When Flannery first recommended this book to me with the promise of Boston and baseball, my exact reaction was, "........" The opening paragraph of he...moreWhen Flannery first recommended this book to me with the promise of Boston and baseball, my exact reaction was, "........" The opening paragraph of her review cracks me up because what I remember most about Boston is: rats. Lots and lots of rats. Since "everywhere" is too general, let me tell you 3 specific places where I saw a rat.
1. Subway (as in Eat Fresh®) 2. California Pizza Kitchen, Prudential Center 3. My dorm room
My friends refused to walk on my left because whenever I saw a rat charging out of the bushes, I'd push them out into the street. Excuse me for trying to save your life! Did no one see the episode of Little House on the Prairie where everyone in Walnut Grove nearly died of typhus?! That wasn't just a TV show, that was a PSA.
Second only to rats in Boston are Red Sox fans. The SAWX. I grew up watching sports (not baseball, as if) but nothing in my life prepared me for Red Sox Nation. I lived 5 minutes away from Fenway Park and got a very rude awakening the first (and only) time I tried to take the T after a game. My PTSD still prevents me from talking about it.
Imagine my surprise when not only did I end up finishing this book, I loved it. It reminded me that aside from the rats and the Sox, Boston was also where I first fell in love, strolled through a park at night while someone played the saxophone, and had a chocolate chip cannoli from Mike's Pastry. (Don't knock it til you've tried it! My love for Mike's has outlasted that first love.) Every so often, I need to be reminded that hope exists. I need it to wrap me in a bear hug and refuse to let go until I surrender because anything less won't work with me. Some Disney magic also helps.
My Most Excellent Year refers to the year Alejandra Perez and a 6-year-old named Hucky entered the lives of T.C. Keller and Augie Hwong. T.C. and Augie declared they were brothers in 1st grade and never looked back. T.C. had just lost his mother and he bonded with the quiet kid who was the one person who didn't look at him like he'd just lost his mother. Of course, Augie didn't stay quiet. Have you ever met a quiet Ethel Merman fan? While Augie shared his love of musicals during their weekly sleepovers, T.C. shared his love of baseball. When Alejandra (that's Alé with an é) transferred to their school freshman year and politely rejected T.C.'s offer to consider a relationship with her, while talking to Augie about musical theater, both boys were goners. Their story is told through journal entries, emails, IMs, and texts.
First, I loved that two of the main characters are minorities. This was such an issue for me growing up, and it's still an issue for me now, but it's so important to see last names like Hwong and Perez and not deal with stereotypical characterizations. Augie is the son of a Chinese immigrant mother and American-born Chinese father. His mother terrorizes the Boston theater community with her reviews for the Globe. Here's a sample of her review of Carousel:
"Nice songs to beat your wife to. Attend at your own risk."
She instilled her love of theater in Augie, but made sure to warn him about Carousel when he was 8. Alé is the daughter of diplomats and her father was the ambassador to Mexico until he accepted a position at Harvard. She's used to hobnobbing (and accidentally insulting) diplomats, actors, and (I'm assuming) Bono. Her closest friend before moving to Brookline was a Secret Service agent.
Second, I loved the fathers in this. T.C.'s dad, Ted, named after Ted Williams naturally, and Augie's dad, Craig, are such presences in their sons' lives. T.C. uses a vocabulary word in one of his journal entries and a few pages later, Ted ends up using the same word in an email to T.C.'s counselor. You can just see T.C. using it around the house with Ted, making up ridiculous sentences along the way.
Third, Augie Hwong is who I tried to get my little brother to be. Yes, the one who is now a big bad cop. I just think children, particularly boys, need a well-rounded education, especially of the musical variety. Also, I knew even back then that he was destined for a career involving weaponry so I wanted to get to him before the mouthbreathers did. Since I controlled the radio in the car (ah, the perks of being the oldest), I played a steady stream of Rent, Les Miserables, and Ragtime. (Wicked came later.) I was so proud when I heard him humming "Would you light my candle?" I was even prouder when Rent the movie came out and he went to watch it on his own.
