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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Book Review: 23:27 by H.L. Roberts

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Graphic Novel Review: Interview with the Vampire: Claudia's Story by Anne Rice and Ashley Marie Witter

Title: Interview with the Vampire: Claudia's Story 
Author(s): Anne Rice (Author) & Ashley Marie Witter (Illustrator) 
Genre: Fiction/Horror & Fiction/Supernatural 
Finished: February 21, 2013

This comic book / graphic novel has gotten a fair bit of criticism because many feel it did not offer a fresh perspective on Claudia or the events of Interview with the Vampire, but was rather too close a story to the original written in Interview with the Vampire. I think that this is criticism too harsh. The novel Interview with the Vampire, told from the perspective of Louis, features Claudia as one of the main characters. This graphic novel does indeed follow the same timeline as Louis’s tale with little deviation to “new” event, but we do see a very distinctive Claudia perspective, with gives “new” insight into the events we know per Louis. The illustrations done by Ashley Marie Witter were absolutely, no question, beautiful. Every character exuded delicate beauty--the expressions and movements were all immaculately wrought. I found the usage of color to be quite effective, as well. The novel was done in an off-white and black tone, aside from the occasional use of colors like red to emphasize blood. I felt that this occasional use of bold color added emotion, passion, and indeed violence to the appropriate scenes. It also expressed how very important blood is to the immortal... the only true vibrant color in the dark world. It is true that the essential story is nothing new, but there were moments when the perspective of Claudia gave something new to an event. Because instead of seeing things from the eyes of Louis, we get to see Claudia as she was, as she thought, and come to understand a bit more about what motivated her. And, sadly, just how much she loved Louis. But yes, sometimes it was hard to keep track of the chronology. Maybe this was because I read this graphic novel at around 2am and my brain was not at full function. There were a few times when I had to reread a page or go back because I wasn’t sure where I was on a timeline. It was like in the span of one panel, we had gone forward in time and were now in an entirely different world location. But I blame this on my inexperience with comics and graphic novels in general. Claudia’s Story is a beautifully rendered tale of one of the briefest but important vampires in the Chronicles. I feel absolutely that it is a necessity in the collection of any Anne Rice and Vampire Chronicle fan. You must at least read this graphic novel once. Instead of judging the “originality” of the story, soak up the beautiful art, the emotion expressed in wonderful pen strokes. Enjoy the story you know and love now presented to you in a new format, made into a work of visual art as much as it is a work of written art.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Book Review: Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3) by Suzanne Collins

Title: Mockingjay
Series: The Hunger Games
Book Number: 3
Author: Suzanne Collins 
Genre: Fiction - Dystopia 
Finished: February 11, 2013

Can it suffice to say only that this final book was everything that I had hoped for and more?  I wasted no time loading this one on my Kindle after I had finished the second book of the trilogy. Of course I could guess the rough chronology of the book: lots of rebel fighting, lots of drama, and of course a victory, no matter how sweet or bittersweet. I knew there would be war, and I knew that independence would be gained. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the journey. And that also doesn’t mean I wasn’t caught off guard a number of times by a few well placed and indeed shocking plot twists. Instead, it meant that I was sincerely and deeply hoping for the sort-of-happy-ending that the characters deserved and that I needed in order to feel fulfilled. In short, I wanted Katniss alive and with Peeta. So the war is on. District 13 is working to inspire rebel forces across Panem, and are quite successful. The leaders of the rebellion use Katniss as a sort of mascot, but she is not the sort of girl to give clean televised appearances, so there is a lot of battle and explosion going on.

Thank goodness, right?

I mean it wouldn’t be a Hunger Game novel without a lot of blood, guts, and blown up things. The part that I liked the best (in my predictable nature) was the inevitable tension that arose after Peeta was rescued and he had been brainwashed... reprogrammed... designed to hate and indeed kill Katniss. Naturally, I gave in to a rare sense of optimism that love would prevail, yadda, yadda, yadda. 

