Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Goddess Test & Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter [Book Inspection] [Giveaway]

The Goddess Test

Plot Sketch: Kate Winters has not had normal teenage years.  Her mother was diagnosed with cancer and was supposed to die four years ago.  But she's held on.  Now that she's pushed on, she's asked Kate to drive her from their home in New York City to Michigan.  To the UP.  To a small town called Eden.  And she's asked Kate, who deferred her last year of high school to be with her mother, to go back to school.  So Kate does.   And there, she meets James, an outcast, who quickly befriends her.  And Ava, the hottest girl in school, who decides it's best to keep her enemies close and invites her to a party in the woods near Eden Manor where her mother once stayed.  Kate follows Ava to the party reluctantly, tragedy ensues, and Kate makes a bargain to save a life other than her own or her mothers, not understanding the consequences of her agreement.  The rest is the tale of how Kate deals with that deal she's made, the benefits, the costs, and the dangers of agreeing to give a god anything if he'll just save someone's life.

Verdict:  While the first fifty or so pages felt really disjointed, the story was engaging enough for me to push through.  It almost felt as if the editing was so heavy in the first part of the story that what was left was not as coherent as it should have been.  But I'm really glad I pushed through because as the story grabbed me even more, the writing seemed to improve (or be less edited? I'm not sure).  The story took on a flow and I was able to fly through pages in between panels at Phoenix Comicon, which is normally not easy for me to do with people and conversations all around me.  I appreciated that the novel was written in past tense because it allowed me some perspective on the characters that I would have lost had it been written in present tense. And while I didn't find this one to be a work of literary wonder, it was good enough.

That said, I felt a lot of the time the characters actions were manufactured to fit the situations and weren't necessarily true to the characters.  And though derived from a little bit of Greek mythology, it's more like Greek mythology fanfic.  Carter took pieces of the mythology and characters from it and made her own story, even her own names - and did a good job with that aspect of it.  But the characters themselves were a little bit dull and stereotypical - even Kate the main character.  I would have liked to have seen them bloom a little more and act in a way that wasn't predictable.  No one acted in a way that showed more character (not that Kate lacked character, but she was seriously lacking in the flaw department for a teenage girl) than you would have expected from them.  Nobody - not even Kate - showed significant growth.  And no one reacted to tragedy the way people react to tragedy, which gave away a lot in terms of credibility for the characters.

 I'll now admit to throwing this book.  And that I think that Aimee Carter is an emotional genius.  Near the end, there's a chapter title that confirms a character's actions in the previous chapter and you think you've got it all figured out and me?  Well I just got so angry when I read that chapter title confirming my suspicions that I threw the book.  And I swore I wouldn't finish the novel.  But I couldn't stop thinking about the characters so ten minutes later I walked over, picked the book up, apologized to the poor thing and kept reading.  I haven't had my emotions manipulated like that since oh... ever.  I'm glad I finished The Goddess Test.  It was a treat with an atypical ending.

Fans of Once Upon A Time and Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman are in for a treat. Oh, and dog people.  Dog people will like this book.

Goddess Interrupted

Plot Sketch: You know how adamant I am that I not spoil things for you?  This picks up six months after The Goddess Test ends.  And it's a lot bigger on the adventure path than The Goddess Test was.  It's still about Kate and James and Ava and how they have a problem that they have to solve alone.  It's a continuation of the story and if I tell you much more, I'll spoil The Goddess Test.

Verdict:  As far as a second-in-a-series book goes, Goddess Interrupted was a pleasant surprise.  While I still have some of the same reservations about the character development and writing style, I saw a lot more growth and flaws this time around.  The first volume was largely a romance novel, however this one is action-packed and adventuresome.  It's packed full of conflicts both interpersonal and physical, but it still spends a lot lot lot of time inside Kate's head.  Don't get me wrong, I like Kate.  But we spend what seems as much time in her thoughts as in action in the story and that gets a little exhausting.

Despite my criticisms of the works, I did enjoy both books, and would recommend them if you're interested in the premise.  The ending of GI is cliffhangerish enough to make me want to read the next novel, but not too cliffhangerish where I'm beating my head against the wall in anticipation.  I appreciate that.  Carter's take on the gods and how they interact with mortals and their creators is definitely fresh, and worth a try if you're so enclined. Check out the trailer and giveaway below:

Enter to win a copy of Goddess Interrupted (provided by publicist) by leaving a comment with which Greek god/goddess you'd most like to crush on.  I'll throw in a copy of The Goddess Test if you haven't read it yet.  Make sure your email addy is accessible (either associated with your account or in the body of your comment) and tweet this post for an extra entry.  Ends 6.13.12 at 11:59pm Arizona time.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Where You'll Find Us At Phoenix Comicon

Phoenix Comicon kicked off tonight.  Here's where you'll find us for the rest of the Con.

