creative [kree-ey-tiv]: adjective. Synonyms: clever, cool, innovative, inspired, prolific, stimulating.

criticism [krit-uh-siz-uhm]: noun. The act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.

9 Mar 2011

The Magician - Michael Scott

This second installment of The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel picks up right where the first one ended; the twins, Nicholas Flamel, and Scathach are in Paris, where the famous Niccolo Machiavelli is yet another agent of the Dark Elders.
There's plenty of nonstop action, magic, mythological references, you know the drill.
Also, LOOK, IT'S AN AMAZING COVER! With great symbolism, and foreshadowing of the story-arc and stuff!
Now, about the story itself: to be fair, it's a perfectly adequate novel - but I can't help but get annoyed at the obviousness of the identities of the "good"/"bad" guys. Seriously, in this book series every character's use of magic projects their smelly auras everywhere - and by "smelly" I mean that characters can literally smell which characters are supposed to be evil (yum, sulfur! Snakes! Delicious smells, I'm told.), and which are on the "good" side (peppermint, vanilla, oranges, and lavender? Seriously, it's like a fancy organic soap shop, in there!). Although this technique is convenient if you want to expose the content of the character of these characters, it does rob the novel of possible nuances about morality and things; it just pushes them all into definite and sharply defined moral categories, with very little room for subtlety.
Oh well, it's just a YA novel, I'm told; and this review-type of thing is just a half-assed string of words.

24 Feb 2011

Zombies vs Unicorns - edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

This anthology is composed of short stories that are either about zombies (braaaaaiiins!), or unicorns (aka horses with horns that, in one story in particular, have farts that smell like flowers), and sometimes even both (these stories are usually filed under the "unicorn" stories, though, because let's face it, zombies are already awesome on their own - they don't need extra supernatural help). All written by a bunch of great writers, including Cassandra Clare and Scott Westerfeld, whose novels I enjoy very much and who were both members of Team Zombie. Yeah, zombie stories in general are just better than unicorn stories, with their dystopian elements and whatnot.

I must admit, though, that some unicorn stories were better than I expected - The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn by Diana Peterfreund was probably my favorite unicorn story, probably because its unicorns were deadly predators rather than fawning pictures of perfection. An honourable mention goes out to Kathleen Duey, whose story was a first-person narration by a very creepy unicorn. It  really creeped me out.

My all-around favorite story of the bunch (and favorite zombie story to boot) was definitely Love Will Tear Us Apart by Alaya Dawn Johnson, though; it featured a partial zombification caused by a prion (yay, science!), characters that don't necessarily fit typical, expected paradigms (yay, non-heteronormativity!), and tons of references to some of my favorite music (yay, Arctic Monkeys!).

So yeah, I enjoyed this anthology. And for future reference, here are all the authors included in the anthology (why should I write their names down when I can just type them up, leave them here and check back later when I'll want to read new stuff/when I won't be swamped in projects and lab reports?):

Team Zombie (aka TEAM AWESOME):

  • Alaya Dawn Johnson
  • Carrie Ryan
  • Maureen Johnson
  • Scott Westerfeld
  • Cassandra Clare
  • Libba Bray
Team Unicorn:
  • Garth Nix
  • Naomi Novik
  • Margo Lanagan
  • Diana Peterfreund
  • Meg Cabot
  • Kathleen Duey

Hey, look, there's a short promo film here! It features the - pretty epic, I must admit - cover art that's under the black cover for the cover (I'm thinking about the hardcover version, here. Wait, did I even make sense?). Anyways, the cover art's great!

