☄ Saturday, August 27, 2016

Review: The Amber Project by J.N. Chaney

Into the Dark #1
 Caroline T. Patti
Publication Date: August 18, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books
Reviewer: Anelise

In 2157, a mysterious gas known as Variant spreads across the globe, killing or mutating most organic life. The surviving humans take refuge in an underground city, determined to return home. But after generations of failures and botched attempts, hope is beginning to dwindle. That is, until a young scientist makes a unique discovery—and everything changes. Suddenly, there’s reason to hope again, and it rests within a group of genetically engineered children that are both human and Variant. 

Terry is one of these children, modified and trained to endure the harsh conditions of a planet he cannot begin to understand. After years of preparation, Terry thinks he knows what to expect. But the reality is far stranger than anything he can imagine—and what he will become is far more dangerous. 
Book provided by the author via David Estes R&R Program on Goodreads

I haven't heard much about this book when I first started reading it, but since I really liked the blurb, I wanted to read it. I didn't have low expectations, but my expectations weren't that high either. I was very pleased with the book afterwords and I'm glad I decided to try this book.

The Amber Project is a sci-fi dystopian novel set about 300 years into the future. There's a toxic gas around all of Earth so everybody lives underground. Some scientists make a unique discovery and decide to try to modify the human body so that it can survive in Variant. Because that's obviously what you do when you're stuck underground, right? So anyways, these people are modified before they were born and started training to survive Earth, or what used to be Earth, when they were 7. Basically, this story follows this group of kids, Terry being one of them, as they train to endure Earth. But at the same time, a rebellion against the military starts to brew. Sounds good, right?

I really liked this more than I though I would and cannot wait to finish reading the sequel!

4.5 Owls

P.S. I am so very sorry this is very short and that it's up so late! I've been adjusting to school starting and getting homework so I've been trying my best but school's school, you know? Just gotta get through it.

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☄ Friday, August 26, 2016

Fangirl Friday: September Movie Releases + MORE!

Well it was a successful first week of college for me and I hope it stays like this. Sadly, it won't but you know. We can always look forward to winter break.

But let's look at it this way... we are one month closer to winter break! It's almost September and that means NEW MOVIES!!!

Title: Before I Wake
Release Date: September 9
Rated: PG-13
Synopsis: A young couple adopt an orphaned child whose dreams - and nightmares - manifest physically as he sleeps.

Title: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Release Date: September 30
Rated: PG-13
Synopsis: When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that spans different worlds and times, he finds Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. But the mystery and danger deepen as he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.

Ever seen the show Pretty Little Liars? Ezra? Any bells ringing?

Well Ian Harding who plays Ezra on the show just announced that he will be releasing a new book called Odd Birds!

It will be about his life in Hollywood! It will also include funny stuff from the show Pretty Little Liars. I'm actually excited about his book because he is truly a character from what I have seen on Youtube. He's usually on his costar's channel, Shay Mitchell.

I'm sure you guys have seen this floating around but I'm SUCH a big Disney fan and I have to share this!

This girl is great and man I wish I did something this awesome my senior year. Bummer.

Time to mention what great books are out there now! These were released on August 23!

Title: Spontaneous
Author: Aaron Starmer
Synopsis: A darkly funny and spectacularly original exploration of friendship, goodbyes—and spontaneous combustion.

Mara Carlyle’s senior year is going as normally as could be expected, until—wa-bam!—fellow senior Katelyn Ogden explodes during third period pre-calc.

Katelyn is the first, but she won’t be the last teenager to blow up without warning or explanation. As the seniors continue to pop like balloons and the national eye turns to Mara’s suburban New Jersey hometown, the FBI rolls in and the search for a reason is on.

Whip-smart and blunt, Mara narrates the end of their world as she knows it while trying to make it to graduation in one piece. It's an explosive year punctuated by romance, quarantine, lifelong friendship, hallucinogenic mushrooms, bloggers, ice cream trucks, “Snooze Button™,” Bon Jovi, and the filthiest language you’ve ever heard from the President of the United States.

Aaron Starmer rewrites the rulebook with Spontaneous. But beneath the outrageous is a ridiculously funny, super honest, and truly moving exemplar of the absurd and raw truths of being a teenager in the 21st century . . . and the heartache of saying goodbye.

Title: Thieving Weasels
Author: Billy Taylor
Synopsis: Skip O’Rourke is dragged into one last con . . . but he doesn’t know the con’s on him in this funny, page-turning debut YA for fans of Winger and Ocean’s Eleven. 

