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Monday, June 17, 2013

Book Blog Makeover! J&M's Book Diaries

Hello lovely book bloggers! So it has been a super long time since I have posted on my blog, but I wanted to show you the latest MAKEOVER I did for two awesome book chicks, Jenny and Malisa, over at J&M's Book Diaries.

Jenny and Malisa are fairly new to the book blogging world, but they knew that they wanted a custom design for their site to make it stand out from the rest. Like so many new bloggers, they were using one of the Blogger templates- it was pretty, but generic and a bit boring! So they got in touch with me about a new design- one that featured a custom vector illustration of the two of them, reading and chatting over coffee. They also love the color coral, so I made sure to include a pretty peachy coral color in their final design.

~The Custom Vector Illustration~
Designed and Drawn by me! ;)

One of the things that I kept in mind when designing Jenny and Malisa's blog was that they really wanted a modern and more minimalist style- nothing too busy or over the top. So I definitely kept things nice and simple in their template, sticking with a soft gray background with "pops" of color. This modern and simplified look makes it so that the main focus of their design is the custom illustration and the content on their page.

Because they ordered my Deluxe Makeover Package, they also got a choice of 4 custom upgrades, so they chose to add on custom post dividers, sidebar titles, post signature and social media buttons, which were all included. See below for the before and after pics of J&M's Book Diaries!



With this simple and modern look, Jenny and Malisa can now be sure that their blog is unique and makes an impression on their readers. I hope you'll stop over and visit these two fabulous book bloggers and show some love by following their new site! Just click on the NEW DESIGN image above to hop on over ;)

~Grab a Button!~

J&M Book Diaries
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Are you considering a new look for your blog? Do you just need an extra little something to spruce up the look you already have? Please stop on over and see me at Lea Christine Designs by clicking on the button below-- you can check out the services I offer and all the designs I have already done!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Book Review: The Iron daughter

Author: Julie Kagawa
Series: The Iron Fey #2
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: August 1, 2010
Pages: 359
Read it in: 2 days
Source: The library :)
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Summary: Half Summer faery princess, half human, Meghan has never fit in anywhere. Deserted by the Winter prince she thought loved her, she is prisoner to the Winter faery queen. As war looms between Summer and Winter, Meghan knows that the real danger comes from the Iron fey— ironbound faeries that only she and her absent prince have seen. But no one believes her.

Worse, Meghan's own fey powers have been cut off. She's stuck in Faery with only her wits for help. Trusting anyone would be foolish. Trusting a seeming traitor could be deadly. But even as she grows a backbone of iron, Meghan can't help but hear the whispers of longing in her all-too-human heart.

LC's Take:

"I couldn't be normal and ignorant ever again, knowing what was out there. Faery was a part of me now. As long as I lived, I would always be watching for hidden doors and figures from the corner of my eyes. And for a certain dark prince who could never be mine..."  ~p.125-6

Gah! I don't know why it took me so long to get to the second book in this series-- because from the moment I picked up The Iron Daughter, I was reminded of why I love these books so much. The Iron Fey series is just one of those stories that sucks you into another world and makes it so that you never want to leave. The faery world that Julie Kagawa creates, I mean what can I say? It's freaking magical!

So honestly, it had been so long since I read The Iron King, that I didn't even remember what had been going on. But The Iron Daughter does a really good job of not only picking up with things where they left off, but also explaining bits of what had already happened, so I didn't feel totally lost. Basically, after defeating the first Iron King in book one, Meghan has to go back to the Winter (Unseelie) Court to fulfill a promise she had made (and if you know anything about the world of feary, you can never break a promise!) While at the Winter Court, the Scepter of the Seasons is stolen from Queen Mab, which controls the Winter and Summer seasons, and her oldest son Sage is brutally murdered. Mab assumes this is the Summer Court's fault, and now Winter and Summer are at war. Added to this, Meghan finds out that the Iron realm, which is slowly killing the entire faery world, is still very much in existence and growing stronger... now she has to get back the Scepter of the Seasons and stop Virus, the new leader of Iron from destroying the Nevernever.

Whew! Yeah a lot was going on in this book! It was super intense but I absolutely loved following the story, especially since there were so many new and amazing characters like Leanisidhe, and old characters that came back like Grimalken the Caithe Sidhe (faery cat). Seriously, the characters in this series are really what make it so awesome to read-- they are all so fleshed-out and interesting, and so many of them are really quirky and just a lot of fun to read about. So besides the awesome story, the characters just make these books even better!

