Sunday, June 29, 2008

Newes From the Dead by Mary Hooper

This novel by Mary Hooper tells the tale of Anne Green, a convicted murderess sentenced to hang. Want to hear the twisted part? Anne is found to be alive many hours later (after being declared legally dead) on a doctor's dissection table . The best part? It's based on the true story of Anne Green's hanging in 1650.

While Anne hangs in a state of unconsciousness, completely unaware that she is alive, her life (forgive the cliche) flashes before her eyes. Well, not her entire life, specifically the events leading up to her being accused of infanticide and hearing her family's screams as she met her end (or so she thought) in the hangman's noose. As Anne remains in a place close to death, the doctors have abandoned their original intent and rally to bring her back from the other side. All the while, they stave off attempts by parties of questionable innocence to bring her back to the noose.

I felt that this was an interesting read. I enjoyed the author's take on a 16th century event through Anne's perspective and that of the doctors who revived her. However, I found Anne's character grating at times. She was quite easily swayed and had an inability to hold to her principles even after this trait gets her into trouble of the worst sort. It was out of my usual reading genre, and it really was a decent book. Not exceptional, but a good book nonetheless.

I give Newes From the Dead 4.8 lightnings [insert flashing light and various sounds of a thundery nature here]

From the Shadows,

Friday, June 27, 2008

*GASP* Plenty of Paper Hiatus Odyssey Continues...

Perhaps you have figured out a clue and discovered the magical link to lead you to the following Plenty of Paper review. Or perhaps you are unaware as to why the Whirlwinds appear to be stealing someone's review (Explained here). Either way, please enjoy. The girls of POP are fawesome and the Maelstrom is honored to be helping them out with this! What follows is an all Plenty of Paper, all awesome fiesta of reviewage for How to Be Bad:


How To Be Bad

(e. lockhart, sarah mlynoski, lauren myracle)

Mels, Vicks, and Jesse don't really have much in common. Vicks is the rebel with the dyed-black hair, cursing complex, and boyfriend who has just gone off to college and apparently forgotton her (one text. Stay cool). Jesse is an uber-Christian whose mother has just been diagnosed with cancer: breast cancer, after winning a wet tee-shirt contest. Clearly, a punishment from God. Mel is the new rich girl from Canada who nobody really likes. The only things that these girls are sharing? A weekend, a car, a hotel room, Mel's mom's credit card, and the road trip of their lives.

They will visit landmarks (the world's tiniest police station). They will meet a boy (sexy Marco). They will engage in several illegal activities. They'll fight and bond and get attacked by an alligator and learn, each in their own ways, how to be bad. And at the end of it all, they just might be best friends.

This book is a really great read. I was curious about getting my hands on it becasue of the multiple authors: I'm a huge fan of E. Lockhart's, but I had mixed feelings about Sarah Mlynoski's Bras and Broomsticks and I despise chatspeak far too much to have enjoyed Lauren Myracle's TTYL series. The writing here was excellent, though. The voices were distinct, but they blended together nicely. The styles of the three authors meshed very well.

How To Be Bad is very much a character story, and it's an extremely good one. Jesse, Mel, and Vicks were all believable characters with distinct personalities. I loved how none of them were stereotypical, despite any implications given by their immediate labels. Jesse, for instance, is the Christian girl, but she's also the meanest and cattiest of the trio. One of my favorite things about the book was that each of the characters had tons of their own struggles and problems to worry about, but the story continued to center around the girls as a whole, and their journey together.

Also, it was completely hilarious. All three of the authors worked in plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, even within the most tense parts of the story. There was a lot of verbal comedy, but much of the humor was situational as well.

My only complaint about this book? The drawbacks of carrying around a novel entitled How To Be Bad. Why that gets seven questions per day and my "Free Alan Rickman" tee-shirt gets none is beyond me, but it did. Go figure.

Four cups and a half for How to Be Bad!



Hey everyone (Aella again)! I have not received a hint from the fabulous crew, and I'm not sure if this is a glitch or no. Perhaps there will be something on their page? (*whispering* but don't take my word for it). Have a great rest of POP Hiatus!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Princess Ben was, in a word, surprising. After reading the Dairy Queen series by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, I was thrown completely by the very fresh character found in Princess Benevolence. And yet, she was so incredibly different from the protagonists of earlier Murdock books.

Princess Ben of Montagne leads a life almost untouched by the difficulties of her land. That is, until her parents are mysteriously assassinated and the neighboring kingdom of Dragonsbett is the most likely aggressor. The princess must suddenly learn a great deal in order to assume the throne, all the while cringing beneath the gaze of the current regent, Queen Sophia. She must survive torturous dance lessons, near starvation, table manner education, and a stressful move to the tallest tower of the palace. It seems hopeless. And then a great mystery is uncovered in the palace. Ben discovers a secret passageway into the wizard's room of the tower and finds herself with a knack for magic and learning spells. But will the abilities to make mud from nothing and call up fire be enough to save her from the scheming and oh-so-full-of-himself Prince Florian of Dragonsbett? And on a base closer to home- are Queen Sophia's intentions honorable or is there more than simply training Ben for reign on her mind?

