Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Movie Review - Justice League: War


DVD Release Date:  February 4th, 2014
Actors: Alan Tudyk, Jason O'Mara, Michelle Monaghan, Shemar Moore, Sean Astin, Christopher Gorham
Director: Jay Oliva
Writer: Heath Corson
Producer: James Tucker
Run Time: 79 Minutes

Review

I think that my opinion is somewhere between the party line and the outsider, when it comes to what other fans seem to think. Here it goes: I flat out liked it, as a whole. As someone who has just recently (within the last three years or so) gotten into the DC Universe, including the various animated series and the comics [mostly new 52 stuff], I can't say I'm a die-hard fan. But I have always loved superheroes and the different journeys that they can take us mere mortals on. I have been recently watching the JL and JLU animated series - marathoning them to be more truthful. And while I appreciate other fans' take on Kevin Conroy (Batman), Susan Eisenberg (Wonder Woman) and Tim Daly/George Newbern (Superman) being the definitive voice cast, I feel like the new voices are a nice change for a new direction in the storytelling.

Jason O'Mara as Batman - I love the serious, gritty voice acting on his part and the slight humorous edge they seem to be trying to convey with the animation in this one (though his face does seem almost overly surprised at times). I always thought Batman had a wry sense of humor about things. To me, O'Mara fits in with the new casting and is a worthy successor to Conroy.

Alan Tudyk as Superman & Michelle Monaghan as Wonder Woman - I'm grouping these two together, because it seemed like that's kind of what this movie did too. I loved the flirtations between the two of them and how obviously fish-out-of-water they were on Earth compared to the rest of the JL. That said, as other reviewers have pointed out, this film didn't quite succeed in making them three-dimensional characters. And Wonder Woman was overly Thor-ed in terms of characterization. Yes, puny mortals and all that. We get it. The whole thing with the ice cream truck made me chuckle, but it also made me shake my head in bemusement. THAT'S what you choose to do with one of the ONLY spotlight scenes for WW in the entire film, DC? Okay then...I found myself hoping that in "Throne of Atlantis" we get to see more humanizing aspects of our goddess and alien JL members. The voice acting itself, while solid, was nothing overly special or memorable.

Justin Kirk as Green Lantern - Wow, they came on kind of strong with the whole 'Hal is an arrogant prick' thing in this one. I liked the voice acting and the smarmy personality, to a degree. But as someone mostly unfamiliar with Hal (more familiar with Jon Stewart, actually), it got kind of off-putting. I did like the push-pull dynamic between him and Batman. Also, the interactions with Flash allowed me to see a glimmer of their friendship, which is something I really liked in JL: Flashpoint Paradox. Kind of interested to see what Nathan Fillion, who I really like as an actor, does with the role in TOA.

Christopher Gorham as The Flash - Got probably the least amount of screen time out of all of them, but was likeable enough. Curious to see if he'll get his own solo film, due to the popularity of the new CW show or if they'll keep riding the Batman/Superman train till it derails.

Shemar Moore as Cyborg - Completely unfamiliar with him before this movie. I knew he was part of the new Justice League and is (supposedly) going to have his own, live action film. I can honestly say that this character was the most likeable in the film. The connections to Billy Batson and even the Flash, through his scientist Father, before he got his powers made me curious. The scenes between him and Doctor Stone, that first fight scene with Darkseid's minions and the overall advantages to which they utilized Vic was really well conceived. In what is supposed to be the Justice League's origin, it's also a showcase of Vic Stone's metamorphosis from every-man to superheroe and how alone that makes him feel. The JL gives him a place to belong and a purpose for his life, after his football dream is obviously over. Obviously cliched in terms of story, but done with so much heart that I couldn't NOT like it! Plus, the whole interaction with Billy, which leads me to...

Sean Astin as Shazam & Zach Callison as Billy Batson - The New 52 origins for Shazam are a lot more relatable that his original, perfect and priggish personality. In this he's a street-wise, tough orphan who has been wrung out through the foster-care system and back. He is still untrusting and a little thief, even now that he's in a home where he can semi-relax. The only thing I wish is that we could have seen Billy get his powers, instead of him already having them. Also, do the other kids in his foster home know about the powers? In the comics they are in on the whole thing. But I get that due to time constraints they couldn't tell two origin stories in depth (and I'm glad they chose Vic, to be honest). To Billy, Vic Stone was a hero when he was just a football player. When he becomes Cyborg, he has this immature, overly musclebound magical guy named 'Shazam' chanting "Vic-tory!" in his ear and cheering him on. I don't think it really sets in for Cyborg that anyone can be a superhero until he finds out Shazam's identity. There are a couple great moments between the two of them near the end of the film. I also laughed when Wonder Woman commented on his acting immature and Billy's suggestion for a JL name and the others' reactions. It was a good choice to have different voice actors for the adult hero and the child alter-ego and both did a really great job, in my opinion. I just hope Billy isn't shoved aside for Arthur in the next film. I'd like to see him continue to be part of the League as well.

Darkseid - I was surprised they pulled out the big gun for something that was mainly an "origin" of the League. Also, the conflict just seemed a little overblown for how quickly it got resolved. I would have liked to see a different villain, on a grander scale. But the New 52 is what it is, and generally that's enough for me. Just didn't translate super great in terms of visuals in my opinion.