Then we have the whole development of the love triangle between Meghan, Ash and Puck. And honestly, for as much as I usually can't stand YA love triangles  this one is being done right so far. It's believable, and it's not too overdone. I actually liked reading about Meghan's confusion over whether Ash truly has feelings for her or is just tricking her to get her back to the Winter Court. And I have to say, I also really like Puck, and how he has feelings for Meghan and she sort of does too, but she isn't sure whether to go with him or the forbidden Winter Prince. I'll be very interested to see where things go with Meghan and these two guys!

My ONE problem with this book-- and it's a bit of a spoiler, so if you haven't read this far yet, you might want to skip here-- my one problem, or question, was near the end when Ash is talking with Mab, Queen of the Winter/Unseelie court, and he says the following:

"I swear an oath," he whispered, "never to see her [Meghan] again, never to speak to her again, to sever all relationships with her, and return to the Winter Court."   ~p. 352

Now, in context, Ash is responding to Mab when she asks him what he has to do next if he wants to be able to stay in the Nevernever. HOWEVER-- I thought when I read this that he was ACTUALLY taking an oath and promising all those things... And couldn't Mab and the rest of her court also have interpreted his words that way? Aren't words like the number one thing that holds power in the realm of faery?!? So how was Ash able to say this statement-- which can SO easily be interpreted in two different ways-- and still get to make a choice whether to go or stay?? Unless this potentially is going to come into play again later on in the series, I kind of feel like this is a huge plot slip. But I don't know, I guess I'll have to see what happens with that!!

So overall, The Iron Daughter was a great sequel to The Iron King. Also, it didn't suffer from "second book syndrome" at all-- the plot was paced well and I never lost interest in what was going on. When I chose to pick up on this series again, I had really been in the mood for a good paranormal story and this one absolutely satisfied my YA-paranormal craving. If you are looking for an amazing story with great characters and beautiful writing, I would highly suggest getting into this series, it really is just as wonderful as everyone says it is!

~Cover Talk~

The covers for the Iron series are gorgeous, hands down. And put them all together, and they are absolutely stunning! I really like this cover, the model used for Meghan is beautiful, I love all the scroll-work details, the font used for the title, the icy blue shades-- this is one of those books that I can literally just sit and admire for the outside look alone! I *only* wish that they came in hardcover, because that would be amazing!!

LC's Rating:
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Another amazing book in the Iron Fey series! With a story you can't put down and interesting characters that you won't be able to forget, The Iron Daughter was a great sequel. I can't wait to read the next book and see what happens with Meghan, Ash, Puck, and everyone else in the Nevernever!

Find it!

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Book Review: Ashes

Author: Ilsa Bick
Series: Ashes Trilogy #1
Publisher: Egmont USA
Release Date: September 6, 2011
Pages: 465
Read it in: 3 days
Source: Won in Zombie Craze Giveaway 2012 from the Bookish Brunette! :)

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Summary: It could happen tomorrow...

An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.

Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.

For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human. Author Ilsa J. Bick crafts a terrifying and thrilling post-apocalyptic novel about a world that could become ours at any moment, where those left standing must learn what it means not just to survive, but to live amidst the devastation.

LC's Take:

"So far this book is AWESOME-- just don't read it and eat at the same time."

(my first Goodreads update)

So, have you ever come across a book and your first reaction to it is: "UGH! No WAY am I ever reading that one!" But then... something about it intrigues you, and you sorta can't stop thinking about it, so eventually you're just like, "OK, what the hell, I'll give it a shot."

Yeah, that was me with Ashes. The cover quite frankly scared the living daylights out of me, but for some reason, I was still interested in it-- then I won it in a giveaway, so at that point it was like, well now I have to read it-- and I'm really glad that I did. I mean, where do I EVEN begin?? This book was gory, intense, horrific, and FREAKING SWEET. It gave me chills, it grossed me out, and it had me on the edge of my seat for pretty much the entire time I was reading it!

A brief synopsis: Alex is in the woods when it happens-- the "Zap"-- the shock that sends everyone into a terrifying Post-apocalyptic world where teens Alex's age start to go crazy... and cannibalistic. But Alex is no stranger to near-death experiences and fighting to survive, because with a giant brain tumor slowly eating away at her, Alex has always felt like it's only a matter of time before the silent "monster" defeats her... but while so many others are either dead or eating the dead, the Zap has actually given Alex the superhuman ability to sense, or more specifically smell, when danger is around or when people's emotions change. Most importantly, she can tell the difference between who's still human and who has changed and gone berserk...

Alright so first of all, Alex was such a kick-ass main character. Strong, independent, and armed with an arsenal of survival skills and a dry sense of humor, she was one of those characters who you just LOVE to read about. I could relate to her, I became invested in her story, and so I was pretty much hanging on every word. Not to mention the fact that the girl has a brain tumor that is slowly killing her, and yet she doesn't have any major self-pity or cynicism to make her unlikable. She goes through some of the most horrific and painful experiences and yet there is no whining from her-- this was a YA character who I completely respected and was thrilled to be reading about!

