Kelley Armstrong Photobombed Me

The one and only Kelley Armstrong during her Q&A

The one and only Kelley Armstrong during her Q&A

Well, not really.  Not intentionally, it just looked like a photobomb.  Sorta.  So it doesn’t count.  But whatever.  I’ll get to that.

Kelley Armstrong is one of my favourite authors.  I have reviewed some of her books on this blog here, here, and here.  I love her style of writing, I love her characters.  I have read almost all of her novels and novellas both for adults and young adults, and enjoyed each one.  The fact that she is from the London, Ontario area is very cool to me as well.

Naturally, when I heard from my bestest Jolene that Kelley Armstrong was going to be doing a book signing and a pre-release event for her latest book Sea of Shadows where you could meet her and have her sign the book for you 3 days before it comes out, I was in.  Especially when I found out that it was as close as Brampton, ON.  Okay, at first I thought it was in Burlington, not Brampton.  But that’s a long, not very interesting story that doesn’t really bring anything to this story, so I won’t expand on that.

So I got an e-mail from Jolene a few weeks ago, telling me that Kelley Armstrong was going to be in Brampton, because she knows that I like her books a lot.  I immediately asked her if she was free and wanted to meet me there.  A true testament to what an amazing friend she is: she didn’t hesitate to agree to drive over an hour to meet me and stand in line with me to wait for an author she has never read, and probably never will read, as it is a genre that she has no interest in.  I also called my good buddy Karen, who I have to credit with introducing me to Kelley’s books in the first place.  She was in too.  I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but I have awesome friends. 🙂

We had an awesome day, got to meet Kelley Armstrong (who is charming as all heck), and got to spend time with two of my dearest friends.  We had a lovely lunch, and we had a great time with lots of laughs.

If you’re into the supernatural at all, both adult fiction and YA, be sure to check out Kelley Armstrong’s books.  She has created an awesome world and characters you fall in love with.  Start with the 13 books in the Otherworld series.  Bitten is the first one.  That’s a good place to start.

Waiting in line

Waiting in line

Meeting a favourite

Meeting a favourite

Sadly, the only pic of Jolene from the day.  She was taking them all!

Sadly, the only pic of Jolene from the day. She was taking them all!

Doesn't it look like she photobombed me?  Maybe?  A little?

Doesn’t it look like she photobombed me? Maybe? A little?

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Book and Movie Review

When I first picked up The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, I had heard that it was very good.  I didn’t expect that it would be in the format that it is – a series of letters written by the main character Charlie, to an unknown entity simply referred to as “Friend.”

Charlie is a teenage boy, and where we pick up on his life, he is just getting ready to start high school.  He really isn’t looking forward to it.  He at that point is trying to come to terms with the suicide of his best friend Michael, who shot himself without leaving a note a few months earlier, as well as the death of his Aunt Helen, who was his favourite person in the world.

It’s hard to describe Charlie exactly.  In reading these letters, there is a innocence about him, and to be honest, there are times when I wondered if he was a bit developmentally challenged.

We follow Charlie as he finds his way through his first year of high school, where a short way in he is discovered and befriended by a very interesting duo – half brother and sister Patrick and Sam.  A couple of seniors who seem to see something in Charlie and take him under their wing.  Charlie is introduced to many new things and new people.  He is accepted right away by their friends, and though it is pretty obvious from early on that he is smitten by Sam, he dates one of the other friends, Mary Elizabeth for a time during the story.  He is introduced to things such as drugs and parties – as well as the complex relationships between people and the fact that as much as you seem to think you know someone, that they are never all that they seem.

Charlie also becomes very close to his English teacher Bill, who also seems to see things and potential in him.  He gives Charlie several extra books to read throughout the year, and has him write reports on each one.  He is a positive figure in Charlie’s life, and he encourages him to his full potential.

This is a book about the coming of age of a teenage boy, discovering love, coming to terms with events of the past, and hope in moving forward.  It is funny at times, usually in the brutally honest way and unfiltered way that Charlie looks at everything, especially his own family and friends.  It is heartbreaking, as we find out the events that turned him into the person that he is, and it is heartwarming to read about the relationships that he develops in the book.  It is thought of by some as a modern day Catcher in the Rye.

