Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review: The Salem Witch Tryouts

Title: The Salem Witch Tryouts
Author: Kelly McClymer
Page count: 261

Back cover:  Prudence Stewart had it all at Beverly Hills High: straight A's, the cutest crush, and a sweet gig as captain of the cheerleading squad. Then poof! Mom and Dad announce they're moving to Salem, Massachusetts. Turns out, Pru comes from a long line of witches and it's time for her to learn the craft. Buh-bye, Beverly Hills High -- hello, Agatha's Day School!
But Pru's not about to trade in her spirit stick for a broomstick! She's sure she can keep her kewl at her new school -- until she discovers it's all magic, all the time, and she's failing Witchcraft 101. Worst of all, even the cheerleaders bring a special "spirit" to their routine. As in, triple-back-somersault-with-a-twist kind of spirit.
It's time for Pru to cast a spell and prove she's just as enchanting as the next girl -- and somehow make cheering tryouts a flying S-U-C-C-E-S-S!
   I picked this book up at a used book store a while back. The story is cute. High school girl who has special powers is moved into the world of her heritage and trying to fit in. I think the author had a bit of an abrupt ending, but it wasn't bad overall. The author is cautious and has a nice way of saying the realities of teenager-dom that other authors try not to touch on, like hubris of a cheerleader, even if it's the main character. At the same time, I think she may have been trying to make main cheerleader Pru a little bit too perfect. Pretty, hardworking, smart, the best cheerleader of the bunch, motivating, with that all-important dazzling smile. That was only a minor bit of story however, where the real story came in about getting on the special magic cheerleading squad of Salem.
   I got the book because it obviously had witches and I really like halloween and all. There were witches for sure... The powers were strong and boundless to the point of you can zap up everything you ever wanted without straining yourself once you're trained. Really cool for witches, but almost a little too much. Still, the magic gave it a definite edge, setting it apart from all the other books about fitting in at a new school.
   The author took a few risks with her words. Personally I know nobody who says "kewl" but maybe in Beverly Hills they say that. Even if they don't the words are pretty okay for the story, because with all the unique language to Pru and her friends it made them seem like they have a little more history with each other, despite the fact that they're stretched across a continent by the time you really know their characters. The one problem with her words-- I felt her writing style was maybe a little young for the character she was trying to portray, a high school sophomore. Pru is very innocent and emotional and seems a little younger sometimes than she maybe should seem.
   I give this book a three. Pretty good, but not one that I'm going to be ranting about to my friends.
   My image is of Pru in the uniform portrayed on the cover. I had mixed feelings about the art. On one hand the fluidity and pose were very cool, but some of the off proportions bothered me, like the tiny feet. So I did my own drawing of Pru, which I hope does her justice.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Review: Parties and Potions

Title: Parties and Potions
Author: Sarah Mlynowski
Page count: 340

Back cover:
Perfect hair, cute clothes, healthy tans—life’s a breeze when you’re a witch! Even special witchcraft classes Rachel agrees to attend with Miri turn out to be fun. The sisters meet other teen witches just like them—who knew? Everyone’s preparing for a magical party called a Samsorta—a debutante ball for witches. And it wouldn’t be a ball without warlocks. Cute ones. Like Adam, who wants to slow dance with Rachel, and ski with her in the Rockies—on a school night! Of course, Rachel is madly in love with her boyfriend, Raf. So why can’t she bring herself to tell Adam—funny, charming Adam—that Raf exists?

Rachel knows Raf likes her. Maybe even, gulp, loves her. But Raf doesn’t know her secret. Unlike Adam, Raf doesn’t know who she really is. And she can never tell him. Or can she? 

   I read this book about a year ago. Then about nine months... and six months... and 5.5 months... and so on. It's a readover kind of book, the kind that seems to get better with age. You know the many books where the main character is all 'I don't want expensive stuff, I don't want fame, I just want normalcy'? How many teenagers do you know that would actually say that? Or even think it? Not Rachel. She is deep, but interested in the social ladder and poofing up new clothes and fresh tans. She's a real teenager, with many sides to her personality, and a way of following a train of thought until it derails and that makes her very real.
   Rachel and her little sister Miri are both witches, both rocking, and life is good... ish. See, there are a few glitches in Rachel's perfect sophmore year. Such as: Miri wants to be in a samsorta, a type of witch batmitzvah, and Rachel wants to spend her Saterdays with her FINALLY attained boyfriend Raf (it took her three previous books to get him!). Oh, and a new freshman on the block happens to be an incredible and practiced witch without a clue on how to survive highschool. Then there's Rachel's magic and how every time she starts straying from the truth to keep her lives seperate something goes wrong. How will it all work out? Sometimes being a teenage witch with everything you want can be SO EXHAUSTING :).
   I think my favorite part of the story is how similar my sister Kieryn Nicolas and I are to the story characters. I mean, we can relate to them almost exactly, which rarely happens so completely in book. That, and the fact that Miri is in Taekwondo. YES! GO MIRI! I love me my martial arts!
  I give this book oh... a 4.5. I am a witch-groupie, I admit. The magic and mayhem of it has always appealed to me. Not green skin witches with warts and straw hair, but mythical, ancient powers and unique appearances. Though some pieces of the witches are cliche here, they have many, many unique aspects such as: Heliotrope being a witchy color and having witch coming of age parties. Those are definitely interesting bits of the book. Also, the sisterly banter is really interesting and fun to read.