Ellie and Tom, the two main supporting characters who Alex meets in the woods, were equally as intriguing. For example, when Alex first meets 8-year Ellie on the mountain, I couldn't stand her. She was a whiny little brat who caused about 50 million problems for Alex and was ungrateful that Alex saved her life a bunch of times. However, around chapter 12, Ellie decides to stop being a major pain in the rear and then she actually becomes a very endearing character. And Tom worked well as far as a love interest goes because his interactions with Alex were so interesting, and because the romance that builds between them was very gradual and not forced.

My only *one* caveat with Ashes was that I felt the story slightly lost its momentum in the latter part of the book. For the first part of the story, I got so deeply involved with the three main characters, and how they interacted together-- Ellie, Tom and Alex were interesting themselves, and I was loving seeing how their relationships played out. PLUS the first part of the story was so freaking scary and suspenseful, and I loved that feeling like just around the next page could be something else truly horrific. But then... the plot takes a turn, and Alex, Ellie and Tom get split up-- Alex winds up in a small town called Rule, where she becomes stuck in their strict society and religious fanaticism, and at this point I kind of felt like the plot lost some of its original intensity. It's not that the story got to be boring, but I did somewhat lose interest in it and I wasn't as invested in the new characters. However, then there was the MAJOR cliffhanger at the end-- OMG the ending!!

So even though Ashes was not even a book I had originally planned on reading, I am so glad that I made the decision to give it a shot-- it was an action-packed thriller filled with heart-stopping scenes, horrific and gory descriptions that gave me the chills, and complex characters that I couldn't help but become attached to. Not to mention, the writing was amazing. This one definitely stands way out from a lot of other YA, and if you love a great story, great characters, and aren't too squeamish, I would absolutely recommend that you give this one a chance as well!

~Cover Talk~

Let's not beat around the bush-- this cover scares the living bejeezus out of me. In fact, the cover art on this book is so insanely creeptastic and disturbing that I had to take the book jacket off the book while I was reading it just so I wouldn't have nightmares. No, I'm not joking. But let me also say that it was BECAUSE of the fright-level of the cover art that I eventually came around to reading this one-- it's just one of those images that you can't really forget once you've seen it.

I'm also a huge fan because it appeals not just to girls or YA-lovers-- don't get me wrong, I love covers with the pretty models in pretty dresses, but those books are really being put in a box and are limited in their appeal to a wider reading audience. The cover of Ashes however is awesome because it is not only extremely eye-catching; it crosses over to many different reader groups.

Find it!

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LC's Rating:
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Don't let the cover fool you-- Ashes was more than just a horror story. It had interesting and complex characters, awesome writing, and tons of plot turns to keep you guessing what will happen next. This is one book that will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Book Review: Monstrous Beauty

Author: Elizabeth Fama
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: September 4, 2012
Pages: 295
Read it in: 3 days
Source: ARC from the Publisher

Summary: Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences...

Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.

LC's Take:

OK, so where do I even begin with this book... because I seriously LOVED IT!!! It's been awhile since I've read a book where I felt totally captivated, where I was basically hanging on every word, and the more I read the more obsessed and involved I became with the story and characters... But Monstrous Beauty single-handedly was able to wipe from memory many of my horrible experiences I've had lately with several YA books, and has restored my faith in the genre as a whole.

YEAH. It was THAT good.

So characterization is always a *big* thing for me in any book, and that's typically my main focus-- if I like the characters, I will most likely become invested in your story. On the other hand, if your characters are paper cut-out fake stereotypes who I can't take seriously, I really don't care how great your story is, I'm not going to become invested in it. And for me, the true sign of good characterization is when the characters come across as real people. When I can imagine them as my friend or enemy, when I can relate to how they're thinking or feeling, and when they talk and behave in a believable way, that's when I know the author really took the time to develop the characters in his/her story. And in Monstrous Beauty, I definitely felt like I could get into the heads of each character and understand where they were coming from.

So the main character Hester Goodwin was awesome and I loved her. Not only did she come across as an actual, real person (which was very refreshing given the surprising difficulty to find realistic characters in many YA books), she was also a history-loving nerd so I immediately felt like I could connect with her. She could be confident and stand up for herself, she swore when she was pissed off, she could be awkward and self-conscious like any normal girl around her crush, she could be vulnerable without coming across as pathetically desperate-- I understood her character and connected with her. That *one thing* right there made me feel invested in the story being told.