Cameron Smith attends an elite boarding school and has just been accepted to Princeton University alongside his beautiful girlfriend, Claire. Life for Cameron would be perfect, except that Cameron Smith is actually Skip O’Rourke, and Skip O’Rourke ran away from his grifter family four years ago…along with $100,000 of their “earnings” (because starting a new life is not cheap). But when his uncle Wonderful tracks him down, Skip’s given an ultimatum: come back to the family for one last con, or say good-bye to life as Cameron. 

“One last con” is easier said than done when Skip’s family is just as merciless (and just as manipulative) as they’ve always been, and everyone around him is lying. Skip may have given up on crime, but there’s one lesson he hasn’t forgotten: always know your mark. And if you don’t know who your mark is . . . it’s probably you. 

Witty and irresistibly readable, this standout debut will always keep you guessing.

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This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab Review

OK, so we’ve heard LOTS about This Savage Song from the Internet and fans alike. I heard so much thunder about this book and I can absolutely tell you right now IT IS WORTH IT.

Alright, onto my main point! I LOVE Schwab has continued the discussion about what makes a person a monster and what makes a human. In the acknowledgements, and I’m sure most fans of Schwab have noticed, she actually quotes a character from her adult book Vicious.
"Plenty of humans are monstrous, and plenty of monsters know how to play at being human."
In the middle of it all, she has provided a character who overwhelmingly wants to be human, and possess all the characteristics we associate with being human including but not limited to: self-doubt, anxiety, hesitancy, nervousness but with a clear moral compass to do good, make the right decisions and keep people safe. August is a likable character, you’d be hard pressed to look at him and not see how his experiences have shaped his way of thinking and actions today. You'd also be hard pressed not to like him.

Then we have another character who is an unreliable narrator and often seems at odds with herself, her decisions and her desires. I found myself questioning many of her decisions. I sometimes felt uncomfortable with some of the things Kate choses and felt confused by some of her desires. Did I agree with them? Did I think they were moral? Is this actually for “the greater good” (notwithstanding the serious reservations I have with this phrase) as she often believed, or is it something else she’s trying to prove?

That all being said, not more than once in this book I found myself asking “Who are the real monsters and who are the real humans?”

Random thoughts:
  • The high degree of music puns was enjoyable, but a lot.
  • Favorite quote: “We are the darkest acts made light.”
I give it 4 owls because of the reasons listed above and it was a completely enthralling, yet also entertaining read. As far as the writing goes, it’s Victoria flipping Schwab. Her writing is engaging with a high degree of fluency and enjoyability. The plot is a whirlwind, fully fleshed out and well executed. It’s like watching the end of The Sixth Sense and being like, “OH yeah, that was hecka planned out.” I would totally read this again, and probably will again when her sequel is published next year.


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☄ Thursday, August 25, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Review

It has been almost a month since the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child script was published. Technically, it's not a novel, but I am not going to let that stop me from giving you guys a review about it. So, before we begin, here is a summary via Goodreads.

 It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

I have not been a Harry Potter fan for a long (It's going to be a year for me), but I had fell in love with the books and read all of them under six months, I went to Universal Orlando and hung out in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade and bought myself an interactive version of Hermoine's wand and I have a Gryffindor t-shirt and sweatpants. Not a big fan girl though.

As for the script, I practically read the entire thing under 24 hours. It was impossible to put down. I don't want to give away too much for those who haven't read the script or have seen the play, so I will be keeping spoilers to a minimum.

I will admit, that when I first started reading, I felt weird. It's not like, a bad kind of weird. It's just a weird kind of weird. I am so used to reading Harry Potter and his friends as teenagers. It's weird to read them as adults.
There were some parts of the play that I was iffy about. I felt like Harry's suspicions about spoilers were a bit too much than his suspicions in the previous stories. Also, as much as I can understand that Albus doesn't want to live in his father's shadow, for an 11-year-old boy, he just gives a brooding first impression.
As for the bad guy of the story, it was pretty predictable once you get through part one of the play. That's all I'm going to say over that matter.

Aside from that, all I can say is that Scorpius is a smol, geeky child that needs to be protected. I figured the reason why J.K. Rowling made Scorpius the way he is, is to give people a better outlook on the Slytherin house. A lot of people are biased, claiming that Slytherin houses evil wizards and witches. I, as a Gryffindor, don't really believe that. Everything, whether its your Hogwarts house or life, has a good and a bad. That point is pretty relevant when we see Draco care for his son.
I wish I could reveal more about the story. I honestly have a lot of funny commentary about the script that I'd like to share. But alas, spoilers. *dies*

As for my rating, I'd give this script 4 out of 5 Owls. Simply because I love how J.K. Rowling is making a point that not all Slytherins are bad and also because of the dynamic duo of Albus and Scorpius. Plus, Scorpius is so geeky and adorable that he automatically gave the book an extra owl.