It was this plot arch in particular that I enjoyed reading the most. I wish there was more to it, that it was longer, more involved. The course of the rebellion was interesting and great, yes, but I like things that are a little less action and adventure, and a little more drama. I also did not expect a few of the deaths that took place. I mean, this isn't George R.R. Martin, after all, right, who kills everyone you love. I thought that there would at least be a bright light at the end of the tunnel for the suffering. But not so. I guess that is just part of the realism, of creating a world that is real, intense, and that you can live inside of. Even go so far as to grieve with. The emotional connection would be nothing without something to grieve over, right? At least, that is how I comfort myself.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Book Review: Catching Fire (Hunger Games, #2) by Suzanne Collins

Title: Catching Fire
Series: Hunger Games
Book Number: 2
Author: Suzanne Collins 
Genre: Fiction - Dystopia 
Finished: February 5, 2013

I decided to read this book in order to prepare myself for the movie; I would rather spoil a movie by reading the book than spoil a book by seeing the movie first. I didn't go into reading this book with any preconceived notions about how the plot may manifest itself, so I relied on the first few pages to gain a sense of how the book may progress. Essentially, now a victor of the Hunger Games, Katniss is the target for the ire of the Capitol, specifically President Snow. Before even Katniss realizes what she means to the rest of the various districts, the President is painfully aware that she stands as an icon of rebellion and indeed revolution, which he certainly cannot stand. So naturally, of course, he seeks to eliminate her as a threat. The book is really two distinct stories. The first part of the story of of Katniss trying to survive back in District 12 after the games, trying to become normal again, and ultimately trying to quell any possible threat of district rebellion in order to placate President Snow and protect her family/friends. The part effectively ends when she discovers that there is no way to stop the anger of the districts, who are using her act of defiance as a sort of rallying cry to justify their own defiance. As a result, there is no pleasing President Snow, and she fears no hope of saving the people she cares about. Which brings us to part 2, the Quarter Quell, an anniversary event. At every 25 year period, the games are given a special feature, a new twist. This quarter's twist is, and predictably so, that those in the arena must be past winners of the Games. This assures, as the only female from District 12, that Katniss will be in the arena. I admit, I saw this coming. Even as I was reading part 1, I kept telling myself, "This president is going to find a way to make it so Katniss has to reenter the games." I wasn't certain how he would do so, but I was confident that he would find a way, as this would be an easy and entertaining way to get rid of her while at the same time showing the burgeoning revolutionaries throughout the various districts the cost of defiance. Katniss goes into the arena this time determined to give her life to protect Peeta; there is no way to save them both, and the President wants her death badly enough to make sure she regrets not dying. If anything, she can save Peeta, who she sees as an innocent in her machinations. Little does she know that behind the scenes, Haymitch has been working out his own dealings, convincing the other Tributes to, no matter the cost, keep Peeta alive, too. Once again, the pair are at the center of a conspiracy that they do not have much of a say in, or much knowledge of for that matter. I found the nature of the games arena this time to be wonderfully creative. 

I really had to applaud Collins for the uniqueness of the setting. It was more than just a landscape of traps and scattered threats for tributes to chase each other around. I loved the idea of the arena as a clock, and each new hour bringing a new round of chaos to one of the 12 triangular branches. Naturally, not knowing myself of the backroom dealings of Haymitch, I kept waiting for the moment when the alliances formed in the arena would come crashing down on Katniss and Peeta. It is always a wonderful turn of events to find that I have been wrong in my predictions; it forces me not to over think the plot too much and thereby ruin it for myself. I was also very pleased that the few characters I felt taken with had survived, though with varied levels of... safety and success. I am also a massive sucker for a good cliffhanger, though mostly when I have in my possession the next book, which I do. I have already started the third and final book because I have to know what happens with the rebellion, which at the end of the games, is going full scale. And I also have to know what happens between Katniss and Peeta since, ultimately, I am rooting for them. I love a clever dystopia.