him. And find Michael. The movies can’t end with this guy.

 

It’s just really puts the odds in favor of M&M which sort of makes watching the love triangle plot a bit trite.

 

And yeah, I love M&M but them getting back together is predictable.

 

Oh, I enjoyed it.  But I remember at the time just sort of eye rolling because predictable.

You’ll still swoon though, predictability aside.  And there were so many nice things about this book that it makes the problems a lot easier to deal with.

 

I’m still not over Lana Weinberger being Mia’s b.f.f. even though I did like some of her remarks.

 

It’s Lana Weinberger.

 

I hold grudges a lot longer than Mia does.

 

I think it’s one of the reasons I went law school.  Lawyers have to hold grudges for a long, long, time.  Cases last for years.  And you have to find something to bill your clients over…which is probably why Lana and I never quite gel.

 

Luckily for her, Mia is not a lawyer.

 

Lilly should think about being a lawyer though, come to think of it.  But even she’s somewhat of a human in this one.  At least there’s some logic behind her a-holeness in the last book.  Though,  I really wish someone would’ve decked her for that site.  Or maybe Mia could’ve written a Lifetime movie about it.   Bullied Princess I could totally see them making a movie of that.  But alas, her misdeeds are mainly swept under the carpet (though apparently Michael dealt with her-good).

 

As for Michael, he seems to have only gotten only hotter in this book.  Cabot compares him to Christian Bale’s Batman  at one point.  From a nostalgia perspective, this is particularly hilarious considering Anne Hathaway played Mia Thermopolis and then went on to play Selina Kyle who was Bale’s love interest in the last Batman movie.

 

Ha! M&M meets BatCat. Two of my all time favorite ships.

 

So in a weird way M&M is BatCat even though the ships are waaay different (though it totally gives someone an excuse to put together a fandom M&M video using Hathaway and Bale clips, just saying).

 

Despite it’s issues, Forever Princess is a feel good treat.  B+

 

Next month I’ll be meeting Olivia Grace.  From the excerpt I’ve read it seems she’s basically living in a cupboard with Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon.  Only instead of Hagrid rescuing her, I’m betting Grandmere does.  Okay, that’s a scary thought.

 

 

Source: http://howdyyal.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/the-unofficial-princess-diaries-binge-read-the-final-stretch

The Good and the Ugly

All-American Girl - Meg Cabot Ready or Not - Meg Cabot

All American Girl: Still Decent Ten Years Later

 

I think this book is very interesting to look to from a political perspective.  Well, like political time capsule perspective.  The early 2000’s were a very different world, politically, for America and it shows in here.  Ultra patriotism, right wing administration, pop culture references.

 

That is purely a Meg Cabot thing.  Not a political thing.  But still,interesting to see how things have changed in ten years. But I’m not going to bore you with that.

 

I really did like this book, even after all this time though.  Sam probably isn’t my favorite character, but I think for who she is, Meg did an excellent job depicting her.

I think what I love best about All American Girl is that it gives a stupid character consequences for their bone headed idiocy.  And Sam tries to make up for being a turd.

 

 

And boy is she a turd throughout a good chunk of this book.

 

One thing you’ll have to know going in is that this book is ridiculously dated.  There are band references that only someone who liked the same music Sam did during that time period are going to get.

 

I’m not a huge Gwen Stefani fan, so it sort of went over my head then and now.

The romance, of course, was wonderful.  When is it not in a Meg Cabot novel?  And I really liked the portrayal of Lucy, a popular girl that is not a jerk but a good person.  And I liked how Cabot basically threw it in Sam’s face that she was wrong about her sister.

You hardly ever see that in YA.

 

If you’re looking for a sweet little book that’s a nice reminder of the past, give All American Girl a try.

 

Overall Rating: B+ nice fluffy fun.

 

When Meg Cabot Writes a PSA About Sex:

Sigh…

 

To be honest, I had no plans on reviewing this one until I started reviewing the first (see introduction).

 

Was it as horrible as I remembered?

 

Well, yes and no.  I didn’t like how blatant it was essentially a sex ed book.  But at the same time I can’t completely fault it for trying to give out relevant information for teens who’s sex ed classes pretty much consisted of having sex will make you go to hell.

Then I guess that means everyone’s birth parents are going to hell.

 

I digress.

