Saturday, August 27, 2011

School Suggestions: Come to Class

This week’s tip is going to sound pretty basic, especially to all you highschoolers, but it’s amazing how many people don’t do this simple thing. One big thing that many university students don’t do is come to class.  Attendance at university is ridiculously low. I’ve been in a class where the room was always half full, until when the midterm rolled around and we had to bring in extra chairs. There was another class that had a 120 people signed up, but there were only 50 there on any given day.

I understand why people skip class. Sometimes you’ll have a doctor’s appointment or something that absolutely can’t be skipped. Sometimes you just hate that particular class, or you think that the lecture is useless and you might as well just read the book. Other times you might be just too busy with coursework to come to class. When you hit university and you’re not forced to come to class, it’s far too easy to find excuses to skip.

Before you get into that habit, I suggest you think about all the good reasons for coming to class. First of all, lots of courses have participation marks. If you don’t show up, then you loose 10-15% of your mark. That’s a lot to loose because you didn’t put your butt in the chair for three hours a week. If your class has a participation mark, attending is a really good idea.

Even if you don’t get marks for coming, it’s still important. For instance, a lot of English classes don’t have a textbook. You might study the literature, but most of the material that will be covered on the exams comes from the lecture. When I took Shakespeare I read through the plays, but my prof also lectured on the theatre itself, as well as Shakespeare’s life. If I had missed the class I wouldn’t have known that for the exam. If your class doesn’t have a textbook, it’s pretty much mandatory to come to class. At very least, get someone’s notes and look them over.

Personally, I think the ‘I’m too busy to come to class’ excuse is just a load of you-know-what. If you’re so busy that you can’t take an hour or two out of your day to go to class, you probably need to cut back on work or partying or TV or whatever it is you do. Even if you’re skipping class to do work for another class, this still means you need better time managing skills.

The last reason to come to class is that profs don’t like it when students skip. My dad finds it so frustrating when students come to him for help, even though they’ve missed almost all the classes. It’s not fair to ask the prof to help you with something one-on-one if you don’t come to the classes. Also, it’s discouraging for a prof to teach to a half-empty classroom. It’s hard for them to be enthusiastic about a subject if their students couldn’t care enough to come.

In short, attending classes is one easy thing that can help you learn, up your marks, and improve your overall university experience. Coming from someone who’s never missed a class, I strongly recommend you try to skip as few classes as possible.

Friday, August 26, 2011

First-Impression Friday: Ruby Red

Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon--the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.

Title: I don’t care for this title. Ruby Red does nothing at all for me. It doesn’t give me an idea of what the story is about and it almost sounds cliché, like Dorothy’s red slippers.

Cover: I can’t say I care for this cover either. It looks really old fashioned, with the picture of the girl at the top. I do like the designs, especially the watch at the bottom, but it all feels rather overwhelming.

Pitch: I have mixed feelings about this pitch. When I first heard there was time travel involved, I got excited. I love time travel. There are a couple elements that I don’t really care for here, though. First of all, Gwen seems happy that she can’t time travel. Seriously, who would prefer a normal life over time travel? And then the pitch decides to end by talking about an obnoxious (but really hot) guy. This book seems to be straying into really cliché territory.

First Sentence: As she fell to her knees and burst into tears, he looked all around the park.
I don’t like the structure of this sentence at all. It just feels really awkward to me. On the other hand, it has some interesting elements that I want answered. Why is she crying in a public place? Why does the guy not seem to care? This is hardly an attention-grabbing tagline, but it still does make me want to read on.

First Chapter (prologue): This chapter was simply the two people talking. It was intriguing, mentioning an elusive ‘she’ who I guess will be the MC in the story. I like how the prologue makes us sure that something will actually happen in the story. However, some of the dialogue sounded a little fake.

