Angel In The Shadows (The Angel, #1)

First Lines: Who would believe there is something different about me?  No one.  Most days I wake up late, move half-dazed, until Mom yells she’s going to leave without me, an idle threat that doesn’t work. 

I wish when authors asked me to read their books that they would pay attention to what else I’ve reviewed on here.  This is a perfect example.  Because the author did not look to see what I liked to read, I’m going to review this honestly.  And she isn’t going to like it.

Megan is a normal girl (if you couldn’t tell from the first lines), until she discovers that she can see angels.  Not only that, she can differentiate between dark angels and good angels.  With her power comes great responsibility.  She is one of the few that can keep the balance of the world.

I hated it.  I absolutely hated it.  I started reading it and found in the first chapter that it was poorly written and was over the top dramatic.  At the time, I just thought it was funny.  I told my roommate I was going to keep reading it to see just how bad it got.  Two days later, I regretted my words.

For starters, it was just ridiculous.  Everything that could possibly happen in a YA book did.  There was a secret power, summer camp, a new boyfriend, eating disorders, love, near-death experiences, purity rings, and a long distance relationship just IN THE FIRST THREE CHAPTERS.  After that, there was so much more crap to wade through.  There were negligent parents, parents without money, kids spreading false rumors, a “bully” in the form of a dark angel, underage drinking and drug use, the Goth lifestyle (which was made to sound like they were from Mars, they were that different), premarital sex, teenage pregnancy, and abortion.  I wanted to shoot myself when I was done.

Not only that, but it was just poorly written.  I could have worked with it more if it had been better written.  Megan liked to tell us everything instead of showing us.  It made it a simplistic writing style that quickly got on my nerves.  There was just nothing to it.  No subtleties to draw from, nothing.  What you saw was what you got.

And Megan just drove me crazy.  All the characters did.  There wasn’t one that I could say, “Yes, I was rooting for you the whole time.”  It was just so unrealistic.  Megan and her boyfriend are dating just 3 days before they’re like, “I love you!”  No.  That just doesn’t happen.  There really wasn’t any emotion in the story.  Normally, I can find some scene that gave me chills or pulled on my heartstrings.  Nope.  Nada.

Did I mention that this was Christian lit as well?  I really can’t read Christian lit.  I am “one of those people” that had a Catholic upbringing, but fell away.  So if an author tries preaching to me, I tune out.  I actually started feeling defensive while reading this.  Megan keeps trying to convert everyone in sight and I just couldn’t take it.  She had a strong opinion about everything.    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with everyone having their own beliefs, but they shouldn’t be forcing them upon other people.  Give them the information, but let them make their own decisions, for Pete’s sake.

In conclusion, I just did not like it.  At all.  It was a chore to get through all 144 pages.  And I was so looking forward to a good angel book.  Too bad it wanted to convert me when I didn’t want to be converted.

1 Rose.  (It’s so low, I don’t even have a 1 Rose picture for it.  I didn’t think I’d ever read/finish a book that bad.)

Top 10 Christmas Movies

Hey guys!  It’s that time of year, where I’m dreaming of eventually seeing snow on the ground (WHY WON’T IT SNOW?!) and where I have far too much free time on my hands while I wait for my college finals to finish.  So until then, I’ve been watching way too many Christmas movies for my own good (just ask my roommate, who is just about sick of always seeing me watch them on TV).  So, to put all of that to good use, I’ve created my Top 10 favorite Christmas movies.  Without fail, I watch all of these movies every December.  Enjoy!

10. The Polar Express (2004)

This was actually a movie I held out on after it came out.  I didn’t want to see it because it was a kids’ movie.  But now, I like it.  It’s not my favorite, but every year, I have to hear the songs (“Believe” by Josh Groban and “When Christmas Comes To Town”) and see the North Pole.  Usually, though, I can only watch it once a year and then I’m set.  But it’s still really good.  “I believe.”

9. Santa Claus is Coming To Town (1970)

Sorry, Rudolph, Santa is just better.  It’s the origin story of Santa and I think the story is so good.  Everything is explained to bring Santa’s story to life.  I’m a huge fan of the music (are you sensing a trend yet?).  It’s just not Christmas without hearing about the first toymakers to the king and how to put one foot in front of the other.  Also, the humor in this one is fantastic.  The Burgermeister Meisterburger is so ridiculous, you have to laugh at him.  “Excuse me, sir, but you’re breaking your own law.”

