Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Reviewing: End of Days by Susan Ee

End of Days
by Susan Ee

After a daring escape from the angels, Penryn and Raffe are on the run. They’re both desperate to find a doctor who can reverse the twisted changes inflicted by the angels on Raffe and Penryn’s sister. As they set off in search of answers, a startling revelation about Raffe’s past unleashes dark forces that threaten them all.

When the angels release an apocalyptic nightmare onto humans, both sides are set on a path toward war. As unlikely alliances form and strategies shift, who will emerge victorious? Forced to pick sides in the fight for control of the earthly realm, Raffe and Penryn must choose: Their own kind, or each other?

I was waiting for this book for forever. Angelfall shot up to my favorites with five stars, World After was four stars, and now End of Days. Not a bad record, so you'll understand why I was so psyched for this book. (PLUS THE COVER IS SO BEAUTIFUL I AM CRY).

First of all, I missed the emotional element in this book. Angelfall was very focused on it, on how Penryn was feeling on what made her feel. I feel like End of Days didn't quite capture it the same. It was packed with action, with less focus on the characters, in my opinion.

The Romance

Penryn and Raffe are awesome. I really love them together-- their snark is hilarious, they truly need each other, and how much they care for each other, even though neither of them are very talkative about it, is very apparent. However, I have to say I didn't love Penryn as much in this book as the other two. I don't know. I suppose it felt very... uncharacteristic of her to be so enamored with Raffe while the end of the world is happening. Of course, I have never fallen in love during the apocalypse, but it seems like all the death and blood would be at least a little distracting.

The World

Just as dark as before. In fact, maybe a little darker. I will say this: Susan Ee really knows how to describe the gore. It made me feel a little queasy to think about some of the things that Penryn witnesses. It is truly horrifying, and I'm glad, actually, that the author wasn't afraid to show that side of the world. It made it feel more real-- the fear more believable. You can practically feel the urgency and terror in your bones.

The Characters

You learn a lot more about the Watchers in this book. They were not what I expected. Paige was also present, of course, and I was (again) really interested in the dynamic between her and Penryn. It didn't disappoint. Obi, Dee and Dum, Penryn's mom... they're there as well. Not nearly as much as the first two books, but their presence is mentioned often-- particularly in the case of Penryn's mom. She's always in the back of Penryn's mind, affecting Penryn's choices without Penryn even realizing it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Reviewing: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman + Meagan Spooner

These Broken Stars
by Amie Kaufman

Luxury spaceliner Icarus suddenly plummets from hyperspace into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive -- alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a cynical war hero. Both journey across the eerie deserted terrain for help. Everything changes when they uncover the truth. 

The Starbound Trilogy: Three worlds. Three love stories. One enemy.

Spoilers are in these: [  ] Highlight to read.

I wanted to love this book lots. I expected a lot of sarcasm and banter between Lilac and Tarver. But it was more just "meh." There wasn't a lot of action, and there was a lot less space then I wanted. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I was falling asleep reading this book-- I read in in a couple hours. But what kept me reading had nothing to do with questioning whether or not they would live due to the harsh circumstances. Rather about the planet itself.

Lilac and Tarver

There is less sarcasm/banter and more just hating each other. And then they just... DON'T hate each other. For me, it was a very fast transition. I was a little confused. In fact, I thought they'd have to work out their issues or something. At least discuss some of the many reasons why their relationship WOULDN'T work out before actually being in a relationship. BUT NOPE. Their interactions go from heated arguments to passionate kisses within a page. WHAT. WHAT WHAT.

Individually, I have to say I liked Tarver a lot more than I liked Lilac at first. I thought she could have found better ways to handle things than by manipulating at every turn. You avidly flirt with a guy, then cruelly ditch him the next day? Um. Why would you even flirt with him in the first place if you KNEW it was never going to happen? Lilac did have a lot of development-- probably more than Tarver. She really matured, and I appreciated that. My only issue is that they seem a lot older than they are. Lilac is 16. Tarver is 18. They both seemed over twenty. And I hate to say this, but I didn't really see the two being a great couple. They seemed to be together mostly because of how much they needed and depended on each other for survival. Other than Lilac and Tarver, there is no one else interacting within the book.

The World(s)

Well, obviously, the setting changes rather dramatically. First of all you're on the spaceship Icarus. The next, on a foreign planet with no other signs of human life. Maybe it was just me, but this book didn't feel very... survival-ish to me. I mean, yes, they're trying to survive, but it felt pretty easy. They had food rations. A canteen that purifies water. They were hiking through woods. I LIVE around woods. It's not that hard to find water sources or edible vegetation, and, if you can set traps like Tarver can, there are tons of little animals all over the place. Your problems lie solely in shelter and bugs.