IHM Phoenix Comicon 2012 Conquest

Thursday, May 24, 2012

*drumroll please* Introducing... Young At ♥

See, we know that a lot of adults read YA novels.  And we think that even more adults should read YA.  The problem is that a lot of our peers snicker and look down their nose at us when we talk about a book we've read that was meant for teens.  My grandma gives me the look when she thinks I could be doing something better with my time.  My coworkers used to give me the look when I snuck my Meg Cabot book out during my lunch break.  My doctors give me the look every time they check out the cover of the book I'm reading when they finally walk into the exam room.  Sometimes the look is paired with the eye roll and the insinuation that I'm so immature.  Sometimes it's paired with the dismissive smirk.  And sometimes it's followed-up with the even more severe you-are-such-an-idiot look.

Know the look? Young At ♥ is a book club for you.  Young At ♥: A YA Book Club for Adults is a joint effort between I Heart Monster and Bookmans Mesa.  We'll meet every third Thursday starting June 21st, 2012 at 7pm to discuss a particular YA book at Bookmans.  The title schedule (posted a year in advance) is available both at and along with the dates that we will be meeting to discuss the awesome that is YA literature and buck the masses who think it's lame.  It's going to be fun.  Scratch that.  It's going to be epic legit... quick someone come up with a non-teenaged word that means... Oh heck, it'll rock.  And just to prove it will rock...

Enter to win a copy of The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor from Young At ♥.  Just enter your details into the form below.  I'm taking it to Frank Beddor to get it signed, make no mistake. Open only to Arizona residents, or people interested in attending Young At ♥.  Sorry, my elsewhere-located lovelies.  Ends June 3rd at midnight my time.  And we'll see what I end up from Comicon with for all of you lovelies that show up on the 21st..  There may or may not be awesome door prizes.  I'm leaning toward the positive on that one.  Update: Frank Beddor could not be located at the Con, so we're signed-copy-less... but still have a copy to give away.

Questions?  Just ask me. Tweet me, email me, Facebook me, or find me at Phoenix Comicon... pick your poison.  I'm here to help.     

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Selection by Kiera Cass [Book Inspection]

Plot Sketch:  Fives?  They're the artists.  Singers, painters, sculptors.  Sixes?  They're the laborers.  Eights?  Untouchables.  Ones?  Royalty.  Yeah, in this dystopian story, your main character, America Singer, a five, is in love with Aspen, a six.  Sorta forbidden, sorta not.  But mostly? Forbidden.  Sixes have to work really hard just to put the food on the table.  If America marries Aspen, she'll go down a notch to a six. The Selection is announced, where eligible young women fill out a form and are entered in a drawing to become the next princess of Illea, marrying Prince Maxon Schreave.  Aspen insists America fill out the form, and the rest is the story of America's journey to and at the palace.

Verdict:  Not gonna lie, I bought the book for its delicious cover.  Doesn't it make you drool?  Thing is, after I picked it up, I couldn't put it down.  It's a fast read, an engaging read, well-written and carried me through the story without stumbling.  I have no complaints about its content.  In fact, for a book that has a degree of hot and heaviness in it, it's remarkably clean.  No language.  No sex.  No drugs.  Not really any violence either.  Nothing graphic.  But everything pulling you in with strong emotion and making you want more.  Did I say you?  I meant me.  (see that was my subliminal attempt to make you read it which I just outed myself by telling you in parentheses, lame)

The narrative and characters came together to give me a great read that I heartily recommend to you.  In fact, I'd be happy if this series was the next super-duper-awesome blockbuster series to follow-up Harry Potter/Twilight/Hunger Games if only for the fact that I finished book one and I have no idea if I'm #TeamMaxon or #TeamAspen.  NO IDEA!  That never happens.  I'm firmly on the fence between the two camps and can't make up my mind.  Which means... I've been thinking about this book since I put it down!  I want to demand that everyone I know read it so that they can squee as much as I did and help talk me off the fence and into one of the camps.  Plus, no major technical beefs... a rarity among squeeable fic.

