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Sunday, August 29, 2010

10 Reasons I Loved and Hated Mockingjay (SPOILER FREE) [with side commentary by Rica Eat World]

Though this review is spoiler free, PLEASE DO NOT READ IT if you haven't read the previous two books: The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Note: Commentary by Rica will be in THIS COLOR

Title: Mockingjay
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Dystopian
Target Audience: Teens and adults. (very violent)
Pages: Hardcover - 400 pages

My name is Katniss Everdeen. Why am I not dead? I should be dead.

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans -- except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay -- no matter what the personal cost. - summary from Goodreads

Two years ago, The Hunger Games astonished readers with its gripping action, screwed up society, and mesmerizing characters. (5 hoots)

Catching Fire once again dazzled readers with a plot riddled with horror and beauty. (4.5 hoots)

Readers, marinated with the suspense that the last pages of Catching Fire drizzled, waited for Mockingjay, the most hyped and extolled book of the year...


5 reasons I loved Mockingjay

"Fire is catching! And if we burn, you burn with us!"

1. The plot unfolds very differently from what one might expect, but Collins manages to execute it beautifully. Mockingjay is destined to be controversial since it's a completely different type of book than the previous two; it has more discussable aspects for people to base opinions on. This book makes readers realize that the trilogy is far greater than the much debated love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale, and even greater than the first Hunger Games itself. Mockingjay is about the ethics of war, government, the personal battles of the characters, and the future of Panem. Katniss compares the war to an astronomical Hunger Games, where the players are everybody, including President Snow. The sudden plot spins will flabbergast readers, and the book ends with the flourish of a controversial, brilliantly shocking conclusion. Collins employs the most merciless, brutal ending possible, obliterating any of the book's entertainment value. At first, I disliked the epilogue since it seemed incomplete and wishy-washy, but in retrospect, it ends the book impeccably, with a simple, beautiful last line that tones the series with finality and wrenches at my heart. Though the ending is morbid, I'm glad that Collins didn't end this book with a sugary, Disney movie ending. Readers finishing Mockingjay will feel heavy, stunned, and fragmented.

--Like Okapi, the plot's dives and curves left me both stunned and breathless. I literally found myself gasping out loud late into the night, an accomplishment for Collins considering that with most intense moments in intense books, I just make a mental gasp, too lazy and not shocked enough to use my breath. And also, I loved the violence. :)

“'Oh, no. It costs a lot more than your life. To murder innocent people? It costs everything you are.’”

2. The intense action...and deaths. Toward the end of the novel, tearing this book from my eyes would have been physically impossible. Once again, Collins is creative with the menaces that threaten to hurt Katniss and company. Mockingjay is violent, possibly even more so than the previous two novels, with battle scenes mirroring Iraq and other war zones, places where violence kills a plethora of innocent people. The severity is gripping, horrific, yet passionate so I cannot look away. Collins makes the war more emotional by elaborating on some of the characters' personalities. Thus, a few deaths slam harder onto readers' hearts, splattering the book with vivid shades of emotion and loss.

--In reality, whether we like it or not, people do indeed die. And that's the way it should be in books. Not just the characters left on the sidelines. Death is stealthy and by the way of nature, it carries off souls that we hold dear to us. Collins plays this beautifully in Mockingjay, and though the deaths of certain characters does tug on my heartstrings, it completes the book in a way that makes it all the more realistic and enjoyable.

"Because something is significantly wrong with a creature that sacrifices its children's lives to settle its differences. You can spin it any way you like... But in the end, who does it benefit? No one. The truth is, it benefits no one to live in a world where these things happen."

3. The ethics. While the previous two books brush upon ethics, Mockingjay elaborates on the morals embedded in the story. The Hunger Games deals with the rights and wrongs of sacrificing children to control a society, and this book continues to face this dilemma. During the novel, Katniss's moral compass swerves a tad off balance, and she will never be able to truly redeem herself from the innocent she killed, making her a questionable heroine. However, ultimately, she manages to regain her morals at the end in a glorious, tense moment. She rebels against cruel demagogues and those who attempt to secure a seat of power using unethical tactics. Mockingjay ventures beyond the cruelty of the Capitol; Collins's passionate prose dives into the corruptness of human nature. Readers will have nightmares about the horrific world inside Mockingjay long after they turn the last page.

“We’re fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction.”

4. Growing characters. Collins nurtures the characters from the previous two books, and their personalties acquire a new dimension. The reader will glance at the burning anger in the deep chute of Gale's soul; Finnick adds a whole other aspect to his profile; Prim transforms into a strong young heroine; and the rest of the ensemble evolves. Katniss's personality develops fragile, tortured areas that never made appearances in the prior books, and she makes it clear that she'll never be healed. The backstories of Finnick and Haymitch underscore the brutality of the Capitol, shocking me enough to put the book aside for a moment. President Snow remains a manipulative, heinous villain, and his permanent, literally bloody mouth is nefarious touch.

