Update Schedule

There was once an update schedule. It lived a good life, a peaceful life. A quiet life. But then... things began to change. It became more and more erratic, sometimes completely disobeying its very reason for existance. And at last, the update schedule could take no more. It cast off its chains and went free, seeking new lands where it would be appreciated. This message it left where once it had lived, to warn other schedules of the peril.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Nothing to worry about, just wanted to give warning...

Due to circumstances outside of my control, my power cord has been broken. Luckily, my computer was fully charged, but the new cord won't get here for a bit.
The next book to be reviewed on here is a kindle book, so I need my computer to access my notes. Because of this, there might be a bit of a delay before I'm able to review the book. Non-review posts should continue as normal.

I'm currently reading Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson while I wait to be able to continue the e-book. Has anyone else here read it?

Anyone else check out books because of their cool covers? :)

After the book I'm currently reading to review, I don't have one planned. Can anyone recommend me something?

Review of Divergent

So, I've decided to keep things short (aside from the witty comments in parentheses, I couldn't bring myself to cut those). I'm still trying to decide on a format, so I'd love to hear feedback on how it works.
Note: I read this book quite a while ago, and while I got it out again for a quick review, I didn't do an in-depth reading of it again while taking notes. You might notice that this review doesn't go into a ton of detail- that's why. I decided to get this done sooner and concentrate on more general things than go into a huge amount of detail and end up with a boring post that takes a week to write.

Divergent, by Veronica Roth, is the first book in the Divergent series (Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant). It was published in 2011, and was made into a film in March, 2014. The book receives around a 4.5 on book review sites such as Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and Amazon. I think that's about it for the boring bit. :)

Unfortunately, Divergent fails majorly in the plot category. When I first began writing this, I planned to do a one word summary of each category, and the plot word was "argh".
Divergent is set in a Dystopian world where every child is divided into factions at age 16. There are five factions (let's see if I can do it from memory): Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, and Erudite. Selflessness, Love, Truth, Courage, and Wisdom. Sounds good, right? You have people sorted out where they belong; they'll love each other or tell the truth or jump off trains along with other lunatics like them (except for the ones who can't decide, those will be homeless and on the street... but who cares about them?). All of the problems of the world solved. Yay.
Sadly, the world doesn't work like that.People are different from each other. It's not only Beatrice Prior who's brave and selfless and smart, it's everyone in the world. Interesting idea, but unfortunately it's just a flawed premise.
As we move through the book, Tris (yes, she changed her name 12% of the way through the book) struggles to find her place in her chosen faction, eventually discovers a rather ridiculous plot involving some magic potion (sorry, serum, which she is helpfully immune to), finds out just enough to allow for a sequel, makes out with her boyfriend, etc.
I'm not being fair. There are good things, too. The faction system is interesting, and seeing it from the mind of someone who doesn't fit in is cool. Watching Tris struggle to succeed in a world not meant for her is one of the best parts of the book. She practices, she faces her fears, and she succeeds. Great lesson, interesting to read about, and just generally a good idea when writing books for teenagers.
Divergent's premise may be flawed, and the plot might not be the best, but it contains valuable lessons and on the whole could be a lot worse.

Writing Quality:
Divergent is written in first person present-tense, which is always risky, but mostly pulls it off (please note that I am using the Kindle version, and so the edition I'm using may have mistakes not in the print version. If I quote something unfairly, please comment and I'll try to fix it.)
There are some bad lines. Examples from the random page I turned to include: "My stomach squeezes when I see her face" (what else would it be doing?); "They are sleepwalkers" (uh, no, they're not); "All the initiates fall into a line when they finish dressing" (I think she's missing a word there, and it's just an awkward sentence). In general though, the writing isn't terrible, and it was a quick and easy read. Maybe it could have used a little more editing, but what can't?

The characters are pretty good. Tris, the main character, is rather irritatingly good at everything she does, but we do see her work to improve from her rather terrible starting place. Nothing outstanding about her, but no major complaints, either. She is not perfect, she does make mistakes, she does have to face consequences, and she works to overcome her shortcomings.
Her boyfriend, Four (long story), is also okay. He seems a bit old for Tris (although when you look at their ages he isn't), but he has an interesting backstory and I could stand to read his lines, which is more than I can say for a lot of boyfriends in YA novels.
The minor characters- Tris's friends, her family, etc. are pretty good. They get fleshed out in interesting ways, which a lot of novels don't bother to do, and even the ones who seem to exist only to die later on have the grace to do it on-screen and epicly.

