Monday, January 18, 2010

The Devouring

Reggie Halloway is a fourteen year old girl with many more responsibilities than a normal teenager. She has to act as mother to her little brother Henry since their mother walked out on them without a word and her father has proven useless in this respect. She is also a big horror fan and is lucky enough to have a job at a horror themed book store. She finds a weird journal in a shipment and borrows it for a little while. Within the journal is the story of the Vours, spirits that take over human bodies on the night of the winter solstice or Sorry Night. Reggie and her best friend Aaron decide to have a little fun and see if it's true by facing the thing they fear the most to see if they are taken over by the Vours. They aren't, but after that night Henry acts very differently. He destroys the things he loves the most, abhors the cold, talks in a very creepy voice, and revels in cruelty. Is he possessed by a Vour? If so, how can they save him without killing him?

I knew I had to read this book when I read a very positive review of it in a horror movie magazine. It isn't typical for them to review any young adult novels let alone give it a positive review. When I finally read the book a while later, it completely surpassed my expectations. I don't know what's happened to the teen horror books I'm reading lately, but I hope it's a sign of a continuing trend. This book creeped me out and kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end. Some of the situations and characters used in the fearscapes to scare terrify the people are possessed by the Vours in their own minds are some of the most chilling I've ever seen or read about. I would absolutely love to see this novel as a movie, but because of the target audience, I fear it wouldn't be as scary as the book.

I loved pretty much everything about this book. Reggie and Aaron, our young heroes, are normal kids, but with added amounts of brains and bravery. Reggie is relentless in her pursuit to save her brother, even putting herself in grave danger. In addition to the supernatural problems in their lives, they still have to deal with school and family. When they contend with the Vour inside Henry, the Vour can be very manipulative and turn people against them, making everything more difficult. I really like and respect these characters. The entire mythos of the Vours is completely unique. I've never heard of any supernatural creatures quite like them. I can't wait to delve deeper and learn more about these mysterious and evil creatures.

I can't wait to read the second book in the series. I would recommend this book to anyone who can stomach more gore than is usually typical for young adult novels.

My rating: 5/5

Friday, January 15, 2010


Phoenix Cormier was never really close to her father. She's trying to make up for lost time and try to get to know him better by spending the summer with him. However, her father is a medium and writes books about ghosts, which consumes his life. She goes with him to a TV appearance where he and two other mediums are going to perform the biggest seance in history and allow viewers and audience members to contact the dead. This endeavor goes awry and leaves the three mediums plus the two TV hosts in a trance and unable to be moved. Plus the dead from the entire east coast has risen, hungry and longing for their loved ones. Follow Phoenix, two rival college students, a teen pop princess, and a gang banger as they battle to survive and stop the zombie apocalypse.

This book was a big surprise to me. As a young adult horror novel, I expected to see tame zombies with a minimum of violence and gore, like many YA zombie books. I was completely wrong. This is as gory if not more so than many adult horror novels I have read. Christopher Golden pushes the envelope with extreme zombie violence and bloody deaths. These zombies are unlike anything I have seen before. They are rotting corpses, but since they are reanimated essentially by magic, they are not limited by their deteriorated bodies. They can sprint (while making sense, unlike the Romero type zombies). They also evolve mentally to be able to set traps and lure their loved ones with actual memories from the deceased person. These aspects make these zombies so much scarier than their garden variety counterparts.

The characters were all believable and different in their reactions to the crumbling civilization around them. Most of the main characters were teens, which made for an interesting read. Most books like this are adult and focus on adults. I have never really seen the point of view of a teen in this sort of situation. It's similar to other novels in that they have to do horrible things for the greater good, get used to seeing and killing the undead, and try to figure out what actions they can live with in this savage world. The change in the characters from before the zombie apocalypse to after was engaging and interesting to read. This book has all I hope for in any horror novel.

I really like this novel. The only problem I had with it was that the ending seemed a little too rushed. It could easily have been 50 pages longer without dragging. I hope I get to see more of this type of horror from the young adult genre.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Zoe's Tale

Zoe's Tale is a retelling of the previous book in the series (The Last Colony), but from the point of view of Zoe, John Perry's adoptive daughter. Zoe is fourteen years old when her parents decide to head a new colony planet called Roanoke. Along with the regular dangers of colonizing a new planet, Zoe and her fellow colonists have to deal with the fact that they are pretty much bait for the Conclave, a group of 400 alien species unified to prevent others from expanding. As Zoe grows, she becomes an integral part of the fate of her colony. Can a sixteen year old girl make a difference in this battle?

Zoe Boutin-Perry is awesome. She's snarky and sarcastic, while still intelligent and compassionate. It's interesting to see her grow up with the same problems as teenagers today, just with extra danger and political intrigue. One of my favorite moments in the book is when two of her friends wandered off into the woods and got captured by a primitive race of animal-like people that are native to Roanoke. She had enough people on her side to slaughter them, but instead she sang to them and communicated with them. She didn't treat them like dumb animals, but was diplomatic and solved the problem through communication and understanding. She shows a maturity and wisdom beyond her years.