Of course, there are the "hallucinations," but I thought that they brought about more questions to push the plot forward-- not that they added to the action or the element of survival.

[Also, what was with the whispers and bringing Lilac back? I'm still not entirely sure how they were able to manifest other objects, even living objects, through their energy.]

To be completely honest, I would have loved to learn about the other planets and how they functioned as well as how the Colonies were so different, and how they powered everything. I wanted to know the details of space life, but the only time the book really describes it in detail is in the first couple chapters.

In my opinion, the world was what made this book interesting, not the characters.

Monday, July 27, 2015

BTS || Red Bullet Episode II || Chicago

WARNING: There is a lot of all caps and random screaming in this post. Also, it's all about k-pop, or, more specifically, BTS. More blog posts about books/reading/writing will be coming soon! 

Also, be sure to read Skylar's posts about meeting blogger friends and the concert-- both in Chicago! She has pictures. ;)

Okay, so... July 24th, 8 PM. That was the plan. We got there at around 8:20, after an extra four hours of being held back by traffic jams. Two cars were on fire. There were accidents all over the place and a huge section of I-65 was shut off. Rosemont Theater isn't a huge as I thought it would be. Which is awesome, because it meant we were that much closer to BTS.

When we stepped inside the theater, we got our tickets scanned. My hands were shaking so bad I could hardly open up my ticket for the lady to scan. I could hear the crowd. At this point, my heart was pounding super hard in my chest and my stomach was in knots. We were so late. WHAT HAD WE MISSED. Not only did we hear screams, we heard Rap Monster talking. My sister and I traded desperate gazes and whispered screeches of "I can hear him talking!" HIS VOICE GAVE ME A STROKE. And yes, he sounds exactly the same in real life. There was no question whose voice it was.

So, my sister and I are running up those stairs about as fast as we can possibly go. I'm not kidding. I have never gone up stairs that fast. My heart is thudding super hard, my palms are sweaty, I feel on the verge of having a nervous breakdown. We show the guy at the top of the stairs where our seats are (or rather, my sister does), and he says, "I'm gonna take you guys closer. Okay?"

And OF COURSE we were like "Yeah," except my sister was the only one who answered. I was more just violently nodding. If I spoke, I was pretty sure I was going to A) hurl B) scream C) both. 

We head in, and the screams hit me like a truck. (Although they were nothing compared to towards the end). The guy leads us deeper into the theater, towards the balcony, and I see BTS. I ALMOST DIE. Not even exaggerating. At this point, I'm not even hearing the guy talk anymore and this is going to sound incredibly corny, but I swear I wasn't even aware of anything else happening. It was like everything else was violently ripped from existence. 

FIRST OF ALL. I spammed everyone who follows me on Twitter with stuff about their in real life beautifulness, but I still have so much more to tell on what happened.

When They were Saying Good-bye:
V kept doing these super high notes where he went higher each time and the crowd copied the high notes. He went so high that even his voice cracked a little. He'd done it like four times when he yelled "I LOVE YOU" with a massive grin on his face. (Of course, everyone screamed). 

J-hope yelled "Saranghaeyo!" and made a heart with his arms while hopping in a circle. His English was not the best but it was so adorable hearing him try. 

Jungkook was so awkward and adorable. "I guess, um... I love you." He had the shyest smile on his face.

Jin made everyone be super quiet so he could talk. He put his fingers to his lips and just gave everyone a disapproving look until they were quiet. I kid you not the entire stadium went from screaming at the top of their lungs to low rumblings and occasional screeches of JIN I LOVE YOU in seconds. 

Suga's voice is so deep and he talks pretty slowly. He talked about remembering us forever, and us remembering him forever too. He kept smiling while the crowd screamed before he'd even talked. I think he laughed a little, too. (HIS SMILE IS PRECIOUS).

Jimin was toying with the edge of his shirt the entire time with this mischievous grin on his face. He talked in this super dorky low voice that made the everyone laugh but I have no idea what was said other than "I lub you See-cago!" His voice is so cute. I am cry. (Also, what was he even doing with his arms? Air running?)

Rap Monster talked about knowing about Chicago since he was little and always wanting to come here to perform. I knew his English was good, but it's AWESOME. He has no accent at all.

Other Details:

I know I've already said this on Twitter, but they all look tall and built. NONE of them look gangly at all. Not even Suga or Rap Monster! In my opinion, Jin, Rap Mon, and V are the most built. Their SHOULDERS. I was so stunned when I first saw them that I actually had to take time to locate them because A) I was hyperventilating B) and shaking AND C) they looked so different from how they looked in videos.

But they're all beautiful. Seriously. How are they all so gorgeous? 

My sister and I both agreed that the best part of the concert was seeing how happy they were to see the crowd get so excited. Their smiles are all so proud and happy, and I'd be lying if I said seeing them didn't make me feel the same way. 