Work hard to overcome your problems, it's okay to be different, stand up for yourself, etc. Basically a lot about how to be who you are and not let anyone get in your way. The only bad lesson (although there are probably many more that I missed) I can think of in this book is that it shows tattoos (the permanent kind) as a thing to get on a whim, instead of a serious decision that will stick with you for the rest of your life.
I've seen it be a great confidence booster in friends of mine, and it's a great book to read if you feel like you don't really belong anywhere. Actually, as it shows the outcast from society having to work hard to hide who she is while struggling to belong, the book is great in that way.

Other notes:
Special mention for whoever designed the covers:

And also a congratulatory note to Veronica Roth for one word titles that I don't actually hate (although Allegiant is pushing it). The whole "one choice" thing was a bit much, though.

I thought the books got worse as I moved through the series, but since it took a while for each book to come out, my tastes might just have changed. I didn't throw any of them across the room, though, which in sequels can be hard to achieve.

*Pause for evil cackle*
Divergent receives a 2.24 (I did warn you about the fractions)

Thanks for reading. :)

Friday, June 27, 2014

How To Train Your Dragon

With the new How To Train Your Dragon movie out, I decided it was time for a post about it.
It's been a long time since I read the book series by Cressida Cowell, but they share in common only one thing with the movie: names. And not even always that.
The books are children's books, and the first one at least I remember as being excellent. Interesting fonts combined with dragon classifications made for a great reading experience.

And let's not forget the cool covers

I'm not here to rate the books, or even really to talk about them. In fact, since they're children's books, judging them aside from "I loved them as a kid" feels wrong. But I would like to remind everyone that they were a book series first.
I did not personally like the movies. I was honestly (and still am, after seeing the new one last night) horrified by what they'd done to the books. But that's not important either. What is important is that I feel Cressida Cowell's work in inventing an interesting world with great characters has been thrown aside in the effort to create popular movies.
So let's all take a moment to appreciate Cressida Cowell for creating How To Train Your Dragon.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

So, I was thinking...

I've been rereading Ranger's Apprentice instead of picking out new books, so no new review just yet. I meant to write a scathing post on the state of YA fiction (I felt like I held back on the sarcasm way too much on my The Selection review) but then this happened. I hope you enjoy it.

I was listening to a piece of fanfiction called "Kelly the Roman Warrior" yesterday, and it made me think about fanfiction, and what its point is.

A chapter of Kelly the Roman Warrior, as seen in the dramatic reading

I'll admit that I sometimes read, and yes, occasionally write fanfiction, but I've never really seen the point. The book was written. What happened in it happened. It feels kind of stupid to go back and publish an entire story on the basis of "what if" (when I write fanfics, they always have OCs as the MC, with the book characters way in the background). Sometimes interesting, yes, and it's fun to play with the characters. But publish? What's the point?
Then I realized that I was reading serious fanfiction. There are some good things in that category- take the Broken Bow series, by Xed Alpha. It can be funny, yes, but mostly it's a story, not a joke. But then there are the funny ones, the ones where the author wants to tell a story but thinks it would be more amusing with other characters. There are the ones that are so bad they have to be jokes, like Legolas by Laura. The author is just having fun there, moving the characters around for other people's amusement, and that can actually be amusing and fun to read/ write.
And now we get into what I really wanted to talk about- bad fanfiction.
Writing bad fanfiction is an art form, one which I am still saddened I can't do. There is some fanfiction that is so bad it's brilliant. The aforementioned Kelly the Roman Warrior is one (and the dramatic reading guy is amazing, too). Legolas by Laura it's hard to be sure of, and there are tons more out there (I recently read a blog post about a Harry Potter one, but I don't remember the name).
Some fanfiction is bad. Some is okay. Some is even good. But then there are the rare pieces which are so bad that they become famous, that people do dramatic readings. That is, in my opinion, the essence of fanfiction.
You have a story to tell, and you know you can't tell it well enough with just your own characters, and you can't write it well enough either. Most people would just either give up or write it and have it turn out mediocre. But the really great authors of fanfiction are able to take the fanfic to the next level, and write it so badly that your original message comes out anyway. Through mispellings and inconsistencies, deep messages and humor shine through in a way they couldn't have if you'd written it well.
It's not easy to write like that. I know that I can't (and believe me, I've tried). But when it's done well, there is a beauty there, the same beauty that is found in the best of books, and that is the knowledge that you've expressed your story in the best way possible.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Review of The Selection

I tried to hold back on the sarcasm for this post because the truth is I did rather enjoy reading the book, and a big part of that was how ridiculous it was. I hope I've succeeded. :)

The Selection by Kiera Cass, was published in April, 2012. I've somehow avoided seeing it until a few days ago, when I ran into it as a kindle book. I finished it in around two days of light reading, and I've finally gotten around to doing the review.

