Saturday, December 31, 2011

Friday/Saturday Five [Happy New Year!] (16)

Daw, I haven't used that logo for some time.

1. Happy New Year! - What are your resolutions for 2012? Your last wishes for 2011? What have you accomplished this year? What do you think of the 'doomsday' theory? Here's to hoping those of us with unpublished books accomplish our goals next year!

2. Finals: WHERE ARE MY GRADES?!?! - New grading system. More efficient grading results? Not likely. I finished my finals on December 16th and I still haven't gotten my results. Bogus? Indeed.

3. Merry Christmas! - What did you guys get? I got a ton of the books on my list, a Kindle that I've fallen in love with, a PSP video game, and lots of clothes. Awesome Christmas! I hope you guys had awesome Christmases too!

4. Writing Block - It's not exactly Writer's Block. I don't have any trouble writing, per say. It's more like when I'm trying to do revisions/rewriting. I find myself at a loss of how to word something and then I lose the desire to write it... Frustration... Any recommendations, anyone?

5. Song of the Week - Keeping the Peace - Final Fantasy: Dissidia

So soothing. (:


Reading: Sweep - Volume 3 - Cate Tiernan
Watching: NCIS
Listening to: ---
Quote: ---

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!! Tomorrow I'm planning on a blog post depicting what made me happy about 2011. I'm all blogged-out today... If I get the motivation later I'll post it. Later!

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys | REVIEW

Title: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Number of Pages: 338
Date Published: March 22, 2011
Rating: 5/5

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously - and at great risk - documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart. (goodreads)

"He said, 'From my rotting body flowers shall grow, and I am in them and that is eternity.' Isn't that beautiful?"
Papa smiled at me. "You're beautiful because you see it that way." - Lina / Edvard Munch

When I first read this book, I knew nothing of Stalin's Purge. Therefore, the story just remained a story to me. Not a week after I finished, we did a complex lesson of the Purge in my Current Events class, and every thought I had ever had about this book changed. I read it again, and this time my heart throbbed for the characters more than they ever had the first time I read this.

Trust me, the first time I read the book, I loved it. I just thought it was a sad story, though—but there's something about knowing that the events of a story have actually happened to some people that makes you just stop and think. It's really inspiring, really. I used this book for a report I had to do on the Purge as well.

Lina takes you through her stories of art and of writing, describing her time in those dirty train cars and those humiliating moments in the showers and learning of the people she'll be living with. Love blossoms, hope sprouts, hatred abounds. This story can be as gripping as The Diary of Anne Frank and it can be as heart-wrenching as The Book Thief. This mysterious era in history has finally been brought to light in the YA world because of this novel.

How could the world let something like this happen? How could these people stay silent after it was all over? How could they survive in such conditions? Between Shades of Gray is amazing. In its own way it answers these questions, unflinching yet gentle. There are no easy descriptions. You read what you read, you see what you see. You see the world as it was, no sugarcoating involved.

You receive flashbacks throughout Lina's travels that give insight on her life before being sent on this purge. These are nice for showing how the characters have developed. You see how each character changes for the better and for the worse, and you watch each character come to terms with flaws and strengths they all possess.

People become friends. People become enemies. Enemies to friends, friends to enemies; confusion to clarity and vice versa. Between Shades of Gray is a story of strife, conflict, survival, love, and just about any emotion you can come up with. It covers resolutions, questions, and ends on a note that leaves you pining for more but knowing that it has ended perfectly.

I tried to do this without spoilers, which led to it being such a short review...apologies. (: Anyway, that's all the reviews for the day.  Finally, ready to cross them off my to-do list. Amazing book! Amazing characters! Amazing everything!

Looking for Alaska by John Green | REVIEW

Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Number of Pages: 221
Date Published: March 3, 2005
Rating: 4.5/5

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps." Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another. A stunning debut, it marks John Green's arrival as an important new voice in contemporary fiction. (goodreads)

"Alaska, this is Pudge. Pudge memorizes people's last words. Pudge, this is Alaska. She got her boob honked over the summer." - Chip/The Colonel

Where to start? It's been a while since I read this, I've just recently skimmed over it some, so bear with me... When I bought this book on my shopping spree, it was the very last one on the shelf and the cover itself had me in looove. I didn't quite expect the harsh content this novel addresses, though. Not to say I didn't like it, I mean; but... *Shrugs* I'm not used to things being thrown so blandly in, things like sex and cursing and drugs. But that's what being a teenager is all about.

