Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Awakening | by: Kelley Armstrong

The Awakening is the second installment in Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers book series. The debut of the series (The Summoning) was much more impressive than I expected it to be, and I hoped The Awakening would give me a smiliar feel.

Chloe knows what she is now, a necromancer, someone who can raise the dead. She also knows about the other kids that stayed with her at the Edison Group home, a place for mentally disturbed teens. But as the story unfolds, she learns more secrets about the people behind Edison Group - secrets that startle her. Chloe and her friends (a witch, a sorcerer, a werewolf) cannot afford to be too involved with Edison Group's strange studies. They're desperate to get away. That's why they have to keep running, in hope of finding safety, no matter the costs.

Just like in The Summoning, The Awakening doesn't have dull moments. Chloe and her friends are on the run, and it's hardley smooth sailing for them. There's a lot of elements for them to deal with: A missing person ad, people from Edison on guard, dealing with finances, finding places to sleep, and trying to find the one person they know they'll be safe with - who happened to disappear. To top it all off, the four of them don't get along well a lot of times. So I never lost interest.

I have mixed feeling about the actual writing in this book. Kelley Armstrong writes clearly and I understand everything she's trying to say, but there's nothing fantastic about her style. One definate good thing about Kelley Armstrong's writing style (besides writing in a way that makes us understand clearly) is that she isn't overly dramatic. She speaks soley through Chloe's point of view, and it matches Chloe's personality. However, as mentioned, this is not the best written book in the world.

Again, this series is very unique in the lack of romance, which is a good change for YA books. This leads me to characters (and relationships): In the first book, Chloe irritated me. In The Awakening, she still does, but not as much. It seems she has a tighter grip on reality, and not quite as whiney. But now I have a problem with another character: Simon. He annoys me, despite he is somehow the most likable, and I'm getting vibes that he and Chloe will have a relationship beyond friendship, but I hope I'm wrong... because I still really like Derek! If this turns into a romance thing, I want it to be different. I want Chloe to pick what some would consider to be the less attractive one. This series has proven twice to be different, why stop?

Even though this book didn't have a completely sudden stop (thank you, Kelley Armstrong, for giving me an ending where I'm hanging off a cliff), I hope to read the third installment, The Reckoning, soon!

All in all, The Awakening is unique and a lot of people will enjoy it, since it doens't follow the typical Young Adult book suit. It is a great follow-up that matches the eldest of the series, The Summoning. It does the series justice, as well as the book in itself. To my surprise, I really like this series.

4/5 stars

Thursday, August 12, 2010

White Cat | by: Holly Black

In the world created by Holly Black, there are curse workers - people who have the magic in their touch to affect others. They can change their memories, luck, emotions, and even more if you're touched by one. Because of their amazing advantages over people, a lot of them become con artists. Cassel comes from an entire family of con artists, of curse workers, yet he has no magic. It seems the only thing he has that the rest of his family doesn't is the horrid guilt of killing his best friend years ago.

Since his family are curse workers, they have power over him, but family is everything to all of them, so they never con another. But Cassel is starting to question this, as secrets unfold. And it all started with the appearance of a white cat.

I was hesitant to pick up White Cat, but I'm more than glad I did. This story is so intricate, it's difficult for me to explain. It's one of the most unique books I've ever read in my life. I don't really know where to begin.

With a one of a kind storyline, you get a main charecter that lives up to the hype. (Thank you, Holly Black!) Cassel is a very likeable charecter. His narrations are very interesting to read. He's sarcastic at times, down to earth, yet sometimes he can seem deep, and when his heart aches, you ache with him. I had no difficulty to take him seriously. An complex charecter for a complex story.

I've never read any of her books before, but from White Cat, I can tell Holly Black is a great writer. Sometimes, I'd have to go back and reread sentences, only to find that she's written the statement too well. Her writing will leave an effect on you, as if she's a worker herself, cursing us with her wonderful choice of words. She also has some serious creativity. Curse workers? How did she come up with this concept? There were so many twists and turns in this mystery-filled book, I don't know how she could have kept track of everything. I would have lost my mind trying to write this novel! When you expect things to flow like a typical book, don't. White Cat is far from typical. I was surprised and filled with complete shock over and over again.

White Cat is mysterious, suspensful, and even a bit romantic. I was completely into this book, and I'll never forget this one. In some way, each element in this story falls into the perfect places, but you'll never see what's coming.

The ending will freak you out a bit, and you'll want the next book to appear on your bookshelf. I know I can't wait.

4.5/5 stars

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Runaways | Written and Directed by: Floria Sigismondi

I grew up listening to Joan Jett. Since I cite her for intruducing me to female fronted rock and to this day think she's totally awesome, I figured The Runaways would be the drama flick for me. Therefore, I can say that my opinion of this film is probably biased.