The picture is of the sisters being catapulted/flown up to a party on top of the Eiffel Tower. France! Fun!
Buy it, Borrow it, Use it as scrap paper?
Buy it of course. How else can you read it over and over?

-Winnie :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Review: Clockwork Angel-- The Infernal Devices

Title: Clockwork Angel
Author: Cassandra Clare
Page count: 479
 Back cover:
Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still.
           When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.
           Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.
           Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: Jem, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa.
           As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all. 

   The story is very intricate and appealing. I enjoyed the twists and dialog almost as much as the fun characters. The story is about a girl who now has to face a supernatural, unique power that baffles even those who've "seen it all", like the supernatural entities we all know and sometimes love. Some of these are cast as downworlder vampires, werewolves, faries and warlocks. Now there are many mysterious people and creatures after her, and Tessa is trying to seperate her friends from her enemies and deal with her sudden, complex allies. A few of these allies being Will, the confusing, handsome and heroic shadowhunter with a real attitude, Jem, the silver eyed, unassuming friend with a slick bladed cane, and Jessamine, the girl who doesn't want the life she has.
   So I'm a HUGE fan of the original Mortal Instruments series, the present-day books that came before Clockwork angel. I LOVE Jace's character in it, but going into Clockwork Angel, delving back into the world of the Shadowhunters hundreds of years before, I wasn't so sure if I would like it. However, I think that Clockwork angel far surpassed my expectations, flying above and beyond the mortal instruments-- while I still love Jace and Simon, I believe that Will is better. I didn't even know it was possible to make a character with even more cynicism and sarcasm than Jace. Plus his hair is black-- dark hair makes Will so much more awesome. The world of London in and around the 1800s has more life to it in this book than I had ever thought of it as having before. Cassandra Clare brings in a whole new cast of characters while still hanging on to the ones we love, such as timeless warlock Magnus Bane, then a fantastic character with an over-the-top sense of style, and still so in the mortal instruments, present day.
   I rate this as a five out of five because that's what I would have rated the mortal instrument series and this was better. The main characters are all active, with strong opinions and unique ways of looking at things. Also, the power they gave to Charlotte, the leader of the institute was very good, because it showed she had to work for it, and that others questioned her but she never gave up.
The image-- the actual clockwork angel, a seraph blade with shadowhunter's special power runes. In the background mysterious silhouettes with meaning you'll get when you read it because you really should :).
Buy it, borrow it, use it as scrap paper?
Buy it!

-Winnie :)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Review: Fang Face

Title: Fang Face
Author: Norm Cowie
Page count: 281

Back cover:
     Erin has bigger worries than how she'll do on her Trig Final.
     A vampire bit her and she's turning into an Undead.

     Things could be worse though. It cleared her complexion,
     she can fly, and now her parents have to let her go out at night.
     And being a vampire is great for freaking out her little

     The downside? Besides being dead, of course... and having
     to drink blood smoothies... was having to give up tanning
     and pizza. And with her new edgy Goth look, jet-black hair
     and porcelain skin, everyone tells Erin she's become
     beautiful. So much so that the other girls in school have
     started calling her names... like 'Fang Face.'

     Erin wouldn't mind checking her new look for herself. But as
     everyone knows... Vampires can't see their reflections!