Honestly, I enjoyed reading the script and I'd recommend it to be read. I'm really hoping that they will record the play so we can watch it online.
That's all from me this week! I hope you guys enjoyed this book review! I'll catch you next time, my fellow witches and wizards!

- Mari

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☄ Monday, August 22, 2016

Novel Newcomers: Interviews with Aimee (Hello Chick Lit) and Joan (Fiddler Blue)

Happy Monday!

This week on Novel Newcomers, I'm going to be featuring two bloggers: Aimee from Hello Chick Lit and Joan from Fiddler Blue. (Also, the questions have changed... Majorly... But in my defense I felt questionably inspired.)

Outside of blogging and reading, what other interests do you have?
Joan: I love traveling, especially to places with gorgeous scenery and beaches. I love walking in the woods, swimming in the ocean, and sleeping under the stars. I dabble with photography too, especially during my travels. Aside from nature and wildlife, I also enjoy visiting museums and galleries to learn more about history and art. I could spend hours in those places, really.
I love anime, Asian dramas, video games, and Zumba. I’ve never been sporty, but I’ve grown to love cycling these days and try to do it weekly.

Aimee: I'm a mom of 3 teens, wife to one and a writing working on completing my first novel. :) I also obsessively clean and love to fill my online shopping carts then never buy LOL

What is your most unusual accomplishment?
Joan: I think I did plenty of things during the past year that I never did before which struck me as unusual, lol. I’m a person who prefers routine and the familiar, but moving to a new country forced me out of my comfort zone. Cooking meals, baking cakes and pastries, driving a car, knitting scarves, and growing vegetables are some of the things I did that I’m quite proud of. I know they seem so mundane and ordinary but I never imagined myself doing them before!

Aimee: The fact that I have 3 thriving kiddos, ages 18, 17 & 12 and I've homeschooled them all. They're smart, funny and responsible!

What is your favorite food?
Joan: Ramen. Japanese cuisine is my weakness.

Aimee: Can coffee be a food? Even coffee flavored food. Yum!! I also love pasta salads, chocolate and bbq chicken! YUM

If bookish worlds were parallel to the current world, what kind of worlds would you like to see exist as a parallel to our world? (That probably didn’t made sense…)
Joan: Harry Potter, of course! It would be amazing to receive an invitation to attend Hogwarts.

Aimee: Right now I dream of a non-racist, non-judgmental world where everyone doesn't spout of crazy opinions and only care about themselves!! (too bad that seems like a 'bookish world')

What kinds of books would you like to see more of/about in the future of books?
Joan: I want NA books that will sweep me away with complicated world-building like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. I want a book that I can be completely immersed in. I want a book that challenges me and makes me think.

Aimee: I love Chick Lit & Rom/Com. I love the 'feel good' books, because when I escape into a book, I wanna feel like it's a vacation!

Name five countries you never see being featured in books that you would like to see more of (and possibly hope to visit).
Joan: Morocco, New Zealand, Tanzania or Kenya, Cambodia, just SEA in general lol.

Aimee: Romania, Iceland, Greenland, New Zeland & Brazil - I've never left the US and have so many places I'd love to go, but I've not read many books in these countries and would love to!

What books would you love to see on screen and does not have its rights sold already?

Aimee: There are SO many but I'll stick with these three...
Chelsey Krause - Can't Always Get What You Want - this so needs to be a movie!
Meredith Schorr - The Blogger Girl Series - this would make a fabulous TV show!
Anything Camilla Isley... love all of hers.

It’s always fun to have one song associated with a book or a character. What song would you associate with some of your most recent reads?
Joan: This is actually difficult for me, since I have limited music choices. Anyway, I love listening to instrumental music and I discovered this YT channel called Brunuhville which has a lot of beautiful fantasy-themed pieces. I think it will go well with books like Nevernight and The Republic of Thieves, which are the books I just recently finished.

Aimee: I'm going to admit, I'm old... I don't listen to a ton of music and when I do it's 'RatPack' music, Sinatra, Durante... you get it. So I put those songs spins on books all the time. It's like the soundtrack to my life. lol

Aimee is a blogger over at Hello Chick Lit. She can also be found on Twitter (@HelloChickLit).
Joan is a blogger over at Fiddler Blue. She can also be found on Twitter (@fiddlerblue).

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☄ Saturday, August 20, 2016

Moral Pendulums | Discussion

The other day, I was listening to a podcast called Writing Excuses and the topic of this discussion was “Your Character’s Moral Pendulum.” In the podcast, the Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, Howard Taylor, Brad Beauliu and Jaym Gates discuss whether they preferred reading (and writing) about characters with a clear moral pendulum, or whether characters who swing back and forth are more interesting. For me, I’m not sure which I prefer, but both are compelling reasons to read. Each serves a different purpose.