Another thing I really liked in this book was the use of music. The arts are sometimes absent from science fiction novels because we tend to think of them on opposite sides of the spectrum. It's very effective when they are used together. When people from many different places joined together to colonize Roanoke, they had a hard time integrating and feeling like a whole. Music played a large part in unifying them and eventually, they ended up with a new type of music unique to their planet that was a mix of all of the residents'. It was interesting that the sociological issues of colonization were addressed.

Zoe's Tale fleshes out the story of The Last Colony very nicely. I was afraid that the two books would be too similar, but I was wrong. The two novels are compelling in their own ways. The point of view of John Perry and Zoe is so distinct that I sometimes forgot that the two stories were linked. This is also a great crossover book between the teen and science fiction genres.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Friday, January 8, 2010

Brave New World

Brave New World is a great dystopic and satirical novel. Aldous Huxley created a world where babies are created in test tubes; love, art, literature, religion, and even science are all things of the ancient past; promiscuity and brainless happiness are qualities to be revered; people are conditioned to be satisfied with their place in society, no matter where it is. These concepts sound outlandish and crazy, but in some ways, this is our society today. Just look at the stars we choose to idolize, like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Also, the discouragement of people who do well in school by calling them “nerds” or “geeks” exemplifies this as well.

This novel also shows us where we might be in the future. Many dystopic novels and movies have utilized the idea that the masses will be tamed and controlled by mass drug use, such as the film Equilibrium and The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem. Who knows if we are yet to develop such a drug?

With the introduction of John the Savage, into the story, we see that some of our ideas and our social norms have no place in this society. He doesn’t fit in to the “savage” society because his mother is from the world of decadence beyond the wall. He also doesn’t fit into that world because he holds on to his literature and religion, even though he has limited knowledge of both.

Huxley did a great job of showing that happiness 100% of the time shouldn’t be the only thing we, as a society, strive for. Other things are more important, like freedom, creativity, and compassion.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Going Bovine

Cameron Smith was an apathetic, wallflower kind of kid in high school. He was a slacker, who was uninterested in college and smoked pot in the bathroom during school. He also has a perfect, perky sister that makes him look even worse by comparison. That is, until his uncontrollable movements and hallucinations are diagnosed as Creutzfeldt-Jakob diseases, AKA mad cow disease. This disease is a prion (mutated protein) that pretty much pokes holes in the brain. It's incurable and fatal. He is spurred by a cute punk rock angel named Dulcie to go on a quest to save the world (and find a cure to his disease) along with a hypochondriac dwarf named Gonzo and a Norse god turned lawn gnome named Balder. Along the way, Cameron battles evil with a legendary jazz musician in New Orleans, narrowly escapes from a crazy happiness cult, helps a group of scientists with an experiment, and goes to Disney World.

Libba Bray has created a crazy and unique retelling of Don Quixote. I actually didn't realize it was based on a specific novel until I read other reviews of it. I saw it as more of a modern version of the hero journey in mythology as illustrated by Joseph Campbell. Although the book is almost 500 pages long, I was completely sucked in and wanted to read it in one sitting. All of the characters were striking, original, and complete.

Cameron was initially not a very likable character. He was rude to his friends and family and was just generally selfish. From the initial diagnosis to the end of the novel, he undergoes a transformation with every person he meets and every crazy situation he encounters. He slowly turns into a true hero. He gains appreciation for music and develops close relationships with the people around him. The things he revered in his old life are revealed to be shallow and meaningless in the new one. The journey was largely an internal one for Cameron. It can even be debated if the journey actually happened at all or if it was just the product of a deteriorating mind.

This isn't a typical teen novel. It's one of the most unique books I have ever read in the young adult genre. I really respect the author that writes teen characters that curse and have sex because real teenagers (and people in general) curse and have sex. It's a part of life and pretending it doesn't exist or that's not how real people act does more harm than good in the lives of teenagers.

I really enjoyed this novel. It was funny, tragic, and disturbing at times. I had so much fun the wild ride with Cameron and his friends. My only complaint was that the ending took a little bit away from my enjoyment of the novel. I felt it could have been more ambiguous in the end and a little less off the wall. Other than that it was awesome. I would recommend this book to pretty much anybody.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Monday, January 4, 2010

Evolution's Darling

You may recognize Scott Westerfeld’s name from his popular young adult series, such as Peeps and Uglies. Evolution's Darling is an entirely different novel. Darling is a 200 year old artificial intelligence. Thanks to technology, robots have the ability to become sentient beings, detectable by a Turing test. The title refers to the fact that artificials can evolve many times during their lifetime, while their biological counterparts cannot. Darling, so named and made sentient by a past love, is an art dealer of authentic, original, and expensive art. He happens to meet Mira, a mysterious assassin, on a pleasure ship. He seeks a famous sculptor that was thought to be dead, while Mira accompanies him (with her own motives). Is Vaddum, the sculptor, a copy? Can intelligent beings be copied? Should they? Should the copies be destroyed?

