Thursday, June 27, 2013

Far, Far Away

Far, Far Away

(image from its Goodreads page)
Tom McNeal.

This'll be a short review, because if I say too much, it'll ruin the story. The entire story was so unpredictable that almost any detail can easily become a spoiler.
So. Instead I chose to use an aspects format, which I'll use for stories like this.
Jeremy Johnson Johnson has been considered strange for almost all of his life. In the town of Never Better, he lives with his father and is usually too engrossed with studying to really make friends. Well, except one- the ancient ghost of Jacob Grimm.
Then Ginger Boultinghouse comes along and becomes a fast friend of Jeremy's. She falls in love with him with a bite of an enchanted Prince Cake, a town specialty made by the baker Sten Blix.
But the house Jeremy lives in will soon be foreclosed, and Ginger takes it as her duty to save him.
Plot: This is definitely going with Going Bovine in the list of stories that, when you read the description, you laugh and call it crack fiction. I don't care if crack fic is a fan fiction term. I do what I want.
Anyhow, despite how utterly bizarre the idea was, the product of it was amazing. Everything made sense and had a kind of whimsical (and, later in the book, very, very dark) feel to it. It was fun to read and not as hard to understand as my description makes it sound.
Characters: This is the point where I usually have something to gripe about. I like complaining. And right now the only thing I can complain about is the fact that I have nothing to complain about.
Jacob Grimm- In an interesting twist on perspective, this guy is our narrator. Logically, since he's the MC, Jeremy should be, or maybe it would just be third person. It definitely wasn't bad this way though. Okay. Onto the actual character.
I usually despise famous past figures being parts of fiction books. I don't know why, I just do. But I'll have to excuse this one, because the personality of Jacob (it's pronounced Yah-cub, by the way) Grimm is, from what I know (near nothing), the same as the guy that never found love but liked writing about girls getting pregnant and others dying horrible deaths. Yeah, nice guy.
I've got to say, his character really developed over the story. I loved how he changed from a nagging ghost to the reader's best friend. And makes you cry. And laugh. And cry. And want to punch him in the face. And want to hug him.  He felt very real, to me at least.
Jeremy Johnson Johnson- He is our MC. He's pretty much a textbook nerd/loner, which was kind of disappointing, but made up for it by being a realistic and interesting nerd/loner. Though he didn't develop as much as Jacob, he continued to interest me. By the end of the story, any emotion he's experiencing, you are too.
Ginger Boultinghouse- Though this character was by no means bad, she was my least favorite character. She was energetic and friendly, but didn't develop as much as I hoped through the story. Nyeh.
Style: I liked this style a lot. It wasn't beige or purple, which, trust me, is a pretty big plus in YA paranormal (what this was classified as). It kept me interested throughout the story.
Sorry for the short review. I might update this later. Guh'bye.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Diamond Willow