8. White Christmas (1954)

This is another movie I just have to watch every year.  I didn’t used to like this movie because one year I sang “Sisters” with my best friend and we totally butchered it.  I was so embarrassed, I refused to watch the movie.  But I got over it and now it’s one of my favorites.  It’s so cute.  I actually just watched it last night on AMC.  Bing Crosby is such a crooner.  He could sing anything and make me swoon.  Why wasn’t I born in their era?  “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” is the best song.  I want a guy to dance with like that for Christmas.  Dear Santa…  “Well how do you like that?  Not so much as a ‘kiss my foot’ or ‘have an apple’.”

7. Holiday In Handcuffs (2007)

Ok, yes, I am one of those people that religiously watches ABC Family during December.  I have for years.  And this is one that my mom and I just fell in love with when we saw it on TV 4 years ago (it’s scary how fast time goes).  Melissa Joan Hart is so funny as the harebrained Trudie and hello, who is going to pass up on seeing Mario Lopez and his dimples?  He makes women of every age swoon.  It’s not a realistic story by any means, but it’s cute, funny, and does have more meaning underneath it.  That’s really all I ask in a Christmas movie.  “I hope you aren’t expecting a lot from Santa.  A federal offense probably puts you on the naughty list this year.”

6. The Year Without A Santa Claus (1974)

By far, my favorite claymation.  I absolutely love all the minor characters that help Santa have his holiday.  From Jingle, Jangle, and Iggy to Heat Miser and Snow Miser.  The songs are so much fun, like watching the mayor jump around town like a madman singing “It’s Going To Snow Right Here in Dixie” or the Miser brothers going at it.  Or watching Santa sit at Iggy’s table and sing “I Believe In Santa Claus”.  It’s just an all around good movie.  I adore it.  I have to watch it for the Miser brothers every year.  “I’m Mister White Christmas, I’m Mister Snow.  I’m Mister Icicle, I’m Mister Ten Below.  Friends call me Snow Miser, whatever I touch turns to snow in my clutch.  I’m too much.”

5. Three Days (2001)

This is the movie that’s as elusive as a snowball in Southtown nowadays.  ABC Family used to play it every year in the early 2000s, but they slowly started pushing it back closer to Thanksgiving and then it just disappeared in the last couple of years.  This is the one movie my parents and I can go absolutely gaga for together.  It’s so good, but no one knows about it.  The basic plot is that Andrew hasn’t been spending time with his wife.  She believes he’s cheating on her, runs off, and dies in a car crash on Christmas Eve.  Andrew meets an angel, Lionel, and gets the last three days to relive any way he wants with her…but the outcome will remain the same.  If you’re interested, ABC Family is running it this year at 9 AM on December 16th.  Get your tissues ready.

4. Elf (2003)

Ah, Elf, how you keep me entertained every Christmas.  Buddy is just one of those guys you (or at least, I) want to befriend.  He’s got such a pure spirit and a good heart.  I love it.  I also love Zooey Deschanel, who plays Jovie.  The two of them (Zooey and Will Ferrell) make such a good team.  They can turn any moment into something magical.  The “Baby It’s Cold Outside” scene is the best in the whole movie, partially because that’s one of my favorite Christmas songs.  What would Christmas be like now without Buddy?  He’s become as much of a Christmas icon as Rudolph is now.  “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”

3. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

Believe it or not, I hadn’t ever seen this until 2009.  Yes, I’ve only been watching this movie for 2 years and I can see why it’s been such a classic.  Jimmy Stewart brings so much heart to the movie and makes you cry along with him and feel his pain.  I love how it’s not just a Christmas story, but it’s a story of life, love, and family.  It’s so brilliant, so moving.  The emotions are so real.  Why don’t they make movies like this anymore?  It’s a crime.  “Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings!”

2. The Santa Clause (1994)

This is such an amazing movie.  When I was a kid, I didn’t get it as much as I do now.  Some of the jokes are so subtle, and some are perfect for kids to get.  I’ve grown up with this movie.  My mom still signs presents from Santa and other Christmas characters, especially Bernard.  That’s when you know this movie has been around a long time.  Tim Allen was an icon in the 90s and if you remember that when you watch this, I promise, there are some jokes that seem to be playing off his Home Improvement roles.  Maybe I’m reading into the lines too deeply, but it sure makes the movie funnier.  And Charlie…he’s adorable.  What more can I say?  Oh my God, and the digs at Neil!  They’re hysterical.  “Well isn’t this a pretty picture, Santa rolling down the block in a PANZER!”