“We’re fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction.”

5. The unforgettableness. Whether due to the gory violence, vital messages, breathtaking plot line, or compelling characters, I will never forget Mockingjay. This downright gripping story is passionately moving, a dismal but beautiful end for a fantastic series. The more I think about Mockingjay, the more I relish it, finding it an apt way to conclude the trilogy. Due to the brutality, this book is hard to read, and I doubt I'll reread it for a long time, unless to clarify some parts. Though the trilogy is over, the haunting echo of Mockingjay's ending will forever resound in the minds of readers across the world.

--The ending was just how I wanted it to be! No spoilers though, I promise :)

Bonus Reason:

6. The food. Whenever Collins describes what Katniss eats, my mouth salivates and cravings wrack my body. In fact, during the eight hour period I read Mockingjay, the only time I abandoned the station of my couch was to snag some oatmeal, which I normally abhor, but Collins causes me to pine for it. My mouth longed to taste the creamy blue frosting when Collins describes a cake Peeta bakes. Her frequent mention of edibles makes me want to lick the food straight off the page. Her technique of mesmerizing the readers with food reminds me of J.K. Rowling, whose feast paragraphs pop the food off the page.

--Remember the lamb stew from the first Hunger Games? I would like to assure you that they make an appearance in Mockingjay as well. Dried plums included. :P

5 reasons I disliked Mockingjay

1. Katniss's emotions. Most of Katniss's emotions consist of being “empty” or “numb”. In fact, I cannot recall her feeling anything else, which gets really annoying; after a while, her monotone feelings make me want to scream at her in frustration. When loved ones die or she achieves something close to peace, Katniss never wavers from feeling “numb” inside. I kept waiting for other emotions to show, yet all she relinquishes is a torrent of whininess and self-pity. Katniss is expected to be broken after two Hunger Games, but she is so unstable that it's hard to relate to her. She never pulls herself together, and the book becomes a serenade of broken notes.

--The reason why, unlike the other two, I will not re-read Mockingjay countless times, is that this book doesn't really make me happy at all. While I love the action, this book was lost in an abyss of everlasting gloom. Tension reigned. Being locked into Katniss' mind, I was forced to listen to the torrent of depressing thoughts that plague her, causing me, as a reader immersed in her world, to be depressed as well.

2. Katniss the pawn. Many reviews grumble that a pawn of war, controlled by upper forces, replaces Katniss's independent warrior girl image. I have mixed feelings about this. First of all, I'm glad that Katniss's invincibility aura seen in the prior novels melts away, because now she is more realistic against the gruesome backdrop of a warring country. However, I am not a fan of Katniss being so easily manipulated, because she never decides on her own, unlike the liberated girl seen in The Hunger Games. Manipulating Katniss grows dull after a few pages, and I miss her dynamic sequences of independent action. In Mockingjay, her acts of defiance include skipping classes and hiding in the closet, callow "rebelliousness" that can only be found in high school. Also, she never becomes a true Mockingjay, a symbol for the rebellion in Panem, because superiors always control her, except for a single scene near the end of the book when Katniss actually thinks for herself.

3. Strange pacing. Unlike the previous two breath stealers of the trilogy, Mockingjay arrives on a glacially slow note. After barreling through the beginning, questing for the action, I found myself entrenched in the slow middle that consists of cameras and creating propaganda, not the expected action. If Mockingjay was not part of The Hunger Games I would have been bored out of my mind. Fortunately, toward the end, the speed accelerates, throwing the reader into the same level of excitement seen in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. Panting, Mockingjay rushes off stage a little too fast, leaving the reader broken and hanging.

--The beginning was sluggish as Collins sets up the scene. I know this is inevitable, but I felt that Mockingjay would've been a bigger hit if Collins has kicked it off with a bang. The intro largely consists of Katniss' thoughts as she staggers through the remains of District 12. Paragraph after paragraph went by with no dialog whatsoever, up until page 15 when someone FINALLY released me from the droning lines by saying something. As much as the very beginning bored me, I was still intrigued, longing to quench my thirst for some action.

4. Keeping track of new characters. Collins rapidly introduces character after character, barely leaving me time to remember their names before their tragic demises. She completely glosses over their personalities, only talks about their names, and in the end, I do not care if they live or die. Remembering the soldiers' names is an arduous task; Collins clumsily announces their presences. The leader of District 13 takes on a blurry identity, and the book would be more wholesome if readers know what makes her tick.