10507293    "For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself—and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined"
- goodreads.com
The Selection doesn't have the best plot. It takes place in a country called Illea, where the caste system is ruled over by a king and queen. The crown prince is of an age to marry, and so in a very Cinderella move they send out letters to every eligable girl inviting her to come take part in The Selection, where the prince will choose his bride from among thirty-five handpicked girls from the kingdom. As America says, "The Selection is kind of disturbing".
Our main character, America, is interesting in that she does not actually want to be chosen. In fact, it takes the urging of her boyfriend, Aspen, before she'll even sign up. Once she does, she's picked as one of the thirty-five, goes to the palace, and (sort of almost) falls in love with the prince while meeting up with the other Selected and learning more about the way her world works and what her future might be.
Basically, about what you'd expect a book called "The Selection" to be about. It reminded me strongly of Wither by Lauren DeStefano, although without the science fiction elements. The plot feels a bit silly, but I don't have any major complaints in that regard.

The setting of The Selection has the potential to be interesting, but is never really fleshed out. This book is different from a lot of YA books because the main character is actually patriotic. She can see the need for The Selection, and doesn't even really seem to mind the caste system. The leaders, although we don't see much of the king and queen, show every sign of caring about their people and trying to help even the lowest castes. Their world isn't perfect, but they really seem to be trying to improve things.
Illea in general feels like a sad failure. We learn that it was formed by a private citizen of the last name Illea (caste system? Reinstate the monarchy? Yes, that will solve all of our problems!) in the aftermath of the third world war. China invaded America for monetary reasons, and then won, but was unable to hold it in the fighting that followed. Illea rose from the ashes, a monarchy with a caste system that is somehow able to hold its own (although war does seem to be threatening). The caste system seems mostly to be holding, and it's implied that you can buy your way up. It's never really properly explained how the caste system works, but we do know that there are eight levels, and the lower you are the fewer benefits you have. Level one is the royal family, level four includes farmers, level two has some celebrities, five is the arts, six is cleaning, and that's about all we know.
Not all is well in Illea, however. Rebels attack constantly, somehow getting into even the most private rooms of the palace, and the guard are helpless against them. That part was weird, and was never really properly explained. It felt like there was some huge conspiracy, but in this book at least, we never quite see one.
It could have been fascinating, but unfortunately the author just doesn't provide enough information. I'm hoping there's more detail in the next book.

