Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Book Review: Immortal City

Title: Immortal City
Author: Scott Speer
ISBN: 978-1595145062
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Supernatural, Paranormal Romance
Theme: Angels
Binding: ARC Paperback (advance reader copy)
Length: 368 pgs
Published: 3 April 2012
Buy: amazon.com, bn.com
My Rating:

Jackson Godspeed is the hottest young Angel in a city filled with them. He is days away from becoming a full Guardian, and people around the world are already competing for the chance to be watched over by him. Everyone's obsessed with the Angels and the lucky people they protect - everyone except for Madison Montgomery. Maddy's the one girl in Angel City who doesn't breathlessly follow the Angels on TV and gossip blogs. When she meets Jackson, she doesn't recognize him. But Jackson is instantly captivated by her, and against all odds the two fall in love. Maddy is swiftly caught up in Jackson's scene, a world of glamour, paparazzi - and murder. A serial killer is on the loose, leaving dead Angels' wings for the police to find on the Walk of Fame. Even the Guardians are powerless to protect themselves in the face of this threat … and this time it's up to Maddy to save Jackson.

**The Following Review May Contain SPOILERS**

My Review: I won an early reviewer's copy of this book through Kristin's blog called GrowingUp YA which I am eternally grateful for.

Unlike the angel YA book I read before this one (Temptation of Angels) which was a complete disappointment, Immortal City was a fun, addictive read. The first chapter was a great opener and sets the tone of the story right away. Imagine this: a drunk rich kid (or young man) driving erratically down the road at night. Just as he weaves around a bend, he realizes too late that his car is about to hit into a truck. As the vehicles collide, he is suddenly pulled through his wind shield to safety by his guardian angel. His angel informs him that other then some superficial cuts and bruises, he will be fine and that the money for saving his life has already been transferred out of his account-- in the amount of $100,000 dollars. When the rich kid asks about the unfortunate driver of the truck whom he hit, the angel shrugs, stating simply, "He didn't have coverage." And thus begins the funny yet creepy premise of Immortal City-- angels are now "out of the closet" and only save those who can afford their prices in exchange for their services.

Along with Scott Speer's original and refreshing plot, so is his unique world building. Instead of pages and pages of angel mythology, the author explains his theories through Maddy's history class aptly called "History of Angels in America". So it almost makes the reader feel like they are learning this information with the characters. The fact that the history of angels has been added to high school curriculum also shows how important angels have become in modern society-- even if their significance has become misconstrued in many ways.

So now you are probably wondering not only why angels decided to reveal themselves to man, but how they could possibly save only those who can afford to be saved. Why would they charge people for their services? Well that is for you to find out. However, to sum things up, angels grew tired of seeing mankind self destruct. This idea is not that original and has been used in many books and movies before.

This leads me to my few minor issues with this book. I get that the angels somehow symbolize how we today obsess and idolize celebrities and put them on pedestals. It's a clever plot device. What left me confused is the whole religious aspect-- or lack there of. I'm not saying that every angel book has to mention God or choose a "side" or become preachy. However, I couldn't help but wonder where God is in all of this. Or is there no God, only angels? If God does exist in Scott Speer's mythology, then how can he sit back and allow angels to save only those who can afford their astronomical fees? How does it make them any better than demons and dark angels? God or any other higher entity is not mentioned in the book and I find that puzzling.

My other issue is Maddy's relationship with her uncle Kevin. She was just a baby when her parents were killed and Kevin took over as her guardian. Maddy calls him Kevin instead of uncle Kevin. Also, she thinks to herself at one point, "She loved Kevin dearly, but the fact of the matter was, he wasn't her parent. Some things were just private." Really?? I could see if her parents had died when she was 10 and then she had to live with her uncle. But for someone who has no recollection of her parents and has always lived with her uncle, I would think they'd have a closer bond.

My last gripe is the lack of romantic development between Maddy and Jackson. I am cool with authors who use the "love at first sight" technique. That doesn't bother me so much. However, there does have to be some sort of growth between the characters as the story progresses. The moment they shared in the back office of the diner was not a bad start. They both share the loss of a parent. Sadly, that is pretty much it for their similarities. Most of the novel is Maddy being angry or argumentative towards Jackson and Jackson occasionally wondering why she keeps popping into his head. While I think Scott Speer did a great job developing them as characters individually, their relationship seemed a bit...shallow. I guess what I am trying to say is I really wanted to like them as a couple but wasn't completely sold, even when things started to get more intense at the end.

Despite these things, I think Immortal City is a solid first book in what is sure to be a series based upon how it ended. I give this book a 4 out of 5 star rating because I have faith that the author can smooth out the kinks in the 2nd novel, such as more angel background and spending some more time developing the relationship between Maddy and Jackson.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Book Review: A Temptation of Angels

Title: A Temptation of Angels
Author: Michelle Zink
ISBN: 0803737262
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Romance
Theme: Angels
Binding: ARC Paperback (advance reader copy)
Length: 435 pgs
Published: 20 March 2012
Buy: amazon.com, bn.com
My Rating:

Synopsis: Even angels make mistakes in this page-turning epic romance When her parents are murdered before her eyes, sixteen-year-old Helen Cartwright finds herself launched into an underground London where a mysterious organization called the Dictata controls the balance of good and evil. Helen learns that she is one of three remaining angelic descendants charged with protecting the world's past, present, and future. Unbeknownst to her, she has been trained her whole life to accept this responsibility. Now, as she finds herself torn between the angelic brothers protecting her and the devastatingly handsome childhood friend who wants to destroy her, she must prepare to be brave, to be hunted, and above all to be strong, because temptation will be hard to resist, even for an angel.

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: I won an early reviewer's copy of this book from Library Things, so I was obligated to write a review once I was finished. The book is not due to be published until early next year, March 2012. There is another person who reviewed this book on Library Things under the name MargK that I completely agreed with. A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink was nothing like I expected and I don't mean that in a good way. The list of positive things about this book is very short.

Here are a few of the positives:

1) Like MargK mentioned in her earlier review, the author has a certain simple elegance to her writing, therefore it was easy to read.

2) I liked that the story took place in London (Despite this, I had major issues with the setting—or lack thereof which I will get to shortly).

3) Even though I agree that the author doesn’t really give us any new dimensions to her characters or the love triangle (we’ve read it all before), I will say that she did a good job at building the sexual tension and romantic moments between Helen and Griffin.

Sadly, this is where the positives end. I don’t want to make this a long, drawn out review nor do I want to repeat the negatives that other reviewers have pointed out, so I am going to stick to my 3 main issues with this book.

1) The setting. Like I said above, I was looking forward to reading this book partly because it was supposed to take place in London. The reason I enjoy reading books with settings around the globe should be obvious—it’s a way to learn about a country or time period without having to do extensive research (unless you want to). I think that is one of the important jobs an author has to do—transport you to that time and place, make you feel like you are there. Unfortunately, this does not happen in A Temptation of Angels. The author does not give us any specific dates (not always necessary) or landmarks, or historical references. Helen and the Channing brothers seem to walk everywhere—there is no mention of horses or cars—nothing that could help me get a better sense of what type of London the story takes place in. The only thing that finally gave me an idea where to place the story is when it is revealed that Helen wears corsets and that it is not proper etiquette for a young lady to be walking the streets alone, or to be living with young bachelors that are not her family. This of course is a big contradiction in the book. I’m not even going to go there since MargK’s review gets into detail the major contradictions of the mysterious and supposedly powerful organization called the Dictata.