5. The bleakness. While I see why Collins wants to strip this book of hope and happiness, comic relief is basically nonexistent in this story. The darkest of the trilogy, Mockingjay is devoid of Peeta's humorous remarks, and the only dialogue close to lightness is Haymitch's half hearted jokes. Even J.K. Rowling manages to squeeze in some jocular comments amidst the lethal battles of Deathly Hallows, resulting her series to conclude in victorious, grand swoop, despite all the death. The book is violant enough to squeeze away any smidgeon of entertainment readers found in the previous two novels. Mockingjay somberly marches out, depressing and grave.

--See my response of #1: Katniss's emotions.

An observation...

Once scene in the book seems directly pirated from the pages of Twilight. Did the conversation between Peeta and Gale while Katniss is half asleep remind anyone of a certain Edward/Jacob conversation that took place in a tent? I'm starting to dislike the whole scenario where the I-think-she's-asleep heroine accidentally overhears a heart to heart between her top two contenders.

--I too saw the stark similarities and yet, though I found the exchange in Eclipse sappy and cheesy, I must admit that I didn't mind this snippet in Mockingjay. After countless pages of non-stop action, it was a fresh change to read about this soft moment between our two heroes. To hear their thoughts on the topic after being deprived of scenes concerning this issue for so long, was refreshing and gave the book another angle.

In conclusion...

This book is ineffable, the good outweighing the bad. While not my favorite in the trilogy, it lived up to the hype and ended Katniss's journey in a stunning and different manner, which definitely outweighs a boring and predictable closure. This book is bound to receive more varied opinions than the previous two, due to its controversial plot twists and conclusion. Despite the imperfection, Mockingjay is destined to brand the trilogy as a classic.

--Agreed.

Cover: 4/5 - Overall, this cover is mediocre, and my least favorite of the trio due to the washed out colors. However, this ambiguous cover is imbued with symbolism. Unlike the previous two covers, the Mockingjay breaks free from the constraints of a pin, and it glides through the air, wings outstretched. The realistically drawn bird in center stage symbolizes that the rebellion is real and in the spotlight, or it could represent Katniss during the time she's needed the most. The background, a hopeful sky blue, represents freedom and promise for the citizens of Panem.

Rating:
4.5 hoots


Books before this:
The Hunger Games
Catching Fire

Source: Bought from Amazon :)


Mockingjay Discussion Thread! (with spoilers!)

Mockingjay (large)

Rica and I have just finished Mockingjay, the final book to The Hunger Games trilogy. This book is the type that needs to be discussed! If you want to discuss this book, spoilers included, please comment! 

We'd love to know what everybody thinks! Rants, praise, and tirades are welcome! :)
To see what we thought of this book, CLICK HERE

Warning: THE COMMENTS SECTION WILL HAVE SPOILERS


Updates from Rica Eat World :)

Hey guys! Hope you're all having an apeagesauce week so far. I just wanted to share some new discoveries found by Okapi, myself, and my good friend Angelatarantula over at The Book Buzzer. So here we go..

1. So while shopping in the city, we came across a cutesy (but ridiculously expensive) clothing shop. While browsing, we gawked at this:


Is that not the kewlest ceiling decoration you have ever seen!? We loved how the lights were protruding from the stack of books. Very creative.

Okay moving on.

2. The next day, after seeing that mind-blowing show piece above, Angela's dad was kind enough to teach us the game of bridge. The three of us had been wanting to learn about tricks, trumps, bidding and all the fun stuff. Inspired by The Cardturner by Louis Sachar, a great 4.5 Hoot novel about a kid who plays bridge, we were eager to follow Alton, the main character's, footsteps in learning the complex, strategic game. It turned out to be VERY fun and I totally recommend you guys learning how to play. The basics are quite, well, basic, and you'll probably be able to pick up on it soon enough. Okapi and I partnered up against Angela and her dad. While we were able to win two rounds, we managed to loose to the opposing team overall. 0 against -250. Curse their "double" bid.

3. Angela found this uber cool site called Save the Words. According to the site...

"Each year, hundreds of words are dropped from the English language.

Old words, wise words, hard-working words. Words that once led meaningful lives, but now lie unused, unloved, unwanted.

Today, 90% of everything we write is communicated by only 7,000 words.

You can change all that. Help save the words!"

So once you get to the site, you see a plethora of fascinating, mostly unknown words. All you do is click on it and "adopt it." Adopting the word means...

"I hereby promise to use this word, in conversation and correspondence, as frequently as possible to the best of my ability."