 

Ready or Not came out roughly ten or so years ago, when Conservative Christians were the bread and butter of the Republican party.  Lots of measures that are now found by mainstream America to be appalling were considered a-okay.  And honestly, some of these measures still exist-i.e. taking away a woman’s right to choose.  While Ready or Not doesn’t exactly go in that direction (thank God), it does discuss the whole birth control issue. And it’s the first book to address the annoying trope known as slut slamming.

 

 

Grant it, it was done in an over the top and cringe worthy way.

 

Might I just add, I really, really, hate message books.

 

Even ten years ago, when I was a member of the targeted audience this is the sort of thing that drove me insane.  Now, I just rolled my eyes throughout the reading experience.

 

And to be frank, it was like Cabot phoned this one in.  I think I read somewhere that originally this story was conceived as a Lucy centric companion sequel (however, upon looking for the blog entry where I think Meg mentions it, it looks to be scraped or I just imagined reading it).

 

That would’ve been awesome.

 

But people whined and we got this sorry sequel.

 

I’m sorry, but I did not care to listen about Sam complain about how everyone doesn’t like her sorry dye job and how she obsesses in a Mia Thermopolis type of way about having sex.

 

It’s just boring.

 

Lucy is a character I wanted to explore more.  And I couldn’t even really get into her side romance with Harold because it was pushed to the side for moaning about Ebony Midnight Whisper Hair Dye.

 

My advice with this one, unless you’re inanely curious skip it.  I’ll only be recommending it for those assholes who frequently use the slut slamming trope.

 

Overall Rating: This is the one Cabot book I’ve ever outright gave a failing grade to (F).

 

 

Source: http://howdyyal.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/all-american-girl-and-ready-or-not-by-meg-cabot

This Book Has DID

The Storyspinner - Becky Wallace

This book has made me realize that I’m going to take a sabbatical from high fantasies for awhile.  It’s  not that I don’t like fantasies, it’s that I truly believe the market is becoming overly saturated with them and I really just need a breather.

 

The Storyspinner wasn’t a terrible book, but it was just so cliche.  And it didn’t help that it had five million points of view.  So, yeah, I DNF’d it.  And here are my top ten reasons why I DNF’d it and I guess why I’m taking a sabbatical from all the YA fantasy books for now.

 

10)A Lost Princess: Really, why must there always be a lost princess?  Why is it such a necessity?  Never mind that monarchies have had multiple problems throughout the years, and have caused their countries severe problems.  The long lost princess will fix everything (snark).  Whenever I see the Long Lost Princess cliche, like in Storyspinner, I start to feel my eyes twitch.  And I usually need to make myself a stiff drink to get through the reading process.

 

 

 

9) Snail Pace: Often fantasies move at a snail's pace.  This is no exception.

 

8) The Poverty Cliche: One of our main characters has be dirt poor.  Bottom of the totem pool and of course they come in contact with the wealthy class.  Usually because of quest of that person in extreme poverty is the Chosen One or something else mundane.  Here the Poor Character is caught trying to hunt on Rich Character’s property.  It’s enough where they can come together and I’m sure serve some purpose in three books.

 

7) The World Is Different Than It Used to Be: We hear this vaguely, in some POVs, in others it just seems like life has been this way forever.  So, I’m even confused about

how the utopia turned to shit when some character are acting like everything is a-okay.

 

6) Unpronounceable Names: At least The Storyspinner tries to route it’s own language in Portuguese, the book is a Brazilian inspired fantasy, but still I don’t like having to try to figure out how to say a characters name.

 

5) Girls in Drag for No Reason: I like the Mulan trope more than anyone, but when it serves no purpose I get annoyed.  Plus,I get annoyed that short hair and pants are enough to convince a guy that the girl in front of him is a guy.  Short hair and pants.  SMH.

 

4) Mysterious Prologue IS Important You MUST Read It, Even Though You Won’t Understand It: The prologue was obviously very important to the world building for this book.  And as usual, the prologue read like a cliche.  Parental/Close Relative/Close Friend tells MC something important and then croaks.  Sometimes there’s variants on this prologue. Like maybe the parents dies when the Important Character isn’t cognitive and leaves something behind, but not the case here.

 

3) Mysterious Group You Could Care Less About But Will Be the Info Dump Group: I really could care less about the Keepers.  I don’t know what they really were, other than trying to find a long lost princess.

 

2) Romantic Cliches that Make You Think This Romance is So Forced: The love/hate relationship is very common in fantasy,it doesn’t help when you’ve read five thousand of these.  And I really couldn’t care for Rafael at all.

