Thursday, October 30, 2014


Maya Van Wagenen

Trigger warnings for death, drug and alcohol mentions, and bullying

Before the beginning of her eighth grade year, Maya Van Wagenen discovers a book in the back of her closet. It's from the 1950's and is titled Betty Cornell's Teenage Popularity Guide. Being on the lowest rung of the social ladder and not having much to lose, she decides to run a social experiment. Every month she'll obey a chapter from Betty Cornell's book, down to wearing long skirts and girdles. 

Behold my horrid summary of a great book. Instead of cold sociological reviews that try to explain that we're popular because we need to mate (to psychologists- this may surprise you, but Freud wasn't some great insight), it peels back what it's actually like, from a real person's perspective, to try and attain popularity.

I hate to use 'back of the book quotes' language, but the book was poignant. And funny, and weird, and worth a read.

The book isn't completely about the fight for popularity. It talks about the other things that happen in Maya's life, things that ultimately do affect her and how she acts. She learns from her experience. It totally brings me back to 8th grade. I'd been trying to forget that, but okay.

 One issue, though, was that it occasionally pushed the 'unrelated but important' part of non-popularity related things. The part where they gave her little brother "the talk" just seemed sort of unnecessary. But it's kind of hard to tell where to draw the line between frivolous and there for enjoyment. Ah, the troubles of non-fiction.

It's amazing to see what does and doesn't work 60-ish years after the popularity guide was written. Pearls- yay. Cardigans and long skirts- nay.Vaseline on eyelids-maybe. And there's so much detail! She made notes throughout the experiment and was writing the book as it happened, so I guess that explains it, but still. Woo hoo for not being vague.

The point of the book is something that I think is good to know, not just be told. Beauty is on the inside. Okay, so you've heard it a thousand times. But to have actually shown is so much better. I can't try and explain why. Point is, read the book. It's a good book.

Also. Even in non-fiction you can't escape romance. At least it wasn't overwhelming.

(Pathetic review five hours late, but whatever.)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Parantnormal, the Second One

Finally thinking I had absolutely nothing to complain about anymore, you sigh in relief. You slip into the lull of safety. But it's not true. I'm here to bristle about all the things I forgot in the last Parantnormal. So here we go.

1. There are only so many ways to spell 'fairy'

Fairy, faery, fairie, fair folk, faerie, faeiry, fayry, fayrie, faiery... There are probably more. There should not be more. With every mutation of the word, my Irish heritage aches. Look, the concept is the same. It doesn't matter how you spell it! But it needs to be readable. It's okay to say 'fairy'. I get it that 'fairy' evokes images of small children's dolls, but it's just how it's spelled. Faery is okay too.

People sometimes shorten it to just "the Fay/Fae/Fai". Fine. That's okay. It sounds more modern that way. However, please, stop acting like the word "fairy" will suddenly destroy your story. If the story is good, it will be fine.

And stop spelling vampire "vampyre". Replacing every "i" with a y doesn't help your case.

2. It could be any mythology in the world... Surprise, it's Greek

Hey, I'm a mythology geek. All mythologies are cool. But Greek mythology is everywhere, from English classes to YA novels. Is it because everyone knows about it? Well, that's your problem. It's not new, it's not fresh and interesting. If you're writing something focused on Greek mythology, try to think about it a little harder. For the plot, does it require being Greek? Or could it just be any pantheon? Really consider it.

If your first thought is that it wouldn't require as much research, or that everyone would know what you're talking about, stop having that thought. All mythologies require research. And most books, based on any mythology, explain the myths they reference. So you could use anything. Really.

Is the story about a child of Zues that controls storms? Is it vital that it's Zues, Zues, and nothing but the Zues? If not, look- other storm gods! Thor, Set, Oya, Taranis... I just googled 'storm gods'. There are plenty more than that.

3. The vampire/werewolf war

Forever wondering about this. Werewolves are German, vampires, well, vampires range, but most people go with the East European ones. But I get it, you want them in the same place. Okay, okay. Why are they fighting?

I swear, it's never explained past 'it's alway's been this way, so...'. There's nothing contradictory about werewolves and vampires. They can be friends. Really. Or do you just need a reason to make your romance forbidden? As always, it would be fine if it was just explained.

4. Failed pack structure, the only female werewolf, and other weird tropes

Writing about any were-blahblahblah society will take research on the species. Wolves are not exempt from this. No matter how much you think you know, you have to look a little farther. First of all- pack hierarchy isn't just "two ton muscle wolf rules all with lady wolf, all other wolves are under them". There's a breeding pair (the alphas), their kids, and maybe their kids' kids. Wouldn't werewolf society be at least close?

The last lady wolf phenomenon is one of the strangest, but also really common (and cissexist). Tell me again why it needs to happen. There's thousands of werewolves, but long ago all the girls died. But-but!- now heroine comes along, and she must hide from society because all the guys want to mate with her. Then Love Interest comes along, teaches harder that not all men are animals (I'm ao hilarious), somehow managing to be the only man that doesn't immediately treat her like breeding stock. But still proves his point.

Another, "the inner wolf" thing. So, there's you. You are the narrator. You are human. Then there's your inner wolf, who's also you, but is a wolf. And talks to you. And when you change, you're still you, not that inner wolf. I'm confused. Why don't you consider that inner wolf to be you, since you are a wolf? What is that inner wolf? If, when you transform, you don't become that inner wolf, what's the point?