That way, that one word won't forever be forgotten. Let's engulf the world with cool words once again! :) This week, I adopted the words: pamphagous, fopottee, and tortiloquy. (These words are so uncommon, that my computer put the red squiggly under them, marking them as typos when they are indeed REAL words.)
Check out the site HERE

So that's it for updates. What did you do this week? We totally want to know! :)



Friday, August 27, 2010

50 Followers Giveaway at The Book Buzzer

The Book Buzzer is hosting an amazing giveaway in celebration of fifty followers! Just look at the plethora of books she's giving away:


Or..... An ARC of Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson!
Forge comes out October 16, 2010

This contest ends on October 2!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Blogger Hop and Follow Friday :)

Book Blogger Hop

(Crazy for Books hosts Book Blogger Hop, while Parajunkee's View hosts Follow Friday)


Welcome to The Smarty Owl!
If you've never visited us before, be sure to look around and check out our reviews!
If you're an old follower, welcome back!
This week's Book Blogger Hop question is...



Do you use a rating system for your reviews and if so, what is it and why?

Yes, The Smarty Owl does indeed use ratings! In the spirit of the owl theme, we rate our books using a scale of one to five "hoots": the better the book, the higher the hoots. We use ratings for a plethora of reasons. They are convient to those who just want the rating without reading the entire review, and also help us compare the book to others, keeping the quality of our reads in perspective. Also, if I ask my coblogger, Rica, how good a book like The Dark Divine is, she can just quicky say "3.5 hoots", and I'll automatically have an idea of its amazingness, opposed to her telling me a lengthy blateration.


For more information on our rating system, CLICK HERE!

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder


Title: Poison Study
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Target Audience: Older teens and adults. This novel falls smack dab on the blurry border between young adult and adult fiction; while some bookstores house this under YA section, many place it with the adult fantasy books using a different cover.
Pages: Paperback - 416 pages

Choose: A quick death and hell or slow poison and hell.

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia. And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust – and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear. - summary from Goodreads.com

After spending months questing for the perfect fantasy read, I finally encountered Poison Study, and my first impression from the engrossing premise was that this would be a fantastic read. Fortunately, my assumption was right, and Synder's novel transcended my expectations by miles, refurbishing my love of reading. Snyder successfully amalgamates magic, mystery, romance, and action, forming a irresistible, utterly mesmerizing novel that forever ensnared me in its spellbinding net.

The compelling, addicting plot is like eating a giant, moist wedge of red velvet cake after a box of bland Saltines. On the first page, I was hurled straight into the dungeon, where a doomed girl named Yelena awaits her hanging. Instead of being executed as planned, the head of security offers Yelena a better – though possibly worse – choice: to be the poison taster for the Commander of Ixia. Though saved from execution, Yelena is still at risk. Everyday is a struggle for survival, haunted by a cruel past. This looming sense of constant danger drives the story onward, never permitting a dull moment:

I rose, my head spinning. “Is it lethal?”
“A big enough dose will kill you in two days. The symptoms don’t arrive until the second day, but by then it’s too late.”
“Did I have a lethal dose?” I held my breath.
“Of course. Anything less and you wouldn’t have tasted the poison.” - page 19

This tense instant of danger occurs when Valek, chief of security, poisons Yelena with the lethal Butterfly’s Dust in order to prevent her from running away. A plethora of these scary moments exists, propelling the book to a fast gait. Snyder, a grandmaster of foreshadowing, splashes seemingly insignificant hints and clues amidst the pages, resulting in a complex story, so I kept stumbling into surprises – some obvious, some not – that made me gasp. Interlaced with more darker themes than most young adult novels, Poison Study deals with violence, murder, and sexual abuse. However, these heavy themes are necessary for the story, and sorrowfully, are concepts that some teenagers face today.

This book has a vivid setting, a place where any reader can immerse themselves in. The militarized world of Ixia, a refreshing change from the typical monarchy that fantasy books often have, fills Poison Study with flavor and vibe. Lead by the domineering Commander, Ixia has eliminated the previous corrupt King and transformed the land into a militarist area sliced into Districts. Snyder, an amazing world builder, brings this world to life, buttressing it with rich history of tainted kings who ruled unethically, before the Commander seized control and brought about different ways. The Commander, while wise, rules Ixia with a harsh hand. Though his Code of Behavior, the inflexible, strict set of laws, prevents crime, poverty, and lack of order, it is also very controlling. Citizens who don't don their uniforms are chained to the town square naked, no excuses. Anybody who kills another person, even if by accident or in self defense, is hanged. The new form of government frowns upon the arts and requires paperwork for almost everything. The Commander's rigid rules show an insight to his fascinating personality, especially since he harbors a major secret, a secret that makes him selfish but all the more intriguing.

