Feature & Follow Friday and Book Blogger Hop

Another Friday come and gone. School will be starting for me soon, senior year! Until then, here are my answers to this week's Feature and Follow Friday and Book Blogger Hop:

Feature and Follow Friday is first, though I'm afraid I couldn't get the button to work this week :(

Q. In books like the Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) series the paranormal creature in quesiton "comes out of the closet" and makes itself known to the world. Which mythical creature do you wish would come out of the closet, for real?

I  like people that can transform into some sort of animal, like a werewolf. I think it's a cool ability and really admire it. Monsters and those that wish to do non-changing humans harm need not apply.

Book Blogger Hop

“Non-book-related this week!! Do you have pets?”
I have Whiskers, my cat. Cut me some slack on the name, I was five and put in charge of that position. The second is Spike, a beaded dragon, and you can see her in all of her glory in my icon. She is sitting very patiently on her rock, which is what she spends many of her days doing. I've had her for about eight or so years now.

So, if you are here from either of these memes, I welcome you :)

Review: Brain Jack by Brian Falkner

(I love this cover. All of the dots
are tiny human heads.)
Title: Brain Jack
Author: Brian Falkner
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: September 28th, 2010
Page #: 349
ISBN: 0375843663
Acquired: Library

Amazon, Goodreads, Author's Website

Read for Dystopian August 2011 over at Presenting Lenore

From Goodreads:
Another terrifying sci-fi page-turner from the author of The Tomorrow Code!
Las Vegas is gone—destroyed in a terrorist attack. Black Hawk helicopters patrol the skies over New York City. And immersive online gaming is the most dangerous street drug around. In this dystopic near-future, technology has leapt forward once again, and neuro-headsets have replaced computer keyboards. Just slip on a headset, and it’s the Internet at the speed of thought.
For teen hacker Sam Wilson, a headset is a must. But as he becomes familiar with the new technology, he has a terrifying realization. If anything on his computer is vulnerable to a hack, what happens when his mind is linked to the system? Could consciousness itself be hijacked? Before he realizes what’s happened, Sam’s incursion against the world’s largest telecommunications company leads him to the heart of the nation’s cyberdefense network and brings him face to face with a terrifying and unforeseen threat.
Brian Falkner, author of The Tomorrow Code, has created an action-packed and thought-provoking science fiction adventure in which a brilliant young computer hacker fights to prevent the human race from being deleted.
Fans of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother and M. T. Anderson’s Feed will love this high-octane techno thriller.
"'Wireless security' is a contradiction in terms. Like 'military intelligence  or 'jumbo shrimp.'" With that quote we are introduced to the risky and intellectually stimulating world of computer hacking through the eyes of one of the best in the business, Sam Wilson.

Brain Jack is one of the few dystopian novels that I’ve read that I can actually see happening in America, or anywhere in the world really. Despite the military influence sprinkled throughout the book it does not appear to be intrusive in people’s lives, nor is there some overarching dictator wringing his hands at the thought of which orphan he can starve next. Society functions just as it does in modern America, but with technological advancements that have yet to happen.

This book is chock full of computer, technology, and programming lingo. For a person who is lucky if she remembers how to put a picture into a comment on a forum, it can get a bit overwhelming at times. That doesn't make it a bad thing though, and I think enhances the reading experience: because I’m not sure where real life ends and technological fantasy begins when it comes to these programs that Sam is writing and using to hack computers, it adds to the creepiness element once the headsets go from useful piece of technology to computer menace. Just how far ahead in time does Sam live? What technology, aside from the neuro-headsets, does he have in his America, or anywhere in the world, really, that we do not in our times?
Sam makes for an interesting character, driven more by his passion for computers than romantic love for another human. Actually, I would have preferred that the one hiccup of romance that was in there be left out, seeing as it just left me more confused as to why it happened in the first place. In fact, assuming that Sam is straight, there are hardly any female characters (read: one) for him to fall in love with. More ladies in computer science, please!
The climax was great and the build-up lasted over one hundred pages, all of exciting action and suspense sequences that reflect just how desperate Sam and his friends are to fix a disastrous situation that they had a part in influencing. It’s quick-paced, and makes you not want to put the book down.
As for the ending, I certainly don’t want to spoil too much for those who haven’t read it, but I will say this: there isn't a civil war being raged in Libya right now because Gaddafi missed an episode of Barney. World problems, and more importantly world leaders, are a bit more complex than the ending makes them out to be. I was also left wondering what happened to some of the characters. They weren't a massive part of the book’s plot, but it would have been nice to know just what happened to them.
Oh yeah, Sam's British friend and co-worker, Dodge. There's not much to say about him, other than how much I loved him and his use of the word "guv'nor." More than once.
Overall, Brain Jack is a fresh take on dystopian books and societies, and is worth picking up for anybody who has taken note of just how fast Apple releases new products. Technology is moving fast, so don’t fall behind. Unless you’re Sam and his friends, that is, and in that case be happy that you did.

