Tuesday, February 26, 2013

REVIEW: The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

The Nightmare Affair (The Arkwell Academy, #1) The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The plot was good. The characters, not so much.

+ the protagonist
The book was written exclusively in 1st person POV from Dusty’s side. I love this type of POV, but I quickly found Dusty lacking as a heroine in many ways. When you remove her special powers and circumstances, she was as plain and uninteresting as her (nick)namesake, dust. More than plain, to my perpetual discomfort, Dusty didn’t exhibit prudence, caution, or any apparent trait that showed she had any sense of self-preservation. I generally liked Dusty, but her irreverent attitude aggravated me at times.

When a teacher teaches you a potentially life-saving magic trick, you practice the shit out of it. Dusty never did, but instead depended on luck and an emotional rush to work her magic. WTF? If people being murdered at the boarding school where you live is not a maddeningly strong incentive to practice self-defense magic, I don’t what is. Worse, throughout the story Dusty had more than one teachers revealing vital information, but she did nothing with the information to protect herself. No, she blabbed and placed herself and people she told in more danger, emphasis on more.

I liked that Dusty was frank with her friends, but was it really necessary for her to blab everything, including state secrets, to basically everyone who asked? Dusty was no dimwit; she even suspected her mother. I wished she was conscious of the strong possibility that people who act friendly towards her might be doing it with malicious intention, and perhaps the bad things that happened wouldn’t have so bad as they was at the end.

I also blamed the magical PTB for those bad things. It boggled my mind how the magical PTB never once set protective details on Dusty. You have a girl who is prime to national security, has a predilection for trouble, and lives in an enclosed place where a murderer is on the loose, and you don’t have people hiding in the shadows watching over her? I... *facepalm*

+ the best friend
Shallow development, forgettable character, replaceable character. The best friend role could have been taken by anyone, and the story would have worked fine. She only showed up when it was convenient to the plot and Dusty’s needs.

+ the love triangle
It was between the hot human jock and the hot half-breed geek. I was thankful the romance only took dominance in a limited handful of scenes, and that Dusty didn’t completely let herself become besieged by unnecessary boy trouble. However, I wished she was committed in her romantic decisions. I didn’t like that the boy she didn’t choose paired up with the designated mean, slutty girl. It was awfully cliche and contrived on several levels, and potentially offensive if you have been reading too many YA with too many mean girls who exist only to foil the virginal and socially outcast heroine.

I didn’t care for the jock; one of the many reasons for that was the soulmate trope attached to his character. WTF? Was this a YA or a PNR? I love PNR, but a soulmate trope in YA is ridiculous. The other reasons were that he was pretty bland (as a character overall, not because he was human), he didn’t really do anything for me to like him, and for the most part he didn’t contribute much to the mystery solving beside being Dusty’s medium. Half of the times, he hindered more than helped.

I liked the geek. Hail to the only student in the story who actually took their education seriously because everyone else, especially Dusty, didn’t seem like they did. Arkwell Academy felt like such a slacker school. Anyway, I wished there were more scenes with him. More importantly, I wished things at the end did not turn out the way that they did with him. It was bittersweet.

On the upside, the love triangle resolved itself by the end. In spite of the bittersweetness, it was mind-blowing how it converged with the mystery plot and became part of the great twist.

+ the plot
The mystery plot was the best part of the book. Red-herrings and suspects rose as the story progressed. The plot had me guessing on everything, and I loved it. I got excited every time the plot imparted a revelation. I liked that they were dished out periodically so I didn’t get bored or impatient. The pacing ranged from steady to fast, the transition smooth. I was exhilarated when I learned the story was unexpectedly based in the Arthurian legend. Despite a few loose ends, the ending was satisfactory.

In Conclusion

I rate The Nightmare Affair 3 stars for I like it. The characters needed improvements, but they were decent enough. The fluffiness was minimal, and the mystery was spectacular.

Goodreads | Amazon

Thursday, February 7, 2013

NEWS: LGBT YA recognize, criticism kinks, blogging and taxes, too many books (2&1/2men)

From Malindo Do's tumblr (2013 January 28)
"The Top 10 titles on the American Library Association’s 2013 Rainbow List, recognizing GLBT books for children and teens."
Woot. Woot. Recognize!