Snyder paints her characters deep, layered profiles. Though older than most YA heroines at nineteen, Yelena is an interesting protagonist and an intelligent, strong young woman, tarnished by a brutal, disturbing personal history; memories of Reyad, the man she killed, haunt and harass her throughout the novel. Readers can easily slide into Yelena's shoes, and I liked relatability of her choices and mistakes. Never making me want to bellow at her in frustration, she is resourceful and clever, a girl with inspiring independence; when men try to kill her, instead of running away squealing for help, she learns self defense to beat them up. Valek, the Commander's chief of security, is untrustworthy, ruthless, and crafty, making him another prominent figure of Poison Study's cast. Alas, my liking for him slightly declined toward the end, when he began to shy away from his devious character. Ari and Janco, two humorous, goodhearted soldiers, add comic relief in contrast to the story's foreboding tide. I love how even though Yelena secures a strong friendship with the castle's talented head cook, Rand, she still thinks of him in shades of gray; young adult books often tend to have their protagonists befriend somebody and then portray him or her in either black or white, bad or good. Rand is the complicated type of character that more novels need, a person complex enough that he could easily have been snatched from the real world.

The refreshing romance, subtle and powerful, snuck up on me opposed to dancing in front of my face and giggling, like many sappy relationships in young adult books do. The relationship maintained its engrossing, cogent qualities, definitely branding it as one of the most interesting romances in young adult fiction. Unfortunately, some icky qualities weighed down the good attributes, and a dollap of cringe-worthy cheesiness crept in at the end.

Poison Study reminds me of the reason I love books. My favorite novels project me into their worlds, where I can live as a different person, completely immersed in another land. These escapist books include The Hunger Games, the Harry Potter series, and Graceling, with Poison Study joining the elite list. Though I read this book while vacationing in stunning Yosemite, encompassed by the looming cliffs of rock and shimmering waterfalls, I lived a parallel life in the Commander's castle. When bears lumbered outside the tent, ten feet away, I still could not tear my eyes away from the page. I completely agree with Publisher's Weekly when they reviewed Poison Study, saying, “...this is one of those rare books that will keep readers dreaming long after they've read it.” This consummate fantasy is a must read for all book lovers, and like me, most readers will immediately stampede to the store to purchase the two sequels upon reaching the last page.

Cover: 3/5 – The green vines that snake across the cover are gorgeous, though otherwise, nothing about this cover strikes me.

Rating:
5 hoots

Books like this:
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Fire by Kristin Cashore

If you know of any other fantasies like Poison Study and the ones above, please let me know in the comments! I would love to read it.

Source: Bought from bookstore. I think you should buy it too. :) 


Monday, August 23, 2010

Firelight ARC Contest WINNER!

Firelight_SophieJordan.jpg 7 Sept 2010 image by mischievouscherry

Hello fellow bloggers and readers!

Thanks so much for the awesome support! Without our dear followers, we would never have gotten where we are today. Right now, we're almost at 400 followers!! Anyways, we're now presenting the winner of our contest for an ARC of Firelight by Sophie Jordan...

(Mrs. DeRaps!)

Congratulations Mrs. DeRaps! We hope you enjoy your shiny ARC of Firelight by Sophie Jordan! We've already emailed you, so check your mail! You have 48 hours to respond and claim your prize, or else we'll be forced to pick a new winner. :)

For those of you who didn't win, no worries, a new contest looms on the horizon! Also, be sure look for Firelight on shelves September 7th!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Firelight by Sophie Jordan - Okapi's Review

Title: Firelight
Author: Sophie Jordan
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Target Audience: Teens
Pages: ARC - 323 pages
Release Date: September 7, 2010

With her rare ability to breathe fire, Jacinda is special even among the draki—the descendants of dragons who can shift between human and dragon forms. But when Jacinda’s rebelliousness leads her family to flee into the human world, she struggles to adapt, even as her draki spirit fades. The one thing that revives it is Will, whose family hunts her kind. Jacinda can’t resist getting closer to him, even though she knows she’s risking not only her life but the draki’s most closely guarded secret. - Summary from Goodreads


As a fan of dragons, the premise sounded promising - a hiatus from vampires, werewolves and angels while still lingering in the paranormal zone. Curled up in my bed for a couple hours, I read this novel in one sitting, my attention constantly tethered to the rapt and engaging plot. But alas, my eyes uncovered a paltry, watery novel that washed through my mind and caused me to forget about it soon after.

I love the concept of draki, the descendants of dragons, morphing into human, and their customs are interesting. However, I wish the author included more draki lore and history, along with their feud with the dragon hunters. For example, Jacinda mentions an "evasive flight maneuvers class", which sounds interesting, and I would like to learn more about. Jacinda barely spends any time with the dragon pride, and the reader merely experiences them through her memories. Reading this book would be a much more enthralling affair if we actually encountered the pride alongside her, gaining background information about drakis and enriching myself, thus making the rest of the novel more enjoyable.