   When my sister first got published, my mom checked out all the other authors, and started getting into the whole 'ebook scene'. The first one she got was this teen book called Fang Face. So I started reading, and me being a supernatural fan, I didn't stop
until I finished the entire book. The entire, GOOD book.
   As legend goes, vampires can't see their reflections, have no shadows, and sleep in coffins. However, did you know they have annoying bat friends and attitudes? Being a vampire can be tough in other ways-- It's really messing with newly bitten Erin's beauty routine. How are you supposed to apply makeup when your looks are changing and you can't see yourself? Her beauty's not the only thing changed, though. Her instincts are suddenly more acute than a panther, and she's not the only one who is freaked out by her changes... And Erin thought braces were bad.
  Fang face is the story of an accidentally supernatural teen and her delightfully mismatched friends against the terrifying student body and some scared parents intent on revenge. With antics bordering on possible and jokes even at the crazy-serious-est moments, The writing was dipped in cheese sauce. While that usually annoys me, in this instance I could hear the author's voice, his personality, in the words. Having now met the author, I can tell you this is most correct. Norm Cowie's voice is always in his writing, no matter who the character, whether it be Trug, the kid who's ugly in the best way, Slim, the graceful guy the shape of a beach ball (and proud of it!) or Alex, the freaked out little sister.
   I rate this book as a 4.5/5. Crazy in the best way, because I love the storyline and the beautifully depicted characters and the author's No Fear policy, flying outside of the lines in a way that makes the story even richer.

Go Fang Face! I've read this book at least 7 times already and now have a real live signed copy. I suggest you get one to :) because it is GREAT. I couldn't pick just one scene, so here's an interesting medley of dodge ball, garlic, and um, well lots more! It makes a lot of sense when you read the book!
Buy, borrow it, or use it as scrap paper?

-Winnie :)

(PS-- check out the official Fang Face website: 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Review: Maximum Ride

Title: Maximum Ride (The Angel Experiment)
Author: James Patterson
Page count: 413
 Back cover:
Fang, Iggy, Nudge, the Gasman, Angel, and Maximum: Six kids who are pretty normal in most ways—except that they're 98% human, 2% bird. They grew up in cages, living like rats, but now they're free. Riding the wind, their wings are an amazing gift...and yet, their world can morph into a nightmare in a single instant. For when the bloodthirsty Erasers—half men, half-wolves genetically engineered by sick and sinister scientists—kidnap little Angel, the Flock embarks on a rescue mission that will change them forever.

From Death Valley, California, to the bowels of the New York City subway system, 14-year-old Max leads her five feisty "family" members on a journey full of nonstop action, adventure, and soul-seeking—not to mention a little bit of saving the world on the side!

   Um woah. Those are the first words that come to mind. While Patterson was a little slow in the romance department, the story was never lacking in action. Me being one of those people who lie awake dreaming of having wings and flitting over moonlit landscapes, Maximum Ride temporarily satisfied my taste for in the air action.
   So the book begins with the smallest of the six, little Angel (looking exactly as her name suggests) being snatched away to the evil facility where the children were first studied and given their wings. Getting her back unhinges Max and her crew's lives, makes their home vulnerable to Lupine hybrid hunters...and eventually gifted, kidnapped Angel begins to learn of new things-- of their origins, of their lives, of their beings. Even if they retrieve the young girl their lives are now in more danger, have more strings attached, and are swamped in far more questions and enemies than before... the book lives up to it's name. It's the Maximum thrill Ride.
   The way the characters' wings didn't just pop in and out of existence really boosted my opinion. Fantasy/sci fi books that have the main character(s) spontaneously growing wings and poofing them back into nevernever land when they’re done makes the characters seem less real. It make them more able to appear normal but really—is that just for convenience? On with the story? I don’t know… it just kind of bugs me. The fact that Max doesn't have that luxury makes the premise much more believable. So go Max!
   Still, the whole concept is kind of hard to wrap your head around, though fun to read.   Max and her crew are tighter knit than a sweater and they know each other like they know how to fly. Their nicknames reminiscent of their personalities, they act like a real family with their arguments and tenderness.

   I'm going to rank my books in paint splotches because stars are overrated, pun intended (har har, get it? rated?). So this book gets a 4/5 for its incredible flight action, its very non-cliche intro (you get thrown right into the plot) and the fantastic action, settings, and personalities of the characters, even the minor ones. It was a little confusing at times, and there was not very much of a character arc from Max, in fact barely any change in her at all, but overall a fantastic read.
   Now, without further ado... the 1000 words of a scene that spoke to me :)

Buy it, borrow it, or use it as scrap paper?
  Buy it.

- Winnie :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why is it worth 1000?

They say a picture's worth a thousand words. If so, I use a lot of words every day through pictures. I draw all the time, and when I'm not drawing, I'm either at school or reading.

One of my favorite things to draw is fiction. Whether I'm sketching a character I made up or doodling a scene from the story I'm reading, I love bringing it to life. I also always have an opinion on the books I read. Often my older sister and I will read the same book and get into discussions, or even "debates" about it. (Speaking of which, she might throw in her two cents here once in a while.)

So now I'm going to start a review blog that won't just tell you what I see in a book, I'll show you.

- Winnie :)