Then we have Ezra, the 19th century spirit who Hester becomes drawn to-- I loved him too! Ezra had the delightfully cute quirkiness of a Tim Burton character-- awkward yet intelligent, sweet and sensitive, Ezra is the kind of guy every bookworm girl dreams of meeting. He was also another example of fantastic characterization-- for example, we know that Ezra was a scientist/naturalist in his lifetime who studied oceanic life and mythical creatures. Therefore, when we see things through Ezra's eyes, things are acutely detailed and scientific-- that's how he thinks, so that's how we see the world from his perspective. The fact that Fama actually took the time to give her characters unique perspectives so that we could tell whose point of view we were reading from set this book apart from many others-- it seems so simple, yet it's been awhile since I've seen unique POV's!

And another thing I HAVE to point out-- THANK YOU Elizabeth Fama for not being like so many other YA authors and treating sex like it's the Black Plague or something!!! You know how in some books the authors' main characters can't even *think* about sex, because it would be the end of the world? I 'm so sick of watered-down, G-rated adolescent characters who are totally out of touch with reality. But not Hester-- like any teenage girl, sex is a very real and important thing to her and it isn't treated like some dirty, taboo thing in this book. Seriously, thank you! Because guess what YA authors? Guy and girl teens think about sex quite a bit, so stop making up characters who basically think and act like eunuchs or something, and who wouldn't ever *dare* thinking of doing anything more than making out. And yes, this book does include some rather mature content-- like sex, swearing, rape, murder, etc.-- but they're all written in with the assumption that teens are half-way intelligent and can handle these things, and don't need to be spoon-fed Disney-sweet characters and plots. Let me give a standing ovation to this book just for that!

I was also a huge fan of the world-building in Monstrous Beauty. Since the story switches back and forth from modern times to 1872, it was crucial that things were set up for both time periods. The dialogue and character interaction were both spot-on-- when the story switched back to 1872, the characters actually spoke and behaved like they were from the 19th century-- and it came across very natural, not forced or cheesy. The author clearly did her research to make sure that her readers would feel as though they were going back in time. The descriptive language was also wonderful, and you could see each scene playing out through Fama's words. I think that a truly good writer makes you feel as though you aren't reading, but actually observing/experiencing things as they happen, and Fama was definitely able to do this for me! Finally, I loved how the story and setting had a slightly dark and Gothic feel to it-- the sea, the gloom of the New England coast, the creepy supernatural elements in it-- all of these things really set the tone for the story and made it irresistibly readable.

So lovely readers and bloggers, if it has been awhile since you've read a book where you were so eager to devour the words on each page that you couldn't read fast enough, this is the book for you. I was totally captivated by this story and its characters and could not put it down. Especially if you love historic settings, dark and creepy stories, and realistic characters, I hope you will bump Monstrous Beauty up on your reading lists, because I really think you will enjoy it just as much as I did!

~Cover Talk~

So there are actually two covers I want to look at and compare-- the first one is from the ARC, which is the version I have, and the second is the final cover chosen for the published edition:

OK, so to the left we have the ARC cover version-- this is the one that I have. Honestly, of the two, I like the original cover art the best. Yes, I know, there are tons of YA covers with gorgeous girls on the front but I just think this one is so elegant and eye-catching. It isn't as colorful, but I sort of like that the colors are more drab and muted, because the story's setting is dark and gloomy too.

Don't get me wrong-- the published edition cover is also beautiful! I love the bright blue-green colors in Syrenka's tail fin, and it also does the story justice by coming across as being dark and mysterious. However, between the two, I personally prefer the ARC edition-- which cover is your favorite?? :)

Interested? Hear an Audio-clip from Monstrous Beauty Here!

LC's Rating:
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Amazing characters and a supernatural story that takes place across two centuries made this an absolute must-read-- I could NOT put it down! Creepy, mysterious, romantic, suspenseful-- all of these things describe Monstrous Beauty. It was unique and completely unlike other YA, you will NOT be disappointed!

Check It Out!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Book Review: Tiger's Curse

Author: Colleen Houck
Series: The Tiger Saga #1
Publisher: Sterling
Release Date: January 11, 2011
Pages: 403
Read it in: 4 days
Source: Gift from Chantel @ Little Miss Bookworm :)

Summary: Passion. Fate. Loyalty.

Would you risk it all to change your destiny?

The last thing Kelsey Hayes thought she’d be doing this summer was trying to break a 300-year-old Indian curse. With a mysterious white tiger named Ren. Halfway around the world. But that’s exactly what happened. Face-to-face with dark forces, spellbinding magic, and mystical worlds where nothing is what it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.

Tiger’s Curse is the exciting first volume in an epic fantasy-romance that will leave you breathless and yearning for more.

