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  1. What Happens Next Stirs Things Up

    January 14, 2013 by Kiersi

    Cover of What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton

    What Happens Next, by Colleen Clayton

    This book gets: ♥♥♥♥♥ out of 5

    What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton – It’s really hard to write good contemporary YA–and it’s even harder for me to like it. I mean this in the kindest possible way. Especially when addressing the big issues like rape and eating disorders, it’s easy for authors to preach. It’s easy for their characters, as a result, to sound flat or forced; but Clayton effortlessly dodges the trap.

    Cassidy “Sid” Murphy is a straight-A cheerleader–until she meets a handsome stranger on a school ski trip. That night, Dax Windsor invites her inside, and afterwards, she can remember nothing; but she knows Dax has taken something from her. Something she can never get back. (more…)


  2. Days of Blood & Starlight is just a “middle”

    December 24, 2012 by Kiersi

    Days of Blood & Starlight, by Laini Taylor

    This book gets: ♥♥♥ out of 5

    Days of Blood & Starlight, by Laini Taylor – I wanted to like this book. I wanted to like it so, so much–mostly due to the love affair I had with its precursor, Daughter of Smoke and Bone (tapped by Universal Studios for a motion picture). And that is, perhaps, part of my problem with it. High expectations. Unrealistically high expectations.

    In a lot of ways, I did like Days of Blood & Starlight. As ever, Taylor’s writing is (at least in prose) totally flawless–gorgeous, in fact. Unfortunately, this book suffered from, well… middleness. The whole novel feels like the soggy middle section of a much larger book. It reminds me of The Two Towers in Lord of the Rings, doing a lot of the necessary world-building, lore-weaving, or whatever that is, at the expense of plot and character.

    The story follows many different story strands that, for the first half of the book, only run parallel to each other and rarely cross. Karou spends a lot of time locked in a room, building bodies for Thiago, and surmising and ruminating and generally mulling over her dreary situation. It makes you long for the ray of sunshine timelines–cough, Zuzana, cough–and even for the snippets of war and bloodshed that sneak in.

    (more…)


  3. Meyer’s The Host a clean break from Twilight

    December 15, 2012 by Kiersi

    The Host, by Stephenie Meyer

    The Host, by Stephenie Meyer

    This book gets: ♥♥♥♥♥ out of 5

    The Host, by Stephenie Meyer – “Wait, wait, Kiersi is reviewing a Stephenie Meyer book, favorably?” You might ask, disbelieving. You might wonder, having seen my tweets about the disgusting co-dependent, abusive relationships glorified in Twilight, or about how Bella’s story is ultimately a tragedy, how this might come to be. What has happened to this predictable reviewer? What has been done with her?

    But I can assure you I am cognizant, that I have not been invaded by a very kind, reasonable alien, and my eyes are still a perfectly normal (perhaps not) shade of dark brown. And I can also assure you that The Host is a great book. (more…)


  4. Wreck-it Ralph: So, Disney’s Got Chops

    November 5, 2012 by Kiersi

    Wreck-it Ralph movie poster

    Wreck-it Ralph, Disney, Nov. 2

    This movie gets: ♥♥♥♥ out of 5

    Since Disney gave us “Tangled” in late 2010, my hope in the company and what kind of movies it was capable of making has been restored. Then again, John Lasseter of PIXAR served as a producer for “Wreck-it Ralph,” just as he did on “Tangled,” so perhaps it was the Disney acquisition of PIXAR that has allowed the languishing animation company to reboot.

    I can’t even quantify the number of hours I invested in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game (adapted for NES), so safe to say that “Wreck-it Ralph” struck a chord with me. Then again, everything about this movie’s premise is lovable: the clumsy cretin with a heart of gold, the cheesy-but-still-clever “Game Central Station” which seems to lurk somewhere in the surge protector, the badass “Hero’s Duty” squadron leader (Jane Lynch, of course) who is as hot as she is, well, a badass, and Fix-it Felix Jr., a clever amalgamation of Mario and Luigi, voiced by the dorky Jack McBrayer of 30 Rock fame. (more…)


  5. The Prescribed Burn: On Growing Up Girl

    October 17, 2012 by Kiersi

    The Prescribed Burn - book cover

    The Prescribed Burn, by Laryssa Wirstiuk

    This book gets: ♥♥♥♥ out of 5

    The Prescribed Burn, by Laryssa Wirstiuk – This collection of short stories revolves around the life of Veda, a second-generation Ukrainian girl growing up in Jersey, learning why girls diet, why boys are irresistible, and how art ties it all together.

    I believe there is a particular kind of reader for every particular kind of book. The Prescribed Burn is a book about growing up–for grown-ups. It’s about realizing your friends are shaving their legs and no longer eating Pringles, and how that realization, at one point, changed your life. The storytelling style is thoughtful and long-winded, which really works for the type of collection this is. It’s a meditation on coming of age as a girl and coming to terms with your shortcomings. (more…)


  6. Shadow and Bone: A Complex Fairytale

    September 28, 2012 by Kiersi

    Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

    Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo

    This book gets: ♥♥♥♥ out of 5

    Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo – Ravka is a country split in half by a dark slash called the Shadow Fold, where trespassers face total darkness and terrible, dangerous creatures. Alina Starkov is an orphan; after failing to display any mastery of magic during her Grisha exam, she is sent to serve in the Second Army and cross the Fold with her fellow orphan and best friend Mal. But when Alina displays an unusual power in the heat of the moment, the Darkling, the head of an order of magicians called Grisha, determines she is the fated Sun Summoner and whisks her away to Grisha headquarters to be trained (and pampered). The Sun Summoner is the only Grisha who can shed light on the Fold and save Ravka–but Alina cannot call upon or control her power. Without Mal, she feels alone and powerless, especially in the face of her growing attraction to the mysterious Darkling.