Five Criticisms You Won't Often See in My Reviews by Christina (2013 February 6)
"There are certain things I basically never notice that are bemoaned by other readers, and particular qualities I harp on constantly that might not bother others."
Very interesting read. I need to think about my own criticism kinks.

Tax Deductions and Blogging—What You Need to Know (2011 August 11)
"You may not be aware of this, but if you generate income from a blog, you may be able to take tax deductions for expenses related to your blog endeavors."
Something to think about in the future.

Picture of the Day

fuCking midTerms!! x_x

source: tumblr

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

NEWS: killer cats, cutesy cats, cutesy ponies, 4 giveaways, love is fart

That Cuddly Kitty Is Deadlier Than You Think (2013 January 29)
"For all the adorable images of cats that play the piano, flush the toilet, mew melodiously and find their way back home over hundreds of miles, scientists have identified a shocking new truth: cats are far deadlier than anyone realized."
Shocking, indeed.

So how DO you get a cardigan on a pony? (2013 January 21)
"Shetland ponies and Fair Isle knitwear are beloved across the world, so why not combine the two? The result is two cosy-looking mares dressed in button-down Fair Isle jumpers to promote the Year of Natural Scotland." 

Cats That Look Like Pin-Up Girls (24 Pics) (2013 January 8)


Giveaway News

Follower Appreciation Mega Giveaway! Win a Kindle Fire!! - end on February 7, 2013.

$50 Amazon Giftcard - ends on February 14, 2013

'Blind Date With a Book' Valentine's Day Giveaway! - ends on February 18, 2013

One Year Blogoversary Bash! - ends on April 3, 2013

Quote of the Day

Monday, February 4, 2013

REVIEW: Trickster by Jeff Somers

Trickster Trickster by Jeff Somers
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

For a book that has blood magic, human sacrifices, and explosion scenes, it was not highly exciting as I had expected. A book of master storytelling as blurbed it was not.

The story largely consisted of the good guys running away, from one place to another that made me think poorly of the characters and flashbacks that were so seamlessly written that it took me a few seconds to realize a few of them were flashbacks. The book kept my attention, but it was under a fog of boredom.

The Characters

+ the protagonist
I liked Lem in the beginning but his White Knight Complex quickly wore me down. First, it was annoying; the damsel in distress trope is overused in Urban Fantasy. Second, it was inconsistent with his occupation as a Trickster, a grifter who uses blood magic. I was having a hard time reconciling Lem having ethics with Lem being a grifter.

Overall, the biggest issue I had with Lem was that he was yet another Urban Fantasy protagonist who had great power but didn’t use it because of “reasons” which in this case was Lem’s fear of succumbing to power-hungriness. His reason was valid, but he and his companions were in a desperate situation that strongly called for desperate measures. His reason no longer held water.

It frustrated me how Lem missed many opportunities to be clever or ruthless or showed he was more capable than standing up (foolishly) to bad guys. He should have done something other than running away, or if he was going to be an outright coward, he should have thrown away the White Knight Complex. I hated his noncommittal attitude.

+ the sidekick
Mags as a dimwitted, brawny sidekick was more than stereotypical, it was slightly offensive. The character seemed to have special needs. There was no doubt Lem love Mags like a true brother but that didn’t excuse Lem’s negligence. Many times I was angry at Lem for involving Mags in dangerous matters.

+ the damsel in distress
Surprisingly, Claire wasn’t annoying. I liked how she wasn’t going to let herself become a damsel in distress and took an active part of rescuing herself from her predicament with Lem and co. I give points for the book making the main female character a strong, capable character. I would have given more points if her character wasn’t someone with a bad past like everyone else in the story.

+ the bad guys
While the good guys were found lacking, the bad guys were great. They were somewhat stereotypical but they weren’t flat. Unlike the infamous Countess Bathory of history, Renar has real and powerful magic, and her ritual to immortality would work. Her prodigy, Amir, is equally ruthless and ambitious, though he could work harder at hiding his backstabby streak.

The Writing

+ the pacing
The pacing was too slow for a book full of supposedly exciting things. It wasn’t slow in a mind-numbingly way; it was slow in the “this can be edited further” way.

+ the magic lingo
I didn’t like the magic lingo. I found its usage a tad excessive for an Urban Fantasy, and it was unevenly explained. The vernacular would have been sufficient and made the story an easier read.