Overall: I’m not a huge fan of the packaging of this book. Since I love time travel I certainly intend to read it, but I’m a little worried about the hot guy. This book seems to have a lot of potential, but it could also be a disappointment.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

School Suggestions: Don't Expect High Marks

This lesson is something I had to learn the hard way. No matter how high your marks were in highschool, no matter how hard you work, you can’t count on getting high marks from the get-go.

In all of my courses, the first midterm I got back was a lower mark than my final. Sometimes I improved by as much as 10%. My super genius friend got a 30% on her midterm, but ended up with a 98% average her first year of university. If you’re disappointed with the mark on your first essay/midterm, don’t worry. It’s quite possible that the next one will be better.

After all, isn’t the point of university to learn? If you get a 95% on your first essay, where can you go from there? Often times the bad mark can motivate you to study harder and you end up doing far better on the course than you would have if your first mark had been good.

One thing that a lot of profs do is offer a final exam that counts for 100% of your mark, if that would be higher than averaging it with the midterm. I had this once, and it upped my mark by 8%. Sometimes, if you have multiple quizzes, they’ll drop your lowest one. Thanks to these little safety nets, there’s no reason to be upset by a terrible mark.

If you’re confused by your mark, it’s perfectly acceptable to meet with the prof to discus it. For instance, if you don’t understand criticism on your essay, most profs would love to discuss it with you. Also, most universities require that profs keep a copy of all exams for a set time after the exam so that you can go and look at it. Just make sure that when you go to visit them you’re thinking about learning, not just upping your mark. Profs want to help you learn, not just improve your GPA.

One last thing to remember is that marks are subjective. Especially in a subject like English, opinions can make a big difference. One prof might give you a 70% on an essay that another prof would mark an 85%. It’s impossible to predict, and there’s no real reason to. Just remember to keep your focus on learning, rather than the marks. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

First-Impression Friday: Delirium

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -- the deliria -- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

Title: I like the title Delirium. From the little I know about the story, apparently love is referred to as the delirium, so it fits nicely as well as being intriguing.

Cover: I know a lot of people really like this cover, but I can’t stand it. The idea of having the picture underneath is interesting, but it just ends up looking a little strange. I don’t like the picture of the girl by itself, and it’s really hard to see her through the letters. This was an interesting idea for a cover, but I don’t think it worked that well.

Pitch: This pitch is a little heavy on world building, but it really showcases the conflict of the book. Everyone thinks love is a disease which has to be cured. The MC agrees with them, until she falls in love herself. This is a great concept, and even though I don’t like romance, I can’t wait to read it.

First Sentence: It has been sixty-four years since the President and the Consortium identified love as a disease, and forty-three since the scientists perfected a cure.
Like the pitch, this is chilling and intriguing. There’s the idea of love as a disease, and then the idea that scientists can somehow cure love. While this sentence is completely telling and doesn’t jump into the action, it’s still attention grabbing.

First Chapter: Like the first sentence, this chapter is almost exclusively telling. This annoyed me a bit, since it’s much better to get right to the action, but I must say it was all good backstory. I love how the MC has completely bought into the lies of her society. It’s always much more interesting when the MC believes that something is right, and then has to have her mind changed. That way the story centers around her inner struggle, rather than around a war.

Overall: Aside from the fact that I hate the cover, I’m really looking forward to this book. While it’ll probably be a romance, the dystopia aspect of it really intrigues me, and so far the writing is excellent. I can’t wait to start reading. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Book Review: Ysabel

By Guy Gavriel Kay

Saint-Saveur Cathedral of Aix-en-Provence is an ancient structure of many secrets-a perfect monument to fill the lens of a celebrated photographer, and a perfect place for the photographer's son, Ned Marriner, to lose himself while his father works.

 But the cathedral isn't the empty edifice it appears to be. Its history is very much alive in the present day-and it's calling out to Ned.

Why I read it: I saw a friend reading this one day, so I decided to steal it. She told me that it was a really good book, but then upon a second read said it wasn’t as good as she remembered. I kind of share her opinion.

