Friday, September 30, 2011

Ditched: A Love Story by Robin Mellom

Prom is one of those important high school traditions. Even as a girl who didn't participate much in high school (I was more of a get in, get diploma, get out type of girl), I feel a tiny twinge of regret at never going to Prom. It just sounds nice to play dress-up for one night, buy a pretty dress and shoes, get all fancy. I understand how the main character of Ditched feels in wanting a perfect Prom, and I understand why she's so disappointed with how everything turns out.

Justina was finally going to tell her best friend Ian that she likes him as more than a friend. She picked out a blue dress for him (He thinks she wears too much black) and even dyed her shoes blue to match the dress. Then every bad thing possible piles on, one after the other. At the end of Prom night, Justina is literally lying in a ditch on the side of the road. She ends up telling her whole tragic story to a couple of women at the 7-11, going over the events with every stain on her dress, even a bruise and knot on the head, and a Tinkerbell tattoo.

Ditched was incredibly cute. I loved the stain-by-stain storytelling, and how we get a little picture of where the stain was on the dress. I do have some issues with Justina. Sometimes she was just very irrational. All she would need was to take a couple seconds and actually talk to Ian, or "rival" Allyson, but she usually just spins out and does something crazy. She admits that she gets "crazy crackers" when she doesn't eat, but she runs around all night having near misses with food and it just makes her jumping to conclusions worse. I just wished she would take a couple minutes to breathe, actually listen to the people around her, maybe eat a bagel or something.

The entire night becomes a crazy adventure. I'd like to see a movie of it, though considering what happened with I Love You, Beth Cooper, they may not be a good idea.

I received an ebook of Ditched from Netgalley. It will be coming out January 10th, 2012.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In the future, everything sucks worse than it does now. At least it does in the world of Ready Player One. The world is way more messed up. There's so much overpopulation that people live in trailers stacked up like high rises. The environment is way worse. The polar ice caps have all melted. Gas is so expensive that people just abandon their cars when they run out of fuel. Unemployment is so bad that there are months-long waiting lists for fast food jobs. Everything sucks, which is why the people spend most of their time logged into OASIS.

OASIS is the ultimate role-playing game. Sort of a Sims-World of Warcraft thing. Players control avatars, go on quests, and interact with other avatars. One such avatar is controlled by Wade Watts. Wade is a penniless student, but he has greater ambitions. He's a gunter, the shortened term for egg hunter. The egg in question was hidden by James Halliday, co-creator of OASIS. Whoever finds the egg will inherit control of OASIS.

Not everyone has honorable intentions in mind when it comes to the contest. Big evil corporation IOI has their target set on acquiring the egg and OASIS. OASIS is free for everyone to join, but they want to add a fee so that only the wealthy can access the game. IOI has a separate oology department set up, which all the gunter community refers to as "Sixers" because all their employee numbers start with six.

Still, the game has been going on for ten years and nobody has cracked the first riddle. Then Wade figures it out and finds the copper key. The game is on!

I thought Ready Player One was sort of a mix of The Westing Game and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, plus video games and 80's nostalgia. Halliday grew up in the 80's and loved the pop culture of the time, so all the gunters study the movies, video games, and TV shows of that time. It's weird to think that Ferris Bueller's Day Off might be considered vintage, though it is already over twenty years old. As someone with very little knowledge of video games, a lot of the book's references went over my head, as did the many descriptions of OASIS accessories. Ready Player One is still a good quest story with a nice romantic subplot. I loves me a geek love story, and Wade (Parzival) and Art3mis are a great one.

I got my ebook of Ready Player One from Netgalley, but it's been available for a while now.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst

Pearl is a typical vampire. She enjoys going out at night and drinking the blood of humans. Her family is one of the most powerful vampire clans, and all of her aunts, uncles, and cousins live with her. They just received news that they will be hosting the next Vampire Fealty Ceremony (One of those big vampire sucking parties) when something happens to shake Pearl's comfortable world.

One night after indulging in her favorite snack of ice cream server, Pearl is stabbed by a unicorn. Her family thinks it was really a vampire hunter, because unicorns don't exist. Vampire hunter doesn't explain how Pearl can now walk in the daylight. Her parents enroll her in high school, hoping she can lure some students to serve as the feast at the Fealty Ceremony. Unfortunately, the unicorn also brought on new kinder, gentler feelings. Pearl starts to grow attached to humans, starts to see them as more than just walking juice boxes. How can she be loyal to her family and not kill all her new friends in the process?

Okay, my knee jerk reaction to seeing the title Drink, Slay, Love was, "This is so dumb! I have to read it!" I have this reaction quite a lot. Then I read the description, saw the word unicorn and knew I had to read it. Drink, Slay, Love is a very fun book. A home-schooled vampire suddenly finds herself dealing with a scary new enemy...high school. It sounds like a teen comedy. It's funny to see Pearl's initial reactions to the crazy humans surrounding her, then touching how much she learns to embrace humans. There's a small amount of violence, and an unexpected dark turn. The book counterweights all that with a romance, a prom finale, and UNICORNS! It's more the fluffernutter sandwich to serious literature's meat and potatoes, the Lucky Charms to their Total. Still, it's good to indulge in some junk food every once in a while, and you could definitely find worse than this book.