So our book club read this book and then decided that we would go see the movie, which we did just a few nights ago.  It stars Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller in the principal roles.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, or how they would translate the format of the book, being the letters – into a movie.

I was not disappointed.  This was really a very good movie.  Perhaps the fact that Stephen Chobosky wrote the screenplay helps, though that is not always the case as in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, where Seth Grahame-Smith managed to completely screw up his own book while turning it into a movie.

This was a very good interpretation of the novel.  There were minor differences, mostly for the sake of continuity, a few things left out, mostly I believe for the same reason.  What they were able to do in the movie that was hard to do in the book was clearly define Charlie.  Because of the way the book was written, I said above that there were times when I actually thought that Charlie was mentally underdeveloped.  The movie does not depict him this way.  Though he has struggles socially, mostly due to events and things that have happened to him in his life, he really is mostly just a sweet, generous, vulnerable young boy with some issues.  Major issues.  The movie, being a visual tool, clearly depicts him in the situations in a way that the book does not.  It actually made me want to go back and read the book again, just to see it through eyes that have seen it on the big screen.

Overall, I was very impressed, both with the book and the movie.  If you haven’t read the book, read it.  Then go see the movie.  I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

Uglies – Book Review

Once again in Chapters, once again with my friend Karen, browsing the stacks, in the YA section, and she points to a book, saying “have you read this?  It’s pretty good.”  This time, she was referring to Uglies by Scott Westerfeld.

I hadn’t read it, so I picked it up.  Of course.

This is the first in a series, followed up by Pretties, Specials and Extras.

This is another story of dystopian fiction.  Our story is about Tally.  She exists in a world where you are either Ugly or Pretty.  You are born cute and remain so until you are 12.  Then you are considered Ugly, and are shipped off to live with the other Uglies until you are 16, where you will undergo an operation to become “Pretty.”  Basically taking away all your features and starting from scratch, making your face perfectly symmetrical, your skin flawless, your hair perfect, etc.  Pretties have no job but to have fun, and party and be happy.  Sounds amazing to an ugly like Tally, whose best friend Peris just became Pretty a few months prior.  She can’t wait until she turns 16 and it will finally be her turn for the operation.

The idea behind these operations are to bring peace to society.  They are based on the idea that if everyone is beautiful, and equal, there will be no wars, no disagreements between anyone, because no one will have anything to fight about.  Flawed logic, obviously, and there is usually a sinister element in these dystopian societies, as people are usually brainwashed into believing that everything is perfect.  The freedom of choice is usually non existent.

On her own as an ugly in the weeks prior to her 16th Birthday, Tally meets and becomes friends with another Ugly, Shay.  They become very close and Tally eventually realizes that Shay feels like there is something wrong with the operation, and society on a whole (Duh!) and she doesn’t want to become Pretty.

Eventually, Tally is given a choice.  And with her own future as a Pretty in the balance, she needs to choose whether to betray her friend and become Pretty, as she has always wanted and has been waiting for her whole life, or rebel and live a much different life than she had imagined.

I liked this book.  It wasn’t literary genius, but the concept is pretty cool, and most of the characters are fairly likable.  Dystopian fiction is really catching on, especially in Young Adult Fiction, and this is unlike a lot of the others.  Tally is a good heroine, spunky and strong, capable and resilient, though for the most part, she is quite taken with the idea of becoming a Pretty and is willing to do whatever it takes to be one.  She is overall a good, caring person, and I like her as the main character.

I’m getting ready to start Pretties, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

 

Divergent – Book Review

I had seen Divergent by Veronica Roth in Chapters many times.  I knew it was a pretty popular book for young adults, and a friend had recommended it to me.  In Chapters it always was in the featured sections, often having a display of its own.  So when Chapters had their buy 3 get the 4th free deal on, I picked it up.

I’m so glad I did.