In the case of clear moral compasses, I’ve noticed these characters follow more traditional character arcs. For example, Harry Potter is the hero; Darth Vader is the villain; Gandalf is the mentor. These characters, of course, exemplify The Heroic Journey more fully and famously than any other stories. There’s a clear villain and hero. Good triumphs over evil and they all live happily ever after. There is something comforting and familiar about the good guys winning and the bad guys receiving their dues. It helps us keep faith that the world is a good place and that, although it may take a while sometimes, all the wrongs will be made right.

But in the case of characters half in and out of the shadows, the story is a little more complex. Draco Malfoy is one of the characters that come to my mind. Malfoy is the first antagonist Harry meets and I automatically didn’t like him. He was everything Harry wasn’t, knew it and flaunted it. Kids can be jerks, even and sometimes especially at the age of 11. But in the 6th book, we see Malfoy’s descent into desperation and depression. We see him hesitate to kill Dumbledore and we see that he might be a jerk sometimes, but he still is capable of being a good person. To me, he’s a much more interesting character to study than Harry solely because of that. In fact, Narcissa Malfoy is much more complex than Harry and Malfoy put together.

One of the reasons I like morally ambiguous characters so much is they seem so much more realistic. Back to Harry Potter, I identify much more with Narcissa Malfoy than I do with Harry, and definitely more with Han Solo than I do with Princess Leia (whether Han Solo is a hero or not still remains a mystery). To me, a character who’s morally ambiguous doesn’t always do or say what I would say or do. But a morally ambiguous character is more like anyone else in this world than hero’s or villain’s. Because chances are, there’s a little of both in us all.

All this is just my opinion though, what do you guys think? Which characters do you prefer to read/write about?


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Six Trivial Things That Almost Never Appear in Books

Once upon a time, during a partial work day in AP English, I read a book.

That book was called Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters, the first book in Margaret Dilloway's Momotaro series. I've yet to actually write that review, but see... things happened in the past few months and well... yeah.

In that book, one sentence popped out at me:
There's no adult here to tell us to comb our hair or brush our teeth.
And in that sentence, a random blog post idea bloomed, prompting me to kick aside the second part of [hopefully] useful Android apps to another week. It's also been awhile since I've written a fun, bookish post.... Okay, blogging in general if you don't count NN16. Also, said second part of Android apps post never actually got published.

Some of the most trivial things we do aren't actually mentioned in books, even vaguely, unless they're humorous or pertain to the heinous plot of said novel. The chances of the latter are more than likely slim.

No one ever mentions using the bathroom. Yes, yes, peeing and pooping is technically too much information (and totally should not be thrown around oh so casually as I just did, but I promise I don't usually throw that randomly around unless you're on the same level as Lupe), but the only book I remember that uses the words, "Oh, and I kind of need to pee..." is The Conduit by Stacey Rourke.

It was funny in the midst of a stressful time for the main character. Hence, use in moderation. Also, timing is everything.
But really... fictional characters have bladder controls of epic proportions.

The period. No, seriously. The period. All fictional girls go through puberty minus the period, unless said period is part of the plot. Which quite literally falls under TOO MUCH INFORMATION.
Then again, explaining the complexities of using a tampon is no doubt harder than the complexities of using a pad. The guys are getting uncomfortable at this point. *digs self in deeper hole*

Okay, moving on, folks. (This is precisely why I decided to start this post off with uncomfortable.)

Other hairstyles??? There has got to be other ways to depict hair out there than "ponytail" or "straight and sleek." I suppose ponytails are recommended when you're kicking butt, though.
Speaking of which... curly and wavy hair, wherefore art thou? Lupe, if you write a book, your main character better have someone who likes working with hair! (They also need to have something other than sleekishly straight hair.)

Do fictional people even brush their hair? Lo and behold, the very thing that sparked this post in the first place. If no one brushes their hair, shouldn't we get a bunch of knots in the rare instances someone does?

No one actually brushes their teeth. Or anything hygienic, anyways. It's like all the major characters come out with sparkling white teeth – no braces needed, no cavities, no tooth decay...
So their breath automatically smells minty, citrusy, berry... which equates to melting make-out sessions when main character heroine and hunky hot guy or vice versa meet lip to lip for the first time (and every time afterward). That one is an exaggeration.

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let down your hair... The lack of hair cutting isn't surprising because 300 pages of a novel might really be a week in that particular fictional world.... plus, we're so busy saving the world, nobody technically has time to go to the barber shop. I guess that explains why the hair is always in a ponytail. We wouldn't want hair to get in the way of saving the world... do we?

That said, over to you guys. See any trivial things that almost never appear in books? Any thoughts on this particular list (if I haven't scared anyone away with embarrassment)?

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