2) My other major problem with this book is this: the book is supposed to be about angels. Other then Helen and the Channing brothers being able to “jump” through light (as in being able to dissolve their bodies into tiny molecules through light in order to transport to other places), nothing else is explored as far as their abilities. What else can they do? Hell, if they are angels, aren’t they supposed to have wings? Not once are wings mentioned.

3) Lastly, this book is riddled with parts that are unbelievable, unnecessary, or just plain didn’t make sense. The author spends too much time on parts that could be simplified in a page or two while she does not give enough attention to things such as the term “Enlightenment” for example. What does it mean when one reaches “Enlightenment”? This term was mentioned several times in the beginning of the book but was never explored. What happened to Darius’ face? How did he get the scar? I also think that her reaction AND the outcome of the whole dart/dog situation was completely ridiculous. I don’t want to give it away since it would be a major spoiler, but it was a very poor plot device.

To sum it up, the book had an interesting premise but the execution fell flat. For lack of a better way to say this, I was bored. Unless the finished product differs greatly from the ARC I just read, I don’t see Michelle Zink's A Temptation of Angels making any great waves in the YA literature world.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Movie Review: Strangers

Movie Title: Strangers
Erez Tadmor & Guy Nattiv
Actor(s): Lubna Azabal, Liron Levo
Language: Arabic, English, French, Hebrew
Subtitles: English
Rated: Not Rated (nudity, sexual situations)
Genre: Foreign
Run Time: 85 mins
DVD Release Date: 18 October 2011
Buy: amazon.com, half.com, ebay.com
My Rating:

A chance encounter in Berlin sparks an improbable, passionate affair between an Israeli man and a Palestinian woman. Handsome Eyal (Liron Levo) and Rana serendipitously meet when their backpacks get swapped on the subway during the 2006 World Cup finals. Over six days, they get swept away by romantic desire, soccer mania and competing political loyalties. When Rana suddenly return to Paris, Eyal must make some bold choices that could alter their lives forever.

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: Strangers was a movie I had been looking forward to seeing for a long time. I heard about the film about a year ago and was annoyed that it had only been released on dvd overseas. Normally this does not stop me from viewing a film-- I have my ways of changing the region coding on foreign discs. However, the movie was going for over $30 dollars at the time and sorry, but I refuse to pay that much. My patience served me well because I found out it was going to be released in the US in October.

This is going to sound weird but Strangers was in one hand interesting and in the other disappointing. It started out as I expected. We follow Eyal first as he arrives in Germany and travels to his ex-girlfriend's house whom he made a pact with years ago. They promised each other they would go to the World Cup together no matter what, even if they broke up. Well keeping his end of the promise, he shows up at her house only for her not to answer his phone calls or answer the door. As he searches for a place to sleep for the night, he meets Rana on the subway. They accidentally switch bags which later results in them meeting back up. This leads to them spending time together, going to the World Cup together, and sharing a place to sleep for the remainder of their stay. Basically they do a lot of talking, drinking, love making, and cigarette smoking (which I am fine with up until later).

Things start getting interesting once Rana receives a mysterious phone call and tells Eyal she has to go back to Paris. As she is about to board the plane, she tells him to not call her, basically to forget about their little affair. I figured maybe she had a husband waiting back at home, or maybe family that would completely freak out at the thought of her being with an Israeli man. Of course Eyal is a total romantic (as shown in the beginning when he keeps his promise to his ex) and decides to fly to Paris to surprise Rana with a visit.

Once in Paris, Eyal gets settled in at a hotel and starts searching for Rana. After getting some info from a cafe that she frequents, he surprises her on the subway. Of course, she tells him he shouldn't have come. He gives her a card from the hotel he is staying at just in case she wants to talk to him.

The twist is *MAJOR SPOILER ALERT* Rana has a little boy that has serious asthmatic health issues to the point where he must use a machine. One night she wakes up to him having trouble breathing and takes him to the hospital. While filling out paperwork, it is revealed that Rana is staying in Paris illegally and the shitty nurse calls immigration. She has no family in Paris, so the only person she can call to watch over her son while she is locked up is Eyal.

Okay so up until this point I was hooked. Did I think the beginning was a little slow and boring? Yes. But once she left Berlin to go back to Paris and Eyal follows her, things really started to heat up. Being able to see that she is a single mom, struggling to make ends meet and to provide the best kind of care to her little boy who is sick, definitely touched a chord in my heart. And obviously I was curious to see Eyal's reaction to not only finding out that Rana has a child, but that he literally has to take care of him until further notice.

Here is where things go down hill and unrealistic for me. The first thing that confused the hell out of me is when Rana gets released. The people from immigration gave her such a hard time and from what is said in the movie, they had proof that her papers had been expired for awhile. How and why was she released??? It is never mentioned. I have watched movies before dealing with immigration and they never just release you 24 hours later. I guess maybe if there had been some sort of explanation I would have been okay. But what was the point of adding that plot device if they weren't going to further explore it?

The second problem I had with this movie was actually Rana's character. I think by the end of the film I was sort of pissed off at her, for lack of a better word. Here is why. Once I found out she not only had a child, but one that obviously is very sick and frequently, I started questioning her motherhood skills. She takes off for Berlin at the beginning of the movie and it is never explained why. I mean, did she just decide she wanted a vacation? If so, I think she took one hell of a risk to fly to Berlin and leave her kid with a neighbor/friend, especially being in Paris illegally. I guess once I put that all together, it started bothering me. What mother would just up and leave the country for a few days of booze and sex? Yes, yes, I know she didn't PLAN on meeting and sleeping with Eyal, but come on!

Okay so here is the biggest thing that annoyed the hell out of me about Rana. Her son is an asthmatic. I mean a serious asthmatic that is on medication and sometimes needs a breathing machine. Why in the hell would she be smoking cigarettes around her kid??? Once she gets out of immigration and she invites Eyal back to her place, all they do is smoke cigarettes in that little tiny apartment while her son is sleeping! WHAT THE HELL!!!!!!!!! It just makes no sense! He JUST got out of the hospital from a SERIOUS asthma attack and she is sitting there smoking away! Okay, I need to calm down! But seriously??? The other thing that further annoyed me was later when you see her and Eyal at a club, drinking and getting drunk. Where is the kid??? When they get back to the apartment you see him laying on the bed I think. What, did they just leave him there while they went out partying?

Yup, that is where I pretty much gave up on the movie. I was appalled at her unmotherly, teenage behavior. It kind of spoiled the ending for me which actually wasn't that bad. I guess I just stopped feeling sympathetic for her. As for Eyal...I think he had a little more common sense but hey, I had to fault him too because he was smoking right up in there with her and went out partying with her instead of staying home with the kid. Overall, Strangers wasn't a bad movie, but the writer(s) of the film should have thought things through a little better if they wanted people to feel more sympathetic towards the main characters.


Friday, November 11, 2011

L.A. Banks: R.I.P.