16 Feb 2011

City of Glass - Cassandra Clare

In this third installment of The Mortal Instruments trilogy-thing-that's-over-three-books-now-and-will-probably-be-six-books-I-think?, we get the Epic Battle that we'd all been waiting for ever since we learned that Valentine (Clary's and Jace's father, who is plotting against the good guys) was still alive, back in the first book. In this novel, however, our protagonists spend very little time in New York City; rather, the bulk of the action takes place in Alicante, the (magical?) capital of Idris, the Shadowhunter country.
Also, we learn new things about Clary's past and relatives (some of which were hinted at in the previous books, and some of which WOAH THAT WAS UNEXPECTED. Not unwelcome, but very unexpected.), and we finally learn about the third Mortal Instrument (remember, the first book was about the Mortal Cup? And the second one involved the Mortal Sword? Well, astute readers will finally have their suspicions confirmed/blasted to pieces about the mirror. Wait, that should have been the Mirror - you can't forget the capitalization.).
As for who is gracing the cover art - I'll let you figure it out. And no, it's neither Simon nor Alec (yep, it's a new character - and I won't say anything more because SPOILERS!)
So yeah, I really liked this book, as well as the overall series; it's a fun, easy, action-packed and emotionally rollercoaster-ish read.

9 Feb 2011

Intrigues - Mercedes Lackey

In this second installment of The Collegium Chronicles (which I believe will be a trilogy? I'm not sure.), our protagonist (Mags) is angsty, feels out-of-place, and learns more about his tragic past (by which I mean he finally finds out something about who his parents were. Did I mention he's an orphan who grew up in horrific conditions in a child-labour mine?).
Yeah, parts of it reminded me very much of the DRAMA! of being a young teenager (I'm talking about bieng a 13-15 year old, when having a fight with your best friends meant that everyone got really harsh with each other, and you wanted to run away/die afterwards).
Honestly, I thought this book was just okay; although I guess that if I were still in my I-love-every-novel-and-anthology-there-exists-about-Valdemar! phase, I'd have enjoyed it a lot more.
So yeah, even though it isn't marketed as a YA novel, in my opinion it definitely should be.

8 Feb 2011

Continuity Errors - Steven Moffat

Do you know about Doctor Who?
Or do you just generally like stories about time travel and stuff?
Well, in either case I think you'll like this.
I know I did.

30 Jan 2011

Easy A - That 2010 movie

It's a comedy involving high schoolers and classic literature. The literary references aren't Shakespearian (it's actually American literature, mostly The Scarlet Letter and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - incidentally, two books that I have not read), though, so I can't say it's a Shakespearian teen comedy, but it's pretty close.
Now, there are many things that were very fun about this movie:

  • our main protagonist is witty and hilarious
  • seriously, her parents are also hilarious
  • yes, I actually giggled out loud at many points in the movie - which is actually a pretty rare thing to happen, especially if I'm watching an intentional comedy. So props to that
There were, however, things that I really didn't like about it:
  • firstly, the plot is rather ludicrous - although if you keep in mind that it is entirely from our protagonist's perspective, it makes more sense
  • I mean, seriously, do high schoolers really care about who is allegedly having sex with who? Oh, right - of course they do, it's just one of those thing that I never really got. Yaaay.
  • Most characters aren't very dimensional? They usually have mostly one or two dimensions. But that could be chalked up to the fact that it's all from the protagonist's perspective.
  • And the "best friend"'s attitude towards our protagonist (after the whole scandal thing took off) was infuriating.
So yeah, I enjoyed this movie, even if I found it a bit problematic at times. 

22 Jan 2011

The Red Pyramid - Rick Riordan

This Rick Riordan novel isn't about Percy Jackson or Greek mythology - surprising, right? And it's also a pretty hefty book, with a 514-page long hardcover version - shocking!
It's very good, though; it's all about Carter and Sadie, two first-person narrators and young teenaged siblings whose parents were excellent magicians who followed the Egyptian mythological traditions. And yes, Egyptian mythology and deities are involved - fun!
Everything takes place in the same world as the Percy Jackson series (you can tell by the passing references to the Greek gods), but in different locations. For example, a big chunk of the action takes place in New York City, but in Brooklyn rather than Manhattan, since Manhattan's under the control (or is it jurisdiction? I'm not sure) of gods other than the Egyptian ones. And if that wasn't a reference to Mount Olympus over the Empire State Building, I'm a lemur.
Oh, and I'm thinking that that world is in grave peril a lot of the time. Seriously, it's endangered by Hellenic pandemonium one week, and by Egyptian chaos the next - should I expect some Norse trouble in the near future? (I'd read that.)
In any case, I'll keep an eye out for the next installment of The Kane Chronicles.