This book had the same energy of Sorta Like a Rock Star and it was what I hoped Will Grayson Will Grayson would be. The format of journal entries and emails and texts made it an easy, fun read. You don't need to know all (or any) of the baseball and theater references to get this book. Just read a short synopsis of All About Eve so you understand one of my favorite Augie moments. I know it's not perfect, but it had so much heart that like Mary Poppins, My Most Excellent Year is practically perfect in every way.
This is the second book of The Readventurer Challenge and... it didn't work for me. I'm not giving White Cat an official goodreads rating because the narration didn't hold my attention enough for me to completely follow the story. This is now my 7th or 8th audiobook, and I love listening to them, but Jesse Eisenberg and I just didn't mesh well together. And I'm not a virgin and I can drive! TMI?
The premise of mafia controlled curse workers sounded like The Godfather meets Misfits, which is definitely up my alley. It had my attention in the beginning, when the main character wakes up teetering on the roof after a dream where a cat literally takes his tongue. He also has a non-stereotypical Asian roommate, which is an automatic 10 points. I liked the explanation of his cons and betting schemes, which had an Ocean's 11 vibe.
However, it wasn't long before my attention was wandering, and not because I didn't like the story. My main issue with Jesse Eisenberg is that he has a quiet, kind of whiny voice. It was fine in my car when I could really blast the speakers, but around my house, I was mentally yelling at him to put some bass in his voice. SAY IT WITH YOUR CHEST! I followed along for about half the story until Cassel's brothers entered the picture and I couldn't remember who was who or who Maura was married to. I also thought the main character's name was "Castle" and totally judged him for it.
Once I started imagining Armie Hammer reading me the book instead (and missing a few chapters in the process), I know I should've stopped and switched to reading the book for myself. However, the CHALLONGE was for the audiobook specifically and I wanted to see if I could stick to it. By the time the audiobook ended, I was completely lost and wondering if I had missed a file. I'll probably end up giving this another shot in paper form because the beginning was really promising.
Since I did manage to get through the entire audiobook (that's TWO out of three She Made Me Do It books) I decided to make a gif.
Basically, it's on like Donkey Kong. So yup, by later Sunday, I was done with one of the books of the CHALLENGE. Flannery picked a Nora Roberts book for me because whenever she would talk about Nora Roberts as one of her favorite romance authors, my reaction, never having read one of her books, would be, "Her?"
However, with The MacGregor Grooms, Flann promised a wily, matchmaking grandpa and a JFK Jr. There's exactly ONE thing I have in common with Taylor Swift and it's our fascination with the Kennedys -- although mine is more toward those who've actually graduated from high school. Needless to say, I was hooked on this book from the beginning.
Daniel, the grizzled patriarch of the MacGregor clan, is adorrrrrable. I read this after the VP debate so I pictured him as a lovable Joe Biden type. He's devoted to his family and determined to set up his single grandsons. There's D.C. the artist, Duncan the Steve Wynn of riverboats, and Ian the lawyer. The book is divided into 3 parts, with a diary entry by Daniel introducing each part and grandson. The short story format was a great introduction to Roberts' writing style and the characters in this series.
As a whole, I liked the characters and stories. I liked D.C.'s storyline the most, and I would've probably reacted to his father, the former president, the same way Layna did. I was a bit bored by Duncan's storyline and skimmed it until Daniel came for a visit, but it was short enough to keep my attention. Ian, aka the original Harvard Hottie, built a library in his house. Need I say more? What I really liked was the family dynamic. I loved how close-knit they were and how they indulged Grandpa's meddling, even as he blamed poor ol' Grandma for it. I loved that the boys always answered calls from Grandpa with a grin, even when they knew they were the targets of his machinations.
Verdict: Old people can be so sweet!