Back in May (2011), I reviewed the first book in a new urban paranormal series called Surrender the Dark by L.A. Banks. There are so many Angel romance and paranormal series circulating in recent years, but there was something about her new series that stood out. I immediately connected with the setting of the novel which is in Philadelpha, PA, literally 40 minutes from where I live. Ms. Banks has an amazing ability in giving her characters authentic accents--not every author has the patience or talent to write dialogue the way she does.

I recently just purchased the 2nd book in this particular series called Conquer the Dark. Right before I did, I noticed there was a contest giveaway for the novel on someone's blog. While I was on there, I learned the very sad news that L.A. Banks, at only 51 years of age, has died of adrenal cancer. Apparently she passed away on August 2nd, a few months before I even found out.

Leslie Esdaile Banks was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA. She was an African American writer who enjoyed dabbling in several different genres which included everything from crime/suspense, to paranormal/horror, to African American literature, and romance. She wrote under numerous pseudonyms, such as LA Banks, Leslie Esdaile, Leslie Banks, and Leslie Esdaile Banks. She was a New York Times bestselling author and her most popular series, called Vampire Huntress Legend, have been optioned for Hollywood films by GothamBeach Entertainment and Griot Entertainment.

I think the thing that saddens me the most is despite her success and popularity as a writer, her medical expensives were so great that her family had to start a charity in her name. Other authors helped show their support (such as Charlaine Harris and Heather Graham) by helping the literary community start several auctions where the proceeds went to Bank's medical care.

I wish I could have known her sooner. And I hope this does not sound selfish, but I wonder if Conquer the Dark ends on a cliffhanger or if she was able to tie up loose ends. I am assuming this was her last book since it was published in September of 2011 and only book 2 in the new series she started. My heart goes out to her family and her fans. I know that sounds strange to say considering I am technically a fan as well. But I feel like I missed something, like I am the last one to jump on a train that has already been traveling for days. She has readers that have most likely been with her since the beginning that will mourn her greatly.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

BOOK REVIEW & A THANK YOU: Chain Reaction (Perfect Chemistry, #3) by Simone Elkeles

Title: Chain Reaction (Perfect Chemistry, #3)
Author: Simone Elkeles
ISBN: 978-0802720870
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Teen Romance
Theme(s): Gang, Urban, Contemporary Romance
Length: 320 pgs
Binding: Hardcover
Published: 16th August 2011; Walker Children
Buy: Amazon.com, BN.com


Luis Fuentes has always been sheltered from the gang violence that nearly destroyed his brothers’ lives. But that didn’t stop him from taking risks — whether he’s scaling a mountain in the Rockies or dreaming of a future as an astronaut, Luis can’t stop looking for the next thrill. Nikki Cruz lives her life by three rules — boys lie to get their way, don’t trust a boy who says “I love you,” and never date a boy from the south side of Fairfield. Her parents may be from Mexico, but as a doctor’s daughter, she has more in common with her north-side neighbors than the Latino Blood at her school. Then she meets Luis at Alex’s wedding, and suddenly, she’s tempted to break all her rules. Getting Nikki to take a chance on a south sider is Luis’s biggest challenge, until he finds himself targeted by Chuy Soto, the new head of the Latino Blood. When Chuy reveals a disturbing secret about Luis’s family, the youngest Fuentes finds himself questioning everything he’s ever believed to be true. Will his feelings for Nikki be enough to stop Luis from entering a dark and violent world and permanently living on the edge?

My Rating:

Wow. I can't believe that this amazing series has finally come to an end. However, the relationships that have been forged and the powerful lessons that have been learned will carry on for a lifetime. Simone Elkeles is a truly gifted author. You may hear those words all the time, but I am not just talking about her writing skills. While I'm not a deeply religious person, I do believe that we are all here for a purpose. Most people spend their whole lives trying to figure out what they were put on this earth to do. And nothing, in my opinion, is trivial. Simone is one of those rare people that not only found her niche, but utilizes it to touch others. Her writing is used not only to entertain our youth but to acknowledge and inform us on some of the grittier issues kids are dealing with every day. Some call her books controversial, but I see them as REALISTIC.

I work in the teaching field and the one thing I've figured out about myself is that I tend to connect with the students who everyone else has given up on. I have a soft place in my heart for the kind of kids that are like wounded animals. I'm talking about the ones that come from broken homes with no guidence, looking for acceptance and family in all the wrong places. The ones that look like boys on the outside but when you take one look in their eyes you realize they have seen and gone through things that even a grown person should never have to go through.

When I came across the first book in this series called Perfect Chemistry a couple of years ago, I had 2 students like this. I kept trying to find ways to break through their tough boy exteriors, to show them that someone cared. Simone Elkeles helped me accomplish this heavy task. My family, friends, and most of my colleagues already know the story and I don't want to write a book here since this is also supposed to be a review for Chain Reaction. But to give people an idea as to why I am thanking Simone, her books not only got both boys to read, but once the line of communication was opened and she felt the same connection I did with them, she decided to meet them in person. She literally changed their lives. She changed my life. The rest is history. I just couldn't go another day without putting something in writing as to how eternally grateful I am. Simone, you are my hero!

My Review: Now to Chain Reaction, the last in the Perfect Chemistry  series. I devoured the novel. It was fresh, engaging, gritty and most importantly realistic. From the language to the descriptions of gang culture, you can tell Simone did her research. Then again, I know first hand how seriously she wants to get things right, so that aspect of her writing was not a surprise.

One of the things I enjoyed about Simone's Perfect Chemistry  series is the way she weaves in different motifs. Even though each story revolves around a Fuentes brother and his struggle with gang life, Simone brilliantly gives her female characters a "problem" or "issue" that many teens go through. For example, in Perfect Chemistry, Brittany is not the shallow rich girl that everyone thinks she is. She has a dysfunctional family life that is hidden behind a big home and weathly parents. In Rules of Attraction, Kiara is not only slightly curvier than she would like (weight issues are prevalent in teens lives), but she also has a stuttering issue. In Chain Reaction, **SPOILER ALERT** Nikki must not only deal with an unplanned pregnancy at the beginning of the story and the abandonment of her baby daddy, but also suffers a miscarriage. Teens can relate to all of these issues that Simone tackles, especially in this last installment. Maybe that is why some of her books are considered controversial.

A reviewer on Amazon complained that Simone gave us the cliff notes version of Luis and Nikki's relationship, that she focused more on back story then new character development. Seriously? Did they read the same book?? The first several chapters of Chain Reaction IS character development. Simone introduces us to Nikki and Luis way before they even meet. Of course in classic Simone style, we get both of their perspectives by alternating chapters.

Chain Reaction  is the perfect blend of new and old. The last book of any series always has a lot of hype to live up to. Not only is the author responsible for wrapping things up in a way that leaves the reader satisfied, but what about previous characters? This is another reason why I love Simone! Even though Chain Reaction  is Luis and Nikki's story, Simone knows that her fans are still thinking about Alex and Brittany, Carlos and Kiara from books 1 & 2. Her fans want to know how their relationships have developed over time as well. And let's be real, this trilogy is about 3 brothers, so it just makes sense that readers would be curious about their own personal relationship as a family.