What I liked: The setting in this story is done very well. In the acknowledgements the author reveals that he spent quite awhile in Provence, France, while writing this book, and I certainly believe it. The locations are all well-described, and I believe they actually do exist. I’m a huge fan of books that are set in real places, and not just generic ones like NYC. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book set in this time period of France. The MC’s father is a famous photography, so that gave Kay a nice excuse for us to visit many exotic locations.

The backstory is also a strong part of this book. I won’t tell you any of it, because that would ruin it, but it weaves so legendary figures together with historical events. It leans a bit more toward the paranormal than I would have liked, but it’s more old Celtic legends (which I do enjoy.) I also loved how Kay uses real historical events that I learned about in University—such as the Roman general, Marius, defeating the Celtic tribes of the Cimbri and the Teutons.

What I disliked: The main thing that I didn’t care for was that I spent a fair bit of this book confused. Apparently it’s kind of a companion to some of Kay’s other works, so certain characters and paranormal abilities weren’t explained as much as they really should have been. Also, two of the ‘bad guys’ seem really scary in the beginning and are constantly talking about how they could kill Ned if they wanted, but even when he starts messing up their plans, they never do anything. In fact, they call to him for help several times.

Another thing was that Kay constantly refers to Ned as a ‘child.’ Maybe 15 is a child, but when you’re writing for a YA audience, calling the MC a ‘child’ feels like an insult.

The romance aspect was a little strange. Kate and Ned started to like each other really quickly, but when the real plot picked up they basically forgot all about each other. They were separated for virtually all the exciting part of the book, and then only got together again at the very end, when Kate accuses Ned of sleeping with a 25 year old woman. Jealous, much?

From a Christian Perspective: There was a little bit of swearing, which annoyed me because it was really unnecessary considering the setting. As for sexual content, there were one or two really quick kisses. Since the MC is a boy he does have some impure thoughts, and he jokes about waking the house up just so that Kate would walk around in a T-shirt so he could stare at her legs. Though Ned does spend a night alone with a woman and his brain automatically goes to sex, she’s ten years older than him so, thankfully, it goes absolutely nowhere.

To buy or not to buy: This wasn’t a bad read, and possibly some of my annoyances come from having read it too fast so I didn’t understand everything. I’d suggest reading some of Kay’s other work first, and then possibly picking up this book. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

School Suggestions: Useful Procrastination

I’m a world class procrastinator. This may surprise you, considering how much I’ve advocated starting things way ahead of time and finishing them early. I’m also nearly always busy; I don’t spend any time watching TV, and only a bit wasted on Facebook or Twitter. And yet, virtually all the time I have some sort of big project looming over me that I should be doing, but I’m not. In fact, right now I need to start working on an essay (due in a week) but, obviously, I’m not. I’m writing this blog post.

And that’s the key. While I’m procrastinating I’m not lying on my bed thinking ‘I don’t want to write this essay, I don’t want to write this essay…’ I’m writing this blogpost. I’m doing something useful. I spent all morning reading King Lear because I didn’t want to work on that essay. I haven’t done any work on the essay, but I’ve spent all day doing useful stuff, stuff that needed to be done.

So, technically, I’m procrastinating. But I am not wasting time. There’s a big difference. When you’ve got five courses, you’ll have a variety of assignments, from reading a couple pages to writing 3000 word research papers. The research paper takes a lot more work, but you also need to do the reading. There’s nothing wrong with doing the reading first and then working on your research paper. At any rate, it’s a whole lot better to be doing the reading, rather than sitting around thinking about murdering your prof so you won’t have to do the paper.