Daniel is such a memorable, lovable character. I'm reading The MacGregor Brides next for more of his antics. Great rec, Flann! Now that I've read one of your books, I have one thing to say to you and Catie:
This is one of the most enjoyable romances I've read. It was funny, it was modern,...moreThis is our inaugural Rory Curtain Review at Young Adult Anonymous.
This is one of the most enjoyable romances I've read. It was funny, it was modern, and MOTHER OF GOD, it was HAWT. Navy SEAL Vince Haven is so hot, I ended up pumping my bestie, who was in the Navy until he was kicked out for being gay (fuckery), over dinner for info on just how swoon-worthy he should be. I am nothing if not thorough!
Me: Are Navy SEALs that hot? Him: Oh yeah. Me: Okay, how hot? Are they hotter than regular Navy guys? Him: Hell yes. They look like elite athletes. Me: There's a scene in the book where Vince picks up a sledgehammer with one hand and just tosses it aside. Real or not real? Him: Real. Me: Can you tell a Navy SEAL from regular Navy guys? Him: Mags, I don't think you're understanding the ELITE ATHLETE part. For example, in the Navy, we did an exercise where we had to carry 40 pound weights in each hand and then stand on our tiptoes. Navy SEALs have to do that AND jump over a bench. Me:drops fork Server:drops mouth Me: So... where do these SEALs hang out?
I had to ask. For the purposes of this review!
Sadie Hollowell is 3 things a woman from Lovett, Texas shouldn't be: 33 years old, single, and flat haired. She left Lovett at 18 and created a nice life for herself selling real estate in Phoenix. A younger cousin's wedding pulls her back to Texas.
Vince Haven is a 36 year old ex-SEAL who left the service after an incident in Afghanistan blew out 60% of his hearing in one ear. Since then, he's invested in businesses while traveling and taking care of his sister and nephew.
Sadie sees Vince stranded on the side of the road into Lovett and ends up reluctantly offering to help -- but not before demanding to see his license and calling his info into her assistant. You know, in case he ends up being a "homicidal maniac, or worse. A Democrat." Even my true blue heart giggled at this because Rachel Gibson sets the light tone early. There's a ton of banter between Sadie and Vince and Sadie and the colorful townspeople. Sadie and Vince find themselves thrown together, yada yada yada, and Vince ends up saying "Hooyah!" during sexytimes. I, along with Sadie, died laughing. There are more sexytimes, more laughs, and some emotional scenes.
One thing that really stood out about this book was how young and modern it felt. There's a Rachel Zoe reference! I usually loathe all reality shows, but I was literally* addicted to the first season of The Rachel Zoe Project. There's also a character named Becca Ramsey, who I choose to believe was a nod to the Baby-Sitters Club character.**
I also liked that Rescue Me was significantly shorter than my usual romance books. It was a fun, quick read.
Hot vampires? Check. That's pretty much all I require.
This was fluffy and fun. I kind of wish it was funnier because the chapter titles made it seem li...moreHot vampires? Check. That's pretty much all I require.
This was fluffy and fun. I kind of wish it was funnier because the chapter titles made it seem like it was headed down the Hold Me Closer Necromancer fun pun path. The writing wasn't as sharp as Lish McBride's, but the story moved quickly and every time there was a lull, another hot guy entered the picture. What's not to like?
I don't know what's wrong with my brain because even though Ethan is described as being hotter than David Beckham, my mind kept picturing this Ethan from Dance Academy.