Diamond Willow
  (image from

Helen Frost

 Diamond Willow is a story about a twelve-year-old girl in the Alaskan wilderness. Willow, the main character, is a junior dog musher. One day, she takes a trip to her grandparent's house, but one wrong move changes everything...
I want to clear this first: this book is for much younger people than our average. Oh well, boo hoo.
So, we start this book learning a bit about Willow, our main character. As the description says, she's a junior dog musher ( NOT an easy job, by the way). Not an Iditarod junkie or anything, she just likes to work with the dogs her father owns. The description is pretty vanilla, it's basically what I'd expect for the age. Brown hair, brown eyes, plain in all ways. I think there could have been at least something to make her stand out. Not necessarily, though.
We go on to learn that Willow wants to go on a trip to her grandparents, who are native Alaskan and rather awesome. Just putting that out there. After a bit of convincing, her parents let her go.
Willow picks her dogs, a few of her favorites. Some part of me wondered why she needed four (at least, I think it was four) dogs. It's a long journey, but how heavy can this girl possibly be? A hundred pounds? How much supplies are in that sled? Twenty pounds at most. Never mind, I just think three might be a bit better.
Anyhow, the grandparents just act cool, do stuff, and eventually sen Willow and her team on their way with some smoked salmon. Sounds about right.
From this point on are spoilers. Be warned.
It's snowing pretty hard, but Willow just says "Eff you, weather." ... Well, not in those words, but whatever. When coming around a blind curve, they hit a fallen tree, and Willow's best dog, Roxy, gets hurt. Badly. Her eyes are stabbed by some kind of stick or something (I don't believe the book ever says, which I wish it did). Her eyes are bleeding horribly, and we get a nice, somewhat disgusting description. I liked how well it was described, though. It wasn't too graphic or too simple. Good on ya', Ms. Frost.
Turns out, out of those twenty pounds of supplies I assumed she had, there was no first aid kit. Instead of saying "Psssh, I'm the main character, I'll stay calm.", she shows emotion! Fabulous! She scared, worried, hoping her temporary solution of using her shirt (instead of ripping off a piece of it, which is much harder than writers apparently think) will work for the remaining few miles. With three dogs, a much more logical number.
Her parents react two ways. Her mother is more worried about the giant bruise on Willow's leg. Her father seems more worried about Roxy. Willow is scared he'll hate her for it. I'm sure we all know that feeling, when we made a horrible mistake and become sick with anxiety and guilt. There could have been a bit more showing instead of telling in how she felt, but this is a younger audience it's being targeted at (8+).
Well, Willow heals pretty fast (though she is still a bit sore) and goes back to school, where we meet her best and only friend or the first time. Kaylie (I'm taking a wild stab at the spelling) is the perfect girl, complete with perfect grades and having never missed a day of school. I'm glad she was the friend, not the MC. As we know from my recent complaint average-in-every-way-but-school characters bother me (Willow has average grades to go with her averageness).
Anyhow, life goes on. Then, after a POV switch I'll explain with he formatting, Willow finds a note saying that Roxy is to be euthanized now that he is in pain and is blind. Forever. Prepare for the mini-rant.
So, why did Willow go so insane about the euthanizing? I understand some tears and such, but she wasn't using any kind of reasoning I'd ever heard from a twelve-year-old. I expected "My dog! I love her so much, why oh why?!", which is pretty realistic for us young folks. Instead, we get "How do THEY know it's merciful? They can't ask her! What if she'll die in pain?!" Not what I hoped for. First off, it's mouth piecing, and second, it's a bit too much from a tween.
Okay. Sorry.
Willow devises a scheme to save Roxy. She will bring her to her grandparents house, where hopefully they can take her in with their other dogs (who we never see and are given no description). Kaylie is dragged into this because someone needs to hold Roxy to the sled so she doesn't jump or fall off. Kaylie has an (understandable) panic attack, but agrees reluctantly.
In near white-out conditions, they set off with three dogs, two humans, and one dog who cannot do anything. Now this number is ILlogical, because that's an extra two-fifty odd pounds added on. I will calculate until this works.
They get lost, but find a clearing to sleep in. With the smoked salmon and other foods Willow grabbed at home, they eat and sleep. In the morning, they set off again.
Eventually they are found by Kaylie's not-secret admirer, but only Kaylie goes home. Now that the weight amount is somewhat more logical, Willow continues on to her grandparent's house. Somewhere around that time Willow's frantic parents and less frantic little sister find her. They end up discussing all of this at the grandparents'  house. Willow is neither speaker sternly to or given a punishment, though this scenario justifies both.
Even bigger spoiler alert.
Willow is told about how she had a twin. Named Diamond (which explains the double name). And the place that Willow and Kaylie slept for the night? It was where they scattered Diamond's ashes. Does this freak out Willow? Nope. I'm just saying, but I would have a heart attack if I heard that.
Roxy is saved, end of story that I will tell you (I won't spoil everything).
Okay, the formatting. I feel the need the explain it. Most of it is in diamond poems, but POV will switch occasionally, and it will be in plain text. The narrator is announced. I'd like to mention that an Athabaskan  belief I that when someone dies, their spirit is put into an animal. It might not make sense now, but you'll be glad for it.
I liked the book, it managed to make me cry (in a good way), I'd recommend it.
Had a couple issues with this, had to repost. Sorry.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Never to Sleep