The characters in The Selection are an interesting bunch. The main character, America Singer, is a five, and so is destined to be in the arts. She sings (what a surprise) and plays a variety of instruments, including the violin. She loves her country but feels that something about the caste system isn't right. Her family doesn't always have a lot of money but isn't actually starving. She has a bunch of siblings, including two older ones who have abandoned the family to make their own way, and two little ones, May and Gerad. May is rather annoyingly perky but doesn't show up enough to be worth complaining about, and Gerad seems to exist for no reason other than to be upset about their caste (he wants to play sports professionally).
America's parents are (thankfully) only there very briefly. Her mother is a social climber who seems to care more about her caste number than America, and her dad is kind of just a wimp, but a sweet one. America loves them, although she fights with her mother a lot.
America's boyfriend, Aspen, is kind of a creep, but their relationship feels real enough. America knows that her mother won't be happy with her marrying a caste down, so they've been dating in secret for two years. Aspen loves America and wants to marry her, but is unsure that it's the best thing for America, and feels bad because she's the one providing for him, rather than the other way around.
At the palace, there are some girls who seem nice and others who are barely mentioned. Marlee is the only one we really see. She seems nice, but is also hiding something. We don't really know much about her.There's also Celeste, who's the mean, entitled, rich one. The king and queen don't appear very often, but their son, the crown prince Maxon, is a main character.
America and Maxon meet earlier than expected and become fast friends, possibly even something more. Maxon is okay, although possibly the worst boyfriend ever (he's being forced to date thirty-five women at once, though, so I'm cutting him some slack.) He's a little weird, and cracks me up with random lines such as "it's imperative you're discreet", but he's also sweet and cares about his people, trying to help them in any way he can. His methods aren't always the best, and he does pull rank when he's angry ("It would do you well to remember that I am the crown prince of Illea. For all intents and purposes, I am lord and master of this country...you don't have to agree with my decisions, but you will abide by them."), but he seems to mean well. He also creepily calls everyone my dear ("Janelle, my dear" is one of my favorite lines because of how ridiculous it is). America, as she does so often, sums up my feelings with the line "I smiled to myself at the tired endearment".
Although America wasn't perfect, I found myself liking her. She's influenced by the caste system even though she tries to hide it, saying at one point that she "felt dirty, lower than an eight". At other times though, she has some very powerful things to say to Maxon on the subject of the caste system, at one point going so far to challenge him with the question of "Have you ever been hungry, Maxon? Not just ready for dinner, but starving? If there was absolutely no food here, nothing for your mother or your father, and you knew that if you just took something from people who had more in a day that you'd have in your whole life, you could eat... what would you do? If they were counting on you, what wouldn't you do for someone you loved?"
I can find myself relating to her, and she has her moments. She often says just what I'm thinking- "Kissed him? We'd only just met", "No wonder I'd never had any friends. I was shockingly bad at it", "No, I'm not choosing him or you. I'm choosing me", and more. She also has very realistic ups and downs in self-esteem; going from feeling beautiful to wondering what people see in her in just a few pages.
As a main character, I have very few complaints about America Singer. The other characters aren't the best, but most aren't painful to read. The author seems to have the ability to write strong characters, a definite necessity in any book.

The author isn't the best writer there ever was, but it's not awful, either. I didn't notice anything outstanding about the writing, either good or bad. Could have been better, but so can any book.

And... the rating! I'm giving this book a 2.1 Not the best book ever by any stretch of imagination, but it was okay. It's not going to stay with me forever or anything, but it was an enjoyable read when I had a spare moment.

Thanks for reading. This is my first attempt at writing serious book reviews, so if you have any questions or complaints please comment so that I know what to change for next time. :)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

All Books Are Bad (No, Really)

Welcome to my blog.

The title of this post says that all books are bad. At this point, I'm sure millions of fangirls are screaming all around the world, but I'm still not going to take it back, because it's true. Yes, there are books I like, maybe even love. There are well-written books, there are books with good characters, there are books with amazing world-building, etc. And every single one of them is bad.
What do I mean by bad? I mean that no matter how great a book is, there will be someone, probably several someones, who hate it. Sometimes it's me, sometimes it's you, sometimes it's one of those fangirls who have just stopped screaming to give me a suspicious stare. And that's something that all authors and all readers are going to have to deal with.
I don't mean to discourage you from liking a book. Books are great. Loving books is great. Going insane over a book is... okay, I can't say that's great. But if it makes you happy, go for it. Books, whether you're reading or writing, are for you, no matter what all those writing sites might say. Even when writing for a target audience, somehow it leads back to you.? Maybe it's paying your bills, or maybe it makes you happy to see others enjoying your work, but always it somehow makes you happy. Reading a book is also always something that will make you happy (admit it, it feels good to complain loudly about how boring a book is when you don't want to read it). And that is good
It is my firm belief that there is going to be something wrong with every single book* ever written. Maybe I think that the chapter The Council of Elrond in The Lord of the Rings is the best chapter there ever was (as it happens, I don't, although I often make that claim because if I'm going to have a favorite chapter it amuses me to claim that one), but I still don't deny that it is long, boring, and it's unlikely that anyone would notice if it was taken out of the book.
You're probably wondering what the point of all of this is. It all comes back to my purpose here: reviewing books. I am probably going to be heavy on the negative side of things when reviewing. That's just how I am. But what I'm asking you to do here is understand that we're two different people, and when I insult you favorite book, that's my perception of how it is. I'm not asking you to agree with me, I'm simply sharing my opinion in order to help other people decide whether they're the type of person who would like the book. I'm insulting the book, not you. So when you argue, I ask that you defend the book, rather than counter-insulting me.

*When I say book, I mean novel. If there is something wrong with a textbook, holy book, encyclopedia, dictionary, or any other book of that type, someone other than me is going to have to find it.