So I've basically arranged my reading (and sleeping) schedule around the fact that UnWholly comes out on Tuesday, and I've been saving this novella fo...moreSo I've basically arranged my reading (and sleeping) schedule around the fact that UnWholly comes out on Tuesday, and I've been saving this novella for today. And.... meh. I don't know if I was influenced by the fact that I know it wasn't Neal Shusterman who wrote this, or if the story just isn't up to Unwind standards, but I was neither over or underwhelmed. Did Frankie Landau-Banks say I could be whelmed? Then I am whelmed. I don't think it's a MUST READ for Unwind fans the way Ferragost is a MUST READ for Lumatere fans. Lev was one of the most fascinating characters in Unwind, so I was hoping UnStrung would add yet another layer. Again... meh. On the plus side, there's an excerpt of UnWholly included with this novella.(less)
This was my second time reading Froi of the Exiles and I realized it's the first time I've reread a Melina Marchetta book. That surprised me because t...moreThis was my second time reading Froi of the Exiles and I realized it's the first time I've reread a Melina Marchetta book. That surprised me because they are all amongst my favorites and I buy multiple editions of her books. Then I started reading. And dreaming of Charyn and Froi. (Seriously.) It's the Melina Marchetta Experience. You're completely immersed and transported to her world, whether it's on the Jellicoe Road or in the mountains of Lumatere. (Luci-en!) I'm so emotionally invested in these characters that it's hard to leave. I only need one read for the characters to stay with me. But a funny thing happened during my reread -- by funny thing I mean Tippideaux, of course. I had forgotten some of the fantastic supporting characters. It was such a treat to be reintroduced to them and read the lighter interactions, like Trevanion and Perri constantly being referred to as old.
This is a book that Noelle has been trying to get me to read forever. This is what she emailed me a year ago after I was like, WTF is a Daddy Long Leg...moreThis is a book that Noelle has been trying to get me to read forever. This is what she emailed me a year ago after I was like, WTF is a Daddy Long Legs?
Daddy Long Legs is written way back in the day by Mark Twain's niece. It's kinda a little Anne Shirley mixed with Jo March. It's all in letter format but the protagonist is so charming. She's an orphan (guess I should put Jane Eyre in there too!) and then one of the orphanage's benefactors decides to send her to college anonymously so she writes him letters about her experiences there. She only saw his shadow on the wall so she calls him Daddy Long Legs b/c he seemed really tall.
I wrote back:
That's so funny because in the Korean drama I was watching, the lead girl starts getting letters from someone anonymously after her parents die and she just calls him "Daddy Long Legs." They're just friendly letters that offer support. I wonder if it was a reference to the book.
And this time, it wasn't me just using any excuse to bring up a kdrama. It totally was a reference to Daddy Long Legs! Korean dramas, where literary references happen. Also where this happens:
But I digress. I loved Daddy Long Legs! Judy is such an impertinent, feisty little badass. She's not embittered or hardened by her upbringing, but she's not overly solicitous either, which I really liked. Of course she's grateful for the opportunity to go to college, but in her mind, it's a loan that she's going to repay so she doesn't feel subservient to her mysterious benefactor. I know I would be tripping over my words and calling him "Sir" but Judy's all "Hey Daddy. What's up?" ...or as close to that as the 1900s allowed. I love that she is smart and straightforward, but thank God she fails a class or two or else I would've hated her perfect ass, amirite?
Even though this book is older (published in 1912) and obviously dated, I think there's definitely an audience for it now. I wonder if Jaclyn Moriarty was influenced at all by this book when she wrote Feeling Sorry for Celia and The Year of Secret Assignments (both of which you must read). I can totally see how this book influenced Little Noelle, and I'm definitely putting it in my niece's hands. I can just see her asking her dad the Very Important Question, ARE YOU BALD? (Sorry, Joel!) This is also a book I would give to high school students. I love Judy's approach to life and how she embraces her college experience. She's so self-motivated, and that helps her deal with rejection as well. If Rory Gilmore had read Daddy Long Legs instead of Mencken Chrestomathy, she wouldn't have dropped out of Yale after one bad encounter with Mitchum Huntzberger.