(Pic from
Well, I've been a bit lacking when it comes to reviews, mostly because I've been doing a lot of rereading of books I've already reviewed.
This is a novella, not a novel, but boo hoo..
Onto the review.
Sophie has a cousin (Kaylee, because Thoth forbid there's a spelling I recognize) who is certifiably crazy. It's hard to tell, to Sophie, at least, if she's genuinely nuts or if she's faking it for attention, though. Either way, Kaylee is ruining Sophie's  high school reputation as dance and drama queen.
Then the handsome stranger I've gotten so used to shows up and accidental hits her with a door. Very romantic.
Blah blah blah, they hit it off pretty quick and are somehow dragged into the Netherworld, an evil parallel of our more familiar earth.
So, the plot seems pretty standard. I've read plenty of alternate-reality fics. How it was executed, though, is the beautiful part. It had your usual escape plot, but it somehow avoided your usual cliches, such as alternate love interest and thinking about staying. Plus, there are evil carnivorous plants that liquefy your organs and are everywhere. It was 'everything can kill you' played straight.
 There were monsters (only two were really described, though), reapers, X, X, and X. You know. Also standard. I was still more interested in the evil plants. Little Shop of Horrors was even mentioned. Woo hoo for shout-outs!
*Cough* Uh, onto the characters.
We shall start with Kaylee, our local crazy. And that is all she is ever really described as. Seriously. She had absolutely no personality beyond 'crazy'. I know she wasn't too important, but I think she deserved a little more than that.
Then there was Peyton, your usual popular girl. Also her simple personality. I've already complained about that kind of thing, I won't waste energy explaining again. It's in my rant about characters I'm tired of.
Onto Luca, Mr. Lovey-Dovey-Interesty-Winteresty. I am notorious for hating love interests. Maybe because they usually mess up the MC for me somehow. More on how he didn't later. Anyhow, he actually seemed like a realistic human being, who makes realistic human mistakes. I was basically cheering when he hit Sophie in the face with a door and panicked, because, hey, I'd panic too. He wasn't described as 100% perfect besides his abs. I really, really got tired of how much his chest was described, and how Sophie was for a moment willing to risk their lives so he wouldn't put his shirt on. No. Just no.
Lastly, Sophie. I don't think she was written badly, exactly, I just really didn't like her personality. She came off as extremely shallow and was more worried about her designer jeans than escaping. She didn't really develop that much through the story, which was disappointing. It's pretty sad when I like the love interest more than the main character.
This, to people who have read my reviews before know, is big: I accepted the romance. It wasn't annoying and Sophie stayed as an action girl instead of turning into a damsel in distress, and could figure out things by herself with or without Luca. There was a surplus of kissing towards the end, though.
The descriptions were very clear and really helped the story. There were a couple plot points that didn't seem to materialize (Sophie is being kept because she is of use to a hellion, but it's never said why or even hinted at), but it was definitely worth reading.

Friday, June 14, 2013


I write paranormal. Angels, demons, ghosts, I'm up for anything. But there are a few things that have been bothering me for way too long.

1. Human non-humans

This one has been dragged along in the back of my mind like a house cat carrying an eagle. What is the appeal for aliens, demons, monsters, and fabulous beasts to look like humans? And I'm not talking 'stands upright, has two eyes and a mouth' because, y'know, that's pretty standard. I don't care about humanOID, this complaint is just plan human.

This bothering started long, long ago. Maybe about a year ago. Somewhere around there. Anyhow, I read a book I can't even remember the title of. Very-slightly-littler-than-now me loved, and still loves, aliens. Alien books, alien fact sheets, you name it, I read it. Even the ones that I know realize were really bad. But this one was the one that struck me as off.

The aliens weren't green.

They weren't slimy.

They had no fur.

They had no natural weapons.

Actually, these aliens weren't alien at all. They were humans. There was an entire race of blonde-haired, blue-eyed humans. And that was it. They looked like a classmate of mine, and that just stabbed me in my laser-powered heart.

It seemed like an isolated incident. And that feeling lasted a month. And then I was stabbed again.

Humans. Not aliens. Humans.

It was never explained why they were just human. The whole appearance thing was hand-waved. And that has been what has happened in way too many paranormal books for me. I've even figured out what those authors must have decided together on some boring, rainy day.

Aliens are to have blonde hair and blue eyes, possibly dark hair instead. All other aliens are to be described as an animal and not elaborated on.

Demons have dark hair, dark eyes, but are not allowed to be minorities. Nor are aliens. Or anyone else. Latinas and Latinos, Africans, and Asians do not exist. Anywhere. Except sometimes as a very minor character who probably dies anyway.

Werewolves just look like humans of any sort (but not minorities, what do you want to think they are?) and then wolves of any sort. Even illogical, impossible ones. See later rant.

Vampires have dark hair and yellow or red eyes. See Mr. Sparkles.

Now, if you can justify it, and I mean JUSTIFY it, not give a first-thought excuse, that's all good. Christian demons can look like whatever they so choose. Japanese animal spirits (you might know kitsunes, but there's a rant for this very thing later, so I won't elaborate) take any form, including multiple people or animals or demons or X. Maybe, and I'll risk anime references for this one, there hasn't been any human forms for werewolves at all. They're just illusions for interspecies communication.