Overall, I could not come up with one thing negative, and I am not just saying that because this series holds a special place in my heart. I know first hand how seriously she takes her research in order to convey a completely authentic and relatable story-- and if you don't believe me go check out the acknowledgement page in the back of Chain Reaction :)

Simone, if you ever read this, I thank you for being the most down-to-earth, compassionate, funny, talented woman in the world! The boys and I love you and will always be your #1 fans!

best wishes,mia

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Book Review: Afterlight

Title: Afterlight
Author: Elle Jasper
ISBN: 0451231678
Reading Level: Adult
Genre: Urban Romance/Paranormal
Theme: Vampire
Binding: paperback
Length: 316 pgs
Published: 2 November 2010
Buy: amazon.com, bn.com
My Rating:

As Savannah's most unconventional tattoo artist, Riley Poe is quite familiar with the local underground scene. She lives and works on the edge of it every day.

Now, she's about to step over the edge.

When her younger brother is taken by a sinister cult led by centuries-old vampires, Riley discovers a world of shadows and blood--and those who exist there.

Her ally is the hot-tempered vampire Eli Dupre, who is attracted both to Riley's beauty as well as her one-of-a-kind blood type. A blood type he is not alone in craving.

To save her brother from certain un-death, Riley will face dangers she's never dreamed of, ruthless bloodthirsty enemies, and an evil of endless hunger that wants to devour all in its vile grasp.

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: Afterlight
was one of those books that caught me off guard in a completely good way. I had bought the book awhile back because I loved the cover and the synopsis sounded interesting. To be quite honest, I am sort of new in the urban fantasy world and I've avoided "girls that kick ass" type series that are crawling all over the place lately. While I love strong female characters, I also enjoy my alpha males. Okay, hold that thought because I'm going to come back to it.

Once I bought Afterlight, it sat on my shelf for months. I would pick it up from time to time, read the first couple of pages, and for some reason lose interest and move on to another book. I finally got around to checking out some reviews on amazon.com and became even more reluctant to read it since there were quite a few scathing remarks. (Not that bad reviews ever stopped me from checking out a book.)

I'm glad I picked it up again and gave it my full attention. Afterlight was wickedly good for so many reasons:

1) I love the whole setting in New Orleans and the care with which author, Elle Jasper, describes the old cemeteries, architecture, etc.

2) You can tell the author did her research-- everything from gothic lifestyle & clothing, to running a tattoo parlor, to the musical selections she chose to give us readers a real connection with the main character Riley and the overall mood/tone of the novel.

3) I think what fascinated me the most about Afterlight is how Elle Jasper introduces us to the "Gullah" culture. I will be the first to admit that I never heard of the "Gullah" and I am half African American myself. At first I thought Jasper made up the term "Gullah" and that Riley's adopted family was just the author finding a unique way of putting a fresh spin on witch mythology. But as I continued to read and became swept away with the language of Riley's beloved Preacher man and his wife Estelle, it dawned on me that "Gullah" culture is real. Once I figured that out, I was pretty much hooked. I know this shouldn't be about race or skin color, but there is something fascinating about a gothic white girl who is basically adopted by the ebony skinned "Gullah" witch doctor Preacher man, and falls in love with a 19th century vampire named Eli. Anthropology has always been a love of mine, so the fusion of these different subcultures and culture were intriguing.

4) Now for the "strong female vs. the alpha male" situation I mentioned earlier. Many times you have either a submissive female with a completely dominate alpha male hero that takes control. Other times you have books that say the female heroine is strong and can completely take care of herself but once you start reading, you realize she is just as submissive as the others. I guess what I am trying to say is, it's hard to find an author that truly commits to making their female lead character strong and independent. Or maybe I should say they have a hard time finding the perfect balance. In my opinion, Jasper hit the nail on the head with Riley and Eli. It was easy to convince me that Riley was a strong willed, sassy, modern woman before Eli came into the picture. After all, this girl somehow found the strength to beat addiction, find her self-worth and confidence after being in abusive relationships, put herself through college, opened up her own business which became quite successful, and most importantly, is in the process of raising and providing for her younger brother. What completely sold me was Riley and Eli's interactions with each other. Instead of Riley folding under Eli's dominate personality, she continued to prove that she was smart, capable, and can really kick some ass. I understand Eli's issues and why he is such an alpha--he is a 19th century vampire after all. But more then that, while he respects and admires her fighting abilities when battling her own species, he has his doubts about her being able to defend herself against vampires. He knows that deep down she is just a fragile human that does not have the strength or speed to go up against such a threat. Completely understandable in my book. Overall, I think Jasper does a great job proving that Riley is a tough chick. While she has feelings for Eli, she doesn't just turn into a submissive partner. She constantly keeps Eli on his toes.

I wanted to quickly comment on 3 remarks that I found in negative reviews that I completely disagree with. One, a reviewer said that Afterlight was too Twilightish. Umm, did they read the same book I did??? Do I see a few similarities between Afterlight and Twilight? Yes. But not in a negative way. That particular reviewer acted like this book should have been for Young Adult readers, and trust me, this is not a book for kids.

Another critic complained that the love scenes were not fully developed (meaning they weren't explicit enough). I found this interesting because I normally like things ruanchy. However, that also depends on the story and how it is written. The scenes were very hot and Jasper didn't really leave anything to the imagination. I don't feel that she left us hanging and while they could have been more explicit such as in the way the author describes certain body parts (use your imagination), I don't think it was neccessary.

Lastly, the harshest remark was from a reviewer that said Eli is a "forgettable" vampire. I couldn't disagree more. Eli is a perfect blend of old world 19th century vampire and modern day, brooding, sexy maleness with fangs. He's got the accent, the sex appeal, the alpha male tendencies without being a complete prick, and most of all, the ability to control the urge to take Riley's highly addictive blood more than any other vampire, including his own family. While we learn all these things about Eli, he also remains somewhat of a mystery which is sexy as hell. I want to know why he was in seclusion and away from his family for so many years. It didn't get explained in Afterlight, so I can only guess that it will be revealed in the 2nd or 3rd book in the series.

My only criticism is that some parts do get very repetitive. Riley constantly tells us that she is a badass. Honey, we already know that! You've proven it many times over, so you don't have to keep telling us. I also thought the ending of the book was a little weak (the battle scene was a bit anti-climatic). But that tends to happen when stories are written in 1st person. If you read the book, you'll know what I mean.

Other then those minor things, Afterlight is a solid series starter for the Dark Ink Chronicles. I look forward to checking out book 2 called Everdark.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Andy Whitfield: R.I.P.

I just found out the most devastatingly sad news. Andy Whitfield, at only 39 years old, has passed away from cancer. For those who have never heard of him, Andy was a virtually unknown actor with a small cult following (including myself) after playing the lead role in the indie flick Gabriel. It wasn't until the STARZ original series Spartacus that people started to take notice. Andy had the full package-- not only did he have the physical attributes to play such a vigorous character, but the man could truly ACT.

With the success of season 1 under wraps and fans around the world rooting for the underdog (in the show and in real life), Andy and the other actors of Spartacus began to prepare for season 2. During a routine checkup, Andy was diagnosed with non-hodgkin lymphoma. Production of show was put on hold while the actor focused on getting better. The chances looked good since they caught it in time. While Andy began treatment, the creators of Spartacus decided to move forward with a prequel.