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece takes place five years after bombs went off in London killing 62 people. The story follows the aftermath of the fam...moreMy Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece takes place five years after bombs went off in London killing 62 people. The story follows the aftermath of the family of the youngest victim, Rose, from the perspective of her now 10-year-old brother, Jamie. Jamie's parents, unable to deal with the blame and guilt they place on one another, have finally split up. Jamie and Jas, Rose's twin, move with their father out into the country. One benefit, according to their father, is to get away from Muslims. After all, Muslims killed his daughter. Another benefit is the job waiting for him, something he couldn't find in London what with all the foreigners stealing jobs. Never mind the bottle of vodka he empties everyday. Jamie goes to his new school, where he's picked on and told to "go back to London." The only person who smiles at him is Sunya, the girl wearing a hijab. But Muslims killed his sister and he's supposed to honor his father, who hates Muslims, isn't he?
A middle grade book dealing with terrorism and death? Needless to say, I had my doubts. However, Annabel Pitcher confronts issues like hate, loyalty, and loss in such a straightforward way that its simplicity belies its depth. Even more impressive, she confronts the pressure to grieve.
Jamie grieves the loss of his family and his parents' marriage, but he doesn't cry over the sister he barely remembers. How can he? He was 5 years old when she died. His parents and various therapists, though, tell him it just hasn't hit him yet. His mother once made him change a school essay on a special person from a soccer player to Rose, and the story she made him use resulted in his being teased mercilessly by the other students. Poor kid. Over 20 years later and parents still don't understand. As much as I hated Jamie's parents, I loved this storyline because I wonder how many kids who've prematurely lost parents and siblings and relatives are acting how they THINK they should instead of how they actually feel. And I wonder how many kids know that it's okay to feel... nothing. Or close to nothing. How do you mourn someone you barely know or remember? I always hear kids being told that it's okay to cry, it's okay to cry, but it's also okay not to cry.
Jamie also struggles to reconcile his father's view of evil, murderous Muslims with the bright, sunny girl who keeps extending her hand to him. Sunya, seeing Jamie's fascination with superheroes and Spiderman, claims that she's a superhero too. She proudly points to her hijab as part of her superhero costume. I loved Sunya. She's bold and fierce, loyal and kind. She doesn't shy away from her identity, even as the kids call her Curry Breath and other names.
While Jamie and Sunya's relationship is born of struggle, Jamie's relationship with his sister Jas is based purely on love. This is the relationship that made me cry. Jas is just a kid herself and she's lost her twin, but she refuses to let Jamie be hurt. She tries to do the job of two parents as best as her 15-year-old self can. Older sisters, be sure to drain the battery on your phone beforehand so you don't end up calling your mortified younger brothers.
It's sad to say that a book like this is timely and necessary, especially for a younger audience, but it is. It's also hopeful and surprising. A very strong debut by first time author Annabel Pitcher.
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher.
I swear, Susan Elizabeth Phillips has sacrificed more virgins than the Aztecs.
Usually (by usually, I mean the 8 books I just inhaled), she wins me ove...moreI swear, Susan Elizabeth Phillips has sacrificed more virgins than the Aztecs.
Usually (by usually, I mean the 8 books I just inhaled), she wins me over with her banter and zaniness, but Glitter Baby was unappealing from beginning to end. I spent the first half of the book uncomfortable with the various plotlines and loathsome characters, and by the time the first "love" scene rolled around, I was mentally grabbing a habit and ruler and yelling, "STOP RIGHT NOW!"
In romance books, you know which characters are *breathy sigh* MFEO (made for each other -- shoutout to Sleepless in Seattle). I can forgive a lot of plot ridiculousness as long as there's fun and chemistry along the way. And okay, some smut. However, there was too little fun and too much fuckedupness in this one. Belinda would win the Dina Lohan Parent/Pimp of the Year Award. Alexi would get the Woody Allen Parent/Perv one. By the time you get to Fleur, the main character, you're so disgusted by everyone else that it's hard to care. Then there's Jake, the tall, handsome, basketball playing movie star/playwright. When alllllllll that (and basketball!) doesn't immediately win ME over, you know there's a problem. I wasn't cheering for the couple to get together even though I liked them individually. There's enough to the story to keep you reading, and I think Fleur developed into a strong character, but it wasn't enough for me to like the story overall.