Overall, the animation in this was better for me than it was in the popular animated "Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox." I am especially glad to see that they've redesigned Aquaman for the next film. My brother, whom I watched both movies with, commented that Aquaman looked like he had a block for a head in JL:FP - and I agreed. Some people didn't like the design for Diana in this one, but I like that even while being an ass-kicker she still looked feminine (I can't stand the New 52 comic designs for WW and thankfully this didn't adhere to them). Probably the actual animation I liked the least, was the design for Batman. Like I said earlier in the review, I felt like the default face for him was a perpetual "O" mouth in surprise and he just seemed kind of underdeveloped in terms of detail. The visual representation on him wasn't so great for me. Not my favorite film, but I can honestly say I highly enjoyed it and I like the direction they are taking things in with this New 52 business and the new voice cast. Now, if only the Throne of Atlantis is as good as the trailer makes it look...

My Top Ten Books of 2014


       So, we raked in a lot of pretty choice diamonds this year in our reading!  This year on Goodreads my challenge was to read 200 books.  It's been a tough year, with a lot of health challenges and depression keeping me from going as far as I used to.  But I made it to 200 books.  I actually read 3 over that and I am SO proud of myself for reaching my goal!  My New Year's Resolution: To be a LOT more active on the blog in 2015 than I was this year.  I feel like I left it on life support for awhile and that things really derailed when my Mom was in the hospital for a month.  I'm gonna do better this year you guys!  I did read some pretty great books this year, that I think were a little out of the ordinary.  So I will make a link for the Goodreads page of each book after the title and author is listed.  Here comes my heartbreaking work of making a list and checking it twice, only to be left with my definite favorites:

My Top 10 Books of 2014

10.  Into the Still Blue (Under the Never Sky #3) by Veronica Rossi (Goodreads)

9.  Broken Skies (Broken Skies #1) by Theresa Kay (Goodreads)

8.  These Broken Stars (Starbound #1) by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner (Goodreads)

7.  I Want Crazy (Loco Texas #2) by Codi Gary (Goodreads)

6.  Breathe, Annie, Breathe (Hundred Oaks #4) by Miranda Kenneally (Goodreads)

5.  Afterglow (Wildefire #3) by Karsten Knight (Goodreads)

4.  White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements #1) (Goodreads) & Stone Cold Touch (The Dark Elements #2) by Jennifer L. Armentrout (Goodreads) (Yes, I'm totally cheating!) 

3.  Injustice: Gods Among Us, Vol. 1 (Year One) [Goodreads] & Injustice: Gods Among Us, Vol. 2 (Year One) [Goodreads] by Tom Taylor, Jheremy Raapack (Illustrations), Various

2.  Crane (The Legends Saga) by Stacey Rourke (Goodreads)

1.  Timebound (The Chronos Files #1) (Goodreads) & Time's Edge (The Chronos Files #2) by Rysa Walker (Goodreads)


Well peeps, what do you think of my top 10 books of 2014?  I know there are some you probably think deserve to be on here which is why I have a bonus feature: Top 10 Books That Didn't Quite Make the List.  Thought you'd want to be reassured that I don't quite live under a rock!


Top 10 Books That Didn't Quite Make the List (Not In Any Particular Order)

1.  Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor (Goodreads)

2.  Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski (Goodreads)

3.  Everything That Makes You by Moriah McStay (Goodreads)

4.  Sway by Kat Spears (Goodreads)

5.  Boys Don't Knit (Boys Don't Knit #1) by T.S. Easton (Goodreads)

6.  The Thousand Dollar Tan Line (Veronica Mars #1) [Goodreads] & Mr. Kiss and Tell (Veronica Mars #2) [Goodreads] by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham 

7.  After the End (After the End #1) by Amy Plum (Goodreads)

8.  Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William J. Mann (Goodreads)

9.  Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige (Goodreads)

10.  Cruel Beauty (The Cruel Beauty Universe #1) by Rosamund Hodge (Goodreads)

        There they are, the diamonds of 2014 that are at the top of the bunch.  Y'all should definitely take a look at some of the ones you might not have read, they are all great books, even if they're not as extremely well known as some to be published this year.  What books made your lists?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Say the Magic Word (No, I Don't Mean 'Please')...


Published:  October 1st, 2013
Shazam! (Vol. 1)
Geoff Johns & Gary Frank (Illustrator)
DC Comics
ISBN-13:  9781401242442

Young orphan Billy Batson has bounced from foster home to foster home, but he's far from the ideal child.  Brash and rude, Billy is a troubled teen that just can't seem to find a calling.  But after a fateful night on a subway car, that all will change.

Brought to the feet of the magical wizard Shazam at the Rock of Eternity, Billy is imbued with powers beyond any mortal man.  By shouting the wizard's name --Shazam!-- the young teen is mystically transformed into the powerhouse known as Captain Marvel!  Now given the abilities that make him Earth's Mightiest Mortal at the utterance of a simple phrase, will Billy make the right choices and do what it takes to become a hero?  Or will he succumb to the poor choices of youth -- and the villainous Black Adam?!