I have mixed feelings about this particular Murdock creation. The main character was feisty and fun to relate to, but still had some qualities that set her apart from every other feisty and fun to relate to princess we've read about before. She was strong despite her physical appearance and managed to have grace when her country demanded it of her. By the penultimate pages, I really respected Princess Ben, and that is something I don't often say about a character in a book.

The writing was fun and antiquated to match the medieval world that Ben resides in, but drifted into being weighty or even too formal on occasion. So Princess Ben actually read quite a bit like an old Grimm story, rather than a modern young adult novel. And it was familiar as one of those bed-time stories too. You could predict most plot twists, except those concerning the development of the characters. There were some really great surprises to be discovered in that. Especially Queen Sophia.

So- this book teetered on an edge for me. But even after all the things found that frustrated me, I still look back and can say I really enjoyed this novel. Perhaps it was the nostalgia of an old-fashioned fairy tale or maybe the wit. But I found it really interesting and fairly fawesome that Catherine Gilbert Murdock did something so incredibly different when she already has a good reputation for another style of writing. Brave and creative.

5.7 Lightnings out of 7. w00t!

Going on a few days of non-bloggery,

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Devilish by Maureen Johnson

Have you ever read one of those books that just seems so incredibly bizarre from the front flap description and then manages to make complete sense as soon as you've actually started reading?

That completely describes Devilish.

Jane Jarvis is a genius out of place in St. Theresa's School For Girls. Not that you'd know her brilliance just to look at her. Ever since the horrific end to her relationship with Elton (the perfect boy), Jane has allowed herself to spiral out of control. Now she's accumulating a record as a troublemaker that might harm her chances of getting into a college worthy of her incredible brain. But college is the last thing on her mind when her best friend's sanity is in danger. Ally is a misfit of the highest degree and only serves to aid her descent when she throws up at an annual school event. After that, everything changes.

Ally comes into school with a new haircut, a new attitude, and apparently, new friends. Jane can't be sure of her sudden drop on the importance list until she goes on one fateful train ride. Where Ally and Elton are (insert my reaction here __NOOOOOOOO__) making out. Enter Jane's freshman stalker, who won't stop trying to convince her that Ally's new friend is really a soul stealer of the corporations of Hell. And it isn't long until Jane believes him. She must quite literally deal with the Devil and find a way to save her best friend, and possibly the world, before it is too late.

I really enjoyed this book. And ever since the suggestion of a few people, *cough* Plenty of Paper girls and Reese *cough* I have been completely hooked on everything Maureen Johnson. Even her blog. It seems that Nerdfighter authors hold a certain intrigue for their fellow warriors/minions. Anyway, back to reviewing. Devilish went by too quickly and was full of Miss Johnson's incredible wit and trademark creativity. I loved all of the characters. Even Ally, when she was being a backstabber. Plus, the demon girl was amazingly written. One of those villains you adore hating. The struggles were convincing on both a physical and mental level, sometimes even spiritual.

All the same, I did not enjoy this particular work as much as some of the other Maureen Johnson books I've read. That is the only thing keeping it from the revered 7 rating. But still...

CRASHBANGSLAMWACHING! 6 Lightnings out of 7! And I highly recommend everything else by her as well!

Reading the Bermudez Triangle,

Thursday, June 12, 2008


My blog's not dead. Sorry, if it appears to have crawled into a hole and expired, but I promise it hasn't. I've just been working on a bunch of different things that haven't shown up there yet.

Click on the link to my personal blog (if you dare) and you'll find a couple of surprises.... The good kind, not the kind where you turn a corner in the library and find a Casper-like boy leering at you.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Daughter of Statues by Phil McGrail

I'd received $20 from a friend for my birthday and decided to troll around for a few relatively un-heard of books that I could review here on the Maelstrom. The one I discovered that looked most interesting was Daughter of Statues by new author Phil McGrail. Thus, with a rather unsettled feeling I purchased it and had it sent in. After completion and contemplation, it appears that my fears were really all for nothing.

The story begins with Kae, a little girl who is content to live a quite life near the forests with her parents and her grandfather. Until one day when the crazed king of he
r land bursts from the horizon and confuses everything she thought she knew.