After a few months of treatment, Andy was given a clean bill of health and began training to get back in shape for the grueling shooting schedule. No one expected the cancer to come back and this time with a vengeance. Knowing there was only one thing to do, Andy decided to pull out of Spartacus altogether, to focus his full attention on his family and his health. Holding no bitterness, he gave the show creators his blessing to recast for the lead role rather than canceling it altogether.

And that is the last bit of information we heard about Andy Whitfield until today. Other then 1 photo supposedly snapped of the actor with his family looking pale and gaunt a few months back, everyone in the Hollywood world seemed to respect his privacy as he battled for his life. In the meantime, after months of trying to find a replacement, the title role of Spartacus was finally given to Liam McIntyre which I wrote about several posts back.

I thought my next post about Spartacus would be my opinion on whether I felt Liam McIntyre's performance lived up to Andy Whitfield's brilliant portrayal. Never in a million years did I think I would be sitting here, fighting back tears of shock with the news of Andy's lost battle with cancer. I am saddened that his life was cut so short, that he leaves behind a beloved wife and two little children. I mourn his loss because we only got to see a small fraction of his acting abilities, talent that I knew was just under the surface, ready to be unleashed with his rapidly growing fame.

In his memory, I will put aside my reservations about the newly revamped season 2 of Spartacus and try to watch it with an open heart. Afterall, he gave his blessing for the production to move on. My heart goes out to his family and friends. And like those before him such as Heath Ledger and Brandon Lee, Hollwood has missed out on a truly talented actor.

Rest In Peace, Andy.

<3 Mia

Friday, September 2, 2011

Movie Recommendation: Warrior

WARRIOR is actually not due in theaters until September 9th, but I was one of the lucky few that snagged a pair of advance screening tickets. I figured it was only fair that I write a little something to promote the film, especially since it was-- in my opinion-- the best movie of the summer (or the first great flick of the fall depending on how you look at it).

WARRIOR is about Tommy Riordan (Hardy), an ex-marine, and his estranged brother, Brendan (Egerton), who is a physics high school teacher. Both were amazing fighters in their earlier lives, and have chosen very different paths due to their dysfunctional childhood. Their father (Nolte), once an abusive alcoholic-- caused his wife (Tommy and Brendan's mother) to leave. The split was devastating as it forced the brothers to each make a choice-- Tommy leaving with his mother and Brendan staying behind. Years later and still bitter, Tommy decides to pay a visit to his father, who is a recovering alcoholic. He relcutantly asks his father to be his trainer for an upcoming MMA Fighting Championship competition, and makes it abundantly clear that this is NOT a chance for his father to try to redeem himself. Meanwhile, Brendan, married with 2 little girls, is having financial problems and only has 90 days to come up with a solution or else he and his family will lose their home. He begins to train with a former friend/trainer of his and when the opportunity arises to enter into the same competition that his brother is preparing for, he takes it...

Initially I wanted to see WARRIOR because of the interesting choice of actors. I became an instant fan of Tom Hardy after seeing the mind blowing Inception last year and Joel Edgerton caught my interest awhile back as Gawain in King Arthur. And lets not forget acting legend Nick Nolte. I figured it had to be somewhat decent with that kind of cast lineup. What surprised me more than the cast was the story. I guess I wasn't prepared to walk into a movie about MMA fighting and walk out with a few tears in my eyes. Hell, I am not ashamed to admit that I did cry at more than 1 part. No, let me say it like this. I started watching WARRIOR thinking it was a movie about fighting but coming out knowing its message was about family.

WARRIOR is a lethal weapon. It has all the components of a great movie-- solid storyline, heart-felt acting, top notch directing. Oh and for those whom are worried that there isn't enough fighting? You won't be disappointed. The movie somehow balances out the drama with brutal action sequences and the better half of the film is focused on how each brother trains (very differently I might add) and of course the big MMA tournament.

If this movie doesn't get an Oscar nod I'll be very disappointed. I may get crucified for this comment but in my personal opinion this movie was BETTER than The Fighter of last years fame. I know there are differences between the films; Christian Bale was absolutely amazing and deserved his Oscar. But there is something about WARRIOR that tugged on the heartstrings a little more. I know I'm probably asking for too much to see both the movie and actors recognized for their phenomenal work, but I hope to see Hardy, Egerton, and/or Nolte nominated for something.

UPDATE 2.26.12: I just wanted to leave this little update. While the movie Warrior did not get nominated for an Academy Award, Nick Nolte did snatch a Best Supporting Actor nomination. He of course didn't win, but at least the movie was recognized in this small way. I still can't believe this is all Warrior walked away with. :-/

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book Review/Recommendation: Aftertime

Title: Aftertime
Author: Sophie Littlefield
ISBN: 0373803362
Reading Level: Adult
Genre: sci-fi/thriller
Theme: Zombie/post-apocalyptic
Binding: paperback
Length: 384 pgs
Published: 15 February 2011
Buy: amazon.com, bn.com
My Rating:

The world is Gone. Worse, so is her daughter.

Awakening in a bleak landscape as scarred as her body, Cass Dollar vaguely recalls surviving something terrible. Having no idea how many weeks have passed, she slowly realizes the horrifying truth: Ruthie has vanished.

And with her, nearly all of civilization. Where once-lush hills carried cars and commerce, the roads today see only cannibalistic Beaters-- people turned hungry for human flesh by a government experiment gone wrong.

In a broken, barren California, Cass will undergo a harrowing quest to get Ruthie back. Few people trust an outsider, let alone a woman who became a zombie and somehow turned back, but she finds help from an enigmatic outlaw, Smoke. Smoke is her savior and her safety.

For the Beaters are out there. And the humans grip at survival with their trigger fingers. Especially when they learn that she and Ruthie have become the most feared and desired of weapons in a brave new world...

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: I'm not sure what is going on with me recently, but it's apparent that I have become obsessed with apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic novels as of late. From Ann Aguirre's Enclave to Daniel H. Wilson's Robopocalypse, I have a pretty vivid picture of what it would be like if vampires or robots took over the world. Now I can add zombies to the list!

So here are a few things I loved about Aftertime. Cass, our protagonist, is more of a relatable character than a likeable one. She is a recovering alcoholic who allowed men to use and abuse her body because of her low self-esteem and lack of self worth. Cass has never really been good at anything except for 2 things-- loving her daughter and surviving. We've all heard stories on the news or read about people getting second chances after experiencing some kind of tragedy. Cass easily falls into this category. It's as if she's been asleep for a really long time and suddenly snaps awake.

Speaking of waking up abruptly, that leads me to another thing I liked about the book. The story doesn't start before the apocalypse or way after. It starts with Cass walking after waking up without any recollection as to where she is or how she got there. But there is one thing she can't deny-- the fact that the "Beaters" (aka zombies) had somehow gotten to her and she survived. The proof was the torn, half eaten skin on her back...and the new growth of skin quickly regenerating. Creepy right? I give Sophie Littlefield a lot of credit for taking a different approach in hooking the attention of her readers.