+ plot hole
Why did it never occur to Lem to take normal jobs like non-magical people do? It was told many times that being a Trickster was hard and risky, but it was never really explained why anyone would become one. It was strongly suggested to me that being a burger flipper was more lucrative than being a Trickster, not to mention the lack of danger. I can partially understand if an amoral person becomes a Trickster, but Lem was someone with ethics and supposedly with common sense.

+ the worldbuilding
It was gritty as advertised. The book sucked at maintaining a strong sense of suspense, but it did at least maintain a strong sense of place. Lem and his companions moved around a lot, and never once did I get lost as to where they were and where they were going.

In Conclusion

I rate Tricksters 2-stars for it was okay. The good guys were meh, the plot — disappointedly meh, and there was a plot hole. Book 1 was a subpar start of the Ustari Cycle series. If you are up to date on all your favorite Urban Fantasy series and looking for another promising series, try Tricksters.

Goodreads | Amazon

Friday, February 1, 2013

REVIEW: Paul's Dream by Rowan McBride

Paul's Dream Paul's Dream by Rowan McBride
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I didn't enjoy this book. I thought at the least I could enjoy the smutty parts, but the kooky dream scenes got in the way.

+ the dream scenes
The plot had many dream scenes. Some of them I liked such as when Paul helped a little girl find her stuffed animal, but most of them I found frustrating and boring. I didn’t like how long it took for someone to say to Paul, “hey, dude, you’re a dreamwalker, and magic is real.” I really hate it when the protagonist is kept in the dark about their abilities and the reality of the world. I hate it more when there is no strong reason to do so like in this book.

When Paul finally was told so, I didn’t like it when Paul actively practiced dreamwalking and Kian helped, sex and sexually charged talking were involved. I found it inappropriate and unhelpful because Paul had powerful magic and it shouldn’t have been treated as a light matter. People could get hurt, Paul could hurt himself, and he did. Magic training and sexy times should not be mixed.

+ the world building
Paul is a powerful dreamwalker. I understood the abilities of a dreamwalker and why Paul was important, but I didn’t understand what role dreamwalkers play in the magical world. I had no problem imagining the lawyer-y non-magical setting, but the magical world eluded my grasp. The book threw details here and there, but nothing stuck and connected to make decent world building. I found the world building ambiguous.

+ the characters
The story was largely told from Kian and Paul's sides in 1st person POV. I couldn't connect with either character. I tired of Paul's indecisiveness, i.e. “I want Kian, I don't want Kian”, “Kian loves me, Kian loves me not.” Kian was rather pathetic and spineless; I expected more out of Kian when Asher confronted him, especially when it’s a serious matter of true love. I found the characterization of the couple shaky for a big part of the book, specifically the middle. Moreover, the couple’s dialogue was cheesy; usually, I don’t mind cheesiness, but frustrated by the couple, I did. The romance ran hot and cold too many times for my patience, and honestly, I wasn’t fully convinced the two suited each other.

+ my least favorite part of the story
I was frustrated by the many missed opportunities to preemptively end the villain. It could have been entirely avoided if Kian killed the dude in the first place at the beginning of the book, or near the end of the book if Kian went to Asher for help before meeting the villain. Kian knew full well was that the villain was never going to let things rest; the villain was a villain for goodness sake.

I also blamed Asher because if he had done his job as guardian of the city he would have known what the villain was up to and squashed his evil scheme before anyone got hurt. Most of the scenes Asher was in or mentioned in, there was a lot of talk about how powerful he was, how smart he was, his legacy, his position, blah blah etc. I couldn’t believe the villain managed to pull off his evil scheme off of Asher’s radar. There was no excuse for it.

+ my 2nd least favorite part of the story
After so much shit had happened with the villain, I couldn’t believe the romance ran cold again. Really, Paul? The fuck is wrong with you? It’s not everyday someone risked, admittedly in an avoidable conflict, his life for you, loves you, and came back from a soul-breaking-and-imprisonment evil magic for you. Where was the logic? This was one of the examples of the shaky characterization; logical lawyer Paul was not acting logical and lawyer-y.

In Conclusion

I rate Paul’s Dream 2-stars for it was okay. I’m disappointed by many issues that stood in the way of what should have been a decent smutty read since the story was a sexual awakening.

Goodreads | Amazon