Review

       So, Captain Marvel (also known by the word that turns him into a hero, 'Shazam!') is yet another hero that I was ignorant of before I got into comic books very recently.  Funny story, I was totally gonna buy Harley Quinn Vol. 1 and then my brother pointed this one out to me.  I figured if he was interested in reading it, then it made more sense to buy something that'd get more mileage.  So I did, even without really knowing too much about the hero or his adventures in the past.  That's alright though, because on this outing DC actually DID reboot the character!  It's not just a pick 'n choose of storylines to keep or scrap, from what I can tell his origin is actually reworked.  And from what I've learned about his past as the ultimate goody-two-shoes, that may be a really good thing (one Superman is more than enough).
       Teenager Billy Batson has been bounced around the foster-care system for years, ever since his parents died and left him an orphan.  It's made his untrusting, harsh and a manipulative asshole - at least on the surface.  When we meet Billy, he's interviewing a new potential foster placement that just might be his last chance.  Within his first two days at his new home, Billy manages to piss off the school bully, hurt the feelings of all the other kids in his foster family and just be complete jerk.  He does it all to push them away, because Billy doesn't need anyone (so he thinks).  Then Billy is dragged magically to the Rock of Eternity by a wizard named Shazam.  The old man's health is failing and he's looking for a successor, someone completely pure to take the power.  Billy is all that's left and so he empowers the punk kid with his magic.  On the other side of the world, a Dr, Sivana has managed to wake an ancient evil, that will stop at nothing to set in place a new world order.  An evil by the name of 'Black Adam.'  Can Billy harness his new powers to stop a psychotic evil wizard, or will he be too busy trying to buy beer?
       This was a mostly strong, enjoyable beginning from Geoff Johns (whose stuff I actually seem to like the majority of so far), to a character a lot of modern audiences may be unfamiliar with, such as I was initially.  Billy was a hormonal, angry teenage douchebag.  And I absolutely loved it!  Give me a hero with a reason to be a dick, and I can get behind him like no tomorrow!  We also do get to see some more reflective moments such as with the tiger at the zoo (while he's remembering his parents) and while Shazam is looking for the good in Billy.  Also, while a jerk himself, he hates bullies and the main conflict in that kind of derives from that hate.  Black Adam himself had a pretty dark backstory - in the best way.  I especially enjoyed the fate for him at the end of this comic.  Probably the negatives for me were all the cliches.  Poor little orphan, no parents or anyone to care for him.  The "super family" trope with the other foster kids.  The Seven Deadly Sins and their "rampage" through the city.  Overall though, I enjoyed the art and am interested to see what else Johns does with this particular character.  My favorite parts where when Billy got the cash from the ATM and speculated on how to buy beer.  That is such a teenaged boy thing to do, when gaining super magical powers!  I think my favorite thing if there are more installments, will be the moral dilemmas of being a teenager and wanting things your own way, while still trying to do the "right thing."  I recommend this as a fun read, especially for those new to the DCU like I am.

P.S.  Check out the animated film "Justice League: War."  It is based on the Justice League Vol. 1: Origin, the new 52 take on things.  Only instead of having Aquaman involved, Shazam (aka Captain Marvel) is substituted as the seventh member of the Justice League.  His interactions with the others are so entertaining and his hero-worship of Cyborg/Victor Stone is truly touching.

VERDICT:  3.5/5 Stars

*No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.*

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

As Yoooouuuuuu Wiiiisssshhhhh......


Published:  October 14th, 2014
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride
By: Cary Elwes (with Joe Layden); Foreword by Rob Reiner
Touchstone
ISBN-13:  9781476764023

From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account, and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.

The Princess Bride has been a family favorite for close to three decades.  Ranked by The American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, The Princess Bride will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come.

Cary Elwes was inspired to share his memories and give fans an unprecedented look into the creation of the film while participating in the twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion.  In As You Wish he has created an enchanting experience; in addition to never-before seen photos and interviews with his fellow cast mates, there are plenty of set secrets, backstage stories, and answers to lingering questions about off-screen romances that have plagued fans for years!

Review

       So, I love The Princess Bride.  It's one of my favorite movies and has definitely earned its cult-classic status - and I agree with it being one of the top 100 screenplays of all time.  There is so much going on and all of it ties in together wonderfully and sensibly.  The humor is phenomenal, the action is balanced out with romance and friendship.  If you're someone who's never seen it (no judgement, honestly), go do that now.  No, seriously, I'll wait for you.  Then you can talk about this book with me!  That said, I was truly excited to get a behind the scenes look at this particular film.  And with Cary Elwes (aka dashing Westley) as our tour guide, this couldn't be anything but interesting right?  It has interviews from his co-stars, stories about Andre the Giant (whom I knew nothing about, really, before this book) and we get to learn a little about Elwes himself.  What more could a fan ask for?
       A little bit more, actually.  I think what it comes down to for me, is that even though there were a couple injuries (like Cary shooting some action scenes with a couple broken toes!), and getting himself knocked out by Christopher Guest for real, the filming was mainly conflict free.  Also, Elwes is extremely British.  Well, the stereotype of British would be more accurate I suppose, in that he has nothing bad to say about anyone, EVER.  He loved everyone on set, was in awe of them, working with them was a dream, best time of his life, etc.  There was some interesting rivalry between Cary and Mandy, but even that was pretty good-natured.  A book starts to get kind of repetitive and stale after awhile if there's no conflict to break things up.  It got kind of boring, with those rose-colored glasses on.  I did like learning the extra trivia, but this book was more pleasant and time-wasting than actually interesting.  I still love the movie and really like the original book.  I highly recommend them both, but unless you're a hardcore fan, you might find this a little bit disappointing.

VERDICT:  3/5  Stars

*No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.*

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Greater Design


Published:  December 1st, 2014
Blindsided by Love
By: Hilary Rose
Momentum (Pan Macmillan)
ISBN-13:  9781760082109

Caroline has left Forrester Creations, heartbroken after her divorce from Rick.

Ridge senses Caroline's pain, for he, too is reeling from heartache but he is drawn to her spark and her smile.

When Ridge is injured in a wildfire in Malibu Canyon, Caroline returns to Forrester Creations to help them with a fashion fundraiser.