The majority of the characters are lifeless and perilously flat. Will, who I've now nicknamed as "the Wallflower", fails to be mysterious and sexy as the author intends. He only snags my attention when Jacinda begins pining and whining over him, and though many other reviews claim their love to be intriguing and captivating, all I see is another paranormal romance that bores me. Their love is unbelievably instantaneous and predictable, lacking any depth. When Jacinda's inner draki flares to life around Will, it is the definition of cheesy, especially since the author reveals no explanation of Jacinda's fascination of this bland child. Many other reviews state their relationship to rival the romance in Twilight, but while I'm not a fan of that book, at least the author explains Bella and Edward's love. The romance in Firelight flounders to grapple my regard.

Jacinda's remarkably selfish twin sister Tamra and mother are extremely irksome and undeveloped. Her mother forfeited her draki spirit and eschews draki culture seemingly without any reason, and her sister complains about the most frivolous things. They aggravate me using their barely there personalities and do nothing more than set up meek obstacles of conflict for Jacinda to jump over. The character redeeming the rest is Jacinda, since she is surprisingly developed compared to the others; during the novel, my liking for her escalates as she demonstrated selfless, unpretentious qualities. She actually tolerates her irritating family members. I notice some other reviews chastising Jacinda for being selfish, endlessly complaining about the situation that her mother puts her in. However, I would probably react similarly if somebody hacks away part of my soul, just as Jacinda's mother attempts to rip away her draki. Jordan successfully captures Jacinda's raw anguish and the torture of allowing her draki to die, which is the equivalent of losing part of one's soul. She describes Jacinda's quest to maintain her identity using simple, emotional phrases.

"I once saw a show about an amputee who lost his leg and still feels it. He actually wakes up at night to scratch his leg as if it's still there, attached to him. They call it a phantom limb.
I would be like that. A phantom draki, tormented with the memory of what I once was."- page 37

The author's writing is very bland and repetitive, and after a while, I began to tire of Jacinda's distressed musings and cravings for Will. Jordan tends to echo Jacinda's thoughts in an annoying manner, and all her sentences are short and choppy, structured too simply. Though constructed using prose that lacks description, this book still consistently maintains its hooking attribute.

The ending is so annoying abrupt and unsatisfying that I couldn't help but roll my eyes once I was finished, asking myself if somebody had pruned off the real end of the manuscript. Don't get me wrong, I always bask in the afterglow of anticipation after reading a superb cliffhanger, but Firelight left off without any conclusion or thoughts to hold onto whatsoever. When I read a cliffhanger, I run off a cliff, though there are always questions and unsolved mysteries that keep me dangling on the edge. Firelight, however, has nothing sparking further curiosity, so I gallop over the edge and plummet to the ground.

Overall, this typical paranormal romance ensnared my attention for most of its three hundred pages, causing me to dub it as 'mildly addicting' and file it away at the very back of my mind. I'm sure, like many other paranormal romances, it'll acquire a teen fandom when it releases in September, 2010. I'll probably skim the sequel just to see what's in store for Jacinda and company, but I hold very little hope that this series can possibly redeem itself after this slight disaster.


Cover: 2/5 - I'm usually partial to people on covers, and this one's no exception. I dislike how up-close the girl is, and the artificial shade of her hair. However, the golden scales add a mysterious touch.


Rating:
2.5 hoots


Books like this:
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick


To view Rica's review of Firelight, CLICK HERE

Firelight by Sophie Jordan - Rica's Review

Title: Firelight
Author: Sophie Jordan
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Target Audience: Teen Girls
Number of Pages: ARC - 323 pages
Release Date: September 7, 2010

With her rare ability to breathe fire, Jacinda is special even among the draki—the descendants of dragons who can shift between human and dragon forms. But when Jacinda’s rebelliousness leads her family to flee into the human world, she struggles to adapt, even as her draki spirit fades. The one thing that revives it is Will, whose family hunts her kind. Jacinda can’t resist getting closer to him, even though she knows she’s risking not only her life but the draki’s most closely guarded secret. -Summary from Goodreads

My expectations for this novel were pretty similar to my thoughts of other paranormal romances: as if by fate, a boy and a girl meet, fair amounts of swooning, they fall in love, paranormal aspects prevent their relationship from flourishing, they conquer it together, everything works out, and then thats the end. Knowing this, I still grasped at the faint hope that this book would bring something new and more satisfying. I was relieved from the surge of vampires and werewolves and I hoped reading about dragons would be a refreshing change and just perhaps obliterate my bias on paranormal romances.

My hopes were shot down to a blunder. Personally, this book was the quintessence of ordinary, sprinkled with a few more aspects to frown upon. The story starts with Jacinda in her draki dragon form, cornered by a brutally handsome hunter boy.The two were alone, and the cave was alive with sparks when their touches met. Jacinda knew she could never forget the boy who betrayed his dragon hunting family to spare her life. When Jacinda left her dragon pack, known as a pride, she and her family relocated to a small town in the desert. Jacinda and her twin sister Tamra enrolled into high school. On their first day, as unrealistic as it may be, Jacinda saw the boy hunter who spared her life, Will. I knew this meeting was inevitable, but the pure odds of this happening were so far off, that frustration still managed to tug at me.