Suddenly, her grandfather is revealed as a magician who will do anything to protect his secret from the abuses of the king. Kae watches in horror as the trusted man transforms her parents and himself into statues, all the while signaling for her to escape. She runs into the forest and there her adventures begin. She must follow a string of clues and legends to a near-mythical castle on the edge of the sunset, where the secret of her family's liberation is waiting to be discovered. But at what cost?

This novel read very much like an old-fashioned fable (as the cover suggested), with familiar lessons and fantastic creatures. This is accompanied by quaint-ish writing and some fun dialogue. But creative worlds within worlds and challenges separated it from many stories in the fantasy/legend genre. It is obvious that the author put a great deal of work into the many details of his new universe, known as Lanofar. The main character, Kae, is a constant surprise and very well developed. I look forward to reading her further adventures in the next couple of books, which I will be looking out for.

While it is apparent that this
self-published author is new to the scene, I expect good things in the future. I think that there is a lot of promise in the story of Kae and I hope that he acts upon it.

I bestow...
5 out of 7 lightnings. KRACHASHAW! Not too shabby.

Glancing Warily at Rocks,

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow


Marcus/w1n5t0n is one of the decades most promising hackers. Too bad he can't come up with anything more interesting than jamming the school so he can play his favorite game with friends. But that all changes when his beloved city, San Francisco, is attacked by terrorists and Marcus and crew are found in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are rounded up by the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) and taken away to a secret headquarters, where they are brutally questioned and their rights are violated. When our hero is once again released into the city, everything has changed. Everyone is a potential terrorist and subject to a loss of privacy. Marcus realizes the power of the DHS as corrupt and must struggle with the complete faith of some citizens as well as the mindless rebellion of others.

Finally putting his skills to good use, Marcus constructs an entire society using a version of an X-Box Live. In the new underground resistance, M1k3y (Marcus) begins to take down the DHS from the inside out. And soon, he has started something that will change all the people involved forever.

Cory Doctorow is a relatively new voice in young adult fiction. And I certainly hope that he continues to write the equivalent of Little Brother. Although, I'm not sure the quality and sheer awesomeness of this book is even reproducible. I COMPLETELY loved it. Allow me to tell you why.

The characters are fantastic and three dimensional, their actions acting complexly together to create a web of coincidence and occurrence. If Joe has a secret, Suzy has a bigger one that could potentially endanger Joe. This novel went head on with split loyalties and double-agents, as well as discerning between righteous anger and adolescent rebellion. The protagonist struggles with basic problems (girls, friends, parents, etc.) while creating a new society, almost single-handedly. Plus, he is humorous and extremely likable (especially because the book is in 1st person).

What to say for the plot? It was one of the most creative and intriguing/intense things I have read in a very long time. It wasn't shy to use the very real fears of today and turn them into a possible future. Think the 1984 of 2008 (Wait? You haven't read 1984? Gogogo!). Mystery and suspense combined with lots of very cool tech-talk, plus a slight bit of romance.

What else to say? I really loved this book. Completely typhonic. I grant 7 out of 7 lightnings! (+ Far too many sound effects to count).

Reading it again *sheepish*

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Interview with the Amazing Melissa Marr

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Melissa Marr, author of Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange. My comments are in red. *Note* Ignore the weird box thing above, I can't get it to go away. *yells at Blogger... Blogger cowers and promises to be good*

1.) Forgive me for asking the generic interview question, but what got you
interested in writing?

I've been interested in writing since the 6th grade when my English teacher, Sister Elaine Peters, gave me a poetry journal and told me to go write. I wrote poetry through college (mostly just for myself) and then set it aside in graduate school to focus on teaching. I was afraid to pursue it as I heard how impossible it was to make a career of it, so it wasn't until I was about 30 that (with my spouse's continued encouragement) I decided to take a couple years and give it a try.

2.) I hear that you like tattoos. How many do you have? Are you planning on getting any more? Do you have a favorite tattoo artist?

I have three. One is in progress (my backpiece). Another (the first one, a vine with flowers that encircles my torso) is being re-coloured & extended further. Yes, I'm planning on continuing to get art when it feels right. Currently, my artist is Paul Roe (owner and founder of BritishinkDC), but there are other artists whose work find enthralling. I adore Paul, and he's the right person for the art I'm doing right now. . . just as Hunter was the right man for my first art.

3.) What does your dream house look like?

Ugh. I don't want a house. Ever. We move regularly, & every time we discuss buying a house but the idea of that sort of anchor fills me with terror.

4.) Do you own many books? Which ones are your favorites?

I own an obscene number of books (much to my movers dismay every few years). I go through the shelves every year and donate a few boxes, but I still have piles and overflowing shelves. My favourites are 1) a copy of classic poetry my mother gave me when I was in middle school (held together by a rubberband), 2) a book of fairy tales from my Gramma (printed in 1902 and inscribed with her name by her hand when she was a child) and 3) a book of Aesop's Fables that my uncle gave me when I was about 6 years old. Those don't get boxed up. I carry them with me when I move.