Rick and Ridge begin a battle for Caroline's heart.  But who can she trust?


Review

       Confession time: I have never even seen a single Bold & the Beautiful episode!  I am an ABC soap junkie though, and will occasionally read some stuff about it in my "Soaps In Depth" magazine.  I've been curious about it though, especially considering how much I love Thorsten Kaye and Heather Tom, from their respective terms on AMC and OLTL.  And I admit to seeing that they'd been paired (however briefly) and having my interest skyrocket a helluva lot higher!  Then I saw this book on NetGalley and even though it's more of an alternate path to what's happening, or has happened on the show previously, color me curious.  I have a weakness for unlikely romances.  So I decided to request it and give it a whirl.
       Caroline has left behind her life in California, designing for Forrester Creations, after divorcing her cheating husband Rick.  She still somewhat blames his brother, Ridge, for the downfall of her marriage after he demoted Rick at his position in the company, leading him to seek out his old girlfriend Maya for comfort.  A chance encounter at a restaurant opening in NYC leaves Ridge and Caroline thinking of each other, unexpectedly sharing an attraction.  Then Ridge is a victim of flash blindness (supposedly temporary), after saving his son and his son's friend from a raging wildfire.  Unable to finish his designs for the upcoming fashion show to honor his deceased mother's memory, his sister convinces him to call Caroline for help.  It turns out Rick regrets his mistakes and wants to win Caroline back.  But her feelings for Ridge refuse to be ignored and the connection they're forging is getting stronger and hotter every day.  Will choosing between the brothers ignite a familial war that'll destroy the upcoming event?  Or will playing between the two destroy Caroline's own chance at true happiness?
       I was impressed with how easy it was to dip into the world of The Bold & the Beautiful, with almost ZERO prior knowledge of anything in it, while reading this book.  The relationships are explained and explored without any seriously annoying/boring info-dump sequences - and that isn't always easy to come by in an established universe.  Caroline was a little boring to me, a little too "woe is me" and naieve to be truly interesting.  At the same time, I respected her for not just jumping back into bed with Rick.  It would have been the easier option, especially with her work at Forrester Creations, the strained/bitter relationship between him & Ridge, and the trouble the whole thing could cause her.  Caroline refuses to back down and that's admirable.  I liked Ridge's curmudgeonly tendencies, him being a bit of the strong and silent type.  The heroism and the way he loses his sight was actually not so out of the realm of reality and I liked that it was well-explained, without becoming a Gray's Anatomy textbook.  The romance between Caroline and Ridge was smoking,  I liked them together, they brought out the fun and the challenges in each other and it was beautiful.  I won't say much more, but we do get a happy ending.  For a novella, this was well-structured, enjoyable and made me want to start another Soap Opera committment to go with my General Hospital addiction.  Well done Hilary Rose! :D

VERDICT:  4/5  Stars

*I received this book from Momentum, on NetGalley.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book was published on December 1st, 2014.*

Monday, December 15, 2014

I Walked With You, Once Upon a Dream


Expected Publication:  February 24th, 2015
A Wicked Thing
By: Rhiannon Thomas
HarperTeen
ISBN-13:  9780062303530

One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return.  All the books say she should be living happily ever after.  But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.

Her family is long dead.  Her "true love" is a kind stranger.  And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept.

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her.  With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.

Review

       This book was a bit of an oddball in terms of fairy tale retellings.  We all know the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty, who was awakened by true love's kiss and lived happily ever after.  In reality, Aurora woke up confused and frightened, with everyone she ever knew long dead and buried.  Now she's expected to marry a young Prince that she doesn't even know (just because he woker her up) and be a pawn in the political games of the people sitting on what used to be her parents' thrones.  Can Aurora manage to stay alive and get her happy ending?  Or will her whole world go up in flames before all is said and done?  I didn't mind that she was weak, confused and frightened at first.  It made absolute sense and was really realistic, in terms of how someone would really feel waking up 100 years after being put in a cursed sleep!  I felt almost as bad for Prince Rodric as I did for Aurora, being used as a pawn by his father, a cruel King, who wants to stay in power even with Aurora awake and able to rule her kingdom.  I liked that everything was in shades of gray.  Practically every character was morally ambiguous and this was really a story without heroes/heroines.  It was dark in a way that rang true.
       That said, it also felt like nothing happened till the very end of the book.  Now knowing that it's a planned trilogy (didn't know that, or I wouldn't have bothered reading it), it makes more sense to me.  This book was the build-up, the bare bones of a story that will (maybe) be fleshed out into something solid in the next two books.  But reading it while thinking it was a stand alone, it definitely fell short.  It was basically just a bunch of asshole-ish royalty (and some rebels) entertaining/threatening/messing with each other, until it turned to bloodshed and a "climax" to the action.  I did like that Aurora had a strength she wasn't aware of and the ongoing situation with the sorceress Celestine was intriguing (if bare bones, like everything and everyone else).  Probably my least favorite thing about this novel was the way it dragged on and on.  If it hadn't been written in such an easy-to-read way, I definitely would have quit it long before the ending.  Also, three possible love interest?  A love triangle isn't enough, now it has to be a LOVE SQUARE???!!!  At least the romance was basically non-existent - yet another of the few things saving this book for me.  Overall, not the worst thing I ever read, but also far off from the best.  I won't be bothering with the sequel.  To be frank the thought of reading it bores me.

VERDICT:  2/5  Stars

*I  received this book from HarperTeen, on Edelweiss.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book was published on February 24th, 2015.*

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rogue or Just Plain Asshole?