Another problem I had was that this book is part of the Wynette, Texas series and yet there's no mention of Wynette or Texas. After Book 2, Lady Be Good, I was really hoping to hear more about the townspeople and check in on Kenny and Emma, but there's nothing. Fleur and Jake make cameos in Book 6, Call Me Irresistible, but Glitter Baby (Book 3) doesn't have anything to do with Wynette. I wonder if the book was meant to be a standalone but then later marketed as part of Wynette because of Call Me Irresistible.
I'm glad this wasn't my first or second SEP because it probably would've made me stop reading her books altogether. Of course, then I would've slept way more this past week, but I do really enjoy her other books, especially the Chicago Stars series. Read those or skip this one and go straight to Call Me Irresistible. (less)
I love how I just finished books with male leads named Dallie and Panda (yes, PANDA!), and yet Kenny was the one I had the hardest time wrapping my br...moreI love how I just finished books with male leads named Dallie and Panda (yes, PANDA!), and yet Kenny was the one I had the hardest time wrapping my brain around. I kept calling him Nicky. (Why? Who knows where thoughts come from. They just appear. -Lucas, Empire Records) I liked this one even more than Fancy Pants. There was great chemistry and dialogue between Emma and Nicky Kenny, and the requires-suspension-of-belief plotline actually worked in this zany story. I cracked up at the low-speed car chase. You also see more of Wynette in this one. I read #6 in this series, Call Me Irresistible first, and there's a tiny detail about Ted Beaudine in this story that will make readers of #6 smile. Something I love about Susan Elizabeth Phillips' books is that she creates these gorgeous manly men and then plops books in their hands (swoon!) or has them defend the gay guy without it threatening their masculinity (double swoon! double rainbow?). The female leads tend to be a little too virginal or sexually repressed or have baby fever, but they're likable and feisty and smart. SEP (yes, I call her SEP now) writes great friendships between women, but I love that she also writes great male-female friendships. In this book, Kenny's best friend was his sister Torie. This was such a fun book and a perfect pool read.
Random: I noticed while reading this book that I give male Texan characters the voices of either Eric Taylor or Tim Riggins in my head. (less)
This book is so over the top and ridiculous, with references to Eva Peron and Aristotle Onassis and Scarlett O'Hara... and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Th...moreThis book is so over the top and ridiculous, with references to Eva Peron and Aristotle Onassis and Scarlett O'Hara... and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were some cringeworthy moments (racial slurs, nice to see you again), some corny moments (see: O'Hara, Scarlett), and yet, I couldn't put it down. I'm also completely inured to the birth secret plotline from watching Korean dramas, so I didn't have any WTF outrage. I've also totally fallen down the Susan Elizabeth Phillips rabbit hole (3rd book in 2 days), so there's that. I liked seeing Ted from Call Me Irresistible as a boy in this one. Bottom line: The book is kind of dated so it might not be for more contemporary fans, but if you grew up on soaps or 80s ridiculousness like Dynasty and Designing Women, you may like this one. NO NUKES!(less)
If you ever wanted to know if a guy named Panda could be smexy (smoldering + sexy, not smelly + sexy), Susan Elizabeth Phillips definitively answers t...moreIf you ever wanted to know if a guy named Panda could be smexy (smoldering + sexy, not smelly + sexy), Susan Elizabeth Phillips definitively answers that question. Hot damn. And yes, this is the second Wynette, Texas book I've finished in less than 24 hours.(less)
I felt about UnWholly the way I felt about this season of True Blood.
I kid (and shamelessly take advantage of any opportunity to use an Alexander Skar...moreI felt about UnWholly the way I felt about this season of True Blood.
