Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book review: Starseed by Liz Gruder

Kaila Guidry has always known she is different. When she meets Jordyn Stryker one day at school, she finds out just how different.

Jordyn was born and raised far from Earth, a starseed, one of six new students sent to Louisiana's Bush High to learn human ways. But Jordyn did not count on meeting a girl like Kaila.

When Kaila is pushed to her limit by high school bullying and cruelty, Jordyn awakens her to a new reality—and to love. But to prove herself, Kaila must look the other way as the real purposes of the starseed unfold.

As the horrific plan behind the starseed visit to Earth moves inexorably forward, Kaila and Jordan, caught in an impossible love, must determine where their true loyalties lie

Received as a free ARC from NetGalley.

This book was ridiculous.  That is the first thing that came to mind.  Usually I do try to find something good about a book, but no redeeming qualities come to mind this time around.  I’ll break it down.

The prose is painful.  It’s simple at best, and whenever a new character is introduced, it follows the “Character name, who was physical description, did action” formula.  Descriptions themselves are plentiful and put in at inappropriate times.  That’s called an info dump, ladies and gentlemen.

Speaking of info dumps, things happen much too quickly.  Before the book’s even a third over, we know everything about everything.  Heck, a lot of it can be deduced just from the first chapter.  Even when it’s trying to be mysterious and foreshadowey, it isn’t smooth at all.

Back to the prose, when it isn’t being painfully simple, it’s rife with really weird metaphors.  One on page thirty-two in particular stays with me.  “Her intuition nagged her, like a fish line caught on an alligator.”  Talk about subtle, huh?  Not.

The grownups are more than useless.  They’re enabling.  The English teacher lets the “preps” pick on him, the alien lady Physics teacher literally gave birth to all of them, and the minute Kaila decides that she needs a cell phone so all her ~new friends~ can talk to her, her grandfather takes her to the mall and buys her a top-of-the-line iPhone, not to mention a ton of new clothes and makeup.  Anything to “make her feel pretty” because apparently clothes from Wal-Mart are NOT acceptable in the judging atmosphere of high school.

Speaking of her high school, it feels like the author wanted to copy Mean Girls and fell really, really flat.  All the cool kids are called preps.  Her first friend, Melissa, even does a scene similar to when Cady is being introduced to all the cliques in the cafeteria.  Except where Mean Girls was doing a parody, Starseed is completely serious.  There’s even a line at one point that goes “And to feel emotion is to create war and die.” Don’t have sex kids, or you will get pregnant.  And die.

This is literally a tin hat conspiracy theorist book, except instead of tin foil, Kaila has to wear layers of black plastic around her head under a hat or wig.  To protect her mind, you know.  Because her mother was abducted by aliens and impregnated by them, so she’s half alien and they want her back.  That isn’t even a spoiler because, as I’ve said, everything in this book is revealed before it’s even half over.

And what would a book be without love at first sight?  As soon as she meets the love interest Jordyn, who’s also half alien, she’s in love.  She can’t even think of him without getting all warm inside.  Just another example of how shallow she is.  Not that it’s all that different from every other character in this thing.

As a final note, it falls flat in being “modern” as well.  Lines like “she’d rather listen to music on her iPod” and “but what she really liked was reading romance e-books on her iPad” pop up everywhere.  It’s cringe worthy.  What, did people at Apple give her sponsorship money as long as she name-dropped as often as possible?

Oh and the cover’s creepy.  I mean.  Look at it.  Paula Deen’s photoshop team has nothing on whoever did that number.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Book Review: Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King (The Guardians book 1) by William Joyce

Before SANTA was SANTA, he was North, Nicholas St. North—a daredevil swordsman whose prowess with double scimitars was legendary. Like any swashbuckling young warrior, North seeks treasure and adventure, leading him to the fiercely guarded village of Santoff Claussen, said to be home to the greatest treasure in all the East, and to an even greater wizard, Ombric Shalazar. But when North arrives, legends of riches have given way to terrors of epic proportions! North must decide whether to seek his fortune…or save the village.

When our rebellious hero gets sucked into the chaos (literally), the fight becomes very personal. The Nightmare King and his evil Fearlings are ruling the night, owning the shadows, and sending waves of fear through all of Santoff Clausen. For North, this is a battle worth fighting...and, he’s not alone. There are five other Guardians out there. He only has to find them in time.

What can I say about this book?  Nothing negative that I can really think of.  There’s a reason these books were popular enough to make a movie, after all.  My sister has all three that are out so far, and so I’ll be borrowing the second and third as soon as possible.

Anyway, people reading this review may be familiar with the movie Rise of the Guardians, but Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King actually does not have any of the events from the movie.  The series takes place a few hundred years ago, this one telling of how North, known to us mortals as Santa Claus, became a guardian.

