Book Review: Miss Mayhem, by Rachel Hawkins

Sometimes you just need a sweet, fun little read. Miss Mayhem fills that role perfectly. It may not hit as many high notes as its predecessor, Rebel Belle, but it still manages to be a pleasant read. Miss Mayhem picks up a few months after the events of Rebel Belle. Harper is trying to balance her role of Paladin with that of girlfriend, daughter, friend, ex-girlfriend. Oh, and she is also beginning a set of trials to test her skills as a Paladin that, if failed, may result in her death. No big deal.

Harper is still smart, strong, and funny, and the flip on stereotypical gender roles, having the female protagonist save the man, is still exciting and refreshing. This book also doesn’t continue to focus on the love triangle set up in Rebel Belle, which again is refreshing. Readers of YA have seen the love triangle done every which way, so it is great to see a triangle set up and resolved in book one, and then not revisited again in book two. This book also focuses more on friendship, both on Harper’s budding friendship with her ex Ryan, and on the re-cultivation of her friendship with her newly returned best friend, Bee.

The pacing of this novel is a little odd. It feels like not much happens plot wise, but there isn’t a whole lot of world/character building happening either. At the end of the 250 plus pages I felt like there should have been more, but at the same time the story felt sufficiently resolved. Needless to say, I did enjoy the ending. It gives the reader enough closure, while also providing a great setup for another story. (Also, Harper’s reaction to the events at the end of the story is perfect.) If we do see another installment of this series, I will likely pick it up. Miss Mayhem proves the sweet, Southern charm of this series still holds true.

Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 1 & Vol. 2, by G. Willow Wilson

Reading more comics and graphic novels has been a goal of mine for quite some time, after seeing (and enjoying) Avengers: Age of Ultron, I decided perhaps it was time to check out some Marvel comics. Of course the next question became, “Umm…where do I start?”. My inner (well, outer) feminist lead me to the new Marvel Now! incarnation of Ms. Marvel. A series about a young woman, written by a woman, that is critically acclaimed? Sign me up! So without further ado, here is my review of Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal and Ms. Marvel Vol. 2: Generation Why, by G. Willow Wilson.

This series is so much fun! Kamala Khan is a wonderful protagonist. She is funny and nerdy, and learning to embrace herself and her newfound powers. She is working to balance her many worlds: daughter, muslim, teenager, superhero, and it a joy to read as she tackles the issues surrounding each of her roles. The art is lovely, colorful and bright, and feels perfectly suited to the character of Kamala. From references to video games, to cameos of other well known Marvel characters, there are so many little things to enjoy within each issue.

Perhaps the big bad wasn’t too frightening, but I wouldn’t want it to be in these first few issues. Kamala is just learning about her powers, there is plenty of time for her to tackle bigger, badder villains.

These first two volumes did a great job of introducing us to Kamala and her powers, while also setting up plenty of story fodder for future issues. As a new comic reader, I found these volumes to be very easy to dive into and digest. I cannot wait to pick up Volume 3 and read more about this new Ms. Marvel, and to see what she will accomplish next.

Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars was one of those books that sat on my to-read list for quite some time. My previous knowledge of E. Lockhart (I was a fan of the Ruby Oliver series), combined with the rave reviews this novel was getting, made this a must read for me. Well, I finally got around to reading it, and let me say the praised heaped on this novel is well deserved and what they say is true, the less you know about this book the better. So I will add my praise to the pile, while making it as succinct and vague as possible.

This novel hits that rare sweet spot of both wanting to devour the pages for thrilling plot, while also wanting to slowly take in each delightful phrase. That being said, the novel is not very long so it is best consumed in one sitting, perhaps over a long afternoon, in an attempt to satisfy both of those urges.

One complaint this novel has gotten is in regards to the writing style, but I found myself drawn in from the very first passage. It is quite lovely in parts and feels perfectly suited to the story being told.

There isn’t much else to say, save that I truly enjoyed the experience of reading this novel. I highly recommend it to anyone, even those who don’t normally read Young Adult fiction. And I promise that you can trust me, I wouldn’t lie.

The Best Picture Show: More WWII Movies and Multiple Storylines

There are TWO episode of The Best Picture Show I have yet to plug here on the blog!