But this book isn't only about that. It goes with the emotions and feelings and wonders of life all teens experience, and it really hits close to home for the YA readers who pick it up and try it out. It deals with loss of a loved one, acquirement of new friends, family, and enemies. Pudge's journey for the Great Perhaps rocekts you into a world of broken rules, drinking games, deep-hearted religious discussions, and deep-thought words.

The writing is fantastic. It's easy to look over the raw use of cursing when it comes to Pudge's thoughts—it's just who he is. It's hard to connect to some of the characters first, but I think that's how this book is meant to be perceived. Pudge has a hard time connecting to them all too, but eventually becomes one of them. Each character has a different trait, a diversity that's healthy for this novel.

Now, one thing I notice is that so many people compare this to Lord of the Flies and The Catcher in the Rye. Here's my question:

How. The. Heck?

I loved Looking for Alaska...despised Lord of the Flies and Catcher in the Rye. How does that work? I honestly see nothing of Holden Caulfield in Pudge... Pudge has determination. He has a goal he's working for. He's in love. The last thing is just about the only damn thing I see in common between them. Holden is pathetic, unmotivated, and just plain boring. Sorry for Catcher in the Rye lovers, ignore my bashing! Carrying on, the only similarity of Lord of the Flies is the lack of authority—but it's not that there's a lack in Alaska. Just a disregard of it.

Who knows? Maybe it's just me. Probably. It's hard for me to get so attached to classics. I get my hopes up for them when people rave on and on about them, and I end up disappointed. Just about the only ones I like are Where the Red Fern Grows and The Call of the Wild. Enough about the classics, back to Alaska!

...Which definitely deserves a place on the shelves with those classics.

You'll find yourself falling for each character. For the Colonel's no-nonsense, video-gaming, pranking attitude and Alaska's addicting no-laws-to-life rule. Takumi's Japanese charm and humor leads you on, and even Lara's timidity draw you in like an addict for the words Pudge uses to describe them all.

Once you reach 'After', you feel the grief and rage at Alaska's loss. You understand Pudge's feelings, his hopelessness, his loss for the girl he loved, his Great Perhaps. You follow him, delving into the mystery of suicide versus accident with him. The curiosity isn't annoying or boring, only sad. You may find tears in his conclusions, you may find relief or any swirling mass of emotions.

Looking for Alaska is an amazing book that I recommend. If you don't mind drinking, cigarettes, and sex, at least. [If you couldn't guess, that's what contributed the -0.5 stars. (: ] Cheers for Alaska Young and John Green! My friend met him a few weeks ago. Incredibly jealous...

SWEEP (Volume 2) by Cate Tiernan | REVIEW

Title: Sweep, Volume 2 [Dark Magick; Awakening; Spellbound]
Author: Cate Tiernan
Number of Pages: 564
Published: November 11, 2010
Rating: 4/5

Morgan Rowlands is a blood witch, the last of a long line of ancient and powerful witches and the holder of an unfathomable power. With the help of her love, her soul mate, Cal, she has realized her true self - but at at price. For Morgan and Cal share a terrible, dark secret, one that binds them together even as they are rent apart. Yet there is something about Cal's hunger for magick that frightens Morgan.... And now there is another one who can bring Morgan clarity, truth... love. Morgan must decide who is her true love, and who is out to destroy her forever.... (goodreads)

"I struck out blindly with my hand and brought it down on the candle flame. There was a hiss and a faint, charring smell. And I was alone in the darkness." - Morgan Rowlands [Awakening]

"But it's pointless to consider. One cannot escape one's destiny - if you hide from it, it will find you. If you deny it, it will kill you." - Hunter Niall/Giomanach [Dark Magick]

REVIEW [Spoilers this time.]
Where in the first volume everything has unravelled, this new volume follows up with the reunion of feelings and characters and hopes and dreams. Dark Magick, the fourth book, immediately throws you into back into the mix of Morgan's life, turned upside-down after the murder of Hunter Niall—the murder she and Cal committed. Grief and guilt haunt her, ravage her, eat her from the inside out.

Yet in the end, it was the right thing to do. He was going to kill Cal. Right? Right? No. Instantly things turn awry when Cal introduces Morgan to his little Wiccan sanctuary, his sheomar; and from there on she feels something. Her magick knows something is off, and it keeps trying to warn her of the hunger Cal possesses for all things dark, all things capable of being controlled.

