Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Host

Creatures called “souls” have infiltrated and taken over the Earth. People go through their daily routines as normal, but they are completely different from who they were before the invasion. The world is now a utopia. No one is hungry or sick. People only die of old age and war has been eliminated. This new world isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Souls are very small silver beings that attach to a host’s brain and take over the body, leaving the human imprisoned in his or her own mind. Wanderer is a special “soul.” She’s been on almost every planet her people have colonized and hasn’t found a world she really cares about. She’s implanted into Melanie, a girl who tried to kill herself to escape. Melanie isn’t silent like she’s supposed to be and fights with Wanderer, who still has control over her body. After a few months of an unsatisfying life, Wanderer decides to go to a Healer to fix her problem with Melanie. She ends up following directions to find Melanie’s boyfriend and brother because she has developed a love for them through Melanie’s memories. Will she find them or will she just die in the wilderness? Will she lead other “souls” right to them and end up ruining their lives?

This is Stephenie Meyer’s first foray into the science fiction and adult fiction genres, published in between the third and fourth books in the Twilight series. I am really impressed and I really enjoyed the novel. I like Twilight, but I look back on it and see that it needs editing to make the plot seem more integrated as opposed to an afterthought. The writing in The Host is much better and shows that Meyer has grown and evolved as a writer. The narrative is very character driven and the writing really sucks the reader in. I was completely into the story on page one. It starts from the point of view of the souls. Through their eyes, humans seem incredibly destructive and violent, making their reasoning for taking us over seem logical. This aspect of the novel was one of the most chilling. The whole idea of being inside of your body and seeing someone else walk around and communicate through it is also disturbing. It’s a cruel form of torture. Another thing that was disturbing was the amount of violence. I am not squeamish at all, but the violence inflicted upon Wanderer by humans really bothered. It was very close to domestic violence and made me cringe to read it.

I like the romantic story that occurs in this dystopic world. It involves four people in only three bodies. One person loves Wanderer and the other loves Melanie. The confusing feelings and the growing and evolving relationship between Wanderer and Melanie is compelling and interesting to read. They start out completely hating each other, but evolve into close friends. The characters are flawed, but detailed and realistic. They are what really make the story interesting and engaging. The plot doesn’t move very quickly, but I’m so taken with the characters that it doesn’t faze me at all.

Meyer describes her novel as for people who don’t like science fiction, but I completely disagree. I also feel it is disingenuous to the science fiction community. I think fans of science fiction would enjoy The Host too. I think everyone could find something they like in the novel, whether it’s action, adventure, romance, or science fiction.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Friday, June 25, 2010

My Take on the Unicorn vs. Zombie Debate

There has been a Unicorn vs. Zombie fight between Sharon Loves Cats and Books (Team Zombie yay!) and Good Books and Good Wine (Team Unicorn...). I think it's pretty obvious what side I'm on. On Good Books and Good Wine, Mariah from A Reader's Adventure wrote a guest post about why Unicorns are more awesome. I respectfully disagree and I want to explain why. This started out as a comment and them became way too long.

Original post:

1) "[Unicorns] are unpredictable, they may pretend to love you and then go in for the kill, or they may just go through you. Or they might even not try to kill you at all."

My response:

Zombies, although the ravenous man-eating ones will ALWAYS bite you, are unpredictable to some people. If it is a loved one that has turned zombie, they seem to always hope that it's all ok and they can get close to it and perhaps hug it. Wrong. They get bitten or are eaten. Look at the new zombie film Survival of the Dead. Janet O'Flynn gazed at her twin sister who was a zombie and thought she saw a lucidity and intelligence there. She got too close and she was savagely bitten. It happens a lot in zombie movies for some odd reason.

Another way zombies are unpredictable is in their speed. There are the slow shuffley zombies that can barely move and there are the super fast ones from the remake of the Dawn of the Dead. Although I have some reservations about the fast zombies, they still exist. I know if I ever faced a zombie I would pray that it was slow so I could outrun it easily.

Original post:

2) "There is much more diversity in unicorn books. In some they are horrible killers, and in others they are sweet helpful creatures. Zombies are for the most part evil."

My response:

There is an incredible range of diversity in the zombie genre. There are the ravenous eating machine zombies of World War Z by Max Brooks, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, Dance of the Dead, Dead Snow, Soulless by Christopher Golden, etc. Then there are a whole slew of other types of zombies. In Stacey Jay's You Are So Undead to Me, normal zombies are just dead people who want something in their lives resolved before they lay to rest. They do not eat people and are able to speak. In Fido, zombies have been domesticated to be servants and take up very easy jobs. In Breathers by S.G. Browne, zombies are really no different from humans except that they decompose. In Grace, the only indication that the baby isn't normal is it's appetite for human flesh. Other than that, it's looks like a very healthy, normal human baby. In the game Plants Vs. Zombies, there are an incredible number of different types of zombies: fast dance zombies, miner zombies, floating balloon zombies, fast football zombies, very scary gargantuan zombies, and so on. Plus they are different in that they eat plants, but I'm sure they do that just to get to your house and eat your brains.