She's going to find her mate, she's the Omega, it's- gasp- the Alpha. Who has abs of chiseled smoke. And he's possessive and, honestly, kind of terrifying. Or he rejects her, she mopes, then he comes around and is possessive and terrifying. He uses the dialogue tag "growled" a lot. His name may or may not be a version of "Zack" or "Jack". An ack name.

5. Destinope

This happens in every genre, but it's particularly common in paranormal stuff. Here. I'll even script it out for you. You'll know what I'm talking about.

(MC enters)

Hi, I'm the main character. I'm plain. So plain. My eyes are puplegreenyellowrainbow and people call me a freak because of that. 

(MC wipes away a single tear, though not seeming affected emotionally)


You're special. You have a destiny.

Whhhaaaaaaaaattt. That's so weird and horrible.

(200 pages of nothing)

(Suddenly AUTHOR remembers something)

Oh, crap. Right.

I have a destiny. I shall do that now.

(40 pages of actual plot)


The two hundred page snog sessions could easily go away. It needs to go away. We might like the filler, but not as much as we'd like to hear the plot.

6. The villain is SO hot

Do you need a love triangle but have only one good guy? Do you not want to just write in a new character? Well, do I have a solution for you! Just take your villain, the murderer, the monster, and make him hot! Buy Villain-Good Guy-Heroine Love Triangle now and get a free bottle of Creepiness! Buy now!

Have you considered not doing that.

(Also, did anyone else already finish Blood of Olympus? Because I did. Solangelo YEAH.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Odin's Ravens

Odin's Ravens
 (image from
K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr

Trigger warnings for death and violence

If you want an original summary, I'm afraid you're out of luck. Sorry about that. Here's the one off goodreads:

When thirteen-year-old Matt Thorsen, a modern day descendant of the Norse god Thor, was chosen to represent Thor in an epic battle to prevent the apocalypse he thought he knew how things would play out. Gather the descendants standing in for gods like Loki and Odin, defeat a giant serpent, and save the world. No problem, right?

But the descendants' journey grinds to a halt when their friend and descendant Baldwin is poisoned and killed and Matt, Fen, and Laurie must travel to the Underworld in the hopes of saving him. But that's only their first stop on their journey to reunite the challengers, find Thor's hammer, and stop the apocalypse--a journey filled with enough tooth-and-nail battles and larger-than-life monsters to make Matt a legend in his own right.

A bit of backstory. This is the second book in the Blackwell Pages series. You may feel duped of the review of the first book, but more backstory- I never read the first book. I was so excited to see a book on Norse mythology (and I had heard of the series before) I bought it right then and there in a little airport bookstore. It took about fifteen minutes for me to notice the little yellow banner on the spine that read "Book 2". So thank you, authors, for having this book make sense for all of us that never read the first. That is a talent. A flower crown for the two of you.

I'm sure my readers are getting just a little tired of Norse mythology. I can see you scowling and pointing to the book I just reviewed that was also the second book of a Norse series, raising one unamused eyebrow. To that I'm sorry. Norse mythology is my special interest, and most people in my life probably feel the same way you do. I'll try and keep it short.

Ahhhhh, characters, characters. Loved the characters, and it was multiple POV so we got to read from 4/5 of the important POVs. No Baldwin sections that I remember. Disappointing, I know. Baldwin was the only person who was mildly HAPPY. Not to say that the others were bad, just not Baldwin. Can you guess my favorite character?

There were pictures. That's all you need to know. There were PICTURES.

A few things left me wondering if they were added in for plot convenience. For instance, the bags that Helen gave the kids. Those were just really... Convenient. It took out an element of urgency. Though, this could be swept under the rug by the fact it's MG. I suppose I'm a bit older and than the target audience.

Also, names. I need to decide if I hate or love the names. I mean, I like meaning names, but Helen. As Hela. And Ray and Reyna being Freyr and Freyja. Reyna and Freyja even have the same name meanings. But Ray means 'counsel protection' so, ya'know, we're not completely following a pattern here. I'm so confused. I love and hate the names.

The ending. THE END. HOLY CRAP. Now I need book three, which isn't out yet. It joins the ranks of the three other books that are coming out in 2015, but I want now. Let me tell you, if you feel at all bored (why would you?) while reading, give it until the last few pages. Holy goats.

If there was one problem I had, it was just how white the cast was. No diversity whatsoever. I know, I know, they're the descendants of Norse gods, and most people in Scandinavia are white. However, it's not like they're descendants on both sides (unless they were, in which a case, sorry, missed that), so they could have mixed race. Or something. And it so straight. No, I don't care that it's middle grade, if there can be straight romance, there can be gay romance. One is not more taboo than the other. Copy this over for disability, class, and anything else you can think of that I can't.

And the romance seemed a little unnecessary, too. Or, I think it's unnecessary because I'm worried Laurie will end up in a love triangle. Or, I think it's unnecessary because the chemistry between [Spoilers we have heard on high] Owen and Laurie [sweetly spoilering o'er the plains] is next to nil. Or, I think their chemistry is next to nil because I didn't want romance. It's cause and effect, but I'm not sure which is which.

(This review is a MESS)