They made us sing Miss Right, which we were... rather mediocre at the first time around. (We were horrible). J-hope just smiled hugely and gave us thumbs up and yelled (with a very strong accent), "SO GOOD. YOU ARE SO GOOD." Rap Monster said, "You can do better, c'mon, let's try again." So we did. We tried about three more times, and we actually got pretty good. J-hope even screeched/sang some of it for us so we'd do better.

The crowd got super hyped during Cypher. J-hope chucked an empty water bottle into the crowd after spraying it all onto them, and they all slayed the rapping SO HARD. Their energy was insane, but it still wasn't as much as it was at the end. The entire concert, the energy was just building and building.

Rap Mon taught us how to say "I like you," in Korean. Their reactions to the whole theater yelling "I LIKE YOU" were so adorable. They were all shy smiles and little laughs.

Best night ever, by far.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Short Review: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona's powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

I read the first version of Nimona when it was being uploaded onto Noelle Stevenson's website. I read the whole thing in one day. And it's a good thing I did, because only a couple days later, it was taken down and replaced by the first three chapters. I knew it was being published, but I was still so delighted to see it in Barnes and Noble that I practically screeched in the middle of the aisle. 

I then proceeded to drag my sister towards it while happily pointing and going, "LOOK IT'S NIMONA I LOVE NIMONA I NEED IT IN MY LIFE."

Well, I read it again and loved it even more. There are parts that weren't online, and an epilogue. PLUS, sketches of early versions of the characters, along with two Christmas specials that were online. 

I am very happy. 

On the cover, it says "Full of humor and heart." (Rainbow Rowell said that, in case you were wondering). I honestly couldn't have described it (at least, in one sentence) better. It's both hilarious and heart-warming. You become so involved with the characters-- even the ones you might not like. Noelle Stevenson's humor feels effortless. It's AWESOME. 

The friendships between characters feel so real and, despite whatever has happened between them, the bonds always seem like they go beyond the jokes and snark you read. 

It does get dark. I've read much darker and creepier books, but Nimona didn't flop in the "dark" department at all. In fact, I thought it was also brilliant. There are two sides to everyone, and Noelle Stevenson takes that to a whole new level. 

So, was it worth the money? YES. DEFINITELY. 100% RECOMMEND. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Reviewing: Splintered by A.G. Howard

Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

Spoilers are in these: [hellooo] Highlight to read them!

I went in with wondrously high expectations. I mean-- it's twisted. It's a retelling. Yes, please, with multiple cherries on top. 

I wouldn't say I'm disappointed, but it's not as fabulous as I thought it would be. When I first finished the book, I thought it was the best thing I'd read in a while (but then, it's the first thing I've read in a while, so...). After some thought, I found a few faults, but nothing that made me dislike the book. Just... something that bothered me a little.

Those faults start with Jeb. Now, I liked Jeb. I did! I didn't loathe him or immediately pinch my nose closed in an attempt not to hurl whenever he made an appearance. I liked his presence. It was a good feeling knowing that if Alyssa found herself about to die again, she'd have someone who would save her. It's just... he was really controlling. 

I have a thing about controlling guys. I want to bash them with baseball bats. The problem is, Jeb was sweet, too. I want to hug sweet guys and give them friendly pats on the head (my height often causes slight issues with the pats). Obviously, this was confusing. Do I hit Jeb with a bat??? Do I hug him???

No one should decide your college for you. I know this comes completely out of the blue to people who haven't read the book, so here: Jeb and Alyssa's dad made a decision together to not let her go to a college she wanted to go to. (That's just one examples of his controlling-ness).


That made me greatly annoyed.


Other than how controlling he could be, Jeb was a good person for Alyssa to be with. He sticks with her, no matter what. I actually grew to want them together, and as surprising as it might sound the ending ruined a bit of that for me. [He won't remember what they went through together! They got so close and learned so many things about each other and risked each other's lives to save each other, but all that is lost to him. URGH.]

And Morpheus. Ahhh, Morpheus. The focus of so much drama. Surprisingly, I neither loved him nor loathed him. I was more just... vaguely irritated with him. I will say that I did start to like him more at the end of the book, though.

Here is why I was torn:

A) He was very manipulative. Bad, Morpheus.
B) You could tell that he shared a very deep connection with Alyssa that allowed him to see the very few parts of her that Jeb couldn't. The hard choices. Her wild side.
C) But that did not excuse how much he lied to her throughout the book.
D) [His confession of deep, unselfish love came COMPLETELY out of the blue. It took me a while before I even bought it a little bit. I'm still questioning if he meant every word.]

Now, finally, to Alyssa. Alyssa is not the best main character I've read, but she is good. She's determined, she's loyal, she will do anything for those she loves, and she's smart. Of course, she has her faults, but they're realistic, and nothing unforgivable.