The I have only seen three different types of unicorns: the very stupid, beautiful ones that are attracted to virgins featured in Mercedes Lackey's series Tales of the 500 Kingdoms, the killer zombies of Rampant by Diana Peterfreund, and the robot unicorns of Robot Unicorn Attack from Adult Swim.

Original post:

3) "Rampant by Diana Peterfreund is a unicorn book and it rocks!"

My response:

I haven't read this book, but it seems pretty cool. I would have thought it would have been ammo for Team Zombie. Unicorns are portrayed in movies such as Legend and The Last Unicorn as cute, cuddly creatures that need to be saved. This book is about killer unicorns. I don't know if I'd rather be killed by a zombie or a unicorn, but zombies seem more obvious. I don't really understand if the killer unicorns in the book are just evil or are just savage wild animals. I guess I'll just have to read it to find out.

Original post:

4) "Unicorns are better looking by a long shot. I mean ripped clothing and pieces of flesh was so last year. Zombie lovers would you even ever like to see a zombie? I mean gross."

My response:

I guess you have a point there. Zombies do look pretty gross.

Original Post:

5) "Unicorns can symbolize so many different things like eternal life ect. but zombies only represent death and destruction."

My response:

This is the one I disagree with the most. Zombies can represent so much more than death and destruction (although they are pretty good at that). In Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth, zombies represent the constraints of the oppressive society the characters live in. In George A. Romero's films, they represent consumerism and people's sheep mentality. He is also critical as to the policies and politics of the US. In E. Van Lowe's Never Slow Dance with a Zombie, zombies represent the overwhelming power of peer pressure and the movement against teens being true to themselves that teens have to fight against. In Grace, the zombie baby represents the lengths that mothers will go to in order to protect and nurture their children. I could go on and on, but zombies represent so much more than death and destruction.

Original post:

6) "Zombies are so overdone. There are so many zombie books that it is hard to find a new idea."

My response:

It may be true that there are a great many zombie books at the moment, but authors are not to be underestimated. I have read so many different types of zombie books that there are rarely two that are alike. There are the Regency era, Jane Austen mashups, zombie comedies, zombie romances, regular horror zombies, zombie self help books, etc. I think my other responses also indicate that there are a lot of different types of zombies that represent different things.

Original post:

7) "Unicorns are just plain better."

My response:

No. Just no.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New Layout!

I have a new layout!! Yay! I think it looks much nicer and easier to read. There was a little glitch where people couldn't post comments. A big, huge thank you to Sullivan McPig for letting me know or I would have never realized! It just shows that this book blogger community is awesome and full of friendly, helpful people. The problem is now fixed and my new and improved blog is officially up and running! Woo!


Captivate picks up right after Need left off: princess and half pixie Zara and her friends have imprisoned her pixie king father and his followers in a house surrounded by iron. They continue to put pixies they find in with them because they don't want to kill them, but can't let them free. These pixies aren't like Tinkerbell where they just flit around and look cute: they delight in torturing and bleeding human boys. Now a new pixie king named Astley is trying to usurp her father's throne and take over. He insists he isn't like the other pixies and will make everything better. However, there are other pixies in the race as well that may be worse than Astley. Zara knows never to trust a pixie, but she can't help but believe some of the things he says. Should she trust him or trust Nick, her loyal werewolf boyfriend? Will her decision come too late to matter?

Zara and her loyal band of friends are back. As in the first book, I like Zara and feel she's a strong female figure. She does make some really stupid decision I wanted to shake her for that kind of pushed it into Bella during New Moon territory. This novel addressed what I expected at the end of the first: Zara's conflict of practicality and personal morals. She and her friends locked up the pixies in a house, which was practical to stop the pixie attacks, but completely against her personal morals. Forcing them to live trapped in that house is akin to torture and she has trouble living with that, resulting in looking for other ways to deal with the problem. I also really like Issie. She's so sweet and kindhearted. She's a really good friend to Zara, even if Zara seems kind of insensitive to problems that aren't her own. Devyn kind of annoyed me with his weird attitude and blockheaded-ness. Of the new characters, I like Astley. He's the perfect mix of good, mysterious, and danger. He was the most compelling character of the novel. He revealed much more about different kinds of pixies than anyone ever before. I had to resist singing Never Gonna Give You Up by the incomparable Rick Astley in my head when I finally found out his name. Aside from the silly name, I look forward to more him in the next book in the series.