In theory this series is for children, but I don’t see why it has to be limited to them.  The writing is not dumbed-down like many books for elementary or junior high/middle school often are.  I found myself continuing to read much longer than I have with many books lately just because I wanted to, not because I felt an obligation to finish.

The story itself reads almost like a fairytale; there is plenty of action, but the prose takes on a mystical quality as the village of Santoff Claussen is described, or North’s mission to master magic unfolds.

The characters themselves are interesting, from the titular character to ones who didn’t show up in the movie, such as Ombric and Nightlight.  I’m actually sad that we don’t get to see Katherine in the movie; she was a brave character, and she and North had such a close bond.  However, as I’m only on the first book, I don’t know the whole story.  Only the guardians become immortal, after all.

All in all, definitely worth the read.  The fourth book in the series, about the sandman, comes out in September, and I hope very much that they release it on NetGalley so I can snag an early-reading copy.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Contest entry!

So is holding a contest to win an iPad Mini, some ebooks, and five-hundred dollars.  All you have to do is write a story of five-hundred words or less about "a love no one approves of."

This is where the readers of this blog come in!  If you're a member of (or if you're willing to make an account) I'd really appreciate if you voted for me.  And of course read the piece and comment if you like!  The contest is based off "hearts" so the ones with the most hearts at the end of the voting period will get sent to Little, Brown for judging.

Five-hundred dollars could go a long way for me, so at least getting my story in front of the publishers would mean a lot.

So, if you're willing to help out, here's the story!  Enjoy.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Book Review: Louder Than Words by Laurie Plissner

Since the snowy night when her family's car slammed into a tree, killing her parents and little sister, Sasha has been unable to speak except through a computer with a robotic voice. Nothing is wrong with her body; that's healed. But, after four years, Sasha's memory, and her spirit, are still broken. Then one day, she's silently cussing out the heavy book she dropped at the library when a gorgeous, dark-haired boy, the kind of boy who considers Sasha a freak or at least invisible, "answers" Sasha's hidden thoughts -- out loud. Yes, Ben can read minds; it's no big deal. He's part of a family with a host of unusual, almost-but-not-quite-supernatural talents. Through Ben's love, Sasha makes greater progress than she has with a host of therapists and a prominent psychiatrist. With him to defend her, bullies keep the world from ever understanding Sasha, he pulls away. Determined to win him and prove her courage by facing her past, Sasha confronts her past -- only to learn that her family's death was no accident and that a similar fate may wait for her, in the unlikeliest of disguises.

(cover from, description from

I picked this up from my local library because the premise is undoubtedly interesting.  And there are certainly good parts about this book.  The writing style itself is fairly simple and straightforward, and if you have more of an attention span than I do, it's a quick read.  However, the cons outweigh the pros.

There were so many asides that took up entire chapters, and then were promptly dropped, such as the man Jules and Sasha go to see who wrote the book about forgiveness through poetry. I was waiting even until the end for him to be relevant again, and nada. Also, the end came out of left field; the letter Dr. O leaves for Sasha at the tree, about the relationship she had with Sasha's father, was not hinted at at all. The entire thing felt like the author got through writing most of the book, then suddenly realized "Oh. I should probably make someone actually be responsible for the accident now that I've established that... the psychologist did it. Brilliant!"  Not only that, but the final chapter felt tacked-on at the last minute.  Perhaps Plissner's editor(s) told her that she had to provide closure, and she wrote that up in a rush?  I suppose I'll never know.

As another aside, some things seemed researched while others didn't. She took the effort to research the statute of limitations for Connecticut, but other things, such as Sasha over-dosing on sleeping pills and Dr. O faking her charts, didn't seem that well thought-through.  Especially negative considering the author bio says Plissner was a courtroom litigator before becoming a full-time mom and writer.

In the end, probably not a book I'd recommend unless you read quickly or have a lot of time to spend reading. There are plenty better.


Hi there!  My name's Joana.  As I write this, I'm recently graduated from college.  I possess a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Maine at Farmington, which is a fancy way of saying I spent four-and-a-half years hating myself and those around me as I pumped out inhuman amounts of writing. I also have backgrounds in the health and psychology fields simply because I took a load of classes about them while gunning for my degree.

The title of this blog comes from my senior portfolio, which I titled "In Words and Tea Bottles." I love iced tea, particularly the kind that comes in those neat glass bottles that have random trivia on the caps.  My final semester of college, I drank a LOT of iced tea.  It was a bit alarming for some people, but what can you do?

I'm currently unemployed, however I do freelance work.  Mostly proofing/copy editing of all kinds of writing, as well as audio transcription.  I'm just starting out so the work is slow, but I hope by becoming more active in the writing community again, I can build up a reputation and get people to trust me with their work more.

I suppose that's all.  Happy reading!