This film is about the true story of Joan Jett (played by Kristin Stewart) and Cherie Currie (played by Dakota Fanning) and their relationship when gaining success with their all girl rock band, The Runaways. Starting from being discovered by record producer Kim Fowley, the band goes from playing in people's houses and being targets for thrown cans, to a record deal and fame. Producer Kim Fowley pushes the girls to be famous, but his effect turns out to be negative, and fails to keep the band together. Meanwhile, in their short lived fame, the girls experiment with drugs, sexuality, and with that comes problematic drama.

First of all: Wow to both Dakota Fanning and Kristin Stewart. I never realized exactly how amazing these two actresses were until seeing such raw emotion in The Runaways. Dakota plays her role well as Cherie, being in her own world and a bit strange. Not to mention comfortable in her skin, and she sang extremely well. Kristin Stewart practically IS Joan Jett; no one else could have played this part better than her. When she screamed it was powerful and true, and when she's on stage singing, you'll wonder if it's Joan herself. Brava to both of them! EXCELLENT performances.

(Let me throw this in: I wonder if Lita Ford was really that unlikable and grouchy...)

This story has just about everything to it. Fame, drugs, money teen angst, rock 'n roll, love, and anger. I loved The Runaways. As you could expect, all of the music played in the film was awesome, and really, everything about it was interesting, especially since I'm a Joan Jett fan and am also into The Runaways. However, if you're no fan of Joan or The Runaways, you may think it's a good drama or an cool rock 'n roll movie, butI'm not sure you'll get the same effect.

One of the best films of the year. Kristin Stewart should win an award for this. Dakota Fanning as well

5/5 stars

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Summoning | Kelley Armstrong

I never wanted to read The Summoning. I didn't think it would be my sort of thing, so I never picked it up - until a few days ago. Halfway through the book, at the skeloton's appearance, all of that changed.

Chloe has been sent to a group home. After an incident at school, many think she's going crazy, or has some sort of mental problem, to put it nicely. All of a sudden, she can see ghosts and they can see her. Or can she? The doctors say she has schizoprenia, and if they're right, this is all part of her illness. None of it being real. But what about the other teenagers at the group home? Are they crazy, or do they just have uncontrollable special abilities? Chloe doesn't uncover the secrets about what she is and the group home by herself, she makes friends along the way, as well as enemies, kicking off Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers series.

The beginning of this book didn't float my boat. However, unlike a lot of YA books, the beginning was interesting. Things were always happening. What I didn't like was that I couldn't relate to Chloe and I didn't care for the bland writing style. I wasn't fascinated.

But after the half point, it kept getting better and better! Many scenes from this book had suspense and kept me intrigued. Sometimes, it was all I could do to put it down! I found the other charecters to be really interesting with their odd idiosyncrasies and powers, which helped me a lot in this novel, because Chloe just isn't my type of charecter for whatever reason.

Like I mentioned, The Summoning is a lot different than most YA novels. But do you know what I love most? There's little to no romance. Talk about something different for a change! But, there are a couple of guys in here that I'm thinking maybe Chloe will end up with. And I'm happy with that, because honestly (and I can't believe I'm saying this after wanting a non-romance book), I wish there were more sparks flying between Chloe and Derek. You know why? Because I like Derek. He's my favorite charecter of the whole thing. I think she should be with him because he's not Pretty Boy, Bad Boy like all the other YA guys. He's not hot, okay? He has some serious acne and a bit of a BO problem. He's not very nice either; he's grouchy 24/7. So, I'm hoping for romance, but different.

Whether or not you're looking for a Young Adult novel that's different than most (but still paranormal) and suspensful, The Summoning is the book for you. It's the first in its series, and you'll be begging for more after the last page.

4/5 stars

Monday, August 2, 2010

Fallen | by: Lauren Kate

Fallen is the first book in its series, about Luce, a girl sent to reform school after a terrible accident she barely remembers. She makes friends as well as enemies in the strange school, and even has a couple of love interests - which brings the subject of Daniel. He makes it absolutely clear that he isn't interested in her, but she can't stop being interested in him. She's drawn to him in a way that almost feels natural to Luce, though it makes no sense. There's just something about him that is unlike any other being, but is that part only Luce's imagination?

I was really into this book from the start. For one thing, the setting of this book is quite different than I imagined. Creepy, restricted reform schools just aren't the cliche place to be these days. But, it definately lives up to the beautifully dark cover art. (In fact, this may be the best book cover I've ever seen!)

Despite it had some originality to it, I was worried of being able to predict the plot. After all, most of these YA books have been pretty predictable to some degree. A lot of my predictions were true, but the ending was shocking. I truly hope Laren Kate can keep it up in Torment. Not much was explained in Fallen, so I hope that Torment will bring more information about the angels, and Luce's past.