Four Stars!
And for the theme song of this piece/ dystopian playlist, I leave you with a nerd favorite that I have recently discovered, “Still Alive” by Jonathan Coulton. A little background, this is the ending song to the Portal game, after one believes that the intelligent computer system that they just destroyed is gone for good… Creepy, huh?


Review: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now...

(Description from back of books)

Hitting twenty-five this year, the Handmaid’s Tale remains one of the pinnacles of dystopian and feminist fiction and is perhaps one of the most conflicting books a person will ever read. At one moment, the reader will be marveling at the beauty of the complex language that Atwood uses to paint her picture, while at the same time is disgusted at the widespread rape and enslavement of the women in the novel.
Offred’s voice, though she fails to relay to us her name until partway through the novel, is serious but controlled. She is fully aware of her situation, who wouldn’t be?, while at the same time maintaining a calm and composed voice. Though we see very little of the inner worlds of the other characters until deep into the story, they provide complex and detailed platforms through which we get to understand Offred better.
            The nice thing about the plot for this book is how, though we jump into a day in Offred’s life upon the first page, through a detailed and meticulous plot are we given glimpses into how much freedom she has, little, and how much she remembers about her past life, which is enough to make the reader realize just how chilling the time Offred finds herself in is.
            A compelling story with one of the greatest cliffhanger endings that I have read, The Handmaid’s Tale is a staple of dystopian fiction that has earned its place through beautifully crafted language and a fascinating main character.

(Amazon - Goodreads)
(Reviewed for Dystopian August 2011)


Book Blogger Hop #1

I recently discovered Book Blogger Hop and decided to give it a try this week! It is hosted at Crazy for Books and is a place for book bloggers to get together and connect with one another.

Book Blogger Hop

Prompt: What is the longest book you've ever read? 
I'm pretty sure it's Twilight by Stephanie Meyer at about 500 pages. It's held that record for a couple of years, too; I like to read quick books more than books that take longer to read. Divergent by Veronica Roth comes in at second place.

First Follow Friday

My first Follow Friday! Hello!

Q. If you could write yourself a part in a book, what book would it be and what role would you play in that book?

As much as I love dystopian novels, that's probably not the kind of place that I would like to find myself. I think any fantasy novels, where people travel long distances, fight monsters, save princesses, etc. would be ideal. Just the idea of waking up somewhere new everyday, with people who share the same overarching goals and are fighting for the same things as you sounds appealing to me. I started the Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan, but haven't seen the movie, so something like that.


Review: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion

Sorry if things have been a little slow-going in terns of Dystopian August, vacation set me back a bit further than I thought it would (if that makes any sense.) I'll have some novel reviews as soon as I can, I promise! In the meantime, here's an extra-special Great Graphics just for Dystopian August! Huzzah!

As the Holy Empire of Britannia expands, the freedoms and rights of the citizens of the countries that it has conquered begin to shrink. Japan, once a strong and noble land, has since been renamed "Area 11," and the people live in fear of the soldiers that roam the streets as all that they once knew crumbles around them.

Enter Lelouch ("leh-louche"). An exiled child of the Emperor of Britannia, he seems like the least likely candiate to rally a desperate nation to action. With no political connections in his exiled state and few friends, his hope for topplling the kingdom that betrayed him seems unlikely until he meets C.C., a young woman whom he rescues from a military vehicle. In return she grants him a very powerful and dangerous gift, a "geass." With this ability, Lelouch can influence any human to do anything he commands. Weak no more, Lelouch begins to get the ball of revolution rolling with the help of a rebel group, of which one of the members is Kallen, a "sickly" girl whom is tougher than her school persona makes her out to be.

Armed with a new power, Lelouch dons a mask and reinvents himself as Zero, a crusader who fights for the weak with only one goal in mind: to fell the kingdom that shamed him years ago.

Code Geass has been around for a while now and has yet to show signs of falling out of style. The plot is fairly linear, with Lelouch's goal being the main focus of the story. There is a light side to this though, as Bandai has also been publishing spin-off series that take place in alternate universes, not only allowing for the story to take a different path, but also giving some other characters their chance to shine as more than pawns in Lelouch's game.