Published:  July 29th, 2014
Rogue (Real #4)
By: Katy Evans
Gallery Books
ISBN-13:  978146755618

The fourth story in the new adult series that began with the New York Times bestseller Real, featuring Brooke's best friend, Melanie, and the ROGUE she can't resist.

Greyson King...

My boyfriend.  My friend.  My protector.  He's the reason I wake up every morning with a smile on my face, and the reason I fall asleep limp, worn out, and aching for his warm arms around me.  When we make love, he says my name like it means something.  Like I mean something.

He lied.

His name is Greyson King, but his alias is Zero.  There's no trace of him, he has zero past, and now I know that with him, I will have zero future.  He may leave no trace of him anywhere, but his imprint is in me, in my very soul -- and I hate that a mere look at him commands the beat of my heart.  The temperature of my body.

I've looked love my entire life.  I've waited for the butterflies, the rainbows...

Instead, I'm in a free fall of emotions and there's no one here to catch me but the one man I should be running away from.  The one man I thought was my prince charming.  Except this prince charming went rogue.  Greyson will stop at nothing to make me be with him.  He'll let no one stand in our way, will allow no one to threaten me, and maybe this is what scares me most of all...

What will my rogue do to keep me?

Review

       Thank me later for my edits to the original Goodreads synopsis, which is a run-on sentence if I ever saw one!  Jesus Christ, they're called line breaks and commas people.  Yes Virginia, there is a wonderful and magical thing called grammar & sentence structure.  That bitching and moaning aside, I read this one thinking that maybe it could be better than Real, which I read and pretty much completely disliked.  I didn't mind Melanie too much, so I figured I'd give her book a shot.  After all, less Brooke and Remy is a good thing right?  There was a story to this one, with some legitimate angst to it.  Greyson King is the heir and enforcer to The Underground, which is basically a mafia that collects on debts that people incur gambling and recovers money loaned out that hasn't been repaid.  Melanie is a bit of an airhead/free spirit, who has grown disillusioned with one-night-stands and wants to find her own Prince Charming.  She wants a love that's passionate and all-consuming, like her friend Brooke's.  They collide one night when he helps save her Mustang convertible from the rain and they have a sexy night together.  But with Greyson having a hidden connection to Melanie that changes everything and some serious intimacy issues, can they make a relationship work or will it burn out?
       The grammar, sentence structure, and overall writing "style" is completely atrocious in this book.  The effusive metaphors and hyperbole used by both characters are laughable and stupid.  NO ONE TALKS LIKE THAT!!!  Not to mention the fact that Greyson and Melanie can't have a single conversation that doesn't delineate into filthy, sex-talk.  Which yeah, I can see that in the bedroom, and sometimes out of it, but not ALL THE TIME.  Not to mention, he supposedly thinks she's cute and amazing beyond belief, but the way that he talks to her about what to expect from him is superbly shitty.  This guy is the epitome of being an asshole.  He basically tells her that he's toxic and is going to use her.  Who thinks that's romantic or sexy???!!!  Not me personally, so that really annoyed me after awhile.  Basically I liked some of the humore and there were a couple of sweet moments, but everyone acted juvenile with each other and talked like the older, even more sex-obsessed "Dawson's Creek" teens -- just with a filthier vocabulary and some sexual experience.  Prime example of the dialogue that made me crinkle my nose in disgust:

     "For me this is a fantasy.  You're the fantasy.  For you, this will be a mistake.  A long, pleasurable mistake."  I watch her eyes darken, and I've never been a man to mince words.  "I'm going to be everything you never wanted," I warn on a gruff breath, "nothing that you need."  I slide my other hand further up her thigh.  "Sometimes my work will take me away, and I won't call, and I'll piss you off."  I graze my longest finger over the V covering her sex.  "I'll be selfish, I'll take everything I want, whenever I want it.  I'm not the man of your dreams, Melanie.  I'm your worst nightmare."

     And it just goes on like that, with them continuously talking like this: "You look delectable, Melanie, you taste delectable.  Who is that you're panting for?"  Seriously, what the actual fuck?  I guess this isn't the author for me, considering I want an actual plot in my reading material (and the debt collection side of things was extremely thin, as was the mob life in general) and some dialogue other than dirty talk.  After awhile it got really repetitive and boring.  There was a sex scene every other page and practically all they did was have sex, or do stupid shit/have dumb conversations when they were apart.  And Melanie's man-hater friend Pandora was just the worst stereotype ever.  No one I know, no matter how bitter (and God was she a SHREW) they are in their own life, would be that rude and hurtful to someone who's supposed to be one of their closest friends.  If a friend has made a questionable choice and you have qualms, you voice them and let it be if they insist on ignoring you.  We can't live other people's lives for them, we can just be there to support our friends - approving or not.  Their scenes were painful for me to read.  All in all, a waste of my time and I totally give up on this author.  Not my cup of tea, at all.  Not to say I won't read more New Adult, because I know there's better stuff out there than this (i.e. Cora Carmack, Colleen Hoover, Jessica Park, etc.).

VERDICT:  1.5/5  Stars

**No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

Monday, December 8, 2014

Wuv, Twue Wuv


Published:  July 15th, 2003 (First published in 1973)
The Princess Bride
By: William Goldman
Ballantine Books
ISBN-13:  9780345418265

What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and turns out to be...well...a lot less than the man of her dreams?

As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride.  But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad's recitation, and only the "good parts" reached his ears.

Now Goldman does Dad one better.  He's reconstructed the "Good Parts Version" to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere.