I also admire the author's zombie mythology. While it may not be wholely unique, there are still a few things that set it apart from zombies in other stories. The zombies or "Beaters" as they are called in Aftertime, only like eating skin. They don't get off on eating body parts or tearing out your internal organs to have a feast. Nope, these guys love skin, hence the reason why Cass's back is torn to shreds when we are first introduced to her. Also, these zombies are not stupid, mindless creatures. Some of them have retained knowledge from their pasts, which is why 1 may try talking while another might try pushing a wheel barrel down the street, etc. While they may try biting you on the spot, they much rather take you back to their "nest" so they can feast on your flesh without being interrupted. Yuck!

Even though this story is about Cass and her grim determination to find her daughter and come to terms with her past, Littlefield brilliantly shows us the deterioration of human society through Cass's journey and the people she meets along the way. From those who rather live in isolation and fend for themselves to the Rebuilders who feed off people's fear in order to rebuild society in the way they see fit, to the junkie camps-- a place for people to trade things in order to get their next fix and rather drown themselves in alcohol and drugs then face reality. And lastly, the religious fanatics.

Let me not forget to mention Smoke. Sexy, mysterious Smoke, the man who helps Cass continue her search for her daughter and stirs something deep within her heart...

Okay so now for my dislikes. I can honestly say that my issues with this book has nothing to do with the author, but whoever was her editor. The editor did a shitty job for several reasons. One is the ungodly long run-on sentences here and there, the major one being on page 102. The sentence goes on for 12 lines and is marked as if it is one big paragraph. Sometimes run-on sentences work, but not in this case.

There are also parts in the book where the author contradicts herself. For example, on page 123, Cass takes her shirt off, looks at her back in the mirror, and comes to the conclusion that the wounds weren't as bad as she expected and that they are healing fast. Then on page 140, Cass acts like she never had looked at herself in the mirror 30 pages before and is completely horrified by what she sees. Another contradition is when Cass and Smoke reach the library where there are other survivors. Smoke is only patted down to make sure he is not carrying any weapons. Cass, on the other hand, is taken into a bathroom by a woman who used to be her friend. There, Cass has to completely strip out of her clothes. Now, I get the trip to the bathroom was so that her friend could have a moment of privacy to tell her important information about Cass's missing daughter. I even get that the author needed a way for Cass's friend to see the scars on her back for a specific plot purpose. However, it makes no sense for Smoke only to be patted down while Cass has to get completely naked in order to prove she has no weapons on her.

While you might think the run-on senstences and contradictions may be the author's fault, I put the blame more on the editor since they are the ones who are supposed to read the book for the sole purpose of correcting errors such as these.

Overall, this was a solid first book in what I believe is going to be a trilogy. The second in the series-- Rebirth-- is already out. So if you are having trouble weeding through the hundreds of zombie themed books in search for something different, Aftertime is definitely worth it.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Book Review: Forbidden

Title: Forbidden
Tabitha Suzuma
ISBN: 978-1442419957
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Theme: Forbidden/Controversial/Incestuous Relationship
Binding: Hardcover
Length: 464 pgs
Published: 28 June 2011
Buy: amazon.com, bn.com, borders.com
My Rating:

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives--and the way they understand each other so completely--has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: Forbidden was an absolutely fresh, original story filled with heartache. No matter what anyone says, I give Tabitha Suzuma major credit for tackling such a "taboo" topic. Actually, I not only give her credit for tackling the topic of incest, but weaving such a beautiful story. I'm not going to lie--- in the beginning I was probably just as prejudice as anyone else. The thought of a brother and sister falling in love kinda gave me the creeps. But once the story began to unfold and the gentle ease with which the author introduces us to this forbidden love, you begin to understand how it could happen. Lochan and Maya's mother is HORRIBLE. I think I was more disgusted with this poor excuse of a human being that brought 5 innocent children into this world and basically leaves them to their own devices while she tries losing herself in alcohol and youth that has already passed her by.

I know that reviews are meant to be people's opinions but for the person or persons that said that Lochan's character is selfish and self-centered, I totally disagree. Lochan and Maya are both hardworking students that have been forced to take on the role of father and mother in order to raise their younger brothers and sister. At 17 going on 18 years old, Lochan not only is trying to get good grades, but also has worked out a system with Maya where they feed, bathe, dress their younger siblings as well as make sure they get to school, do their homework, get them to any after school programs or sports, etc. Lochan has no social life outside his home. No girlfriend, not even a friend other than his sister Maya. So how can people say Lochan is selfish? If anything he and Maya are two of the most unselfish, courageous young people I have read about so far. And trust me, I have read many books.

I am going to stop at that. There are so many more things I want to comment on, but I might as well stop since I tend to get a little heated and emotional when it comes to this book. Sometimes less is more, right? If you want to read a controversial, yet beautifully written love story, then this is the book for you. But be aware that this book can be graphic and is not for the faint of heart.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Recommendation: Robopocalypse

They are in your house. They are in your car. They are in the skies…Now they’re coming for you.

In the near future, at a moment no one will notice, all the dazzling technology that runs our world will unite and turn against us. Taking on the persona of a shy human boy, a childlike but massively powerful artificial intelligence known as Archos comes online and assumes control over the global network of machines that regulate everything from transportation to utilities, defense and communication. In the months leading up to this, sporadic glitches are noticed by a handful of unconnected humans – a single mother disconcerted by her daughter’s menacing “smart” toys, a lonely Japanese bachelor who is victimized by his domestic robot companion, an isolated U.S. soldier who witnesses a ‘pacification unit’ go haywire – but most are unaware of the growing rebellion until it is too late.

When the Robot War ignites -- at a moment known later as Zero Hour -- humankind will be both decimated and, possibly, for the first time in history, united. Robopocalypse is a brilliantly conceived action-filled epic, a terrifying story with heart-stopping implications for the real technology all around us…and an entertaining and engaging thriller unlike anything else written in years.

Why I Recommend It:

I'll try to keep this short and sweet. Robopocalypse blew me away. The book does not bore you with drawn out chapters or rigid chronological storytelling. Wilson draws us in by not only splitting up the book into 5 parts but the actual story is like an oral history, told with interviews, 1st and 2nd hand narration, and even what is seen in camera footage. This creates a very fast-paced page turner and will appeal to more than 1 kind of reader.

Is Robopocalypse 100% original? No. Does it pretend it is? No. I see some of the "Terminator" references such as the "Freeborn" robots, and there was even a part that reminded me a little of "Transformers" when some of the bigger robots helped defend Mr. Nomura's "fortress". But what makes this book unique is its storytelling and Daniel H. Wilson is a master at that. In the span of the novel, Wilson introduces us to a wide variety of characters from all walks of life and how each one is effected before and after Zero Hour. From the 17 year old mean spirited kid called "Lurker" in England, to the construction worker and his wife Dawn in NYC, to the soldier Specialist Paul Blanton in Afghanistan, to Lonnie Wayne and the Gray Horse Army in Oklahoma, and so on and so forth--Wilson takes us on an emotional journey, one that is not always comfortable. While the robots we created have taken over the world and is bent on destroying us, once you find out why, you can't help but question the choices mankind has made in the name of science and power-- and the severe consequences of those choices...

