I have seen this book around, but didn't pick it up for a long time because the cover was so melodramatic. After awhile, I decided to give it a chanceI have seen this book around, but didn't pick it up for a long time because the cover was so melodramatic. After awhile, I decided to give it a chance, since book covers are often melodramatic even when their contents are not. Not this one, though. The protagonist, Juliette, was in hysterics for at least 75% of the book. I laughed out loud on multiple occasions at the constant hyperbolic metaphors.
I was also previously unaware that randomly inserted text in strikeout has joined writing entirely in first person present tense and weird fonts in different colors as a legitimate literary device in YA fiction. Still, I actually enjoyed reading the book, although it didn't stand on its own as a novel very well. The author was obviously planning a sequel right from the start, and left plenty of loose ends. Also, I missed the memo about this being the novelization of an X-Men comic.
The life-changing ending finale of this book is (view spoiler)[the 17-year-old attractive female protagonist obtaining a custom-designed skin-tight purple bodysuit, which she promptly tries on to model for the boys in the room, all of whom express their instantaneous approval. (hide spoiler)] You can't make this stuff up. Well, I guess Tahereh Mafi can.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I'm a long-time fan of Farmer's classic The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm, an inventive dystopian mystery set in 22nd century Zimbabwe. The House of the SI'm a long-time fan of Farmer's classic The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm, an inventive dystopian mystery set in 22nd century Zimbabwe. The House of the Scorpion takes place roughly around the same time, but in northern Mexico, now a separate country called Opium, which is built around growing and selling drugs.
The protagonist, Matteo, is a clone, with all of the attendant existential angst thusly implied. Parts of this book are stunningly good. Matteo's relationship with his "original," for example, is fascinating and thoughtfully portrayed. However, the development of some of the other characters is spotty at best, and the plot doesn't always make all that much sense. The last third of the book seems like it was dropped in randomly from some other novel, and introduces so many new themes and characters that the story gets a bit wobbly. On the plus side, Farmer does raise a great number of social and ethical themes, so this would be a great book to read with your teenager and then discuss. On the whole, a fairly strong novel, and much more thoughtful than a lot of the dystopian fiction that happens these days....more
This book was creepy. Although not, surprisingly, because it was narrated by a ghost. Said ghost narrator reminded me rather a lot of Death as narratoThis book was creepy. Although not, surprisingly, because it was narrated by a ghost. Said ghost narrator reminded me rather a lot of Death as narrator in The Book Thief. It's both strange and refreshing for a narrator who seems on the surface to be inherently unsympathetic to tug at the reader's heart-strings the way these two do. Still, there's no guarantee that you'll enjoy this one if you liked The Book Thief; both the subject matter and tone are very different.
McNeal tells his story with a dark, sweet wit almost reminiscent of Ray Bradbury. Turning a fairy tale into a novel is so common these days as to be almost a little passé. But Far Far Away feels like a fairytale, in a way most novelizations don't. Plus, major props to the author for coming up with the perfect name for everyone in this story: Sten Blix, Conk Crinklaw, Ginger Boultinghouse; it just keeps getting better.
The events in this book are seriously horrifying, and I wouldn't think I would enjoy a book in which such things happened. And yet, I did. I guess that's the appeal of a good, old-fashioned fairy tale....more
I'm afraid I have nothing more to add to the litany of reviews marking this as an even more cloying version of YA paranormal romance than Twilight.
I'mI'm afraid I have nothing more to add to the litany of reviews marking this as an even more cloying version of YA paranormal romance than Twilight.
I'm also embarrassed to say that I listened to this entire book, along with two of the three sequels. I can't explain it. I just get in these sappy romantic moods, and nothing will do but reading about some teenage couple's impossible but eternal true love. ...more
This book reminded me rather a lot of The Adoration of Jenna Fox, not because the plots or characters necessarily had anything in common, but becauseThis book reminded me rather a lot of The Adoration of Jenna Fox, not because the plots or characters necessarily had anything in common, but because of the pacing of the book, and the slow uncovering of devastating truths. Also, I think the reader on the audiobook may have been the same for both books, and she's quite good--perfect for this sort of story.