    There are so many things to like about Bardugo’s debut fantasy offering: the dark backdrop of the Shadow Fold, the strangely imperfect landscape, the Russian-themed people and place names (I have a super soft spot for fantasy books with unified linguistic conventions)–there’s so much depth to the world of Shadow and Bone that I wanted to slip into it like a second skin and live there for a while. (more…)


  7. Of Plagues and Monarchy: Book Round-up

    September 9, 2012 by Kiersi

    The summer flew by so fast it might as well have been Mitt Romney’s chances of winning the election. Instead of spending an entire post discussing each of these books, I decided to do a Book Round-up and just give you a brief opinion blurb on each.

    One thing I’m seeing in YA, and especially dystopian YA, is an almost fetishistic obsession with monarchy. Whether it’s Elder in Across the Universe (who is, essentially, a prince), or the mad queen in The Pledge (oh, wait, there’s also a mad queen in Cinder), monarchy seems to be in with teen fiction.

    Frankly, it disturbs me a little. There’s a worrisome two-dimensionality in the love interest that is good-looking and infallable, but also ridiculously wealthy and powerful to boot. I want more books about ordinary people becoming great, not about people born into power and wealth with whom I have nothing in common.

    But perhaps I am reading too much into it.

    Across the Universe, by Beth Revis (book cover)

    Across the Universe, by Beth Revis

    This book gets: ♥♥♥♥ out of 5

    Across the Universe, Beth Revis – This is a book that starts out unbelievably strong and immediately afterward makes some serious stumbles. The premise is surprising and creative, the writing is brilliant, but the romance is without any chemistry. Though it takes a while for Revis to get into her stride, Across the Universe is still a solid read. It gets extra points for being honest-to-goodness sci-fi, and for actually taking place in space. (more…)


  8. “Robopocalypse” Is A Novelty Novel

    September 3, 2012 by Kiersi

    Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson

    This book gets: ♥♥♥ out of 5

    Before I get into this I want to explain my rating system. Five is perfect; exceptional. Four is good, recommendable. Three is mediocre (which has, strangely, developed a negative connotation, when it actually means “middle of the road” in terms of quality). Two is severely flawed, but I finished it. I only give ones to books that I either didn’t finish or wanted to stop reading before finishing but had some compelling reason not to toss in the towel.

    The thing that really frustrated me about Robopocalypse was that it started with the ending. I knew right from the beginning how this whole robot war was going to go down. It’s got this too-clever-for-its-own-good storytelling plot device, where the near-total destruction of humanity at the hands of an escaped AI is retold by the de facto soldier who helped defeat him. So, essentially, it’s a meta-meta-novel, adding to the Cloverfield premise that our soldier-narrator, Cormac Wallace, is recording a black box of historical data about the war left behind by the defeated AI. (more…)


  9. Pixar’s “BRAVE” Unfortunately Average

    June 26, 2012 by Kiersi

    Brave the movie, Pixar

    This movie gets: ♥♥♥ out of 5

    Everyone is, I’m sure, aware that I am a total Pixar nut. I know every line from Ratatouille. I put on Finding Nemo whenever I’m feeling down, and Up or Toy Story when I’m home sick on the couch (or both). I defer to The Incredibles for superhero archetypes, not Marvel or DC. I still can’t watch Wall-E without going gooey-eyed.

    When Cars came out, I knew something was changing. I stayed away from the film after seeing previews. It was obvious that the plot was amateur at best, the characters were caricatured and cartoonish, and despite being a musical, was no-holds-barred on stupid gags and racial/ethnic stereotypes. Eventually I decided I should see it, and was summarily disappointed. Let’s not even talk about the merchandise-rich Cars 2.

    After watching the Pixar documentary, I realize now that Pixar as a film studio has done something both dangerous and rare: produced great movie after great movie, slipping only rarely, and even then, only after a half-dozen successes. Since establishing such a stellar reputation for themselves and raising the bar impossibly high, even a mediocre or simply not-great movie could get panned simply for not living up to the standards of Pixar’s previous films. (more…)


  10. Just ignore the title. And cover art.

    June 20, 2012 by Kiersi

    BODACIOUS, by Sharon Ervin

    This book gets: ♥♥♥♥ out of 5

    As a rule, I’m normally not into romance novels. They’re shallow and formulaic. However, I discovered the (unfortunately titled) BODACIOUS through a fellow reviewer on Amazon, and the reviews were so good, I decided to drop the $3.99 and read it. Though this blog focuses on YA, I’ve decided to post my review of BODACIOUS and (hopefully) give this indie writer some traffic–it’s so rare to find a gem like this buried in the pile of self-published slush, I wanted to pass it on.

    Sara Loomis is kidnapped by hillbillies during a botched gas station robbery. When the matriarch of the inbred family finds out what they’ve done, she commands that Sara be “taken care of.” But stuttering Cappy can’t bring himself to do the deed, so he leaves Sara at the mercy of “Bo,” a mute, grizzled mountain man living in a one-room cabin on the fringes of society. Though Bo refuses to return Sara to civilization, he shelters, clothes, and feeds her–all without ever uttering a word. What follows is an expedition of discovery, of shedding old notions and prejudices, and finding something you never knew was lost. (more…)