I am a fan of The Hunger Games trilogy.  I find Dystopian Fiction quite interesting and scary in a sense, because I suppose anything is possible.  Reading Harry Potter and Twilight, there is the fantasy element there with wizards and vampires, so while you’re reading it though you are thoroughly entertained, there is always that element of disbelief.  Obviously.  I mean, Lord Voldemort is scary, yes, but he doesn’t exist. I’d hate to have to go up against the Volturi, but I know I never will.

Books like The Hunger Games, and this one – Divergent – don’t have that magical element.  There is no fantasy here.  This is all about how people have screwed the world up, and due to decisions that real people have made, other real people are controlling others and oppressing others, and brainwashing them to think that it is normal, and that they like it.  That’s what’s scary about it.  I suppose that no matter how outlandish it may seem, it really could happen.  That’s what makes it good though, and that’s what keeps you coming back for more – you’re almost desperate for a happy ending, because in a way it could be your happy ending one day.

Divergent takes place in dystopian Chicago.  It is the story of Beatrice Prior, who is about to choose her path in life.  The city is broken down into 5 factions.  Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful) and Erudite (the intelligent).  At the age of 16, all youth must take an aptitude test to tell them which faction they are most suited for.  Though most stay within their own faction, it is ultimately the decision of the youth themselves to choose one of the five.  If they choose one that is different than the one they came from, it usually means that they will be cutting off all ties from the family they are leaving behind.  They then must survive an initiation process that tests their abilities to the limit, before they are welcomed into the faction of their choice.

Our story centers around Beatrice Prior, a 16 year old from Agnegation who finds out something very interesting during her test, and then must make her choice.  She renames herself Tris, and it follows her story as she works through initiation, makes new friends and enemies, and learns surprising things about herself, and about the people around her that she thought she knew so well.  It’s interesting to read as she tries to figure out who she can trust, who is good, who is evil, and what people’s true intentions are.

I really enjoyed this book.  It’s like Hunger Games, but not.  It’s good, but different.  The sequel, Insurgent, is out, and I’m waiting for the paperback version to be released so I can scoop it up.  I’m really looking forward to reading it.  This was a very fast paced, interesting and entertaining read.  I like the character of Tris because she is definitely the heroine, but she is flawed, not incredibly beautiful, and a bit of a badass at times.  She’s believable, and strong, which is a good example to the female demographic this book is aimed to.  Much as Katniss was an independent, strong female.

Check it out for one of your summer reads.  I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

Darkest Powers Trilogy – Book Review

I recently finished reading the Darkest Powers Trilogy by Kelley Armstrong.  This is a YA trilogy that consists of The Summoning, The Awakening and The Reckoning.

I am a huge fan of Armstrong’s Otherworld series.  My almost 13 year old niece loves the Darkest Powers trilogy, and as she is also a fellow Harry Potter fan, I knew I had to give it a try.

The series centers around 15 year old Chloe Sanders, a student at an art school in New York.  Her mother died when she was young, and she is left in the care of her father, a busy, never there businessman, who likes to flip apartments and move around a lot.  Chloe is taken care of mostly by housekeepers, and her Aunt Lauren, her late mothers’ sister.  She is actually a quite likable character.

Chloe is a late bloomer, but when she does finally “bloom,” look out!  She begins to see people that other people don’t, which leads to a breakdown and she is taken to a group home for troubled teens.  She meets up with some other young people there, all of whom are just a wee bit different.

It doesn’t take too long before Chloe realizes that she is a necromancer, and the people she is seeing are actually ghosts.  A little digging reveals that she is not your typical necromancer, and none of her housemates are very typical either.

Armstrong’s Otherworld series was definitely written for adults.  The language used, situations, etc. are all for adult readers.  This was written for tweens/teens.  It’s actually quite mild in comparison.  Where Clayton and Elena (Otherworld) may be tearing each others clothes off and ravaging each other in the forest, in these books we’re working with eye contact, blushing, hand grazing and more of the like.  The nice thing about reading this trilogy is that it is written in the same context, in the same world.  I recognized terminology, locations, etc. from the Otherworld series.  So any young reader that reads DP will find familiarity when they are older and progress into Otherworld.

Very good, very well written, as all of Armstrong’s books are.