Every chapter starts with tips in dealing with pixies. I don't think they are as good at foreshadowing events in the coming chapter or, frankly, as interesting as the phobias in the first book. The narrative isn't as compelling to me in this novel because her descriptions of the setting weren't as present as in the first. I felt that Need is the better and more engaging book, but Captivate is a good book as well. Carrie Jones gets major, major kudos for two things: having the characters create a pixie survival guide inspired by Max Brooks' The Zombie Survival Guide and Issie's mentions of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I am huge fans of both so my inner nerd leaped for joy. Even though the book is flawed, I really enjoyed it and happily wait for the next in the series.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

*** My review of the first book, Need, can be found here. ***

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


In honor of Steampink Week at vvb32 Reads, I want to examine the steampunkiness in pop culture, namely in a TV show, a video game, and a film.

1) The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack

I love this quirky, weird cartoon. On the surface, it really doesn't seem steampunk at all. There's a good hearted, cheerful boy who was raised by a talking whale named Bubbie and idolizes a washed up "adventurer" named K'nuckles. It just seems like a typical cartoon with weird characters. Upon further examination, the show takes place in the nineteenth century, shown by the episode with the first moving film. The most steampunk aspects are in the Inventor and the Professor, who are brothers. The Inventor is an evil scientist that only creates things that are powered by enslaved children. He usually makes underwater contraptions, while his brother makes dirigibles. The most notable of these was the Grand Flying Contraption, created so that Bubbie would be able to fly. It's pretty much a hot air balloon attached to a ship, but still shows the signs of steampunk. This is an incredibly funny and cute show that I highly recommend. Here's the theme song of the show.

2) American McGee's Alice

I did a post about this awesome game a little while ago. I want to highlight the steampunkiness of the game. The main source of this is the Mad Hatter who in this game is a crazed villain who fancies himself a genius. He has become obsessed with time and clockwork objects. He tortures some inhabitants of Wonderland by using them as experiments or to create inventions. He has even altered himself into being part clockwork. His domain is full of gears, clocks, and brass. It's steampunk gone mad. Here's a clip from the cut scenes of the game.

3) Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

I don't believe that the first Hellboy movie was particularly steampunk, but the second movie is practically dripping with it. The Golden Army is a very large army of badass, regenerating, giant clockwork soldiers. There is steampunk imagery throughout the film, from the door to the Troll Market to the large gears that Prince Nuada and Hellboy fight on to Johann Krauss's body. To go through every steampunky detail would take way too long. This film is a visual masterpiece as well as just an enjoyable movie. Here's the trailer from the film since I couldn't find one scene that encompassed what I wanted to say. (Plus the trailer features an awesome Rammstein song in it!)

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Alexia Tarabotti (now Maccon) is involved in another mystery and off on another adventure. The vampires and werewolves in London have found themselves afflicted with normalcy: they have become temporarily human and, therefore, mortal. They are understandably upset, but mistakenly assume that it's Alexia's doing. In the midst of this mystery, Lord Maccon, Alexia's hot tempered Alpha werewolf husband, has disappeared without any indication as to where he was going. In addition, he left his poor wife with a large regiment of werewolves on her front lawn. Now, Alexia needs to travel to Scotland to track down and warn her husband of the normalizing force coming his way with an entourage of random people including Ivy Hisselpenny, her sister Felicity, Madame Lefoux the milliner and inventor, her husband's valet, and her maid Angelique. On her voyage by dirigible, there are multiple attempts both to kill her and to steal things from her. Can Alexia figure out what is causing this normalizing condition before someone succeeds in killing her?

Alexia's narrative is a joy to read because of her wit and intelligence. She's a very sensible person with a clear, logical stream of thought. She is different from everyone else in the novel because she is soulless and lacks the creativity of those with souls. This isn't a hindrance to her, however. It's amazing the way she takes almost everything in stride, from attempts on her life to Ivy Hisselpenny's hideous hats. The only thing that I disagree with her on is matters of the heart. I think this is her great flaw because such things cannot be decided with purely logic. She also seems to doubt her love for Lord Maccon sometimes, perhaps because love isn't logical and she can't fully understand it. Her love for him is undeniable no matter how much she may try to use reason to try to find reason within it. The rest of the colorful supporting characters and their respective stories only added dimensions to the novel. My favorite of these people is still the incomparable Lord Akeldama with his cheerful nature and daring fashions.