The dystopian element was also pretty awesome because the whole situation is not explained to you.  You only know what America, as a five in the caste knows.  The reader isn't offered any extra information to help him/her figure out what's really going on with the government or its opponents.  So that left me with about seventeen gazillion questions at the end, none of which I even have enough information yet to properly process. Frustrating?  You bet, just frustrating enough for me to want to dive right into the next novel... due out sometime in 2013 I'm sure.   I have to wait a whole year?  Say it ain't so!

There were some scenes that made me think "Hunger Games!" but with a twist.  They were similar, but not the same by any means.  And the premise is similar, but not the same.  I mean, there's a drawing and you go on to assume your fate.  The Selection is just much more glamorous, much less violent, about the same amount of starvation, I'd say.  Fans of Asian history, dystopian romance, and The Bachelor are bound to enjoy.

Connect with author Kiera Cass on Twitter or YouTube or on her website, and find the hardcover at an Indie store near you.  Oh yeah, and last week?  It was #9 on NYT Bestsellers.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Today Is Free Comic Book Day.

Don't forget that today is Free Comic Book Day.  For a list of comic shops participating near you, click over to and enter your zip code!  Yes, they're free.  For everyone.  So go get yours!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Zero by Tom Leveen [Book Inspection]

Plot Sketch:  Amanda Walsh, or Amy as her mother calls her, or Zero, as she's nicknamed herself, applied to The School of The Art Institute of Chicago.  She got accepted.  Only thing is?  She can't afford it.  Her scholarship application was rejected.  And then, something weird happened that same day with her best friend Jenn... something she's not getting over easily.  And then, she meets this guy with these intense "emerald-sapphire" eyes, and decides to take a chance on talking to him.  And whaddya know, he talks back.  And then the story follows the relationships in Zero's story until she is forced to make an incredibly hard decision in the end.

Verdict:  I loved Zero/Amy/Amanda Walsh.  Same gal, so we're gonna call her Z to keep it straight.  I thought she was a brilliant character and I saw a lot of myself as a teenager in her.  Probably because the original manuscript was written in the early 90s, when I was almost a teen, but that's beside the point.  Her struggles and reactions were real.  Her thought processes were eerie - Tom, how do you get inside a teenaged girl's head like that?  And really, the characters were awesome on all points.  I love Z.  She's adorable.  Seriously.  And the little punk-rock chick would totally hate me for saying that.  Truth.

Here's the thing.

The plot was flat.  It was more like a character study than a novel.  We got a glimpse of a time period in Z's life, but the plot map looked like this:  _________^__________^______.  Now, if I was in a college class or a place where I was grading this for some reason, I'd take off points for that.  And some of you will no doubt have this as a grip.  Z does experience personal growth... but she also experiences personal regression.

Here's the thing.

Despite the flat plot, I couldn't put the book down.  I thoroughly enjoyed the happenings and issues that Z had to deal with.  So you tell me, is a flat plot a bad thing?  Oh holy heck, I dunno.  I'm just a lowly reviewer on the internet.  It's all about personal preference, I presume.

Also, I loved all of the references to bands and songs, and thank-yous from Z to the lead singers of bands.  Nice touch, Tom.  And I loved the theme of self-discovery.  I really did.  And being a Mesa native, right next to the Phoenix, where the story is set, I'm completely happy that someone has finally described my Sonoran Desert with accuracy - the creosote, the oily rain puddles, and the parents who warn you not to drive in the rain.  I love this desert too, Z.  There are so many great points to this book I almost didn't bring up the flat plot, but hey, what's a girl to do?

For parents:  Strong, strong, language.  Too many uses of the f word to count, and many other swear words at all.  All used well in context and not excessive for me, but you should know about them.  There is parental conflict, with a very alcoholic and borderline abusive father.  There is a sex scene, and allusions to almost-sex scenes not graphically depicted, but the reader gets the point.  There is also a girl to girl scene that doesn't come to fruition.  But that's all in there.  And I'd want to know about it if I was a parent.

Tom Leveen is the author of Party, and now Zero, both pubbed by Random House.  He lives in my wonderful Sonoran Desert. He adequately describes the Phoenix Metro as a black hole for the arts.  And... *Arizona Native Fist Bump*, yo.  OH and he does this totally awesome Halloween thing at Changing Hands.  Don't miss it.