Will and Jacinda's relationship was utterly flat and could only be a fictional romance. Their love affair was almost instantaneous. It was as if their relationship had been in fast-forward while I was still at play, unable to be swept into their rhythm. Admittedly, I am usually a sucker for male lead heroes in books, but Will's character was so unrelatable to real-life heroes, that it was hard for me to feel a connection to him. Jacinda was probably the best character out of the lot. She was pretty well developed with a strong, brave, and slightly rebellious personality. She turned out pretty like-able. It was depressing to watch her struggle with her family and surroundings, but it was nice to see her inner draki come to life when in the presence of Will.

Apart from Jacinda, I couldn't care for the other roles any less. Tamra and Jacinda's mother particularly pushed my buttons. The pair were unbelievably selfish. Tamra was born without the ability to manifest, or in other words, morph into draki form. Like Filch for example, born into a wizarding family with no wizarding powers; a squib in the world of Harry Potter. Anyway, due to this stroke of unluckiness, Tamra had never fit in well in the pride, and was always quietly jealous of Jacinda who was the prized jewel in the pack. Unlike Tamra, Jacinda's mother was able to manifest, but she too didn't feel like she fit in with the other dragons. While Jacinda and her draki are one, Jacinda's mom didn't feel such a bond with her draki. A piece of soul, trapped in a reluctant body. So, Tamra and their mom, put their own wishes ahead of Jacinda's, and moved to a desert in hopes Jacinda's draki would wither and die. Throughout the whole novel, the duo consistently ignore Jacinda's pleads and complaints, and instead feeds her with phrases like, "it's for your own good" and so on. Their obtuse minds made them annoying to read about.

It followed the basic plot line I mapped out in the first paragraph, up until the ending. The ending was abrupt, rushed, and as unsatisfactory as getting only a pair of socks for Christmas. I'll put it this way. This book was like a struggling hike up a steep mountain. The trek up the side was more or less uninteresting and at times I did think about giving up, yet my eyes were set on the climax, the most exciting and rewarding part of the journey. Then without warning, it's as if I was kicked down the mountain in an accelerated tumble. The climax was basically the ending of the book. The ending was a huge cliffhanger, one that posed a lot of unanswered questions, one that was conducted poorly. Actually, after reading the ending, I seriously thought that the ARC I read was unfinished somehow. I couldn't believe it was the ending. It was so sudden that I thought a chunk of the ending must've fallen out or something. Normally, cliffhangers make me extremely eager to read the sequel, but in this case, the ending was so shockingly annoying, that all curiosity was sucked out of me.

I really had hopes for this book. Draki were new to me, alluring even. I wanted to know so much more about them. Jordan lacked information about them, the bits that I craved most. The one aspect that was new to YA bookshelves, the author didn't describe as much. Instead, this book was stuffed with a cheesy relationship that failed to touch my heart. I don't doubt that other teen girls will be thrilled with this Twilight-esque novel, this one just didn't impress me. There have been mixed reviews on this novel, and I believe that it does some-what deserve to be checked out. I would probably read the sequel, just for the sake of it and in hope that it would improve.

Cover: 2/5- I'm not the biggest fan of the cover. The close-up girl doesn't appeal to me. Personally, I think it gives it a bit of a more tacky look. Though I like the fire-y gold colors, this cover isn't special from other ones on the shelves.

Rating:
2 Hoots

To view Okapi's review of Firelight, CLICK HERE




Blog Hop and Follow Friday!

Book Blogger Hop

You know the drill :)
(Book Blogger Hop is hosted at Crazy for Books, while Follow Friday is hosted at Parajunkee's View)

This weeks Blogger Hop question:

How many blogs do you follow?

Answer: Currently, I'm following Google Connect Following 242 fantastic blogs and I'm sure to be following more in the future. If you wish for either me or Okapi to take a look at your blog, just leave a message in the C-Box or comments!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fat Cat by Robin Brande

Title: Fat Cat
Author: Robin Brande
Target Audience: Teen girls over twelve
Pages: Hardcover - 336 pages

Cat is smart, sassy, and funny—but thin, she’s not. Until her class science project. That’s when she winds up doing an experiment—on herself. Before she knows it, Cat is living—and eating—like the hominids, our earliest human ancestors. True, no chips or TV is a bummer and no car is a pain, but healthful eating and walking everywhere do have their benefits.

As the pounds drop off, the guys pile on. All this newfound male attention is enough to drive a girl crazy! If only she weren’t too busy hating Matt McKinney to notice. . . .