Mmm, good idea... wish I owned books with that much history.

5.) If you weren't writing YA fantasy, what would you be doing?

I suspect that I'd be teaching lit and language at university. That's what I did before this, & I miss it a lot. Teaching is an amazing experience. There are other things I'd like to try too, but right now, I'd be teaching if not for writing.

6.) Did you base your characters off of anyone you know?

Aside from Grams, all the characters are straight-up fiction. In retrospect, I can see fingerprints of different people I've known on some characters, but that wasn't intentional. Grams, however, very intentionally has some of my grandmother's personality . . . bc I think she's the coolest woman I've ever known and I wanted other people to get a glimpse of her.

7.) What was the last book you read? How was it?

Well, I won't do "Most recent" as I only own up to reading a book if I enjoy it. The past few haven't done it for me, so I'll go with the most recent I've enjoyed. I read Charlaine Harris' latest Sookie novel just recently, and I enjoyed it a great deal. I've been a fan of Harris' Sookie books (& her earlier mystery series) for years. I love how she's not just one genre, and of course, the Southern atmosphere continues to thrill me. . . and the worldbuilding.

In YA, my two most recent reads that I'd put in the favourite list is THE FOREST OF HANDS & TEETH by Carrie Ryan (out in 09) and I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE by Stephanie Kuehnert (out in July). Very different books, but both were ones I'm still raving over. I'm pre-ordering these for friends, & I'm giving away copies of IWBYJR on my blog.

Hmm... *makes mental note to check that out*

8.) I'm sure you've received numerous good reviews. Are there any that particularly stick out in your mind?

The books have had some very sweet reviews (including starred reviews), but I'm less concerned with reviews than with readers' responses. I don't write for reviewers. A reader in Texas came to my signing & said something that made every fear and doubt about the books vanish. That's the important thing for me. Readers like her. The other part is nice, and I am grateful that so many reviewers have "got" the books. . . but all the reviews in the world don't equal the readers whose books these were meant to be.

9.) What do you do to overcome writer's block?

I don't believe in writer's block, so I'm not sure how to answer. There are times a story needs to simmer, and there are times it flows. Both are part of the process. I just try to let my muse do her thing.

10.) Tempests, whirlwinds, or typhoons?

Hmmm. My favourite storms are rainshowers. The other sorts can cost lives, so I'm not particularly keen on them. If I could have the edge of a Tropical Storm without loss of life (ocean animal or human), I'd go with that. I walked along the beach during the early winds of a Tropical Storm & it was amazing. The air was alive; the sand had teeth. Very very exciting . . .

11.) So… Wicked Lovely, Ink Exchange…. what's next?

Harper bought 4 more novels. The third one (which was called Enthralled but is tentatively re-titled to Fragile Eternity) comes out in 09. It's a sequel to WL (yes, that means more Seth). I have some other things coming out too. In Fall 08, I have a story in the LOVE IS HELL anthology (supernatural romance stories). In 09, I also have my first manga (DESERT FEY) and a story in an adult short story anthology.

Oh yay! I'll have to keep my eye out for those.

It seems we have come to the end of another delightful interview. I would like to thank Ms. Marr for taking the time to answer my questions.

From the Shadows,

Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

I was overjoyed when I learned that our almost pathetically limited library was shipping in Ink Exchange, the newest novel by Wicked Lovely author, Melissa Marr. It was worth borrowing from Aella to read and review (how she always gets on the hold list before me I will never know...).

First of all, Ink Exchange is not the sequel to Wicked Lovely though it does take place in the same world and shares characters with the novel. However, I would like to recommend reading Wicked Lovely first. It's much easier to understand what's going on in Ink Exchange that way.

Ink Exchange
tells Leslie's story. Haunted by the past, Leslie tries to maintain the facade of familial perfection, even when that means paying the cable bills out of her own pocket or "helping" her brother when he gets low on drug money. When she isn't working or at school she often lurks around Rabbit's tattoo shop, Pins and Needles. The one thing that Leslie thinks will help her reclaim her body and sense of self is the perfect tattoo, which comes in the form of an intricate winged eye design. Rabbit warns our heroine that tattoos can change people more than she ever thought, but Leslie plunges forward, now the test subject of an Ink Exchange with Irial, King of the Dark Court.

Throughout the novel, I felt Leslie's aversion to drugs of all sorts and was sickened when she became the drug. The dark fey were wonderfully malicious and intrigued me to no end. Their shadowy ways and interesting source of sustenance was a far cry from the Summer Court, which seemed almost tame in comparison.

Ink Exchange is awarded 6 out of 7 lightnings *insert sound effects here* for being a deliciously intoxicating read.

From the Shadows,