What's it about?  Fencing.  Fighting.  True Love.  Strong Hate.  Harsh Revenge.  A Few Giants.  Lots of Bad Men.  Lots of Good Men.  Five or Six Beautiful Women.  Beasties Monstrous and Gentle.  Some Swell Escapes and Captures.  Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.

In short, it's about everything.

Review

       Is this a kissing book?  No, seriously speaking, I had never read the book version of this story  before.  I had obviously seen the movie more than a few times as a kid, and was enchanted by Buttercup, Westley, and the rest of the crew.  I have had this book sitting on my shelf for quite some time (at least a couple of years) and am participating in a Goodreads challenge to help clear my to-read list and bookshelves.  So I picked this one up, hoping to finally read it.  I was not at all disappointed with this book - I really enjoyed myself!  One thing that I think is a make-or-break for a lot of people are the interruptions by William Goldman, the man "abridging" the S. Morgenstern classic, and I know even the original parentheses by Morgenstern annoyed some people.  I loved that literary device and the asides in the parentheses about history/inventions/etc. made me laugh more than once.  I loved the idea of an author pretending to be abridging a favorite book from childhood, a story within a story.  And Bill Goldman's sense of humor is sharper than a tack.
       As for the story itself, it had more depth to it than the film, which is to be expected when dealing in books vs. films comparisons.  We get to read more about Buttercup and Westley on the farm, before he leaves to make his fortune.  I got to read about her journey to being the "most beautiful woman in the world" and I agree with other readers that she's not at all likeable in the book.  The warmth and facial expressions of Robin Wright saved the character in the film version.  Book Buttercup has no such luck and is pretty stupid when it comes down to it.  Not to mention that she treats Westley like manure, right until she's "in love" with him - then she expects him to love her back.  I used to think the whole "As you wish..." thing was romantic, but now I see just how unhealthy and built on horrible behavior their relationship really is.  Good thing this whole book is pretty much a satire of fairy tales, not a real representation of relationships!
       That said, I loved the details behind the stories of Fezzik, the gentle giant, and Inigo, the Wizard of fencing who plans to avenge his murdered father.  We get to read more about their backgrounds, how they come to work for Vizzini and how they become friends/rhyming buddies.  I liked the scene with Miracle Max and Valerie, but I do think that Billy Crystal's improvisations of the lines originally in the book lent a little more flavor to the character.  I love Goldman telling us that he left out about sixty pages of packing/unpacking and clothing descriptions.  His observations on things really did make this book for me.  The base story stays the same, with Buttercup being kidnapped by Vizzini, Inigo and Fezzik, who are each bested by the mysterious Man In Black, who then absconds with Buttercup himself.  What does the Dread Pirate Roberts have to do with all this and how will Prince Humperdinck react?  Will Buttercup and Westley find true love after all?  Will Inigo avenge his father's death?  Will there be a happily ever after?  The dialogue was pretty much exactly the same and I loved reading the differences between the film and book.  Overall, as a fan of the film, it was definitely worth reading.  I kind of recommend watching the film first, otherwise you might not really like Buttercup too much and I feel like that'd negatively impact your enjoyment of the overall story.

VERDICT:  3.5/5  Stars

**No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

Favorite Quotes

-  "Inconceivable!"
"You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means."

-  "Cynics are simply thwarted romantics."

-  "Who are you?"
"No one of consequence."
"I must know."
"Get used to disappointment."

-  "Fool!" cried the hunchback.  "You fell victim to one of the classic blunders.  The most famous is 'Never get involved in a land war in Asia,' but only slightly less well known is this: 'Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.'

-  "The dweam of wuv wapped wiffin the gweater dweam of everwasting west.  Eternity is our fwiend, wemember that, and wuv wiw fowwow you fowever."

And, of course, this one:

-  "As you wish..."

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree, With Anyone Else But Me


Expected Publication: January 20th, 2015
First Frost (Waverley Family #2)
By: Sarah Addison Allen
St. Martin's Press
ISBN-13:  9781250019837

It's October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly.  As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievious apple tree...and all the magic that swirls around it.  But this year, first frost has much more in store.

Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley's Candies.  Through her handcrafted confections -- rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness, and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds -- are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.

Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance.  With each passing day she longs more for a baby -- a namesake for her wonderful Henry.  Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.

Sydney's daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to...if only he could see it, too.  But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?

When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before.  And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