Maybe you’re one of the people who likes to get the hard stuff done and over with right away. I’m not. If I have a bunch of things to do in one evening I write them all down and arrange them in a random order. I’ll start with something that requires a bit of brain power, like creating an outline for a short essay.  Then I’ll do something easy, like read for awhile. When my brain is sufficiently fuzzy I’ll make myself a cup of tea and take a break before coming back at it. At this point my brain is both sufficiently alive (from my previous work) and sufficiently rested (from the tea) that I can tackle the hardest work of writing/researching a paper. If this is going well, I’ll just keep doing it until my brain shuts down and I go to bed. If it isn’t, I’ll stop and tackle something a little easier.

It’s perfectly fine to procrastinate on a big project, at least for a little while. Last year there was one essay I kept trying to work on and it just wasn’t happening, so I finished everything else and left it to the end.  Having nothing else to do forced me to work on it, and I ended up with an A+!  In short, procrastination isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When you don’t want to work on an essay just do something else useful, like writing a blog post on procrastination. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

First-Impression Friday: The Liar Society

Kate Lowry didn't think dead best friends could send e-mails. But when she gets an e-mail from Grace, she’s not so sure. 

Sent: Sun 9/14 11:59 PM 
Subject: (no subject) 

I'm here… 
sort of. 
Find Cameron. 
He knows. 
I shouldn't be writing. 
Don't tell. 
They'll hurt you. 

Now Kate has no choice but to prove once and for all that Grace’s death was more than just a tragic accident. But secrets haunt the halls of her elite private school. Secrets people will do anything to protect. Even if it means getting rid of the girl trying to solve a murder...

Title: The first time I heard this title I was a little turned off. It sounded a bit much like Pretty Little Liars to me. When I figured out that it was a murder mystery I liked it a little better, but I’m still not a huge fan.

Cover: Normally I don’t like covers like this, but I happen to love this one. It’s fun and funky, even with the pink hair and the short skirt and the corny postboard with the title on it. The only thing that bugs me is that the pearls around her neck were obviously edited in later, rather than actually being worn by the model.

Pitch: Firstly, I really like the idea of the MC’s best friend supposedly being murdered, but then really being alive. The thing is, it seems like the friend actually is dead, and yet is sending an email anyways. This confuses me, and makes me wonder if there’s a paranormal aspect to this. If not, I’m eager to read this book. It sounds fun and spunky and different.

First Sentence: Her email didn’t move or disappear or do any of the creepy things I’d expected an email from a ghost to do.
This is great as an opening sentence. It makes you need to read on and find out why in the world the MC thinks the email is from a ghost. However, it also feels little weird. Why is the MC expecting an email from a ghost? It’s a good first line, just a little too tagline-ish for me.

First Chapter: I like how this throws us right into the story. The MC gets the email from the friend who is supposed to be dead, then immediately starts trying to figure out what’s going on. The only thing I don’t like is that it feels a little too sudden. We don’t have time to get used to the MC and feel for her loss before we’re thrown into the action.

Overall: This seems like the sort of book I’ll finish in a couple days and end up recommending to friends as a fun read. It doesn’t seem like a new favourite, but I am looking forward to it. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

School Suggestions: Visit the Profs

When I look over my marks for all my courses last year, I notice a bit of a trend. My lowest mark (a full twelve marks below my next-lowest mark) was with the prof who I didn’t really connect with, the only one that I didn’t spend much time talking to one-on-one. My top three marks were the courses I took with my favourite prof, the one I’ve visited so often I can’t even count the times I’ve been in her office. Now, I’m not suggesting that success in a course is directly proportional to the time spent talking to the prof, but this pattern is worth noting.

There are a couple good reasons to get to know your prof. Firstly, if you’re struggling in the course (or think you might struggle, like if you’re an English major taking a math course) the prof can’t help you if they don’t know. If you slave over an essay and the mark wasn’t what you had hoped for, then it’s perfectly reasonable to meet with the prof and ask them what you can do to improve. It’s always good to wait at least 24 hours before doing this, though, and make sure you’ve read through all their feedback carefully so you’re not wasting their time. Also, don’t do this if you just want a better mark, as that will just annoy the prof. Only ask for help if you’re serious about improving.