I kid (and shamelessly take advantage of any opportunity to use an Alexander Skarsgard gif). But for the majority of the season, I was banging my head against the wall and yelling, "Stop trying to make Arlene happen!" And I'm pretty sure ifrit is Arabic for "waste of fucking time." But then just when I'm ready to wipe my hands of the show, it finally wraps up the extraneous storylines and gives me what I really care about -- Eric, Pam, Sookie. By the end of the season finale, I was completely reinvested in the story and anticipating next season.
Likewise with UnWholly...
Shusterman introduces three new characters who take up a good chunk of the novel with their background and development. While the characters weren't uninteresting, they felt like Unwind redux. Starkey is a less likable version of Roland, Miracolina is Lev 2.0 (or as I liked to call her, Tithe-1000), and Cam... Cam is a whole 'nother beast. Literally. Meanwhile, I'm thinking, "I came here for Lev. Bueller? Bueller?" The first half of the book felt like retread and what I did see of Connor, Risa, and Lev either annoyed me or wasn't enough. At one point, even Shusterman's writing started to grate on me. After he specifically mentioned Aquafina and Nike, I wrote in my notes, "WTF is this product placement? The most advanced technology exists and they still drink Aquafina's bottled sewer runoff?!" I actually like Shusterman's writing style but at this point in the story, I was so uninvested and detached that only nitpicking kept me engaged.
And then all the tedious groundwork came together and Connor, Risa, and Lev started acting like Connor, Risa, and Lev again. It's not that there was a lack of action earlier in the story, but this time, I actually cared and the tension increased tenfold. By the end of the book, I was sucked back into the story and eagerly awaiting Book 3.
Aside from the new characters, another aspect that may make-or-break UnWholly for you is the new development regarding the Unwind Accord. We learn more about how and why it came to be, which was a plot hole in Unwind. However, by filling that plot hole, it shifts the focus away from the abortion debate, which sets up a great storyline for Book 3 but also does a bit of a disservice to the issues raised in Book 1. For me, UnWholly lacked some of the heart and guts of the original, but still raised interesting questions and made me think. Shusterman also writes taut, tension-filled action scenes like few can. I'll definitely read the next book, but go in with modified expectations.
Note to VH1: No one loves the 80s as much as YA authors. This is the 3rd book I've read this year set in the 80s, and it's BY FAR the most comprehensi...moreNote to VH1: No one loves the 80s as much as YA authors. This is the 3rd book I've read this year set in the 80s, and it's BY FAR the most comprehensive.
This may end up being one of those "on the other hand" reviews where I seemingly have 3 hands and keep contradicting myself because while I enjoyed the book, I also had issues with it.
Good hand: The premise was intriguing and grabbed my attention immediately. A virtual scavenger hunt for billions of dollars based on a rich man's love of the 80s? I'm game! Bonus points for keeping my attention in audiobook form. I've listened to exactly one audiobook in full before -- Finnikin of the Rock -- which had 3 things working for it: 1) It had an Australian narrator, 2) I'd read the book before, and 3) Hello, it's Melina Marchetta. None of those factors were in play for Ready Player One, and since I'm more of a visual person, I worried about how much of the story I would be able to retain without reading it. I actually didn't have any problem understanding or retaining the story because...
Bad hand: ...the beginning was really repetitive. I started this while stuck in my car for hours and at one point, I checked to make sure I hadn't accidentally hit the back button on my iPod because he was saying the same. thing. I think part of the reason may have been to make sure the audience understood this virtual world but the thing is...
Ugly hand: ...the world Ernest Cline is describing isn't SO incomprehensible or wildly imaginative. It's a few steps beyond our current reality, but nothing I can't easily wrap my brain around. I think many readers would say that this is a good thing, but when I read sci-fi, which isn't often, I want to be wowed and blown away. For example, I loved 1984. I loved that it was the world as George Orwell saw it in 1948. Ready Player One is looking at 1984... from 2012. A lot of the world building felt tedious because we don't need all that explanation in 2012. We're already there. It's like when I read articles in the New York Times last year explaining Twitter. Gee, thanks for the tutorial 20,000 tweets in.