Review

       I generally like my magic and my reality clearly defined and in their separate boxes (or if mixed in the same box, it's obvious and for a specific reason).  Magical realism is a type of writing that I have very limited experience with, and before requesting this book I had read nothing by Sarah Addison Allen.  I'm glad I didn't realize it was a companion to a previous work, or I might not have tried reading it.  That said, I really enjoyed the idea that this ordinary southern family, the Waverleys, had magical powers passed down through the female line.  Everyone just accepts this as a fact, including the people of the town they live in.  It kind of reminded me of Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, in that while not completely ostracized by their peers, the Waverley women (especially teenaged Bay) are treated like freaks - there for convenience and never to truly belong with the rest of the world.  It was a realistic attitude that I'm sure many people would adopt out of fear, if magic was truly real.
       The Waverley women are always restless in autumn, and nothing is exactly right again until first frost happens.  When the apple tree blooms, everything is good once again.  Until then, nothing is sitting quite right with the sisters or their own children.  Claire Waverley has gone from her catering business into a candy business, that while successful, is making her feel like her magic might be manufactured, and not real after all.  Sydney Waverley is desperate to give her husband Henry a son, a namesake to carry on the traditions of the men in his family.  Her hair gets redder and redder with desire, and she allows herself to be unsatisfied with her already full life.  Bay Waverley has a talent for knowing where things belong.  She knows that she belongs with Josh Matteson, but can't seem to make him understand that.  Then a strange old man rolls into town, claiming that Claire was the daughter of his friends and isn't really a Waverley - that her "mother" kidnapped her.  Will Claire let this con shake the last of her faith in herself and the magic, or will she band together with Sydney, Bay and their cousin Evanelle, to come out even stronger?
       Since I didn't read the novel before this one, Garden Spells, I had no previous impressions of the characters.  Therefore, I think I liked Bay the best.  She's the most in tune with herself and knows that she is a Waverley woman - that magic is a fact of her life.  She's not boy-crazy, and isn't being a total goof over Josh.  In fact when we get to know what her infamous note to him really said, it was really just an offer of friendship.  She isn't trying to push anything, but Bay knows they belong together and that she can help Josh, who is miserable and being crushed beneath his family's expectations.  I also really liked Evanelle, whose talent is giving people the things they need.  She was a hilarious, strong old lady and she cracked me up.  Sydney was my least favorite, mostly because she lets this young girl Violet, her receptionist (a teen Mom) walk all over her and steal from her.  All because she's obsessed with Violet's baby son.  She was so laser-focused on getting pregnant that she stopped talking to her daughter and basically used Henry as a sex-machine.  I empathized more towards the end, but the plot "twist" Allen had in regards to her was super predictable and made me roll my eyes.  I did like that Claire's daughter Mariah, the "normal" one of the family," did turn to have an unexpected gift.  Overall, I enjoyed reading this one and might attempt more magical realism in the future.  I might even backtrack and read Garden Spells.

VERDICT:  3.5/5  Stars

* received this book from St Martin's Press, on NetGalley.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book was published on January 20th, 2015.*

Saturday, November 29, 2014

What Would Loki Do?


Published: November 29th, 2014
Knavery (Ripple Series #6)
By: Cidney Swanson
Williams Press

Skandor Dusselhoff uses his ability to vanish purely to make mischief.  After he takes a security job with Geneses, however, he meets other ripplers -- including one very beautiful girl held prisoner by Fritz.  Now it's time for Skandor to decide what he'll risk to free her.

Review

       This book picks up not too longer after #5 in the series, when Martina was able to break free of the toxic influence of her "Uncle Fritz" and the evil that he stood for and ally herself with Sir Waldhart De Rochefort, his son Chretien and their friends (and fellow "ripplers").  Skandor Dusselhoff is the first person we meet in this book, and he seems to have a life completely unconnected to Geneses or De Rochefort's opposing faction of ripplers.  Skandor has grown up in a summer camp, based off Norse mythology!  Camp Midgard has been a great place to grow up, and Skandor has had fun using his invisibility to further his constant question of "What would Loki do?"  But Skandor also wants more from life than just this, so he applies for an internship with the Geneses corporation, thinking he might be able to get answers about his abilities from this new opportunity.  While there, he uncovers a sleeping goddess, who he later knows as Katrin - a friend and the girl he loves.  Is Skandor able to help save her and some others being held captive or will they all pay the price?
       At first I didn't see all the connections in this one.  Not to say I didn't enjoy the story, because I did.  Cidney always writes a good story and I always enjoy it.  I did like that we got to see what was happening with Sir Walter, Sam, Will, Mickie, Pfeffer, Gwyn, Chretien, Matteo and Martina.  We still had the slice of everyone else, even with the larger slice of the plot focusing on our newest acquaintances.  I liked the dynamic between Georg who we get to see powerless and conflicted after everything that happened with Hansel in the last book.  Also, the furthering of the research and development of Fritz's drug to permanently suppress the rippler's abilities was an interesting thing to see unfold.  I think my favorite thing about this one though, was Skandor and Katrin's friendship.  Here is this boy with no real ties to any of the subterfuge going on around him and totally naieve to the enormity of it, willing to risk it all for a pretty girl.  But they actually become friends and in the end, he's willing to give himself up to save her.  The beauty of their relationship was something else, for sure.  And the twists at the end and subsequent cliffhanger was enough to make me freak out!!!  Cannot wait to read the next book and I really hope it involves a happy ending for all involved.  If you want action, suspense, science, magic and romance all in the same book read the Ripple Series.  Cidney will give you all that and more! :D

VERDICT:  4/5 

*This book was provided to by the author in exchange for an honest review.  No bribes were exchanged and this is my honest opinion.  This book is now available for purchase online, as an ebook.*

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Somewhere, at the Edge of a Well...


Published: October 21st, 2014
Time's Edge (The Chronos Files #2)
By: Rysa Walker
Skyscape
ISBN-13:  9781477825822

To stop her sadistic grandfather, Saul, and his band of time travelers from rewriting history, Kate must race to retrieve the CHRONOS keys before they fall into the Cyrist' hands.  If she jumps back in time and pulls the wrong key -- one that might tip the Cyrists off to her strategy -- her whole plan could come crashing down, jeopardizing the future of millions of innocent people.  Kate's only ally is Kiernan, who also carries the time-traveling gene.  But their growing bond threatens everything Kate is trying to rebuild with Trey, her boyfriend who can't remember the relationship she can't forget.

As evidence of Saul's twisted mind builds, Kate's missions become more complex, blurring the line between good and evil.  Which of the people Saul plans to sacrifice in the past can she and Kiernan save without risking their ultimate goal -- or their own lives?