 

1) Five Million Billion Points of View: I like multiple points of view, but the various view points in The Storyspinner was excessive and it ultimately was what lead me to DNF it.  Some people might like this element of the story more than I did.  For me though, it left me feeling a huge disconnect with the characters.  I couldn’t even pinpoint most of the characters.  It was as if this book wasn’t even sure of itself.

 

Overall Rating: I DNF’d it.  On the DNF end of books I’m giving it a more it’s me than you rating for why I DNF’d it.  Other people will like this book a LOT better than me.

 

 

Source: http://howdyyal.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/this-book-has-didthe-storyspinner-by-becky-wallace

Death on the Oregon Trail Via Book

Under a Painted Sky - Stacey Covington-Lee

If you haven’t ever played Oregon Trail this review probably isn’t going to resonate as much as if you had.  I’ll be referencing several things that happened in the game-such as catching dysentery, over hunting, and my favorite themed parties (oh yeah, you could either use the programmed in names like Charity, Obadiah, and Francis or come up with your own party-I was partial to using  boy bands).

 

For this book our party leader is Samantha, better known as Sammy.  Not Sam.  Sammy much like the beloved Days of Our Life character.  Save for the fact that this Sammy is extremely boring despite killing her attempted rapist in the first chapter (that is the best and only some what bad ass moment in this book).    Because I am the reader of this book, I am keeping a log.  Much how your computer would make a log for you when you played Oregon Trail.

 

Really, if you weren’t an 80/90s baby and missed out on this game, I feel for you.  You should totallyplay it. 

 

Okay, now to the actual review (log):

 

Hour One of Reading:

 

This is actually a fairly decent opener.  The character was pretty bad ass if defending herself.  And she’s a non-WASP.  It’s actually interesting reading about a person of Chinese decent in the 19th century.  And I see potential with the secondary protagonist (Andy) as well.

 

Fifteen Minutes Later:

 

Character development is sorely lacking.  I have real issues with how Andy would so willingly help Sammy.  They barely know each other.  And I hate the use of dialect.  I get that Lee is trying to show the character, but it seems so stereotypical and gives me that nasty feeling.

 

And when are they going to go on the trail?  Don’t they need to buy supplies, oxen, those sort of things.  I get they’re on the run.  But shouldn’t they prepare more.  That one time I forgot to buy food on the Oregon trail my whole party ended up dying before we reached the Kansas River.

 

 

Thirty Minutes Later:

 

I am tired of knowing everyone’s Chinese zodiac sign and what it means.  If I wanted to know that I’d look at my Chinese Astrology book.  Pss, and stop acting like rabbits are all promiscuous.  And I really hate that this is how the character is shown as being diverse.  All my friends who come from a Chinese background do not talk about being born in the year of the snake.  For instead, one of my friends just talks about  their obsession with Eddie Redmayne.  I don’t think Eddie Redmayne has anything to with the Chinese zodiac.  And besides, fi I was Sammy I’d be much more concerned with how they’re going to get across that river.  They better not have the oxen ford the river.  You always die when you do that in the game.

 

Ten Minutes Later: 

 

These cowboys are not hot.  And they’re bland.  Also, someone spent a little bit too much time on translator.com and has given us a play by play on what basic Spanish means.  Will someone just get dysentery already?

 

Five Minutes Later:

 

Seems like Andy is a bit of a Bible thumper.  Dear lord…please for the love of God do not let there be slut slamming.  Measles?  Cholera?  Bandits?  Or can someone just go over kill with the buffalo shooting already?

 

 

Ten Minutes Later:

 

You know what, I’m going to rest for the night.  It seems to cure cholera on the trail, so maybe it will cure reading boredom.

 

Day Two:

 

I am sad to say that I died during Sammy and Andy’s Oregon Trail experience.  They made me DNF them because they were so boring, were stereotypes, and those cowboys of there’s were just plain stupid.  I am going to play Oregon trail now and input their names in there and purposely kill them off much like I used to to the cast of Step by Step and Full House*. 

 

 

Overall Rating: DNF and there’s nothing remotely redeemable here to give it an extra star.  If my postage situation here wasn’t so awful, I’d be returning it.

 

*Note, if you play a game of Oregon Trail on my Gateway 2000, you’ll find Michelle Tanner’s grave next to Patrick Duffy’s character on Step by Step.  Both of them got it around Fort Laramie.  Or maybe the Snake River, I forget.

 

Source: http://howdyyal.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/under-a-painted-sky