Robopocalypse is a MUST read, so pick it up at amazon.com, your local B&N, your local library, or buy & download it to your ebook reader. Oh, and just an FYI, Steven Spielberg has already confirmed that Robopocalypse is one of his next projects to direct and has a tentative release date sometime in 2013.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book Review: Tempest Rising

Title: Tempest Rising
Author: Tracy Deebs
ISBN: 978-0802722317
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Paranormal
Theme: Mermaids/Selkies
Binding: Paperback (ARC)
Length: 288 pgs (advanced reader copy)
Published: 10 May 2011
Buy: amazon.com, bn.com, borders.com
My Rating:

Tempest Maguire wants nothing more than to surf the killer waves near her California home; continue her steady relationship with her boyfriend, Mark; and take care of her brothers and surfer dad. But Tempest is half mermaid, and as her seventeenth birthday approaches, she will have to decide whether to remain on land or give herself to the ocean like her mother. The pull of the water becomes as insistent as her attraction to Kai, a gorgeous surfer whose uncanny abilities hint at an otherworldly identity as well. And when Tempest does finally give in to the water's temptation and enters a fantastical underwater world, she finds that a larger destiny awaits her-and that the entire ocean's future hangs in the balance.

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: Tempest Rising
was on my highly anticipated list and I was lucky enough to get a hold of an ARC (advance reader copy) before the release date. One of the reasons why I was excited about reading this book is because of its subject manner. Mermaids! Stories about mermaids are still fresh and new whereas, books on vampires, werewolves, and even angels are starting to get old and redundant. It’s getting increasingly harder to find that diamond in the rough.

An interesting thing I found out AFTER I had read Tempest Rising is that this author goes by 2 other pseudonym names—Tracy Wolff and Tessa Adams. Here is the connection—I have read the first book in Tessa Adam’s adult “Dragon Heat” series--Dark Embers-- and my rating/review of the book is nn one of my earlier posts. I remember giving Dark Embers a 5 star rating for its unique dragon mythology, sexy alpha hero, and sizzling romance.

That being said, while Tempest Rising had all the pieces to make a great first young adult book for Tracy Deebs about a teenage girl who on her 17th birthday would have to make a crucial decision whether to stay on land or follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a mermaid, somehow it falls a little short. While this book is supposed to be a little more serious in tone, I actually enjoyed Tera Lynn Child’s Forgive My Fins way better, which sort of has the same premise but more comical.

So starting with what I enjoyed…I liked how the book was split into 5 parts and how the chapters were short. Not that I have anything against long chapters; I just think that shorter chapters tend to make you want to read more. It is definitely a nice tool to keep readers interested.

At first I really liked Tempest. She was sort of like a tomboy—enjoyed surfing, hung around a bunch of guys, had a great boyfriend that any girl would be lucky to have. The whole on again, off again relationship with Mark was believable since the story is centered around teenagers and we all know that their emotions can run hot and cold. I also enjoyed Kai's character--at first he is very mysterious and sounds exotic with his darker skin, long hair, and sexy name. I can see why Tempest would have a sudden attraction to him.

However, it doesn't take long for Tempest to get on my nerves. She treats her boyfriend Mark like crap. At one point I was hoping that the author was going to reveal some major flaw of Mark's; like maybe he hits her, or cheats on her, or finds out that she is part mermaid and sees her as a freak, something to justify her mean behavior towards him. Unfortunately none of those things happen. He truly does care for her, puts up with her mood swings, and buys her a beautiful birthday gift. Despite her coldness towards him, I do commend Tempest for finally acting like an adult towards the end (won't spoil it for you).

I also got tired of Tempest always wanting to "run away". Almost every chapter she is either trying to get away from her boyfriend to avoid having a serious conversation with him or she is running away from her father who wants her to confide in him or she is running away from Kai, etc.

It felt like the author was just skimming over everything. She never really gives us background details other than how Tempest feels betrayed by her mother. Why did the tattoos/symbols form on her skin? What are their significance? How did her parents meet? Why does Tempest have so much more power than even her mother when she is only half mermaid? What’s the relationship between selkies and mermaids? Why does Tempest feel such a strong connection to Kai? Why didn’t the Queen of the mer people offer to help train Tempest so she can better understand her powers? Why didn’t her mother keep her promise and return to her to help her daughter through this crucial transition? And if she couldn’t, why didn’t she at least send someone to inform her husband? It’s not like her husband (Tempest’s human father) is in the dark. He knows his wife is a mermaid. I know Tempest’s mother sends Kai to keep an eye on her, but I guess I don’t buy all this secrecy and wondering why her mother has been absent so long. Yes I know that her mother was busy trying to keep her people safe from the sea witch. But if she could send someone to keep an eye on her daughter then why she couldn’t even send a letter to her devoted husband through Kai is beyond me. It seems pretty darn heartless.

The only reason I could think of for the author to only write on the surface is because she has plans to turn this book into a series. I could see that happening since there are things left unresolved as you can tell by my long list of questions. If this is her goal, then she definitely needs to work on her mythology and focus on story development. Hopefully Tempest will be less annoying in the future. While I am in love with the adult romance series that she has written under her pseudonym name Tessa Adams, Tracy Deeps has some work to do in the Young Adult universe.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Book Review: Surrender the Dark

Title: Surrender the Dark
L.A. Banks
ISBN: 978-1451607789
Reading Level: Adult
Genre: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy/Romance
Theme: Angels & Demons
Binding: Paperback
Length: 400 pgs
Published: 29 March 2011
Buy: amazon.com, bn.com, borders.com
My Rating:

Synopsis: Celeste Jackson has fought all her life against a fog of hallucination and substance abuse, but it’s not until she meets her protector, Azrael, an angel who has left the safety of the Light, that she learns of the evil forces that have been trying to ruin her, and why. A fierce battle for control of the mortal realm is brewing, and only Celeste—with the help of the Remnant, her half-human, half-angel brethren—can stand in the way. Together, Celeste and Azrael must gather an army of sensitives to defeat the dark powers that have ruled humanity for centuries, but time is running out. If Azrael surrenders to his growing desire for Celeste, he risks being trapped among humanity forever. But the longer he stays, the harder she is to resist. To save the world, Celeste must draw on her own dark experiences with addiction to help Azrael overcome the one temptation that could possibly make him an eternal prisoner—his obsession with her.

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: I was motivated to read Surrender the Dark in quite a different way. While playing around on amazon.com, I came across the book almost a month ago. I found the cover and the premise of the novel very appealing. At that time, there were only about two reviews and both were very negative. I think one was a 2 star rating while the other was only a 1 star rating. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion so I am not trying to be disrespectful but after reading the book, I am having a hard time finding the validity of their complaints. One reviewer complained that the author's writing is bad, do to the "over explaining of simple concepts" and too much religious lecturing/preaching. Well, I don't think you need to be a rocket scientist to realize that a) the book is the 1st in a new series so of course the author is going to introduce the reader to this new world/mythology she is writing about and b) DUH! The book is about ANGELS and the possibility of the end of the world! I am agnostic and am more spiritual than religious. Those close to me know I strongly dislike people who try pushing their religious beliefs on others. While reading this book, I in NO way felt that the author was trying to make me run to the nearest church. I think some readers need to be a little more open-minded and aware of some of the topics they may come across when reading the synopsis of a novel.