Although this is a science fiction novel, the language used and descriptions are beautiful and complex. Musical imagery is used throughout. It was surprising for me that there was a balance and mixture of science and art that was wonderful to read. The two are typically seen as polar opposites and are rarely juxtaposed. All of the characters were fully realized and unique, even the minor ones. The artificial intelligence, in many instances, turned out to be more human than the biological humans. For example, Darling focuses on the emotional meaning behind Vaddum’s work, while Zimivic, his human rival, looks at the technical aspects and how much the piece will make him. It makes us question what really makes a being human or sentient. Even the not yet sentient AI has personality, humor, and their own quirks.

Evolution’s Darling was a completely unique novel. It was engrossing from beginning to end and I couldn't put it down. I would recommend this book to any fan of science fiction.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Sunday, January 3, 2010

More Challenges and Such

So, I'm joining 2 more challenges. I don't know if I'll actually get to finish them, but I'll have fun trying. The first challenge is the 2010 Support Your Local Library Challenge, hosted by J. Kaye. My sister is a librarian for LA county, which has a wide variety of books. I want to support her library and read lots of books by checking out more books and actually reading them. (Instead of letting them collect dust and returning them unread like I lamely do sometimes.) I'm aiming for 100 books in a year.

1) Going Bovine by Libba Bray
2) The Devouring by Simon Holt
3) Soulstice by Simon Holt
4) Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
5) Sleepless by Thomas Fahy
6) Need by Carrie Jones
7) Liar by Justine Larbalestier
8) The Espressologist by Kristina Springer
9) Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
10) Captivate by Carrie Jones

The second challenge is the Graphic Novels Challenge 2010, hosted by Laza of Gimme More Books. I love to read graphic novels and am definitely going to read at least 10 in the next year.

1) Jack of Fables #6: The Big Book of War by Bill Willingham
2) Deadpool: Suicide Kings by Mike Benson
3) Deadpool: Dark Reign (Vol. 2) by Daniel Way
4) Dark Reign: Deadpool/Thunderbolts by Daniel Way
5) Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter: The Laughing Corpse, Vol. 2 by Laurell K. Hamilton
6) American McGee's Grimm by Dwight L. Macpherson
7) Chew by John Layman
8) The Walking Dead #11: Fear the Hunters
9) Fables #13: The Great Fables Crossover by Bill Willingham
10) Marvel Zombies Return by David Wellington
11) Path of the Planeswalker by Doug Beyer
12) Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Vol. 1 by Stephenie Meyer
13) Deadpool #3: X Marks the Spot by Daniel Way
14) Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8, #6: Retreat by Joss Whedon
15) Ania Blake, Vampire Hunter: The Laughing Corpse by Laurell K. Hamilton
16) Unwritten by Mike Carey

I hope I get to read more fun books this next school semester to keep these challenges going.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Deadpool: Secret Invasion

Meet Deadpool, AKA Wade Wilson. He's a disfigured and extremely mentally unstable mercenary who really loves money and general insanity. Don't let that disturb you; he's excellent at his job with proficiency in martial arts, markmanship, and swordsmanship.The first story arc in the graphic novel features the Skrulls, alien shapeshifters bent on taking over the Earth. Deadpool convinces the Skrulls that he is on their side after an impressive fight (won by Deadpool of course) and they decide to clone tons of him. Has Deadpool bitten off more than he can chew with the army of Skrull-Deadpools? Can he stop them before they take over the world or will he just get so caught up in his insanity that he won't care? The second story arc starts with a man hiring Deadpool to rescue his wife who was turned into a zombie by a plastic surgeon. Will he emerge from the job unscathed and with money in hand? Is a normal chair more or less awesome or comfortable than a chair made of plastic explosives?

Deadpool has just become my favorite Marvel character. I've never read any Deadpool comics before this one, but I was vaguely familiar with the character. (I also knew he was viciously butchered in the film X-Men Origins: Wolverine.) His insanity and spontaneity make his stories memorable, engaging, and extremely funny. He constantly speaks to himself in his head (in about 3 different voices), breaks out into random song, and breaks the fourth wall. He laughs in the face of danger and never plans for anything. The people around him are always trying to figure out what his plans are, but he doesn't even know what his plans are. He switches sides and betrays enemies often. It's so funny how things come out in the end to his advantage through accident and coincidence. He is a character that revels in his craziness and has fun with a job he loves.

I read it in one sitting at a Barnes and Noble. I don't think I had ever laughed so hard at a superhero-type comic. The only problem I had with the graphic novel was the first story was part of a larger one and I wanted to know more. Plus having some more background information would have been nice, but that's what I get for picking up randomly in the timeline. I really want to go out and read all the Deadpool comics I can get my hands on.

My ratin: 4/5 fishmuffins