1. How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Bar none, this is my favorite Christmas movie.  A lot of people argue with me and say the animated one is better, but I think this one just does it best.  Jim Carrey is hysterical as the Grinch.  He brings an element of humor to it that just isn’t present in the other one the same way.  Like how he actually stands at the top of Mount Crumpit “hating the Whos” by reading off their names and screaming “I hate you!”  It’s fabulous.  Also, since it’s a full length film, there’s more room for character development.  Cindy Lou Who gets to play a bigger part in the story and we get to meet a lot of others, like Mayor Maywho and Martha May Whovier.  It just builds an atmosphere that I can buy into better.  I love it.  Plus, the music is pretty amazing.  Oh, and did I fail to mention I can quote some scenes regardless of how long it’s been since I’ve seen the movie?  “The nerve of those Whos, inviting me down there on such short notice.  Even if I wanted to go, my schedule wouldn’t allow it!”  (P.S. I know the whole schedule.)

Beautiful Chaos (Caster Chronicles, #3)

First Lines: In Gatlin, it’s funny how the good things are all tied up with the bad.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which.  But either way, you end up taking your sugar with your salt and your kicks with your kisses, as Amma would say.

It was funny, when I went to start reading this one, I couldn’t remember what happened in the last two.  Well, I could remember how the 1st book ended, but not the second.  I own both of them.  Before I even started, I had to Wikipedia how the others had ended so I would be up to speed.  It’s sad, really.

*Yo, potential series spoilers ahead*

Nothing has been the same in Gatlin since Lena claimed herself.  The average citizen would tell you it looked like the Apocalypse was on its way.  It’s too hot, the lakes are drying up, and there’s an infestation of lubbers.  Ethan’s being haunted by dreams again that have no explanation and leave him waking in a panic.  To make things worse, Ethan’s starting to forget things, like phone numbers and names that he knew he’d always remember.  What’s happening to him?  And can Ethan and Lena stop things in Gatlin from getting any worse?

Like I said, I forgot how the other two ended.  I knew I liked them, though.  Anyway, I pretty much came into this not remembering much besides the obvious and the characters.  I don’t tend to forget main characters that quickly.  Plots, yes.  Characters, no.

I did like it, but it started out sort of slow.  It took quite some time to even get to a point where it was really interesting.  Which isn’t really a good thing, when the book is over 500 pages long.  But it’s not bad.  Just a little slow.

The ending completely floored me.  I mean, I didn’t want to pick myself up off the floor when I finished it.  It was very intense.  And that’s all I’m saying.

There were some interesting turns the story took.  I’d be very interested in seeing it told from the perspective of as many as 3 other characters.  2 in particular, who played a small-ish role in this one but played bigger ones in the previous book(s).  Sorry for being cryptic, but spoilers are a no-no.

One last thing I can say, I guess, is that the story does get more intricate.  There are more subplots that emerge, so we get to understand a few characters better than we have been able to in previous books.  Ethan and Lena’s visions are a bit silly in how they come about, but they do provide a whole lot of insight into the past.

Dark Passage (Dark Mirror, #2)

First Lines: Traveling through time was not for the faint of heart.  Lady Victoria Mansfield wiped damp palms on her skirt as she contemplated being torn into screaming pieces, dragged through a magic mirror, and dropped one hundred thirty-seven years in the past, exhausted and ravenous.

You give me a historical fiction, romance, and magic, and you get one very happy girl.  This had just about everything I want in a book in it.  The characters are amazing and there’s always action to propel the story forward.  Plus, the emotions in this one are just stronger.  It’s awesome.

*Potential Series Spoilers.  Keep that in mind.*

Tori has no desire to ever go through the mirror again.  She’s saved the future once and that’s just fine with her.  When Nick Rainford comes back and begs for their help, Tori knows she may not have much of a choice anymore.  Nick needs them to help him rescue an influential doctor from a Nazi prison.  The fate of the world could rest on this mission.  But deciding whether or not to go isn’t her only problem.  Her relationship with Allarde is also in trouble.  If she stays with him, he loses his his chance to inherit his family’s property.  Can she stand between the land he’s so connected to?

This is only the second book in this series and already the plot line is a bit trite.  From here on out, you just know that every book is going to involve them going through the mirror and saving the world.  I’m hoping I’m wrong, and I may be, judging by the first chapter of the next book.  (It was printed in the back of this book.)  But it definitely feels like this could get old much too quickly if M.J. isn’t careful.

The characters were amazing.  Their emotions were so real.  I kept getting chills as I read, especially when there was a cute scene between characters.  I kid you not, I’ve reread the end scenes three times now because it’s adorable.  I never would have thought I’d say this after the first book, but I really like Cynthia now.  We’re able to get into her head a little more now and that was very helpful.

The action was better than I thought it would be.  I thought it was going to be pretty much just like the last one, but it was different enough that it stood alone.  That was nice.  It wasn’t formulaic so much.

Very good.  I am looking forward to the next book for sure.

The Muppets

They’re closer than you think.