I received a copy of Drink, Slay, Love through Simon & Schuster's Galley Grab. It's available in stores now.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Queens of All the Earth by Hannah Sternberg

The Queens of All the Earth is about two sisters named Olivia and Miranda. On the day she is supposed to leave for her Freshman year at Cornell, Olivia becomes catatonic. She has an obvious and acute fear of growing up. In order to help her sister, Miranda takes her on a vacation to Barcelona. While there, Olivia finds a love interest in Greg Brown, a shy preacher's son. Olivia has never had a boyfriend, but Miranda hates the Browns.

Honestly, Miranda hates everyone. And everyone rightfully hates her for being a shrew. She constantly accuses the hostel workers of pretending not to understand her (Though you can't blame them). Miranda keeps Olivia on a tight leash. She doesn't like the Browns immediately because she is uncomfortable around religious people, and she definitely doesn't like Olivia and Greg's budding romance.

Olivia just takes her sister's instructions and criticisms. She obviously likes Greg, but avoids him on her sister's instructions. It's a little infuriating, but I really think in some ways I was and still am like Olivia. She reads and rereads the books from her childhood, she is afraid of growing up and moving towards an ending, whether the ending is good or bad doesn't matter. She just doesn't want the ending.

The end of the book wraps things up a little too neatly. I love a happy ending, but this one doesn't seem earned. If nothing else, The Queens of All the Earth makes me want to take a vacation to Barcelona. Inspired by the descriptions of the city, I googled images of cathedrals, castles, and even the Magic Fountain. It's definitely a beautiful city.

I received a copy of The Queens of All the Earth through Netgalley. It's available October 11th.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ashes by Ilsa K. Bilk

”You only want to brawl. You want a fight. Fighting tricks you into believing you can change the past, even when the past is dead and gone and all of it is ashes.”

It’s a year about a decade or so from today. A sudden electro-magnetic pulse wipes out all electronics. Millions of people died immediately after the pulse. Some were changed.

Alex was one of those who was changed for the better. She had been dying of a brain tumor. After the pulse, she could suddenly taste and smell again. More than that, she could smell the others who changed.

The smell is like rotten meat. Then Alex knows one of the changed are around, brain-zapped cannibal teenagers. Alex, along with a little girl named Ellie and a slightly older boy named Tom, travels to a nearby ranger station in search of aid, and from there the trio head towards Canada. Before they get there, their truck is hijacked by a group of surviving senior citizens. They take Ellie, shoot Tom, and leave them for the nearby colony of Rule.

Alex was likable from the start. She has a giant tumor in her head, but she isn't all mopey about it, and she has great survival skills and an analytical mind that I admire. Ellie was more of an accustomed taste. She is a complete brat at first, and occasionally afterwards, but she turned out to be sort of sweet and lovable. Tom was sort of nondescript, though I did like him as Alex's romantic pairing.

I started Ashes expecting a zombie story, but it wasn’t that exactly. We don’t learn everything behind the pulse and the causes of the cannibals, but we know it has something to do with age and possibly hormones. The first parts of the book are exciting, and I experienced a ton of tension waiting for the cannibals to arrive. Needless to say, they made a great and stomach-turning entrance. The first parts of the book were very tense, then the parts in Rule slowed down a bit. It focused more on Alex trying to fit into a rule-intensive society and pretty much failing. The ending…wow, that ending really kind of sucks, because it’s a huge cliffhanger that won’t be remedied until the next book finally comes out.

I read a copy of Ashes through Netgalley. It's available now.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hereafter by Tara Hudson

It's just a typical teen romance. Girl meets boy. Girl helps save boy from watery grave. Girl is dead. Oh, wait, it's not so typical. And I officially hate myself for starting my review like that, but I'm not turning back now.

Amelia was wandering for as long as she remembers. None of the living people noticed her. Every now and then she would have "nightmares," reenactments of what little of her death she remembers. She wakes up thrashing in the river where she drowned. After one nightmare, she realizes that someone else is drowning, a boy. Amelia tries to save him, cheers him on. Surprisingly, he wakes up, and he can see her.

The boy is Joshua, and not only can he see Amelia, he can touch her. She has been totally numb until now, but she starts to be able to feel things, to smell things. More importantly, Amelia starts to remember her life. Joshua, though, gets his own pet ghost to follow him to school one day. I'm not sure whether that was against the rules. People probably thought he looked pretty crazycakes, talking to himself and kissing the empty air, but he's hot so nobody really minds.

Just to complicate things, there are dark forces trying to claim Amelia. A ghost named Eli has been watching her. Eli claims souls, and he's not working for the good guys. He wants Amelia as his new assistant. Further complicating matters, Joshua's grandmother believes that Amelia is an abomination and plans to exorcise her, as well as Eli.

At first, I had a difficult time getting into Hereafter. Once I took a little break from it, and got further into the story, I found myself eager to read more. These stories are always so depressing. Amelia will never be alive again, and it would kind of suck if she actually came back to life somehow, but you still wish Amelia and Josh can have their happy ending, even though they never will. Sorry for the horrible run-on sentence. The pining is what's attractive, the unattainable love. Ultimately, Hereafter is a sweet love story. I liked it, but I occasionally watch repeats of Ghost Whisperer on the Canadian channel, so I may have questionable taste.

I received a copy of Hereafter from Netgalley. It's available now, wherever books are sold.

P.S. I mostly watch Ghost Whisperer for mocking purposes. It's terrible, but like a car accident and I get so much enjoyment out of how long it takes her to figure out what the damn ghosts want.