Even if you’re not struggling at all, getting to know the prof will make your experience that much better. Going to see them with a draft of an essay, for instance, shows that you’re serious about the assignment. The prof will work harder to help you, giving you good feedback, if they know that you’re trying hard. If you’re taking math, you might want to go ask for help with some sample problems. In English, sometimes it can really help to just talk over the various aspects of a work of literature. If you go to a big university then your profs may not have time for this, but at a smaller institution like UPEI all the profs were willing to spend time with any student who was interested in the subject.

Whether you’re struggling or not, getting to know the prof can enhance your university experience. You can get individual help, talk over any trouble spots and learn more one-on-one. Also, as unfair as this sounds, students that a prof expects to do well may get better marks just because of that. In short, it’s always a good idea, both for your marks and just your enjoyment of the course, to visit the prof at least once. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Book Review: Bumped

By Megan McCafferty

When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. Girls sport fake baby bumps and the school cafeteria stocks folic-acid-infused food.
Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and have never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Up to now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend, Zen, who is way too short for the job.
Harmony has spent her whole life in Goodside, a religious community, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to convince Melody that pregging for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from.
When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common.

Why I read it:
As I’ve said so many times, I love dystopia. The premise of this one, ‘What if teens were encouraged to get pregnant?’ sounded like it could go very well or very poorly, so I was interested to see how McCafferty handled it.

What I liked: The scariest aspect of dystopia is that it’s supposed to present a chilling, but all too possible future. Bumped certainly does that. Having a virus make everyone over eighteen unfertile means that teens are now encouraged to get pregnant, which leads to all kinds of really bad things, like massSEX parties and girls ‘bumping’ (having sex) with specific guys to produce designer babies which they’ll sell to older couples for lots of money. While all this is just horrifying, I loved how it was such a realistic version of life. I can only hope that such a virus never happens…

I also enjoyed how this was told from two POVs, the twin sisters Melody and Harmony. McCafferty made a great choice in having these sisters so amazingly different but with some of the same characteristics. The choices they made felt realistic and their characters were well thought out. I enjoyed the character’s voices, as they really fit the book.

What I disliked: While I said earlier that I liked how McCafferty presents such a horrifying version of the world, I didn’t like how it didn’t really seem that bad. She seemed to be suggesting that it was wrong for teens to have sex just to have babies, but teens having sex just for fun was a great thing to do. There was also a lot of sexual content, more than was necessary. I would have loved to see more of the society, not just the teen pregnancy aspect. There were one or two little hints, but not much. All in all, this book seemed to be way too centered on sex and teen pregnancy, and I think it could have benefited from a side plot or two that was a little cleaner.

This is a smaller dislike, but I really don’t care for how the book starts. In the first chapter, Melody and Harmony have already met and are hanging out in the mall. This means that for the first hundred pages, McCafferty is constantly having to go back and explain how they met, why they met, what they felt while meeting, etc… There’s so much backstory in the first couple chapters that I think it would have made a lot more sense to start the book earlier, perhaps on the day they meet or even earlier.

From a Christian Perspective: As I said before, tons of sexual references, so I won’t list them all. Two of the characters have sex, though it isn’t described. There’s a bit of swearing. My biggest problem was that one of the MCs was extremely religious (it was basically a cult) so people are always misquoting the Bible or mocking her beliefs. I wasn’t sure what McCafferty was trying to say about religion, but it wasn’t completely flattering.

To buy or not to buy: I don’t think I’ll be buying this book. It was a thought-provoking read, but not something I want to read again. I think I’ll read the sequel, though. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Little Bit of News

First of all, I just wanted to explain why I posted a First Impression Friday post when it's actually a Tuesday. Basically, I forgot to post last Friday and Saturday, so now that I have internet on my laptop I'm going to schedule a whole bunch of posts. The School Suggestion post that should have been last Saturday will actually be posted on Thursday, I think.