Still, the story made me curious enough to stick around for all FIFTEEN+ HOURS of the audiobook, and I'm definitely not the target demographic. The Comic-Con crowd would probably eat this book up. I went to Comic-Con with my friend and when we saw Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, our reaction was,
"Eric from Days of Our Lives!" "And Dean from Gilmore Girls!" "What are they doing here?"
Wil Wheaton as the narrator was great, except for when he went into his Asian voice for Shoto. Um, why? He didn't suddenly make his voice higher for the female characters so I don't get why he went all Joy Luck Club for Shoto.
Ready Player One was an intriguing concept that lost its novelty for me partway through, but one that I had to finish nonetheless.
Whenever I hear a news story or watch a movie about people who end up in bad situations after ignoring the advice of locals, my reaction is something...moreWhenever I hear a news story or watch a movie about people who end up in bad situations after ignoring the advice of locals, my reaction is something like this:
I don't think they deserve to DIE, but since a ton of resources are going to be spent on their rescue due to their arrogance, they can deal with a little Running Man.
In the beginning of Lost Girls, a group of Amelia Earhart Cadets ranging in age from 9-14 find themselves blown off course while heading to an island for a camping trip. Their chaperone, a glamorous Scottish woman in her 20s named Layla Campbell, has the boatman drop them off on another island despite his protestations and refusal to step foot on the island. Layla Campbell, nicknamed the Duchess by the adoring girls, dismisses the boatman's warnings and has the girls start setting up their campsite. Get ready to do the Running Man.
The first day is picture perfect and the girls go to sleep thinking they're in paradise. Their idyll ends the first night when they're awoken by a storm that rips apart their campsite. One girl is fatally injured. They have two more days left before the boatman is scheduled to pick them up. The two days pass, but no one comes. Not only that, they see an explosion in the distance. Was the mainland attacked? Are their families in trouble, thus explaining why no one has come for them? Are people looking for them?
I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected. The story is told from 14-year-old Bonnie's point of view through her journal entries. This reminded me of Ellie in Tomorrow When the War Began, one of my favorite series. The situation also called to mind another favorite book, Lord of the Flies. Bonnie addresses this similarity, but says girls wouldn't act that way. I love this because I remember thinking the same thing while reading Lord of the Flies. There is one obvious biological difference between boys and girls that is addressed -- oh, the joys of menstruation -- but a lack of testosterone doesn't stop girls from behaving badly either.
I really liked Bonnie. She's the responsible, bossy one who isn't popular with the girls who wear makeup, and she's prone to make judgements about people, but I found her to be relatable. She goes from being glad her mother didn't come so she can spend time with a "cool" adult like the Duchess, to wishing more than anything that her mother was there. She brought along her mother's copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and as the Duchess keeps failing her, Bonnie turns to that book as a survival guide.
I love books like Tomorrow and Lost Girls because I always wonder what I'd do in extreme survival situations (I'd die), and I take notes on all the things I should learn to do just in case. Pro tip #1: Learn to make a fire without matches. (Actually, tip #1 is always: If a local starts yelling and flailing when you say you're going somewhere, DON'T GO THERE.) The author doesn't skimp on details of the smell, the bugs, and the filth, and I hope to God to never encounter a chigger as long as I live.
Lost Girls is set in 1974 during the Vietnam War, but aside from references to the Duchess's petticoat and a lack of references to cell phones, this story could be set in the present. There are a few references to the war and whether it's right or wrong through Bonnie's flashbacks to fights with her soldier father, but substitute Iraq for Vietnam and this is a modern discussion. This book isn't middle grade, but it does skew toward the younger end of the YA spectrum. I would've loved reading this book in 8th grade. Despite being far beyond 8th grade, I still really enjoyed this book.