Like a great many dystopian YA novels these days, this one deals with a disaster scenario that threatens the survival of humankind. But unlike most such novels, it describes the disaster with a calm, measured rationality very different from the sensationalized tone more usual for such descriptions. Somehow, the sanguine approach, rich in small details of how their lives are slowly but irrevocably affected by the disaster, rings truer and hits closer to home.
I was especially impressed with how she explored the subtle but important long-reaching effects of such a tragedy on her characters' psychological health and relationships with one another. Rather than focusing on the short-term trauma of a devastating natural disaster, Walker was more interested in exploring the long-term effects of the aftermath of such a disaster.
If you need a fast-paced plot and a lot of excitement, this book is not for you. But it's a pretty impressive debut novel, and an illuminating twist on the usual dystopian trope....more
This reminded me vaguely of Sylvia Louise Engdahl and some of Ursula LeGuin's other-planetary adventure novels, but it really lacked depth. In the endThis reminded me vaguely of Sylvia Louise Engdahl and some of Ursula LeGuin's other-planetary adventure novels, but it really lacked depth. In the end, it was just another story about a boy and girl stuck in a remote and dangerous location, who predictably fall in love. I kept waiting for there to be some kind of twist, but their relationship continued to be both stereotypical and annoying. Oh, well.
Also, there were multiple plot elements that stretched credulity, among which the fact that I don't think this author has really thought about how big a planet is. Because the fact that her characters could reliably determine within such a short time that an entire planet was uninhabited is weird. Even the hints at alien life were cliche and uninspiring.
Oh well, what do I expect from run-of-the-mill YA sci fi? More than this, apparently....more
I don't attend my local library's book club, but sometimes I snag books off their list, like this one. I binge-read it in one sitting, because I had aI don't attend my local library's book club, but sometimes I snag books off their list, like this one. I binge-read it in one sitting, because I had an evening to myself and decided to spend it in the bath with a book. Obviously, it was kind of an interesting premise, or I wouldn't have picked up the book in the first place. Who doesn't remember being a little intrigued or creeped out when they realized that Google was serving them ads for stuff they'd been thinking about, or Netflix had figured out which movies they would like based on their viewing profile? People young enough to be in the demograph for which this book is intended, that's who, I guess.
I really did enjoy the first half, because it had the potential to develop some depth. But in the end it didn't really deliver. Too many laughably simplistic and predictable plot twists. There was one totally Fifty Shades moment where she's having an utterly improbable conversation with the CEO of a major tech company that made me laugh out loud. The whole thing came off as a bit too obvious parable on the dangers of allowing algorithms to make choices for you (and having your nose stuck in your phone all the time--but what else is new?). So, a bit of an eyeroll. ...more
I wanted to review this one around the holidays, because it deals with the birth of Jesus, and would be such a perfect gift for a midwife, mother-to-bI wanted to review this one around the holidays, because it deals with the birth of Jesus, and would be such a perfect gift for a midwife, mother-to-be, or anyone else who cares about birth and views it as an event with something of holiness about it.
Told from the point of view of the midwife who attended Mary on the night of Jesus' birth, it recounts her story, her calling as a midwife, and the ways her life prepared her for that all-important first Christmas night. In some ways, it reminded me of the Red Tent, although Delivered is very devotional in tone and much less "earthy," and would be appropriate for audiences that might not enjoy the Red Tent because of the sex and unorthodox views of Old Testament prophets.
I loved the descriptions of natural midwifery techniques using herbs and traditional birthing accessories like birthing stools or scarves. The scenes that involved births were very well articulated, and took me back in time to my own lovely homebirths.