Review

       I saw this book on NetGalley and instantly geeked out - my trigger finger could not be deterred from the request button.  That said, highly geared for the downslide of disappointment and mediocrity that seems to be standard for second books in trilogies nowadays.  I definitely DID NOT get my expectations met - thank you God for small favors!!!  This continues to be the perfect example of how a time travel series should be carried out, especially one largely geared towards teens.  The mythology, explanations of the time travel, and of the overall impact of everything on the space-time continuum largely make sense and are fairly rock-solid.  They are fairly easy to comprehend.  Not to say this is a simple book, by any means.  The narrative is complicated in the best of ways!  There are so many things we get to witness in this book.  The assassination of JFK, for one, Houdini and his effect on the world, a mass murder of an entire village, Franklin Roosevelt on the campaign trail, and a lynching (kind-of).  Not to say that we aren't reminded of the events of the first book, with serial killer H.H. Holmes, as Kate seems to be suffering from a form of PTSD due to what happened.
       In this book, we follow Kate as she travels to different time periods to get hold of the CHRONOS keys of the stranded agents from her grandmother Katherine's time period, before Saul can get ahold of them.  We also get to see her try and rebuild her relationship with Trey, who doesn't remember her, and her growing conflict over the feelings she has for Kiernan, who had a relationship with a version of her from an alternate timeline.  Probably the most compelling thing about this one for me was the normality of Kate, in comparison to her decidedly abnormal life (school BBQs versus cults, Princess Bride versus Houdini, etc.).  Also, I liked learning more about Prudence and her role in the building of the cult.  It was especially interesting to learn the reasons behind just why she had likely become quite so insane!  It's kind of a sad thing to see in retrospect, as she's basically Saul's alternatingly willing and unwilling tool.  The shit really hits the fan in 1911 and when the book reaches its denouement after even more fast-paced, batshittery in 1938 Georgia (segregation and race relations play a HUGE part in this book), the cliffhanger left me with my mouth hanging open.  I don't want to say much more so as not to spoil it.  But anyone looking for an amazing science-fiction/fantasy, time-travel read should look no further.  Read this series, you won't regret it!!!  Already dying for the next one.

VERDICT:  5/5  Stars

* received this book from Amazon Skyscape, on NetGalley.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book was published on October 21st, 2014.*

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Boys Apparently DO Knit


Expected Publication:  March 24th, 2015 (Originally January 1st, 2014)
Boys Don't Knit (Boys Don't Knit #1)
By: T.S. Easton
Feiwel & Friends
ISBN-13:  9781250053312

Knitting is a man's game.

After an incident regarding a crossing guard and a bottle of Martini & Rossi (and his bonehead friends), 17-year-old worrier Ben Fletchermust develop his sense of social alignment, take up a hobby, and do some community service to avoid any further probation.

He takes a knitting class (it was that or his father's mechanic class) under the impression that it's taught by the hot teacher all the boys like.  Turns out, it's not.  Perfect.

Regardless, he sticks with it and comes to find he's a natural knitter, maybe even great.  It even helps ease his anxiety and worrying.  The only challenge now is to keep it hidden from his friends, his crush, and his soccer-obsessed father.  What a tangled web Ben has weaved...or knitted.

Review

       Let's just lay it all out on the line: I know absolutely NOTHING about knitting!  I have a couple friends who know how, and I've always thought it would be cool to learn, but I know nothing about it.  Also, I don't read a lot of YA books with male protagonists.  Mainly because I feel like a lot of the ones I've picked up have protags that are either complete assholes or so unrealistic that they might as well be the next Disney Prince!  Yes, nice guys exist and so do awful ones.  Most REAL guys (adult, teenage and child) are some combination of the two though, rather than one extreme or another.  T.S. Easton really captures that fact with Ben Fletcher.  Not perfect by any means, 17 year old Ben allows himself to get into sticky situations by going along with his harebrained friends.  After an incident with some stolen liquor, a lollipop lady and a damaged vehicle, Ben is on probation.  He has to keep a diary to hand in to his caseworker and complete community service to show his reform.  Part of this is a college class.  Not wanting to be in his dad's mechanic class, Microsoft Office (too easy/boring), or pottery, he goes with knitting (the teacher is supposed to be a hot, younger woman).  Turns out the teachers listed were wrong and it's his crush's Mom and now Ben's stuck.  But guess what, he's a natural knitter - and he really enjoys it!
       Basically, this book is set over the course of eight months and told through Ben's diary entries.  We get to meet his soccer/car obsessed Dad, his often on tour magician Mom and his crazy little sister Molly.  Also in supporting roles are his very memorable friends (one of whom he's editing an erotic book called "Fifty Shades of Graham" for!) who get him into plenty of trouble, Mrs. Frensham i.e. the lollipop lady he practically ran over, Megan (the girl he likes), the hot teacher Miss Swallow, and the women from his knitting class.  Everyone is well characterized, and we see Ben grow from someone unsure of himself and more of a follower, to a young man who has found something he loves to do and refuses to apologize for it.  Along the way he makes friends with some unlikely people and we get to see his big heart and hilarious turn of phrase.  I laughed out loud mutliple times while reading this, especially at Ben's mounting lies and the box of "shame" he hides under the bed with his knitting stuff.  The knitting competition at the end is the stuff comedies should be made of!  All in all, I super enjoyed it.  I am beyond the high school angst and Facebook obsessing over a crush, so I did roll my eyes a little.  But I highly recommend this book, because it's so much more than that.  Can't wait to read the next one!

VERDICT:  4/5 Stars

**I reviewed this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is March 24th, 2015.**