LC's Take:

What would you do if someone offered you an all-expenses-paid trip to India with a mysterious white tiger who also happens to be a handsome Indian prince? Eighteen-year old Kelsey Hayes is faced with just this offer after spending 2 weeks working as a hired hand at a local circus one summer-- and her life will never be the same.

I had pretty much been *dying* to read this book for ages, and after reading review after raving review, I FINALLY picked it up off the shelves. I was so positively sure that I was going to absolutely love this book, that by the end, I would be in raptures and stumbling over myself trying to say enough good things about it.

I don't know what the hell happened.

I KNOW, and I hate saying this, but I have to be honest. There were some things I liked about Tiger's Curse, but they were all completely overshadowed by some of the worst characterization I've ever encountered in a book. OK, here we go...

So first, let me talk a little about Kelsey Hayes, the main character. At the beginning, I actually liked her. Laid-back, down-to-earth, and slightly quirky, she was a fun character to follow in the story.

But then things started to go down hill-- rapidly.

I noticed about a hundred pages in that Kelsey's way of talking and thinking could be *extremely* juvenile at times-- juvenile and annoying. I don't know if anyone else thought the same thing, but as I made my way through this book, I just didn't feel like I was reading from an 18-year old's perspective. Some of the expressions she uses (my FAVE was when she exclaimed, "You wily scoundrel!" when Kishan tries to kiss her), the way she addresses people ("oh hey there Mister!" <-- seriously? Is your main character from The Little Rascals?), and just her whole way of thinking seemed more like that of an immature little kid than an adult...

Things only went from bad to worse when Ren the Prince stepped into the picture. If Kelsey was slightly childish and annoying to begin with, it was nothing compared to the monster train-wreck she turns into in the last half of the book. The immaturity levels reached astronomical proportions. How you ask? Here are a few examples:

1.) She pouted and threw tiny tantrums when she was displeased about pretty much anything-- and rather than be an adult and communicate with Ren about how conflicted she was feeling, she turned into a cold and standoffish biotch. Then, when the poor guy asks her what's wrong, she says "nothing" (in that way where it's obviously something) and goes right back to being Ice Queen Supreme. Clearly, this is an awesome way to treat people.

2.) She had the * exceedingly* annoying defense mechanism of needing to make sarcastic quips every 5 seconds, and the more defensive she got, the less likely it became for her to be serious or mature at crucial points in the story. I mean, the girl almost dies and the first thing she does upon waking up is crack a few dumb jokes-- well I'm sorry, but I don't want to read about a main character who acts like she's constantly auditioning at a comedy club (and failing miserably, I might add)-- I want her to have a grown-up, serious side too! It was just too much. There is no way in hell this chick was 18-- maybe 12? Maybe.... even that's pushing it.

3.) I just love how Kelsey was absolutely shocked and appalled when she sees Ren the Tiger-version and his brother hunt for food. She does realize that "hunting" involves killing something right?? And that tigers have a tendency towards being carnivores? And that tasty meat often comes from cute animals? I mean the girl had to actually sing herself to sleep to get over it-- no, I'm not making this up, she sings herself to sleep ("happy songs" from The Wizard of Oz) because the tigers killed an antelope. Then she has nightmares about it. And she's eighteen   -_-

4.) Kelsey just LOVES to continually tell us about her little "love-plant" for Ren-- because you know, normal people talk like this. By the end I wanted to take some pesticide spray and a blow torch to Kelsey's freaking love-plant and incinerate the damn thing into the ground...

5.) "Only socially deprived wierdos talk to tigers in their free time every day." ~Quote by Katlyn on Goodreads. I couldn't have said it better haha :D

(I won't even get into the fact that she was dumb as a brick and could barely tie her own shoes without Ren holding her hand, or how she nearly gets herself killed near Kishindha because she goes to grab a pretty sparkly diamond out of the water, moments after she and Ren nearly died because DUH the prophesy TOLD you not to believe your eyes and that things weren't as they seemed! She's like freaking Abu the monkey in Aladdin, literally that is who she reminded me of! **slaps forehead in total frustration**)

But I think that out of all the things that bothered me about Kelsey, the VERY WORST was the fact that she made such a snap judgement about Ren-- without even giving him the chance to prove that he was a good guy-- and then proceeded to treat him like total crap for the rest of the book. All because of her own stinking insecurity that "she wasn't good enough for him." Like seriously, give me a freaking break-- Kelsey, you were to put it bluntly, one of THE most immature characters I have ever read about, and you need to go find yourself a therapist. Pronto.