The roller coaster ride won't let you go. Up, up, up on your high as Morgan reassures herself that Cal is safe, good, her muirn beatha dan—and bam! Hunter's alive! Morgan is forced to start questioning everything, and soon enough she finds herself knowing that Hunter is right, Cal is evil, and he reveals it. This roller coaster is spiraling downward, making your stomach drop as Morgan comes to the realization that Cal was wrapping her around his little finger this whole time; casting spells on her and entrancing her.

After attempting to kill Morgan the way her mother Bradhadair was killed [burned to death], Cal and Selene flee. Bree, Morgan's former best friend; and Robbie, her other best friend, come to her rescue. End book 4, instantly back in the action with Awakening.

Now, I think this volume went slower after this. It seemed that events were forced along, as though Morgan just sits up one day and says, "I think something needs to happen today. Oh, hey, I sense magick!" Tiernan masks it well, but that's the vibe I got. You aren't moving at all like the breakneck pace you're thrown into with the previous books. But I suppose with Cal and Selene out of the picture, it's inevitable—they took all the action with them. But in response you gain Morgan's struggle to trust Hunter and Sky, and her denial as one of her friends could have opened himself to dark magick.

Another thing I believe was lacking in this volume was the cooperation with Morgan and her friends. Morgan and Bree are trying to mend their relationship, but this is really all you get, it seems. You see other characters interacting, but never Morgan with them. The circles she performs with her coven don't seem as strong and entrancing as they were before, but you can give the excuse of Cal leaving again.

Awakening was the boring book of this volume, I'll say it now. It ends with one of Morgan's friends being prosecuted. Spellbound makes up for it, but at this point is when I really think everything starts chugging along because it's being forced to. It seems as though some characters are just there because they need to be. It never felt natural. The story remained entrancing, I promise—it was just hard to swallow when you were speeding through it like I was.

The provocations of Cal and Selene, the tense relationship between Morgan and Hunter, the blossoming attraction between characters such as Sky and Raven; Ethan and Shannon; Bree and Robbie are addicting. Even the arc in which Morgan struggles on whether to take revenge on three boys harassing her gay aunt draws you in. The humor remains in this edition, and so does the high school drama [Mary K. and Bakker].

I still recommend this. The only downsides with these additions to the Sweep series were how everything seemed nudged along and the lack of interaction between Morgan and other people. Otherwise, just as good as the last three. Onto Volume 3!


Reading: Fire and Ice - Erin Hunter
Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
Sweep [3] - Cate Tiernan
Listening to: Mirage Coordinator - Best of Umineko
Watching: NCIS
Quote: "I don't know... I can't explain it. ...But the lonely little girl I met when I was younger, and the girl we knew as Nyu... I love them both." - Kohta [Anime: Elfen Lied; Episode 13]

Monday, December 26, 2011

SWEEP (Volume 1) by Cate Tiernan | REVIEW

Title: Sweep, Volume 1 [Book of Shadows; The Coven; Blood Witch]
Author: Cate Tiernan
Number of Pages: 592
Published: July 1, 2007
Rating: 5/5

The first three Sweep books bound into one gorgeous edition! Morgan Rowlands never thought she was anything other than a typical sixteen-year-old girl. But when she meets Cal, a captivatingly handsome coven leader, she makes a discovery that turns her whole world upside down: she is a witch, descended from an ancient and powerful line. And so is Cal. Their connection is immediate and unbreakable; Cal teases out Morgan's power, her love, her magick. But Morgan discovers too soon that her powers are strong - almost too powerful to control. And she begins to suspect that Cal may be keeping secrets from her . . . secrets that could destroy them both.
“I looked deeply into the fire, and the timeless, eternal dance of colors I saw there was so beautiful, I wanted to cry.” —Morgan Rowlands
I got this book for much less than it was worth. I bought it at a yard sale, and ended up getting the first volume and second volume for one dollar together. I was anxious when I started this book, what with Wicca being involved and all, but it’s really not too bad on that angle. Nothing is bad on any angle, really!

So, in general, this book was awesome. It shows a complete other lifestyle and an adjustment in it, cycling through different intervals at breakneck speeds. I especially love the description of how ‘with sweeping motions’, Morgan’s life is changing constantly. Morgan is independent, brave, and unpopular. Bree is Morgan’s best friend, and everything Morgan wants to be—attractive, popular, and unyielding. Cal is everything she wants, and Wicca is the start of a new life. The other characters, no matter how minor they may be, have distinguishing characteristics that make them memorable.