The other bit of news is that, as far as I know, the Catch-Up-Readathon has been cancelled because we didn't get enough participants. I'm still up for reading as much as possible over those weeks, but I don't think it's fair to the authors to make them give away swag packs when we only have three participants.

I think that's all for now. I'm going to start scheduling some posts now so that you'll have something to read here, even when I'm away at camp.

First Impression Friday: Entwined

Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it.
The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.
Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.
But there is a cost.
The Keeper likes to keep things.
Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.

Title: I’m not sure what I think of this title. I like one word titles, and Entwined is a pretty word which fits well with the cover, but it gives me no idea of what the book will be about.

Cover: This is such a gorgeous cover. Her dress is pretty, I love the castle in the background, and even the leaves that they added are gorgeous. This is one of my all time favourite covers. Unfortunately, the picture wasn’t taken specifically for the book, and my friend tells me that it doesn’t really fit the story.

Pitch: I like the pitch, how it makes it obvious that this is about the twelve dancing princesses, without saying it right out, but I find it’s a little vague. Apparently going out and dancing has a ‘cost,’ and this mysterious ‘keeper’ likes to keep things, but it doesn’t give me a good idea of what the story’s about.

First Sentence: An hour before Azalea’s first ball began, she paced the ballroom floor, tracing her toes in a waltz.
I like the feeling this sets up. While the sentence itself is a little awkwardly worded (commas!) it immediately gives us a good feel for Azalea’s character and the first scene coming up.

First Chapter: I liked this chapter but I didn’t love it. First off, the writing is just a little awkward. Also, I was having trouble placing the time period. There’s a random dancing tea set and a King and a ball, but then there’s mention of streetlamps and paved roads. It gives us a feel for the story, but it’s very introductory, rather than stepping right into the real story.

Overall: There’s a lot that I like about this book, but the only thing I absolutely love is the cover. The first sentence/chapter is just a bit rocky, so I’m worried about the rest of this book. The main thing that this book fails to do is really tell me what it’s going to be about. I’m still going to read it, but I’m a little unsure about it right now. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

July Review

Wow. I can't believe that July is over already. That's just crazy. It's exactly three weeks until I leave, meaning that I have just three weeks to hang out with my friends, to finish my novel and to pack up my entire life. I can't exactly say that I'm not a little scared, but I'm also super excited. I'll be sure to keep blogging about all the cool things I'm doing as I move out.

For now, it's time for a little July Review:

 Followers: 67 (up from 63... Com'on guys, you can do better than that! It's gonna be a long time until the 100 followers giveaway at this rate.)

 Pageviews: 2300 (Down from 2700, and I'm still getting a lot of google images searches)

 Day with the most pageviews: July 31st

 Most viewed page: How to get Published 3: Revisions (this is the second month in a row it's been popular. Anyone know why?)

Website that referred the most views: Google

Country with the most views: US with 600 (Canada was pretty close with 450)

Keywords people googled to get to my blog:
gulliver's travels
gullivers travels
mystery novel pov dead girl
(and many others, but these were the best I could find at the moment)

All in all, it was a fairly good month on the blog, since I finally managed to get back to posting regularly. While my number of followers didn't really go up, my views were still okay. Also, my twitter account has been really growing; it almost doubled in July!

So, thanks to all you lovely blog followers. It's wonderful to actually have people who are reading my writing. I hope you find my posts interesting or informative. Just remember that I always love getting comments, and even if I don't directly respond to them, you should know that they make my day. Thanks so much for reading, and supporting me in this transition time in my life.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Book Review: Leviathan

By Scott Westerfeld

Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

Why I read it: I’d heard of Westerfeld’s Ugly series, which is near the top of my TBR pile, so when I saw this sitting at the library I though I’d check it out.