What really made the book for me was not the characters, but the descriptions. They are AWESOME. Obviously, since Wonderland is now twisted and creepy, the descriptions were important. I wanted A. G. Howard to describe ALL THE THINGS. And she did. It was fabulous. From the way a clam looks sitting in the bottom of a boat to the way a corpse looks in certain lighting-- it was all done wonderfully. I really don't know how else to say that she rocked alllll the descriptions. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Top 5 Genres I Want to Write In

Note: Regarding some of the following genres-- I have actually written in them. I just want to write well in them.

1. Fantasy

I haven't written in fantasy in aaages. The first time I did, it was like I took every fantasy creature, every cliche fantasy world, a perpetually angry werewolf prince, a clueless girl with links to the royal bloodline and expected them to get along. The last time I did, I wrote about changelings and hell hounds and a man called the Time Keeper, which is such an original name. 

2. Steampunk

I've never tried steampunk! I've only read around two books about it, actually, so I also don't know very much about it. But it interests me and I would love to write something in this genre, just to test the waters and see how it goes. 

3. Futuristic

I'm actually in the process of writing two futuristic books right now-- but I've never finished any drafts that I was pleased with. This is very disappointing and makes me sad whenever I think about it, but hey. Rome wasn't built in a day. I have plans to finish one of them soon. The other, well... it might take a little longer.

4. Horror

I've very recently started to have more creepy book ideas. And even though I'm not very skilled at writing creepily, I'm getting better. (But it's a slow process. I really don't think I'm a skilled enough writer to tackle some of the ideas). I would really love to write a horror book from the view of the villain. Wouldn't that just be deliciously chilling? 

5. Romance

Well, that was quite a jump. Straight from horror to romance. I should've put this after contemporary (maybe I could just smush the two together). 

I'm going to be completely honest: Romance is not my strong point. The couples I write are simply not romantic people. They're fighting wars. They're ruling countries. They're saving the world (or, y'know, setting it aflame). Who has time for kisses and declarations of love? 

But I would like to try my hand at simply having two people fall in love. (Although it sounds quite boring to write. Where would I put the explosions and death???)

Also, I'm sure this is nothing new to anyone who reads my blog, but if I disappear again, the reason is because my computer has been super slow recently. :( 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Reviewing: How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller

A meth dealer. A prostitute. A serial killer.

Anywhere else, they’d be vermin. At the Mandel Academy, they’re called prodigies. The most exclusive school in New York City has been training young criminals for over a century. Only the most ruthless students are allowed to graduate. The rest disappear.

Flick, a teenage pickpocket, has risen to the top of his class. But then Mandel recruits a fierce new competitor who also happens to be Flick’s old flame. They’ve been told only one of them will make it out of the Mandel Academy. Will they find a way to save each other—or will the school destroy them both?

I thought this book was going to be way lighter. I thought, y'know, it's kind of a "fun" cover. I bet this is going to be funny and lighthearted. About friendship and bonding and all that jazz.

Well, I was "kind of" wrong. And by kind of, I mean I would be closer to being right if I said the sun was a couple thousand feet away. 

The main character, Flick, is borderline villain the entire book. It crosses over a couple times, and then he is pure evil. I kinda loved it, and I was kinda creeped out by it. (I mostly loved it though. Shhh.) I've always kind of been curious about people's limits (this is where I tell you, no, I am not psychotic). Where do they cross the line? Is there even a clear line that exists between good and bad? 

The characters are all rather insane. And by insane I mean they murder anyone they feel threatened by and decide to kill people they feel don't matter. They only stop because there's a minimum amount of students they can have. How pleasant, amiright? 

Everyone (EVERYONE) is emotionally manipulative. Everyone has skills that make them deadly. If there is a weakness, it's that they're too in touch with their emotions. They care too much. Or else they're just oblivious to the power hungry vultures surrounding them. 

loved seeing Flick outsmart other students. I loved reading his thoughts, even though they're twisted. He is so incredibly observant, so distrusting, yet the things he loves he will do anything for. He is definitely the part of the book I loved most. He's so unlike other main characters-- meaning, in this case, that at times you have to stop and wonder if he's actually insane, if he's actually good... or if he's just another psycho in a whole school of them. 

The other characters: Joi, Gwendolyn, Mandel... They were all so well-written and fleshed out that all I can do to the author is bow. 

There is no clear good and bad in this book. There are good and bad motives, but doesn't every villain feel that their motive is the best? Their way of getting to their goal is what tells. And even sometimes, it's impossible to tell. 

So, yeah. That was me hopefully forming coherent thoughts because this book blew my mind. If incredibly dark books freak you out, you should maybe think about not reading this. But if you feel like it'd be a walk in the park, you should definitely go for it.