Let's just say that by the end of this book, I had never wanted to punch a main character in the face quite so badly as Kelsey "Boo-Hoo I'll Never Be Good Enough So I'll Just Act Like a Bitch 24/7" Hayes. 

While we're talking about How to Make Your Characters As Unlikable as Possible 101, let's take a look at Ren. Overall, the guy wasn't too bad when you stand back and see him over the course of the book-- but I still couldn't stand him. And the thing is, he wouldn't have been such an unlikable character if the author hadn't set him up to be totally unlikable. Here are just a few of the phrases used to describe Ren's actions in the book:

-Laughed "acerbically"
-Smiled "mockingly" and "malevolently"
-grinned "maliciously"
-scoffed and smirked
-was "annoyingly happy"

Now you tell me-- would you like a character whose behavior is described that way?? The guy is annoying even when he's happy for crying out loud, and I'm supposed to be falling in love with him?!? There's only two explanations for this kind of character portrayal:

1.) Ren is a douche, in which case I can't stand him and hope he jumps off a cliff, or

2.) Ren is actually a good guy and all of this is Kelsey's perception of him, in which case Kelsey is *psycho cray cray* and I hope she jumps off a cliff.

In either case, I'm really not rooting for your characters.

I also felt like the pacing of the plot was slightly off. Overall, I thought that the story itself was pretty good-- I loved the Indian setting and the adventurous element it had going on-- but there was just a lot of superfluous description that got in the way for me. For example, when Kelsey gets on the plane to go to India, I thought we were never going to hear the end of all the luxurious details of the plane's interior and the food they ate. Don't get me wrong, I think that adding vivid description to your story is wonderful and sets the backdrop for all the action, but I also think there is a way to describe a scene while still leaving something up to the reader's imagination! I don't give a crap about what color hair ribbon Kelsey ties in her hair every day-- and by the by, how many 18-year-olds do you know who tie ribbons at the end of their braids? Or carry their blanket around like they're Linus from Charlie Brown? JUST SAYING.

Besides plot pacing being off, many parts of the plot made ZERO SENSE. Tell me, how many foster parents do you know, who seem to be fairly sensible and *sane* let their foster-daughter go off on a trip to INDIA with a strange older man and a tiger, after meeting said man ONE TIME?? This is basically how things played out:

1.) Kelsey works 2 weeks as a hired hand at a circus (WHICH she got from some super-shady work placement company)

2.) Kelsey reads Shakespeare to the tiger at said circus (Hmm, yeah that's completely normal) and then a strange Indian man shows up and tells Kelsey she is PERFECT for taking care of the tiger, if she can only GO TO INDIA to put tiger in a nature reserve (RED FLAGS GOING OFF HERE) But no, no, Kelsey and her guardians think this all totally legit...

3.) Kelsey's parents AGREE TO LET HER GO TO INDIA with strange older man after meeting him once, and within a WEEK Kelsey has all her documentation, passports, vaccines, etc. taken care of and is on a plane to India to take care of a rare white tiger species because 2 weeks of sweeping up crap at a circus has turned her into a total animal GENIUS.

**Insert dumb-founded expression HERE 0_o**

As far as the romance goes, well it was about as dysfunctional as they come. It was like watching two cars heading for a straight-on collision, and not being able to do anything about it. I've already described Kelsey's emotional constipation and total lack of ability to do anything remotely mature, but I also didn't like how possessive Ren got of Kelsey as the story went on. Protective tiger-- awesome, Possessive love interest-- HELL to the NO. Not a fan. I was also pretty annoyed at the good ol' YA ploy of presenting the main character as Ms. I'm-Totally-Average-But-Every-Guy-Who-Sees-Me-Falls-Inexplicably-Yet-Madly-In-Love-With-Me, because it's been done SO many times. In fact, it's gotten to be about as cliche as being Disney-Princess-Perfect. Which brings me to...

** My Brief Bookish Rant**

Yeah so after all that, you're probably wondering what the heck else I have to rant about. (Do not underestimate my ranting skills *whahahaha!*) So here is my totally random gripe-- and trust me, this is random-- that I have to get off my shoulders. And I'm not trying to pick on this book specifically, it's more of a general trend that I see again and again in YA books-- and my slightly annoyed question is this:

WHY do authors always make a POINT of telling us that their main female characters never or seldom wear makeup? 