I really meant to make a review for Sweep at least four months ago, when I first read it—if not longer than that. But here it is, at last. I read it once, and I read it again in order to force myself to review it, and liked it even more the second time! In a seemingly innocent landscape, Morgan finds herself thrown into a world of magick and dark powers that threaten to engulf her. Her only saving grace is Cal, who may turn out to be the one behind it all. The tension there, unfortunately, doesn’t really start until the fourth book.

At the beginning of each chapter, there is an excerpt from a character’s Book of Shadows, which is like a diary, more or less. It’s intriguing—for the most part, you can tell who is writing what; and it’s invigorating to see how they’ve ended up where they are today. Such as [spoiler] Morgan’s birth mother, Maeve/Bradhadair. [/spoiler] The only thing I didn’t care for at this part was how these journal entries seem to jump in all directions. At one entry we’re at present day, at another we’re at their initiation at a witch... It got confusing.

And, honestly, for me, who could not love a book that involves the main character having a strong link with fire? Always have and always will!

Another aspect I enjoyed of Sweep was how easily the plot and secondary plots flowed together. Cal and Morgan’s magick unraveling into pure power, and Morgan’s discoveries, are the main plot. But you never forget the tensions between Morgan and Bree, Raven and Matt, Sharron and Ethan, etcetera etcetera. And just when you think it can’t get any better, you have two more breathtaking characters thrown at you—Sky and Hunter.

The books are fun to read, the plot is perfectly paced, and it would be easy to grow obsessed over these books. For Christmas I received the rest of the books—My Sweep series is complete! I won’t put too much else. I want to get more reviews done, and the more time I put on one the less I’ll put on others... I hope this gives you a general idea on how much I enjoyed this volume, however. Soon enough I’ll have the second volume up. More reviews to come!

Also, Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!

Reading: Breaking Dawn – Stephenie Meyer
Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
Sweep [Volume 2] – Cate Tiernan
Fire and Ice – Erin Hunter
Listening to: U.N. Owen Was Her – Touhou 6: The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil
Watching: Band of Brothers
Quote: “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!” (:

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Friday/Saturday Five [OMG!] (15)

1. Searching Once Again - When I finished my first draft of Flame Dancer, I made the mistake of wearing down a list of agents by sending it out. The first draft. To professional agents. I regretted it later. Finally Kelly Mortimer rescued me by telling me that my draft needed major work. And at last, that work is completed and I'm on the hunt for agents again. I've always wanted to just get it done, grab the agents and send the letters out, but I'm older and understand now that I need to do more than just assume they'll jump at a new book like mine. I'm a conceited person, so it's hard for me to admit something like that, but to admit it is a step closer to a dream come true. (;

2. Christmas is Coming! - Are you excited? I know I am. I haven't asked for much, I don't think...mainly, wait for it... BOOKS! I also asked for a game, a Nightwish CD, a drawing pad, and some other random things... Everyone is in the Christmas spirit here already, and I love it. Already people are performing good deeds for one another without even thinking about it. The gift-giving feeling is just browsing around in the air. It's my favorite time of year. [/End strange song-like sounding paragraph]

3. On the Down-Side - Finals are coming up. Enough said.

4. L A Z I N E S S - I have so much on my review list. I have about eight books on there, if not more; I have Wayfinders to make, literary agents to mail, book plans to write down, people to speak to about school stuff, etc. I'm taking forever! Do you know why? ...Lol. It's because I am reading too much. See what my blog did to me!? I blame this on all of you! If you still read my blog, that is. (;

5. Song of the...Uh, Past Two Months? - I'm giving you three songs. Bite me. c:

Storytime - Nightwish [Album: Imaginaerum]

FFFFFFFFFFFFFFF. Lol, ironically as I posted this the "I am the -insert here-" verse was playing in This Is Halloween on The Nightmare Before Christmas.

U.N. Owen Was Her - Sound Sepher Remix

Dude, I don't even get it. I heard this song on piano and had to find it. Eventually one of my good friends gave me this remix and instantly I downloaded it. It's so intense!!

Dearly Beloved - Kingdom Hearts Destiny From Bak.R [Original - Yoko Shimomura]

I just found this song last night, and it's such an emotional and powerful song. I love it. <3


Reading: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Listening to: Dearly Beloved - Yoko Shimomura/Bak.R
Watching: The Nightmare Before Christmas
Quote: "If you want war, prepare for peace."