The plot is also quick-paced, with each action leading into the next smoothly and swiftly. There are no "filler" panels added in to make it feel as though the story is longer, and everything serves either to introduce new characters or to set the scene for Lelouch's next daring move.

I actually find Lelouch to be a bit dry at points, as many people do with characters that only have one goal in their lives. Lucky for the reader though, he is flanked by interesting friends and family from his childhood friend Suzaku, a Japanese citizen fighting in the Britannian army, to his blind sister Nunnally, to the mysterious C.C.

The main series spans eight, manageable books. You can find these at your local bookstore (not Borders anymore...*sniff*), or if you're lucky, your local library. They are also sold online, and as far as I know Bandai is still printing copies. Also, the great thing about this graphic novel is that there is also an anime available. The DVD's can be purchased at F.Y.E. or at an online anime retailer. Nothing like curling up with a good dystopian TV series, right?

(Amazon) Rated 13 and up (for some blood and violence) by publisher Bandai Entertainment and spans eight, 200 page volumes


In My Mailbox: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

A bit late, but I got The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin just before I went on vacation and didn't have time to make a post for it.

Pictured Above: Not blogging

But, onto the topic of this post, an ARC of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer!

I apologize for the fuzzy picture, but the book cover itself is a bit dark to begin with. Just a cover post for now (although the cover alone is fantastic) but I have started the book and don't want to spoil anything, especially before my review :)

Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.
She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.
She's wrong.
(Description from Goodreads)

I know that the description is a bit vague, but it is the same as on the back of the book. I also think that, just from what I have read of it, that it will be a pretty big hit: hot guys, supernatural themes, and a girl-next-door protagonist seems to be what's popular in YA fiction now. It's also quite the whopper at 450 pages on the nose; it'll be sure to last a few people quite a while!

It will be released September 27, 2011 from Simon & Schuster and my review on Figment will pop up sometime around then. If you just can't wait for a review from me, you can find some around the Internet already.

Here's to happy reading!


Dystopian August 2011!

Huzzah! This month marks the beginning of Dystopian August from the blog Presenting Lenore. I've had a couple of books sitting on my shelf for the longest time that I'll be reading and posting reviews for this month. They include:

                                                           Wither by Lauren Destefano    
                                                             (Plagues and polygamy)
The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher
("Welcome to a future where water is more precious than oil or gold..."- inside cover)

Brain Jack by Brian Falkner
(Advanced technology, teen hackers, and mind control)

Excuse the green paint stains on my desk from Mother's Day a few years back, but these are the three that I'm definitely going to get through this month. I also have The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness out from the library but that one may be postponed for a bit and is kind of up in the air right now.

Finally, here's my contribution to any ongoing dystopian playlists out there and will be the musical theme for the next couple of reviews: Something's Not Right Here by One Republic

The scream, I burn
What’s that, you say
Your cloud it’s telling you lies now
You hear my voice,
You make some noise
You stole my choice
It’s over now
Pray for him now
I speak to you

I’m breaking out, something ain’t right here
You’re falling out, something ain’t right here
I’m breaking out, something ain’t right here
You’re falling out, falling out from, falling out, you’re falling out
Why can’t you see it?


Great Graphics: Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Welcome to a new feature here at Brave New Shelf that I affectionately call Great Graphics. The first Tuesday of every month I will post a review of a graphic novel/ comic/ manga (Japanese comic). Graphics novels have been a part of my life for almost five years now, and I can't help but feel that a lot of people turn away from them for one reason or another. Maybe you think they are childish picture books. Maybe you think that they are too violent, or too sexual. Maybe you don't want to be a "nerd," "geek," or any other one of those terms associated with people who read graphic novels. (And yes, I have heard those reasons.)  To those who adhere to those beliefs, I say that you simply haven't been looking hard enough for something that you might enjoy :)

Or, maybe you have been reading them for a while and are hoping for a couple of recommendations, or simply want to chat about them. That's cool too, and I'd love to hear some input in the comments! All of these posts will be tagged with "graphic novels," along with any other corresponding tags.

And so proceeds our first installment with Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol!

If you looked up the word "popular" in the dictionary, there is a good chance that Anya's picture won't be there. Embarrassed by her family, her body, and her social status, Anya begins to think that all hope is lost. That is, until she meets someone that really has lost everything, including her life.