I understand if it's a romance and they need to be relatable, though. Then you get some leeway.

Once again, it's justifying that's important, but you probably can't justify...

2. Illogical forms

We'll start on werewolves, because these are front-liners on the war on logic.

Human forms can look like anything but minorities, as previously cleared, so whatever. It's the wolf forms that get me.

Okay, quick reality check. Wolves can't have green eyes. Ever. Nor can domestic dogs, though some breeds have brown-green eyes. Blue eyes are rare. Most pictures of blue eyed "wolves" are just huskies, or just photoshopped. Yellow eyes? Also a rarity.  Some have light brown eyes that look yellowish, but aren't really yellow. Almost all wolves have plain, boring brown eyes.

And fur? If you want red fur, it's a red wolf. Sadly, those apparently aren't desirable because red wolves are coyote-wolf hybrids, and coyotes are frowned upon in shape-shifter society. I like coyotes. They're smarter than most wolves. But boo hoo for me.

Then there's the yellow/light brown fur thing. It makes sense to an extent, but most wolves with that have white and black or gray, too. Or they're Mexican gray wolves, which are undesirable too, apparently. Apparently all wolves are rocky grays.

 Interestingly, people love wolves because they relate them to more-lovable dogs. But Canis lupis had no part in modern dog. Spot is from Canis indica. Indian wolf. Just a quick notice there.

After warwerves, there are no-sense-here aliens. Remember kiddies, gravity, selective pressure, and class are all important when it comes to appearance and intelligence. It should all be considered. If your species has been up in the vacuum for a long time, they're probably long and spindly and easy to break. Just saying.

Demons don't have to be beautimous, but please, kids, they're demons. They're supposed to be at least a little off.

3. Everyone is the best known X

This one hasn't bothered me as long, it just occurred to me and now bothers be a bit.

If you have a Japanese demon, it's an animal spirit. Maybe a yokai if you need them in bulk. And if it's an animal spirit, it's a kitsune. Why not a sazae-oni? Okay, not them. Never them. Never mind. But Abumi-guchis sound cute, why not them? Bakeneko? Baneneko? Not them?

Greek monsters are limited to minotuars (even though there was only one of them), chimeras, and dragons. Not empousas (Percy Jackson is fabulous in the respect that they were there, if briefly), kobaloi, or the sad, lonely, kinda freaky, Erebus. Only one of him, though. Not like that has stopped some of them.

Vampires could easily be replaced by strigoi. Strigoi are more savage, but, hey, I’m tired of vampires being angsty kids, not savages.

Werewolves have plenty of options. Skinwalkers, demons that shapeshift, animal spirits. C’mon, the German variety is overused now (though, really, they only use the name).

4. Research is considered unnecessary

This goes for everyone.

So, a big reason I love paranormal is because there’s so much creative freedom. If you can explain it (at least a bit) you can write it. But there are some core things you really, really need to get down.

First off… Country of myth’s origin. Werewolves are from Germany, kids. In the medieval times, there was a case about a man suspected of turning into a wolf and killing livestock. Why? Because Germany.

The oldest vampire stories can be traced to Babylonian times. There were female demons that ate/drank the blood of newborn babies and pregnant women. But those are creepy and not what we’re looking for. You might prefer the Slavic ones that could be killed with holy objects. The immortal vampires are strigoi, and they’re Romanian.

No one ever seems to write about poltergeist. Which is sad. But if you hate patterns, they’re either Swedish or German. The word is German.

Demons are from everywhere. They've been around since humans learned how to make fire. The same goes for angels. So don't be boring, unless it's Christian fiction, Christian angels and demons are not your limit. I'll risk gloating when I say I have Taino, Russian, and Nordic ones. Because they're cool.

Second, make sure everything's at least somewhat possible. If the answer is 'magic' and there is no magic otherwise in the book, you have failed me. I already mentioned that aliens need extra research because of gravity and environment and such.

Lastly, for folklore and myth stories only, research your monsters in general. Where do they come from? What are their powers? You don't need to be completely by the book, in fact it's best if you aren't, but it's always good to have a base. Plus, alluding to the original stories is fun. Maybe your species is a new branch of X? I don't know, but I want to.

5. ... Why aren't there any minorities?

Seriously. Why is this? There are plenty of gals, but everyone is straight and white. I don't get it. In every other genre, you can be a minority and it's all good, but Sci-fi and paranormal...

End of rant. Thank you for listening, I hope you learned something.