Full disclosure: I copy edited this book. The author, Jessica Van Leuven, was a joy to work with, and works in labor and delivery as an RN. She knows her stuff when it comes to birth, and it shows....more
I've been thinking a lot about World War I during this centennial year, and I am fascinated by anything to do with the Long 19th Century, so when I waI've been thinking a lot about World War I during this centennial year, and I am fascinated by anything to do with the Long 19th Century, so when I was browsing for commute audiobooks on Overdrive and saw this, I knew I had to read it. It's an engagingly written history of the Western world before WWI that tries to paint that world as it was and seemed at the time to those who lived in it, and not as it looked (or looks) through the rosy glasses of war-wearied remembrance.
The book consists of several loosely interconnected essays on different themes, and with shifting geographical foci. I had no idea, for example, how widespread and organized (after its fashion) the international movement toward anarchism was. I can't decide whether I liked the chapter on British politics or the chapter on German culture more. They were both good, although the German chapter might win just for the brilliantly descriptive and insightful observation that "Strauss was a string plucked by the Zeitgeist." And yes, I spent time listening to Strauss and other music of the time in between chapters.
The chapter on American imperialism as defined by the Spanish-American war and the conquest of the Philippines was also illuminating for me. Tony and I spent a summer in the Philippines and used to often wonder why after 300 years of Spanish rule and only a few decades of American rule the Filipinos still looked on America with suspicion while seeming to have much softer feelings toward their erstwhile Spanish rulers. I no longer wonder. There's also a good chapter on the Dreyfuss affair and its long-reaching effects on French politics and culture.
I think the thing that surprised me the most was how familiar so many of the issues and controversies sounded. Although there was a certain optimism that might be difficult to find again any time soon. I was almost amused to find that Alfred Nobel had originally only intended for the prize bearing his name to be given out for the next thirty years, since he expected that world peace would have been worked out by then.
Also, if the Doctor turned up in the Tardis and offered to take me anywhere in time and space, I might just choose pre-WWI Europe....more
Astonishingly wonderful book. I listened to the audiobook, and I think my enjoyment of it was augmented by the reader, who interpreted the accents andAstonishingly wonderful book. I listened to the audiobook, and I think my enjoyment of it was augmented by the reader, who interpreted the accents and personalities of the characters so beautifully. I have read dozens and dozens of books about WWII, so I'm always vaguely surprised when I read one that gives me a new angle on that oft-reproduced era in history. This one is about two young women who served the British military during the War, and there were lots of interesting details I didn't know, among which the fact that women were so involved, and that the British used double daylight savings time during the War.
I'm rather partial to epistolary novels in the first place, and thought that Wein utilized the medium brilliantly. I loved the way she wove the different threads in the story together, and how well I felt I got to know the characters through their writings. There were some coincidences that stretched credibility a bit, but they came across as powerful literary device, and felt perfectly right, not forced.
I was initially considering the book as a supplement to a unit on WWII history I'm doing with my 9-year-old, but I'd recommend it for teens and up, since there's some torture, and it's disturbing. ...more
I'm not a big mystery reader. Come to think of it, I believe I dislike mysteries because they generally make me feel stupid. I am never a step ahead.I'm not a big mystery reader. Come to think of it, I believe I dislike mysteries because they generally make me feel stupid. I am never a step ahead. I'm always surprised at the end, and I always feel dumb for not figuring it out. Also, I find the idea of murder disturbing, and hate books that rehash gory details over and over from different angles. However, after recently seeing not one but two Doctor Who episodes based on Agatha Christie (The Unicorn and the Wasp and Mummy on the Orient Express), I decided it was high time to give her a chance.
And giving myself permission to just let the story progress without feeling pressure to solve the mystery before it unfolded itself in front of me was quite helpful. It allowed me to enjoy Christie's superb character development and subtle exploration of moral issues. The way she gets inside her characters' heads and explores their darker tendencies, their fears, their justifications, and their sometimes strange points of view is frankly brilliant. She has a peculiar knack for apt descriptions, both of physical details and personal character.