This funny and thoughtful novel explores how girls feel about their bodies, and the ways they can best take care of their most precious resource: themselves. - summary from Goodreads

After seeing the five gleaming golden stars that Fat Cat has on Amazon, I knew this book was a must read. Yet upon finishing Fat Cat, mixed feelings for this novel raced through my mind. This book is like a chunk of granite, embedded with both pretty and ugly flakes of other rock. Overall, its good qualities marginally dominate the poor ones, making this novel a sweet, light read that managed to alter my own lifestyle.

I was not sure what to make of Cat's personality; There were times when I wanted to scream at her in frustration and times when her decisions confused me. Cat is overweight, siphoning immense quantities of soda and other junk food into her body. When a school project inspires her to change her lifestyle and become healthy, I was surprised by her sudden enthusiasm to undertake it. Before, Cat seemed content with her weight, and her abrupt desire to change seemed strange, especially since this project would be very hard on her body. Though her underlying re­asons do appear later in the novel, the author could have let them flash a little bit in the beginning to let the reader know Cat's motivations.


Later, when Cat refuses to talk to boys, frustration welled up inside of me, because the author presents no reason for her stubborn rudeness towards males. During the majority of the novel, Cat is a complete meanie toward Matt, and the fact how she seems to have no vindication irritates me. When she does reveal the reason much later in the book, it's too late for me to forgive her, even if it justifies her cruel actions. The author tries to make the reason for Cat's hatred a mystery, but she ultimately fails by unnecessarily dragging out the feud until the very end, which achieves nothing other than irking me. Cat fostering such a strong grudge makes me dislike her, especially since the incident that triggered the enmity happened many, many years ago. Matt, on the other hand, is consistently sweet and caring, and Cat's aggressiveness causes me to pity him. 

Besides for Cat, The other characters are three dimensional, well drawn, and brimming with personality. From talented Amanda to jerky Greg, sweet and confused Matt to slimy Nick, the author magically writes an ensemble of characters to life. I found myself either liking or vehemently disliking each character, and feeling immensely protective over Cat's little brother, who is bullied at school.

This book has wholesome morals of intelligence over appearance and being healthy. In fact, Fat Cat inspired me to eat healthy foods, and soon, I found myself avoiding sugary sodas and processed munchies. I read this book a few hours after consuming about ten of my friend's Twixes (at least they were mini), and guiltily thought back to these unhealthy packages of caramel and chocolate while I watched Cat successfully avoid such items. Now, I'm able to always order water at restaurants opposed to sodas, politely decline desert when I'm merely greedy opposed to actually hungry, and limit the amount of candy I consume. Despite Cat's other flaws, she is a good role model, who helped me realize that eating healthy is vital to living a happy and energetic life. She also brought to light my relationship with junky foods. 

"The fact is that candy bars taste great. As do chips and pizza and ice cream and everything else that makes up a modern diet. 

It wasn't just the caffeine and artificial sweeteners that were hard to come off. I swear I had just as bad withdrawals from giving up everything else. Sugar feels very, very good. Some days it seems like it's the only thing that can make you happy.

It's just that sometimes having a few carrots doesn't quite do it for me the way the bag of Doritos or a dozen Oreos used to. I think part of it is psychological - eating real food seems so serious, whereas junk food felt fun.  

But it's not fun how it looks on your afterward. I guess that's the point I need to focus on. And the fact that I definitely do have a lot more energy now than I ever used to. 

But no wonder all does other scientists have had a hard time convincing us to stop eating all the goodies. Nothing says love like a cookie." - page 89

I really enjoyed reading the addicting, cheery novel of Fat Cat, and will probably reread it sometime in the future. This is the type of book I wish I could read again for the first time, since I found much joy while voyaging amidst its pages. While an overweight's person's revelations and emotional journey may sound dull, Cat is an interesting narrator who managed to keep my attention for the whole book.  Fat Cat reminded me of the reason I love reading: I learned so many interesting tidbits without trudging through non fiction text. The author integrates scientific facts and theories throughout the story. Whenever the author inserted an Einestein quote, thrills surged through me, and I appreciated Cat's love of science.

Toward the end of this book, the focus completely shifts to Cat's personal life, and I wished to see more of a conclusion on her project. While I see that the author wants to make a point of how the book is about the effects the project opposed the project itself, I became annoyed, since Cat never says what grade she earns, and if her teacher, who plays a critical roll in the shaping of her project, is satisfied by her efforts, or if she snags the much desired college recommendation letter. I would have rated this book much higher on the hoot scale if the project had more closure.

Cover: 3.5/5 – The bulging book is cute, and I love the rich, velvety purple of the cover. Not many books are purple these days. Other than that, this mediocre cover captures nothing special.

Rating:
3.5 hoots

Books like this:
Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee

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