Each separately and the trilogy on a whole – 4/5 stars.

Vampire Academy – Book Review

Over Easter weekend, I finished reading the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead.  I decided to wait until I finished the series before reviewing it, as it consists of six books, all surrounding the same story, and I believe that there are no plans for further books, meaning that the telling of this story is complete.

The six books in this series, in reading order are: Vampire Academy, Frostbite, Shadow Kiss, Blood Promise, Spirit Bound and Last Sacrifice.  The links are to the Goodreads pages, where there is a good synopsis for each one.

As I am reviewing the whole series, it is inevitable that this review will contain some spoilers.  I will however, try to keep them to a minimum and not give away any of the major plot twists in the story.

I will start off by saying that overall, I really enjoyed this series.  I have read the House of Night series (or what’s out of it so far) and I think that the writing in this series was much, much better.  It flowed better, the characters were more believable, and I felt that Mead didn’t try as hard as Cast to appeal to younger people by inserting references to pop culture.  Because of this, these books were much easier to read and held me much better.

The story mostly revolves around our heroine, Rose Hathaway.  She exists in a world where vampires exist.  There are two types of vampires though.  Moroi Vampires and Strigoi Vampires.  Moroi Vampires are living, breathing Vampires, who possess magic.  They are on a whole, good vampires.  They require blood drinking, but only take what they need to survive, using humans that volunteer as “feeders.”

Strigoi Vampires are the bad guys.  They are not born, but made, willingly if a Moroi drinks blood from a human to the point where they kill the human, they become Strigoi.  Humans can also be made into Strigoi by being bitten by one, then fed blood back.  The Strigoi are undead, and apparently without any conscience, ability to feel emotion (aside from anger it seems) and are but shadows of what they were before they were made.

Rose is a Dhampir – half Moroi, half human.  The Dhampirs attend St. Vladimir’s Accademy along with the Moroi.  The Dhampir’s main goal in life really is to protect the Moroi.  The code of conduct that they live by is “they come first.”  The Damphir people are trained to be guardians – basically bodyguards for the Moroi against the Strigoi.  A large reason for this is that Damphirs are unable due to a genetic quirk to conceive children between each other.  They must either mate with Moroi, or a Moroi must mate with a human (which doesn’t happen that often).  So much of the need to protect them is borne of self preservation.

Rose’s best friend is a Moroi named Lissa.  She is the last of the Dragomir family.  The vampire world has several royal families, and upon the death of her parents and brother in a car accident that she and Rose walked away from, she is the last one left.  Rose and Lissa are bonded by a one way bond that basically lets Rose into Lissa’s head, knowing what emotions she is feeling, and eventually being able to see through her eyes.  Rose is training to be a guardian and is actually quite badass.  It is pretty much decided, especially due to their bonding, that upon graduation, Rose will be guarding Lissa.  The bond is quite useful to the reader, as it becomes a way to see what is going on in Lissa’s story when Rose is not physically able to be there, explaining how she’s feeling, as Rose is able to tell that, as well as Rose’s outlook on the situations as she has an ability to see things from outside while being on the inside.  Did that make sense?

So I don’t want to get into the whole story, because I don’t want to give too much away, but this has pretty much everything – action, a very touching and deep rooted love story, deception, magic, devotion, yadda yadda yadda.   There are many twists and turns, Rose is thrown into many situations and always manages to put others before her, dealing with things that are much bigger than her, as well as the usual teenage problems, like parent issues (though hers are a bit more extreme than usual).  She is often her own worst enemy, at times showing great maturity, while still showing how young she really is.  She tends to jump in without thinking at times, though over the course of the books (which last about a year) she grows and matures and becomes an adult.

These books were well written, they kept me interested and wanting more, yet the conclusion was satisfying.  This being said, there is definitely room for another series of books based on these characters in the future, or based around other secondary characters there is room to develop on.

If you’re into YA – or not – and looking for some fairly fast paced reading with characters that you can grow close to and care about, check out these books.  I’m pretty sure they’re all available in paperback now, though I downloaded them all to my Kindle and read them there.