This story is more character driven, so the story does move much slower than that of the first installment. I love being immersed in Alexia's world of the supernatural and science, so I didn't mind moving more leisurely through it. One aspect I really like was the blend of fact and fiction. Although there are vampires, ghosts, and werewolves, the social constructs and main influences on the Victorian era remain the same. The burgeoning technology of the era, although often fictional technology in the novel, is reflective of the dominance of science over religion and the heavy influence of the writings of Charles Darwin. Social constructs where also addressed with the forbidden romance between Ivy and Lord Maccon's valet, Tunstell (who is also an actor). A relationship between is highly looked down upon because of Tunstell's profession and his low standing within society. Ivy is also engaged to a man she doesn't love and must choose between love and convenience. Another aspect of social commentary is the fact that although Alexia is a strong willed and independent woman, she still cannot do certain things in society without a scandal, including trekking to Scotland by herself. In this look at Victorian society, it felt very much like the view offered in John Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman. Changeless also offered a more in depth look at the alternative history of its world, such as the vampiric influences of England's fashion and acceptable activities.

The one aspect I did not like in the story was the "mummy unwrapping party" and the complete disregard for preserving Ancient Egyptian antiquities. I know that it seems silly, but I've always been interested in archaeology and Egyptology. And I do acknowledge that the attitude of those in the novel is indeed consistent with what was the mentality then, but it doesn't mean I have to like it. Archaeology then was simply grave robbing and was more destructive than helpful in the field. This one thing was only a momentary annoyance in a largely wonderful book.

I absolutely loved Changeless. This book had everything: political intrigue, romance, humor, dirigibles, and, of course, parasols. The book ended on a cliffhanger and totally infuriated me. I wanted to shake one character until they passed out. I can't wait for the next novel set to release in September!

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

**Read my review of the first book in the series here.**

**Posted for Velvet's Steampink week at vvb32 Reads and Gail Carriger's super awesome review contest.**

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bleeding Violet

Hanna Jarvinen is crazy. According to doctors, she is bipolar, but she prefers the term manic depressive. She hallucinates pretty regularly and talks to her dead father daily. She also dresses all in purple in his memory. She decides to go to Portero, Texas to find the mother she has never met. Her mother is less than enthusiastic to see her long lost daughter and states that if Hanna can't fit in, she has to go back to live with her aunt. (Never mind that Hanna knocked her aunt unconscious and wouldn't be welcome even if she came back.) Portero is a lot more weird than Hanna ever suspected. On the first day, she just figures she's hallucinating, but it seems that other people see the visions as well. It turns out that the town is the site of interdimensional travel and large, scary monsters traipsing through all the time. Will she survive this crazy town and be accepted by the community to get through to her mother?

I have never seen a young adult book quite like this one. I think the closest to it would be Going Bovine by Libba Bray. I heard about this book from other blogger's reviews and just checked it out at the library on a whim (and because I love the cover). I had no idea what I was getting into. The bizarre town is used to random monster attacks. Everyone wears dark colors as to not attract attention from dangerous creatures. Needless to say, purple clad Hanna was a surprise, but not expected to last long. She was as surprising to me as she was to the townspeople. She is so strange, but full of life. She takes all the weirdness in stride and rises above people's doubts and criticisms. Her thought processes are fascinating and make her one of the most interesting protagonists I have ever read. Hanna is my favorite character in the novel. Her character development goes beyond her mental disorder. Her different layers are revealed as the novel goes on and I couldn't help but be emotionally invested in her and her journey.

The narrative features many scenes that would be considered by many to be not appropriate in a book geared towards teens. I loved every single page of this book. The writing really sucked me into the story and held my interest throughout. Personally, I had no problem with the violence, drug use, or scenes of sexuality. All of the reviews I have read that are negative condemn Dia Reeves for not providing a good role model or a good message. I completely disagree. I think those people are more interested in censoring anything that they don't agree with than looking for an interesting story that might speak to them. They seem to focus on individual scenes and not the overarching themes and messages. Hanna is an independent and assertive girl who solved her problems through her own wit, negotiation, and intelligence. There are some very disturbing scenes in the novel, but they aren't gratuitous or put there just for shock value. On the other hand, there are also some very touching, emotional scenes.

Bleeding Violet has easily made it into the ranks of my favorite books. I would recommend this to people who aren't squeamish and are looking for a wild ride.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Zombies Plus Life Update!

Zombie Girrrl over at Crackin' Spines and Takin' Names is an awesome blogger and a fellow zombie fan. I reviewed The Forest of Hands and Teeth over at her blog here. You know you want to know what I thought, so check it out! :)

And now, my life update: I have officially graduated from college and now hold a degree in literature and a degree in music! Yay! I still have to return to school for my credential, but I still feel accomplished and happy. :D