What I liked: I haven’t read much steampunk, but this is certainly one of my new favourite genres. I love the idea of alternate history. While Leviathan wasn’t very alternate, that almost made it cooler, since it was kind of like historical fiction only a ton more interesting. Plus, the time leading up to WW1 was probably my favourite period in the history course I just took, so I love how this story concentrated on the (fictional) son of the Austrian archduke who was assassinated to start the war.

I loved the creatures and machines that Westerfeld invents. There are huge machines that walk like animals (very Star-wars) and gigantic ‘fabricated’ animals that work with engines like machines. I loved how he took two characters, one who loved the machines and the other who loved the animals, to show the different sides of the new technology. This story was illustrated, which meant that we could see pictures of the beasties and so he didn’t need to waste too much space describing everything. In short, I think Westerfeld writes steampunk very well.

What I disliked: A lot of people have pointed this out already, but I’ll say it again: The characters feel really young. Instead of 15-16, they feel more like 12-13. I still liked them and they felt real, but I didn’t quite connect with them like I wanted. I never got much emotion from either of them. While I was actually relieved that there wasn’t any romance (though I’m sure there will be in later books) there weren’t many high-tension scenes, either, except for one where Deryn almost tells Alek who she is.

For a 450 page book I was expecting a little more plot. It didn’t really feel draggy but now, looking back on it, I see that very little happened. In fact, it’s not until page 400 that the last plot point from the cover synopsis is mentioned. I was expecting them to get together fairly soon, but the book’s half done before they meet and virtually done before they’re together on the Leviathan. While it was all interesting and well written, it could have been much shorter.

From a Christian Perspective: In terms of violence, sexual content and profanity this book does quite well. There may have been a few quick swear words, but mostly the characters used other exclamations like ‘barking spiders!’ There was a bit of violence but nothing graphic and no sexual content at all.

On the other hand, this story treats evolution as real. The huge animal/machine things are all ‘fabricated,’ meaning that they’re grown from their ‘life threads’ in a lab, combining species. England, France and the other allies are called the ‘Darwinists.’ I know this is just a story but I still didn’t like the emphasis on evolution.

To buy or not to buy: I think I’ll pick up the sequel, Behemoth, because I want to find out what happens next. However, I don’t think I’ll get this book. A book needs to have a real page-turning plot for me to want to read it again, but this one felt more like MG to me.

Monday, August 1, 2011

IMM: Week of books that actually arrived IMM

Most of the time when I post an IMM I'm actually talking about books that I just picked up from the library. However, I've won a couple blog contests recently and (thanks to the strike) all the books arrived within two days. So, here's what I got:

This is my very first ARC! I won it through a contest making up the slogan for the official Dashner Army (The Maze Runner, the Scorch Trials, The Death Cure) slogan to go on the merchandise. All in all, it was a pretty cool contest, and while this isn't the sort of book I would normally read, having an ARC is cool.

As you may know, I've already read this book. While I said in my book review that I wouldn't buy it, when I saw a blog contest for it I randomly entered, and I ended up winning. I'm not sure if I'll read it again anytime soon, but I certainly would re-read it, just for Oliver's awesome writing. 

A murder mystery, a girl's boarding school, a kick-ass heroine... While the title was a bit of a turn-off at first (sounded too much like Pretty Little Liars) as soon as I saw the cover and read the synopsis I was hooked. 

Honestly, I don't even remember entering the blog contest that I won this through. When I got this in the mail the other day I went on to Goodreads and found that it was about time travel. Since I love Time Travel, I'm certainly looking forward to this book.

Yes, I've already read this book. And I already have a copy. However, I was lucky enough to win another copy of it through a blog contest, which means that a certain friend of mine will be lucky enough to be getting this for a birthday present.... :)

This was pretty good week for me. I love getting books in the mail, opening the packages and just flipping through the pages or feeling their shiny covers. Maybe that sounds a little weird, but I just love books, the actual, physical books. Yes, I could imagine getting a Kindle, but nothing will ever replace the feeling of new books arriving in the mail. :)