Lauren Kate's writing is very good, and she has crafted quite a page turner. It took a while for things to really get going in this book, but for some odd reason, I still had trouble putting it down. Lauren Kate made me curious about what would happen next, even if not much was happening. The great books always make me do somthing crazy, like stay up extra hours reading, dreaming about the book, telling characters what to do, ect. Fallen would make me read and read and read against my own will. I'd sit there and feel like I've only read for ten minutes and look at the clock, when it's been thirty minutes. I even dreamt about this book. I dreamt of Daniel, and I dreamt of feeling silky wings.

Despite being a bit predictable and kind of slow, I really, really liked this book.

4/5 stars

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Life Starts Now | Three Days Grace

Ever since 2007, Three Days Grace has been one of my favorite bands. Their first two albums stayed true to their sound, though their sophomore album, One-X seemed a bit heavier than their first self-titled debut. I suppose I had a general idea about what was in store when I got their newest release from 2009, Life Starts Now.

"Bitter Taste" is the opening track. Three Days Grace typically opens with something hardcore, and this tradition still lives. The guitar riffs are nearly epic, and the lyrics are about forgetting someone from your life. It's a typical Three Days Grace song. There's an extremely intriquing guitar solo towards the middle of the end of the song. (Which I loved!) Adam Gontier's vocals are still amazing, harsh, and scratchy, yet so powerful.

The first single is the second track, entitled "Break". It's an okay song that seems to be about getting high, but it's really not that great. Nothing particularly special, like a spark, glows from it. "World So Cold" is next, and the sound still isn't the most impressive, but overall, I like the song with it's especially clear vocals and ten second organ break before the final chorus. I have many mixed feelings about the lyrics. The only thing that irks me the most is that the lyrics are so brooding, yet I do love the line "I'm too young to feel this old" from the bridge, and I also love the lyrics in the second verse.

"Lost in You" comes next. It's different than most songs by Three Days Grace. The guitars are sweeter, and it seems to be happier than most of their songs. It gives a bit of an alternative vibe, a vibe I don't think I've ever gotten from Three Days Grace. I really like this song. It relaxes me.

Song number five is like a mash up of Three Days Grace and Nickelback. It's called "The Good Life". It's easy to sing along with, and gives the 'Look, I'm a rockstar! Party and live "the good life"' feel and has a few synthesized vocals. But I'm not really into this track for whatever reason.

"No More" is sort of alternativey like "Lost in You", but heavier. It has layers of vocals, and is clearly about living in fear. The lyrics are simple, but quite good. The guitar riffs are really cool in this one, in a bit more of a mellow way, escpecially in the intro and in the outro. I really like this one, and I think a lot of people will.

PIANO? Yes! Three Days Grace and a gorgeous piano piece whisked me away in "Last to Know". Adams voice is so soft... and surprisingly perfect for the piano. If you read the lyrics on your own, they seem really corny, but it sounds nice with the music despite that. Later on, it picks up guitar like a magnet,drums come back, and Adam's voice is harsh again, creating an awesome Three Days Grace anthem. In the end, the lyrics are stronger, and Adam's voice softens when the piano comes back for the outro.

"Someone Who Cares" finally gives us better lyrics! It sometimes reminded me of something Genesis would do, with its eerie guitar effects. It's a song we can all relate to, and Adam definately made it come alive. For whatever reason, it felt like his voice was more emotional than usual. Towards the end, it gets pretty heavy, and has a very cool outro that slowly fades.

"Bully" opens with a bunch of random kids screaming before being blown away by guitars. Despite this bad impression, and having "Bully" for a title, it's not a bad song. The vocals are slightly sythesized, and it's pretty hardcore.

The opening sounds of "Without You" are awesome. It's a really good song, but the chorus doesn't entice me. It doesn't sound right... Adam's harsh and powerful voice saying he's "nothing at all" - I can't quite take that seriously. I really liked this track, overall.

Track eleven is "Goin' Down". If you mixed Korn with Three Days Grace, this would be the product. I loved the strange lyrics, but yet again, I didn't favor the chorus. I did enjoy the verses, though, and of course, Adam's voice. (In case you haven't noticed, I am a huge fan of Adam Gontier's voice.)

For the second time in a row, Three Days Grace titled their album after the final track. "Life Starts Now" is one of my favorites from the album (possibly my favorite). The lyrics are so different than the rest of the album. For once, we hear about empowerment that doesn't sound violent. In fact, it's even optimistic! I love this song! I find it inspiring. It opens with cool sounding guitars and it ends the album on a good note.

Even though there are some songs that I'm on the fence about, I think Life Starts Now is a good album. I don't think Three Days Grace fans will be disappointed, nor will anyone else that buys it. It's fun, it's serious, it has songs that people will relate to, and plays with a few different sounds. Go check this out.

3.5/5 stars