My friend is a huge Muppets fan and for her birthday, she wanted to see this movie…again.  She’s seen it twice now and can sing every song on the soundtrack.  But that’s her.  She’s more of a Disney princess than the real princesses are.  Anyway, she’s been pushing me to watch Muppets stuff this weekend with her to get ready for it.  (The only real Muppets movie I’ve seen multiple times is Muppet Treasure Island and it’s the best.)

On a trip to Los Angeles for vacation, Walter, a huge Muppets fan, overhears a plot by an evil oil tycoon to buy the Muppets theatre and demolish it to dig for oil.  To stop him, Walter needs help from Gary and Mary, his brother and his brother’s girlfriend.  Together they find Kermit and help him put together the gang again.  But can they put together a show and raise the money they need in time?

There were so many cameos in this that every few minutes, I would go, “Oh, here’s so-and-so.”  It was actually almost like a game to see who showed up next.  I hadn’t paid a whole lot of attention to all the rumors and news surrounding the movie because I’m not a huge Muppets fan , like my roommate.  So it was a very nice surprise when I saw more than one of my favorite actors pop up.  Once, I probably looked like a retarded seal the way I clapped and silently cheered for my favorite TV actor when he came into the screen.

And it was pretty great to see the muppets again.  However, some seemed to be missing or quite different from the ones I remembered.  Rizzo the Rat didn’t really have a part.  He may have made a cameo or two, but that was about it.  That’s disappointing because he’s so funny.  And Fozzie Bear, another of my favorites, just sounded weird.  I realize it’s likely a different actor than I’m used to, but it just didn’t sound like Fozzie.

Also, and this is probably just me, the songs seemed sort of stupid.  Quite a few were good, do not misunderstand me, but a couple seemed a bit pointless or just odd.  Who knows.  Maybe this will be a movie that I love by the time I’ve seen it 5 times and know the songs, but for now, the songs just didn’t make sense.  Like Richman’s song.  It was entertaining, but had no real use to the story.  A good song furthers the plot or helps you gain insight into a character’s mind or feelings.

Overall, I think it’s rather enjoyable.  It has jokes kids will understand and jokes that only parents can appreciate, especially references to the 80s.  The songs are catchy and the characters are lovable.  Maybe it just wasn’t for me.

Spotlight Friday (21)

This week, I’ve been sifting through a huge number of upcoming books to find the best ones to anticipate for next year.  And I must say, it’s going to be a fabulous year.  There are so many!  And they all look fantastic.  I haven’t even gotten through all the ones I wanted to read this year.

The Alchemy of Forever (Incarnation, #1) by Avery Williams

Release Date: January 3, 2012

Summary (from Goodreads)After spending six hundred years on earth, Seraphina Ames has seen it all. Eternal life provides her with the world’s riches, but at a very high price: innocent lives. Centuries ago, her boyfriend, Cyrus, discovered a method of alchemy that allows them to swap bodies with other humans, jumping from one vessel to the next, taking the human’s life in the process. No longer able to bear the guilt of what she’s done, Sera escapes from Cyrus and vows to never kill again. 

Then sixteen-year-old Kailey Morgan gets into a horrific car accident right in front of her, and Sera accidentally takes over her body. For the first time, Sera finds herself enjoying the life of the person she’s inhabiting—and falls for the human boy who lives next door. But Cyrus will stop at nothing until she’s his again, and every moment she stays, she’s putting herself and the people she’s grown to care for in great danger. Will Sera have to give up the one thing that’s eluded her for centuries: true love?

What’s To Like: It sounds cute and ungodly dark at the same time, which, if you haven’t figured out by now, is exactly what I love.  I’m very interested in this human boy and exactly how evil Cyrus is.  He’s probably going to be the most intriguing character in the whole story.  Great, now I’m sitting here trying to figure out his motives without even having read the book.  Yay me.

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1) by Veronica Rossi

Release Date: January 3, 2012

Summary (from Goodreads)Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction. 

As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions. 

They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers a barbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love – one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY.

What’s To Like: Personally, I think it should be “what’s to fear”.  The creepy thing about dystopias is that they seem like exactly where our world is headed if we don’t change our way.  With Aria’s “Smarteye” (sounds like “smartphone” and every other “smart” technology we have now) and the Realms, we’re already on our way to making Reverie a real place.  And that is a very, very scary thought.

My review of Under the Never Sky

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Release Date: February 14, 2012

Summary (from Goodreads)Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in. It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.

What’s To Like: Thanks to the BBC Robin Hood series, I am completely smitten with the legend of Robin and his Merry Men.  Or…maybe not men, as this version would have it.  That’s the most exciting part, that there’s a girl incorporated into the story.  I’m very interested to see what her story is.  I’m also very VERY interested to see what Robin’s like.  He had so better live up to my expectations.

My review of Scarlet.