I know, I know, this is such a dumb thing to rant about, but for *some reason* it bothers me. I mean, is there something bad about wearing makeup or doing your hair on a regular basis? Do they think that makeup makes their protagonist seem stupid or fake? Do they assume that readers won't relate to a character who wears makeup because... I don't know, people who read don't wear makeup? Like why does it even need to be mentioned? It's like they expect me the reader to go, "Ohh, she doesn't wear makeup! Well I can respect her a lot more now!" And then on the other side of things, the "mean girl" or the bitchy back-stabber is often described as wearing makeup or being super tan or having the latest fashions. WHY?? Is it a given that if a girl cares about her appearance she must be less of a person? If the main character is a frumpy Plain-Jane who's never worn heels and who thinks at best she's "average," am I supposed to like her more? What exactly are you trying to convey to me the reader when you tell me that your main character doesn't wear makeup? I just don't see what the heck this has to do with the characterization of someone, and personally I couldn't care less whether the main character wears makeup or not, so stop bringing it up like it's a determining factor in whether or not I'll relate to/like/respect that character more!

(I will mention that Kelsey does get dolled up a few times in the book, but what irked me was her complete inability to see herself as being attractive, no matter what. This is not a good character trait. It is immature and I CAN'T STAND characters that constantly use self-pity and self-deprecation to excuse themselves from acting grown-up. STOP IT RIGHT NOW!!)

OK, rant over. I feel much better now!

~Final Thoughts~

Tiger's Curse is one of those books that I think appeals to a large group of people because it has a lot of great things going on-- romance, adventure, travel, mystery, an ancient curse-- I mean, what's not to love about that? BUT-- and this is a big but-- none of them, in my opinion, were executed well. The romance devolved into two spoiled teenagers acting like juvenile brats, the adventure and mystery were bogged down by way too much description, and honestly, by the end I was so fed up with the main characters that I really couldn't care less about where the story was going-- I just wanted it to end so I didn't have to constantly fight the temptation to throw the book out the window of a 50-story building.

So my final word with this one is- proceed with caution. While I can see the appeal for many readers, if you are like me and can't stand pointless drama, immature dialogue, and characters who act much younger than their years, you might want to think twice before picking this one up. On the other hand, the ratings overall for Tiger's Curse are extremely good, so this may very well be a case of me just personally not liking it.  Read what other people had to say about this book, you might end up loving it-- I, unfortunately, was not one of those people.

~Cover Talk~

After all that, the cover for Tiger's Curse is still probably one of my favorite YA book covers of all time. I have the paperback version of this book, but it is still amazing. Besides that ice-blue eyed tiger that captures your attention right away, the details are beautiful-- the Indian decoration at the top is in raised silver, along with the title, and the entire thing is on a gorgeous metallic paper. Also, the inside cover opens up with flaps in front and back to show a map of Kelsey's travels. The design work for this book is, in my opinion, PERFECT-- if only the story inside had done it justice.

LC's Rating:
A book that potentially had a lot going for it, but was dragged down by excessive details and some of the most immature and annoying characters I have ever read about. I hate to say this, but there is definitely a reason why Tiger's Curse is not for everyone. If you like your characters to have intelligence and any level of maturity, proceed with caution...

Check it out!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Book Review: The Raven Boys

Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Series: Raven Cycle #1
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Pages: 409
Read it in: 3 days
Source: ARC from the publisher

Summary: It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
LC's Take:

"There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark's Eve, Blue. Either you're his true love...or you killed him." 

With a darkly prophetic tag line like that, I knew pretty much right away that I had to read The Raven Boys. I've never read a book by Maggie Stiefvater before, but I can definitively say that I was not disappointed! With its diverse cast of characters and supernatural mystery and adventure, The Raven Boys was a really awesome and unique story that stood out from a lot of other YA...

Blue Sargent lives in a family of clairvoyants-- her mother is a psychic, along with the other women who live at her house. Blue doesn't have the gift of clairvoyancy, but she does have the ability to give energy to people and places, making supernatural occurrences much more likely when she is around. When Blue meets Gansey, one of the "the raven boys" from the elite Aglionby Academy, she is pulled into the supernatural rather unexpectedly, as they search for the legendary lost Glendower, an ancient Welsh king who is said to be hidden along a powerful ley line in Blue's town of Henrietta-- and can be re-awakened by whoever finds him.

So the thing that I loved most about this book was how much depth and complexity Maggie gives to her characters-- they aren't just there to add filler to the story; they have histories, they have inner conflict, and they have imperfections that make them seem real. It was this kind of in-depth character analysis that made me feel invested in the story, because the people I was reading about were easy to picture and relate to. Gansey, born to a life of privilege, worries that he'll never do anything meaningful in his life and is passionately driven in his quest to find Glendower. Ronan, who appears so dark and cold-hearted at first, turns out to have a very kind heart and strong sense of justice. Adam, who has a very troubled home life, struggles with overcoming his miserable life circumstances. Told from multiple points of view, Maggie lets the reader into the minds of her characters and you feel as though you really know them...