First, WWII: Part III

I don’t know if you’ve ever glanced at the complete list of Best Picture winners, but there are at least 11 which feature WWII in some way. We have had two previous episodes about WWII (World War II Family Films, Love is a Battlefield), this is our third and final episode discussing films which focus on the war and/or soldiers. These include: The Best Years of Our Lives, Bridge on the River Kwai, Schindler’s List. It is a good one. It obviously gets quite sad at the end, but then we make a bunch of jokes about shitty TV and talk about dinosaurs to make ourselves feel better. Check it out here!

http://tmarchese90.podomatic.com/entry/2015-04-19T09_56_39-07_00

Second, So Many Storylines!

Sometimes movies like to tell a bunch of seemingly unrelated stories which weave together to tell an overarching tale. Do you like those movies? Check out our episode! We discuss Grand Hotel, West Side Story, and Crash. Yes, we do discuss everyone’s hatred of Crash. You can find it here:

If you like what you hear you can find other episodes of The Best Picture show on iTunes or Podomatic. You could also subscribe. That would be awesome. Thanks!

Book Review: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

I stumbled across Seraphina by Rachel Hartman while perusing YA reviews on Goodreads, and I am ever so glad that I did. It has fantastic, detailed world building, a smart, capable heroine, and a love story that doesn’t feel recycled and cliche. It ends with the perfect balance of closure while still leaving the door open for a continuation of the story. A few years have passed and Rachel Hartman has gifted us with Shadow Scale, book two of Seraphina’s story!

For the most part Shadow Scale delivers on the promise of its predecessor. We get to see the world Hartman created in Seraphina on a larger scale as Seraphina travels outside of her homeland to find her fellow half dragons. Each of the places she visits has its own language, culture, and customs. This novel also delves deeper into the mythology surrounding half dragons. There is a good balance of detail in order to build a complex world, without drifting into info dumping. Seraphina herself is still strong and witty, and though she makes quite a few mistakes on her journey she remains likeable. The villain in this story is pretty terrifying. I cannot say much more without giving too much away, but it definitely has you on the edge of your seat near the climax.

One of my favorite parts of this novel, as well as Seraphina, is the way it deals with the romance. It isn’t insta-love, it takes awhile for the relationship to form and it is based on mutual admiration and respect. Seraphina also doesn’t give up on her family or goals to be with this love interest. Most importantly the “rival” isn’t depicted as a villain, in fact she is an admirable, likeable character. The ultimate resolution of this love story is unique, unexpected, and refreshing. In a genre where many of the love stories can feel unimaginative and trite, Shadow Scale offers something different, and it works.

I also have to note that the romance is not even the most powerful relationship in this novel. It is the relationship between Seraphina and her Uncle Orma which stays with the reader long after the book closes. Their relationship is written with such detail and love, and this novel shows the reader another, unexpected side of Orma.

The only complaint I have is that parts of the story felt rushed. Specifically the journey near the beginning of the novel and the final showdown near the end. This may just be that I wanted more time in this world and with these characters. However, the book is fairly long as it is and if more time was spent with these moments perhaps it would have felt overlong, but I wouldn’t have complained.

Overall, Shadow Scale was a fun, sweet read and a good followup to Seraphina. If you loved Seraphina, you’ll enjoy reading the conclusion of her journey.

Writing Class: dabbling in some new styles

It has been awhile since I have posted anything on the blog (I do feel ashamed of this), but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing! I have been doing quite a bit of old school, pen and paper writing thanks to the weekly writing class I have been attending. Sadly, tonight will be the last session of my writing class, but I have learned and written quite a bit, so I am very thankful for the past 5 weeks. This also means I will  be putting a little more focus back on the blog! First some pieces from writing class.

This class is focused on personal writing so it is a lot of “write whatever you feel in this moment” style of writing. The teacher has provided us with a variety of prompts and told us to go wherever our mood takes us. My writing has been mostly journaling and essays (though I have dabbled in a little fiction writing! However that is not ready for sharing quite yet). So without further ado, here is a little something I wrote last week.

My memory is like a vast expanse of land covered in varying degrees of fog. Nearest to where I currently stand it is simply a fine mist, easily seen through. The further away I travel, the denser the fog gets. And yet, sprinkled randomly throughout are large, glowing objects, visible no matter how thick the fog.

Some of these objects are dark, looming figures which give off an ominous aura the closer I creep. I don’t enjoy visiting these, though sometimes their pull is too strong to ignore. Other objects are bright, shining beacons which dispel all the fog nearest them. These are pure joy and I visit them frequently. However, they can be just as dangerous at the dark objects if they are visited too often.

That is the key to this fog laden land. Spend the right amount of time with both dark and light but never forget to return, through the fog and mist, back to where the sky is clear.