Overall for the series – 4/5 stars.  Worth the time.

Have you read these books?  Loved them? Hated them?  In between? Please let me know in the comments.

The Hunger Games Trilogy – Book Review

 

I just finished reading The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  This trilogy consists of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay.

I’ve decided to write about the trilogy as a whole, mostly because they all go together (obviously) and because I don’t know if it’s possible to read the first one and not want to find out what happens to this story and its characters.  So if you haven’t read them, or haven’t read all of them, please note that while I will attempt to do a spoiler free review, there may be a detail or two that slip out.  Due to this, proceed with caution if that sort of thing bugs you.

So this story takes place in the ruins of what was once North America.  It is now called Panem.  It consists of a capitol city surrounded by 12 districts.  District 13 was formerly the nuclear district, but it was completely destroyed during the “Dark Days.”  The Capitol is a big, beautiful city, where there is tons of food.  The districts themselves range from fairly prosperous to destitute.  Each district is responsible for producing something, mostly to sustain the Capitol.  The whole thing is presided over by a sneaky, evil President Snow, whose main goal seems to be crushing the poor, hardworking people of the districts to a pulp all the while getting out of them whatever he can.

Our story centers around Katniss Everdeen.  She is a 16 year old from District 12, who upon the loss of her father in a horrible accident, and the subsequent mental condition of her mother is forced to become the head of the family, which now consists of her, her mother, and her beloved 12 year old sister, Prim.

Katniss is a hunter, and sustains herself and her family on what she is able to hunt down in the woods with her best friend Gale, who just happens to be totally hot.  They hunt together, though hunting is illegal, she manages to sneak under the fence and meet him in the woods where they hunt and gather to trade and make enough to keep their families alive.

Every year, the Capitol holds The Hunger Games, where each of the 12 surviving districts must reap one boy and one girl starting at the age of 12 to participate.  It is said to be a reminder of the Dark Days.  Really it is just a reminder of the power that the Capitol holds over everyone.  The tributes that are chosen by a draw are put into an arena, in a variety of different conditions.  Past years have been a complete wilderness, an arctic wasteland, etc.  The tributes are made to basically fend for themselves and kill off everyone else.  The last one standing is the victor, and is given all kinds of money, food and a new house.  Everyone else is…well….dead.

On reaping day, Katniss steps forward to be a tribute in the games when her little sister Prim has her name drawn.  She is joined by Peeta, the bakers son, whom she has a history with even though they have never spoken.

Thrown into this situation, Katniss does what she does best – survives.   She manages to outwit the gamemakers and survive, all the while severely pissing off President Snow.

Due to a series of events, she manages to unwittingly become the face of the rebellion against the Capitol, which has been going on underground for a period of time.  There are rebels everywhere, where we least expect them, and there is extensive planning to overthrow President Snow and the Capitol, and restore freedom to the citizens of Panem.

This is a really great story.  It’s supposed to be geared toward young adults, but I really think anyone would enjoy it.  It’s fast paced enough to keep you interested, with a series of plot twists to keep it exciting.  You get drawn in to the character of Katniss, wanting her to survive.  She is, by the end of this trilogy very emotionally scarred.  What she has been through would make it impossible for her not to be.  She is lucky to have people behind her that are unwavering in their devotion and trust of her.  She would not have made it through the way she did if she didn’t have them.

There is also a love triangle in this book.  It’s not really an intense love triangle, as I get the feeling that she would do just fine without either guy.  But she does have a deep love for both men, and they each suit her and fulfill her needs in different ways.  At the end I perhaps wasn’t entirely pleased with the way this triangle turned out, but I understand that based on her character, things turned out in the way that they were supposed to.  There…is that cryptic enough for you?  Not giving away anything!

Overall, I really enjoyed this series.  I literally couldn’t put it down.  I went from one book to the next without stopping.  The first and second book do tend to leave you hanging just a tiny bit, so you may want to have the next book handy when you finish them.

My score – 5/5 stars.

Have you read this trilogy?  Did you like it? Love it?  Hate it?  Please let me know in the comments, I’d love to discuss.