Except-- and here was the *one* thing that bugged me about this book-- I never felt like I got to know Blue Sargent as a character. This really surprised me, because I felt so connected with all the other characters in the book, even the minor ones-- but Blue, who is the main character, seemed very vague to me. Besides the fact that she has a special energy about her that can increase the force of supernatural occurrences (and the fact that she has an absolutely horrible sense of fashion and dresses like an 80-year old cat lady), I never felt like I was able to get a grasp on her personality. She was just... there. It was as though I could see things happening around Blue but she herself was very underdeveloped as a character, and I found this to be really strange, considering how vividly all the other characters were portrayed.

Besides Blue being a somewhat underdeveloped main character, I thought that everything else in The Raven Boys was very well done, so don't let that throw you off. The story and the pacing of the plot were done just right, and kept me anxiously turning the pages. Throughout the book, you can tell that there is something very strange going on, but you aren't given enough information to be able to fit all the pieces together right away. I loved this kind of suspense and build up, where as I read I learned a little bit more about all the characters and how they were connected and what was going on. And the supernatural in this book was made even better by Maggie's haunting and beautiful writing style-- everything flowed and made this book very easy to read.

So overall, I think that The Raven Boys stood out as a unique take on the supernatural genre, and I would highly recommend it if you are looking for something different. The end left me wondering what will happen next, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing where this series goes!

 ~Cover Talk~ 

I am insanely in love with this cover-- I know it is really simple, but I think that is what makes it stand out from other YA book covers. And I only have the ARC edition, but they still splurged on the cover art-- The painted image of the raven is gorgeous, and both the title and Maggie's name are in raised lettering. The entire thing is on a shimmery paper, and what I really love most about the cover art for this book is that it doesn't appeal to only one group of readers-- it doesn't scream "YA!!" and it isn't directed only at girls by featuring a model in a fancy dress. I think that this is the kind of book cover that is eye-catching without trying too hard-- it's simple and beautiful, and a little dark and creepy at the same time. What's not to like? ;)

LC's Rating:
A unique and intelligent take on the supernatural, The Raven Boys was a story full of mystery and adventure. Vivid descriptions, deep character portrayals, and a well-paced plot kept me glued to the pages-- definitely a TBR add! 


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

New Blog Design! Librarian Mouse

Hi guys! So as some of you might know, I have been doing web design for other book bloggers since early last year. It has been so much fun getting to create new looks for you guys-- ones that fit your own personal and unique styles and personalities! Today I would like to show you the latest Book Blog Makeover that I did for a wonderful blogger named Alaiel....

Alaiel is the author behind Librarian Mouse, a blog I'm sure many of you are familiar with. Alaiel booked a design with me because she was looking for a change-- her old design was super cute and very well done, but she had had it for awhile and wanted a totally new look. So...

Keeping with Alaiel's favorite colors of purple and red, I got to work on a totally custom-drawn vector design of a girl reading (who looks similar to one of Alaiel's fave manga characters) relaxing in a chaise lounge, with bookshelves behind her, and *of course!* a little librarian mouse with glasses ;)

All of my vector graphics in the designs I create start out as pencil sketches on paper-- here is the before and after of Alaiel's main drawing:

After I have all the graphics drawn, I incorporate them into a unique header with a matching grab button (which is one of the things included in my Makeover Packages). Alaiel also ordered some extras, like custom social media buttons with hover effects, a drop-down menu, custom sidebar titles, custom post signature, AND I have to mention this because it's the first time I've ever done it-- she wanted to order custom blog headers that could be switched out for the holidays-- pretty awesome, right?! I will show the Halloween Librarian Mouse header below, but FIRST.... onto the before and after shots!!

~Old Design~

~New Design!~

So as you can see, this was a MAJOR change! Old design? Way cute, and I liked many things in it-- knowing that Alaiel really loved her old mouse, I made sure that he made a reappearance in her new look :) (You can find him in her sidebar titles...)

Along with the Makeover Package, her are some other features:

~Custom Social Media with Hover Effect~
(mouse over and they change color)


~Custom Post Signature~

~Custom Sidebar Titles~

~Custom "About Me" Section~

(*eep!* the mouse has little fangs! ^_^)

I hope you guys will stop on over to Alaiel's blog and let her know what you think of her brand-new look-- ESPECIALLY since she's having an AWESOME GIVEAWAY in celebration! Check it out here, and also be sure to grab a Librarian Mouse button while you're at it :)

Are you considering a new look for your blog? Do you just need an extra little something to spruce up the look you already have? Please stop on over and see me at Lea Christine Designs by clicking on the button below-- you can check out the services I offer and all the designs I have already done!

Happy Reading!

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