The premise of this particular book is interesting, as it explores different degrees of guilt and the nature of justice, as well as human nature when put in stressful and suspenseful situations. I enjoyed it enough that I think I'll try reading some more Agatha Christie....more
Boring love triangle alert. Alas, the female protagonist cannot choose between the nice guy and the bad boy. What else is new in YA fiction? Really, mBoring love triangle alert. Alas, the female protagonist cannot choose between the nice guy and the bad boy. What else is new in YA fiction? Really, my favorite person in this series is Magnus Bane, and he appears disappointing infrequently.
But for some reason I find Cassandra Clare's books so relaxing on my work commute that I can't stop listing to them. ...more
The crisis at the beginning of this book was kind of disturbing and gross to me. (view spoiler)[Man gets bizarre venereal disease that turns him intoThe crisis at the beginning of this book was kind of disturbing and gross to me. (view spoiler)[Man gets bizarre venereal disease that turns him into giant ravenous worm. Like, literally--a huge, voracious invertebrate creature. (hide spoiler)]I mean, it was kind of an interesting twist on everyone promiscuous in the 19th century getting syphilis, but still.
Come to think of it, these books also feature a fantasy take on consumption, that old Victorian standby of doomed romances, and a magical kind of opium, as well as some 19th century technology gone bad. The whole thing is very steampunk, and not badly done. Also, Oscar Wilde appears as a fastidiously dressed werewolf. So the whole premise is great fun, but the characters and plot, not so much. ["br"]>["br"]>...more
I'm kind of a sucker for anything having to do with 19th century Britain, and I've read all of Clare's Mortal Instruments books, so I was going to getI'm kind of a sucker for anything having to do with 19th century Britain, and I've read all of Clare's Mortal Instruments books, so I was going to get around to reading this prequel series eventually. My favorite thing about it was meeting everyone's ancestors. Clare has a flair for colorful characters, and it was interesting to see what all those Shadowhunter families were up to a hundred years ago.
That said, the characters are a little weird, and the plot is not that--convincing? That's probably a meaningless criticism for YA fantasy, so maybe "not compelling" is what I should say instead. Plus, one of the characters was a shape-shifter, and I was constantly imagining ways she could solve the various problems by just changing shape. So there's that.
Still, Cassandra Clare is always a fun read....more
Someone in acquisitions at my library is apparently as taken by Doctor Who as I am, since I've probably checked out a dozen or more books similar thisSomeone in acquisitions at my library is apparently as taken by Doctor Who as I am, since I've probably checked out a dozen or more books similar this one, which is a sort of documentary-type book about the series.
This one, though, is by far my favorite. While many of the others are simply character encyclopedias, this book has lots of interviews and reminiscing by cast members about what it was like to be part of Doctor Who, and it's laid out in an appealing scrapbook style.
I admit to skimming some of the earlier chapters, since I've only seen a fraction of the classic episodes, and I'm trying to avoid too many spoilers. But if you wanted a nice overview of the series, including characters, plot(s) and behind-the-scenes, you couldn't go wrong with this book....more
This is far from the best expat memoir I've ever read. It probably only deserves maybe 2.5 stars. But I'm moving to a Greek island, so I did enjoy itThis is far from the best expat memoir I've ever read. It probably only deserves maybe 2.5 stars. But I'm moving to a Greek island, so I did enjoy it quite a bit and I've rounded up my rating.
Things I liked - reading all the little details, like descriptions of food (I am addicted to descriptions of food), the traditional dancing at festivals, and the idiosyncratic directions to her new house.
Things I could have done without - so many pages devoted to her love life. It seemed like she should have written a separate memoir for that, although I'm sure the two things (Greece and complicated relationships) were inextricably connected in her mind.
So, yeah, I wouldn't necessarily recommend this as good armchair traveling, unless you like it mixed in with an unrelated soap opera. ...more