Anya meets Emily after falling into a well while on a walk, and while Anya survives the fall it is clear to her that Emily, a girl who lived over one hundred years ago, did not. Surprised at seeing the ghost girl, Anya is even more surprised when one of Emily's bones ends up in her bag, allowing for Emily to follow her home. 

At first, things are working out alright. Emily aids Anya in numerous aspects of her life, academic and social. But as time progresses, Anya learns that Emily may have a bigger problem than the obvious.

Anya's Ghost was overall enjoyable, and I can understand all of the love it has gotten (and has been getting) from novel and comic blogs alike. The main character, Anya, is easy to relate to as a teenager. She struggles to fit in, on which she blames her lack of friends, lack of a boyfriend, and her body. The buildup for the other main character, Emily, was certainly an interesting if not creepy one. At the beginning, she appears to only want to help Anya improve her life, but then as the story progresses the reader begins to realize that Emily is changing, and not for the better. Anya's crush Sean, who is not as appealing as he seems, her sort-of best friend Siobhan, and her doting Russian-immigrant mother round off the cast of interesting minor characters.

I found myself getting very into the book, plot-wise. Of course, from the moment that Emily offered to help Anya to improve her grades and her love life we knew that things were too good to be true for the ghost girl, and the build-up is steady with a quick-paced climax and happy ending.

The art itself is great, with a color scheme of black, white, and shades of purple that is not so complicated that you lose track of the characters or the story in the process of admiring the drawings. Brosgol's style is easy on the eyes with just enough attention to detail to show that she put love and effort into drawing, as well as writing, Anya's Ghost.

4.5/5- Recommended for anyone with an interest in single-volume comics with PG rating (assigned by myself; actual volume is not rated)

(Amazon - Goodreads)


Twilight Re-Read: Chapters 21-24/ Epilogue

Wow... it's over. Twilight still holds the current record for the longest book I've ever read at almost 500 pages (a title that many of my friends laugh at), and I like that I got to refresh my memory of it through a re-read. It was so much fun, and I'd love to join another at some point in the future. But for now, here are the last of the questions and answers!

1. In chapter 21 James calls Bella telling her he has her mother and the only way he won't kill her is if Bella comes alone. What would you do in that situation? Come alone or tell Alice and Jasper?
I think it would have been better to tell Alice and Jasper. I mean, surly they could have found a way to stop him without him noticing them. Bella going alone was brave, but she could have been spared a lot of pain by telling Alice and Jasper the truth.

2. Was everyone else as shocked as I was when I first found out about the Alice/James situation? Do you think this adds to the story line or was it not needed? Why do you think they choose not to include these details in the movie?
I was surprised, despite having read the books before, but I really don't think that it was as essential to the story as it's written to be. The book could have been fine without it, but it was an interesting extra. I don't know much about the movie, but if they didn't mention that Alice knew nothing of her past, then the Alice/ James situation wouldn't have had to have been mentioned in the end at all.

3. Edward had to do something extremely difficult in order to save Bella from becoming a vampire. Have you ever had a similar situation in your life where you had to push your will power to its limits?
I sat through five Regents (state) exams this past June, each at least two hours long. If you didn't pass one, you would have to repeat the corresponding class. Oh, and you can't make them up later in the year because the state is cutting back, so if you fail you go under. Everyone is pretty much pushed to their limits during that time.

4. Bella and Edward get into the "to change Bella or not to change Bella" argument in the hospital. If you were Bella, would you want to become a vampire? Why or why not?
If I was Bella, obviously yes. She made it clear that it was all that she wanted in the history of her entire life, etc., etc. Sitting here now at my computer desk, do I want to be a vampire? No, not really. It seems like a whole lot of work and pain for not a whole lot of benefit. I'm sure their must be less painful ways to immortality.

5. Twilight ends with everyone going to the prom. Did you go to your prom? Was your experience similar to Bella's? Feel free to include pictures!!
I did, but with my friends. It was late last May, so the weather was nice (though it rained later) and was definitely a couples thing. It wasn't in the gym, but in a nice place where they hold weddings and such in the next town, and was very beautiful. All of the music was rap and hip-hop, so no slow dances. The food was excellent, and my friends and I got to our table before everyone else (the line was so long). I didn't dance a whole lot, but instead sat around and talked most of the time. Yeah, it wasn't really enjoyable but I'll probably go next year. 

EXTRA: So, it's over...Final thoughts?
I'd give it about a two point five; a neutral rating. I didn't think it was that bad, but I didn't think it was that good either. Whether or not I'll pick up the rest of the books, I really don't know yet (I've got so much on my reading list), but maybe I will in the future.