That being said, here are a few things I loved about Surrender the Dark.

Third person narration worked well in this novel and I think Ms. Banks made a wise choice in starting it off with Azrael's fall and first few moments of life on Earth in a mortal body. It definitely sets the mood and in my opinion, immediately catches the interest of the reader. Azrael's fall reminded me of Gabriel's fall in the indie movie of the same name, starring Andy Whitfield. Definitely a movie worth checking out if you like this book.

I liked the different terminology that the author uses (I'll get to that later) and her mythology. One thing I found fascinating is how Angels of the Light come into human bodies depending on their surroundings/environment. For example, the main protagonist, Celeste, lives in the hood and is African American. Since Azrael is being sent down to search for her but does not want to draw too much attention to himself, it only makes sense that his mortal body would blend in, therefore, he looks African American (and has dredlocks). Once I figured that out, it made total sense. It would draw too much attention if a white guy is found walking around in a predominantly "black" section. That is just asking for trouble.

I also liked the way Banks connected natural disasters, excessive drug dealing/using, and diseases (like cancer) to that of the evil workings of the devil. I'm not going to further explain that concept as I don't want to give too much away. But it definitely got me thinking.

I was really impressed with the author's ability to write realistic dialogue and dialects. A great example is one of my favorite characters, Aunt Niecey. Banks was able to capture her old southern charm mixed in with a no nonsense, God fearing attitude of a black woman. Here is an excerpt to give you an idea what I mean:

'"This po' girl been through a lot,"' Aunt Niecey said, looking at Azrael as she rubbed Celeste's back. "I don't know who or what you are to her, but if you hurt this baby girl after all she done endured, ain't no power high enough in Heaven to keep me off your ass, son. You hear? This is my baby. My baby sister's only chile. This one here is special. This one here is anointed--jus' like every door and windowsill and floorboard up in here is anointed, I done put down special prayers on this one. An' jus' like the devil can't come in this prayed-up house, can't nobody who ain't right stay with this special chile to bring her down..."'

Banks also did great with the Jamaican accent of her angel character Isda.

Another small thing I noticed-- I liked the fact that the story takes place in Philadelphia, PA! I am from the South Jersey area and it was so refreshing to read a story where the characters are navigating down streets and buildings I have actually been to myself.

Lastly, what makes this book a little different than other urban fantasy/romance novels is the fact that the main protagonist, Celeste, is not perfect. She is on drugs when Azrael first meets her. I think this gives her a real human quality rather than some unrealistic, perfect character that is hard to relate to.

Now for my 2 small complaints if you want to call them that. Although most people detest when authors add glossaries to their books, I think it would have been an asset in this case. Banks introduces new terminology to her readers in this series that may take some getting used to. While I did figure out the meaning of most, a small guide would have been helpful. Some terms are as follows: "Most High", "The Source of All That Is", "On High", etc.

My other small issue is more of a wish. In Surrender the Dark, Azrael is not the only angel we are introduced to nor is he the only one that is sent down on a mission. There are a few of his brethren that are sent to find others like Celeste. I was hoping, wishing, and praying that Banks' sequel would be about these other warrior angels and their missions but I found out that Azrael and Celeste's story continues in the next book. It's not a huge disappointment but I at least hope Banks adds more about these other characters.

All in all, Surrender the Dark is a great start to a new series about angels & demons, light and dark, good vs. evil, and the depths of despair vs. the healing power of faith.


Friday, February 25, 2011

UPDATE: I Am Number Four Movie. What Happened??

Movie Title: I Am Number Four
Director: D.J. Caruso
Actor(s): Alex Petyffer, Timothy Olyphant
Language: English
Subtitles: English (when needed)
Rated: PG-13 (violence, language)
Genre: Sci-Fi, Romance
Run Time: 109 mins
DVD Release Date: n/a
Buy: n/a
My Rating: ***** (3 out of 5 stars)

**The following review/rant may contain spoilers.**

I'm going to try keeping this update/review brief since I already reviewed the book version of I Am Number Four a few posts ago in which this movie is based upon. I'll break it down quite easily. For those people who have not read the book and only plan to watch the movie, you will most likely enjoy it. For the rest of us who have read the book and had high hopes that the film version would be just as good if not better, like I, you will be somewhat disappointed and have a WTF moment or two.

First I will start with the good points. The movie had great special effects, a surprisingly good soundtrack, nicely picked actors that did the book characters justice, and for about half the movie, followed the novel extremely well.

It was only in the last 45 minutes of the film that things fell apart. And again, the following points I mention will be spoilers so you are being forewarned.

1) No training.
In the book, Henri teaches and pushes John to practice his skills once he begins to receive his "legacies" or powers. This goes on for quite a few chapters and is important since it slowly reveals what he is capable of. No such thing happens in the movie. In the beginning we see his hands light up and by the end of the movie...we see his hands light up. Yes yes, I know we see John stop a car and levitate a Mogadorion. But he can do much more which we never get to see.

2) Wrong time to die.
In the book someone dies and it doesn't happen until near the end. In the movie, this person is killed off way before the ending. That was right around the time I began to lose faith in this movie because the timing of that person's death is crucial to other events that are supposed to happen.

3) Time to develop film? WTF!
In the book, John and Sarah go to a party that is being held by her jealous ex-boyfriend Mark. A fire breaks out and John saves Sarah's life, resulting in her finding out who he really is. In the movie, John goes to find Sarah at the party to say goodbye since he now knows that the Mogadorians are literally in town and have picked up his scent. There is no fire, but he does end of saving her life because of another incident at the house, therefore revealing he is not as he seems. John tells her he has to go but she says almost frantically, "John, I need to show you something! Please, come with me right now!" I was thinking maybe she knew a place for him to hide or had to show him a vital piece of information that could help him. But how horribly wrong I was. The next scene is them sneaking into the high school after hours, going into a dark room and...develop photos. Yes, you read that right. The Mogadorians are in town, hunting you down and yet you have time to DEVELOP PHOTOGRAPHS?? Whoever wrote that into the script must be out of their mind.

4) The box.
At that point I was pretty much disgusted. But I think what bothered me the most was the box issue. In the book, Henri has this box that goes with them whenever they move and he makes sure it is well hidden once they are moved in. This box is special because it not only is from their planet Lorien, but it only can be opened a special kind of way and only when John starts to receive his "legacies". The things in this box are intended to help him in his training, to help him make sense of what happened so many years ago to his planet among other things. Once Henri and John realize the Mogadorians are in town, the box travels with them, even during the big show down at the school. In the beginning of the movie, they make a big deal to show the box and how Henri hides it once they move into their new home. You don't see the box again until right before the credits roll at the end. WTF. Oh and did I forget to mention that inside the box is a healing stone that also plays an important role towards the end of the book but never is explored in the movie?

I gave this movie a 3 out of 5 stars because I figured out the issue. It's not the directing, or the special effects, or the acting-- all expectations were met in those departments. What failed miserably was the script. It's almost like the writer fell asleep and missed a few points but those few points just so happened to be the most IMPORTANT.

I guess I will just have to be satisfied with the upcoming sequel of I Am Number Four called The Power of Six which will be released in August '11.