Do you have a curly haired, otter shaped hole in your heart? Look no further! This book is such a fun addition to the Sherlock genre. It's to Sherlock...moreDo you have a curly haired, otter shaped hole in your heart? Look no further! This book is such a fun addition to the Sherlock genre. It's to Sherlock what Bridget Jones is to Pride and Prejudice.
Are you tired? Rundown? Listless? Do you poop out in the middle of a book -- even one you're really enjoying?
Try CINDER. It will bust you out of your...moreAre you tired? Rundown? Listless? Do you poop out in the middle of a book -- even one you're really enjoying?
Try CINDER. It will bust you out of your reading slump.
And Prince Kai is so tasty too!
I don't know whether I hit the rookie reviewing wall, but I haven't written a review since... November 15?! Don't get me wrong, I've been reading (and taking notes while I read) but that's it. With Cinder, I didn't take any notes or make any highlights. I just read... and read... and enjoyed the hell out of this book.
Cinder is a cyborg mechanic living in a futuristic New Beijing. She has to work to support her stepmother and two stepsisters. Her stepmother, resentful at being forced to take her in, refuses to buy Cinder a new mechanical foot so she's stuck with the little one from when she was 11 years old. Already, I love this take on Cinderella. Cinder may be the ward of her stepmother, but she's also a feisty, badass mechanic, a la Mercy Thompson. She meets the heir to the throne, Prince Kaito, when he comes to her booth to get his android fixed. Kai's father, the Emperor, is dying of letumosis, an incurable disease that has already taken the life of his mother and many people around the world. As if the letumosis plague wasn't enough, there is the constant threat from Queen Levana, the powerful Lunar queen who has mind altering abilities.
Basically, this book has a little bit of everything -- action, political intrigue, romance, science fiction, and fantasy. Since it's a retelling of a well known story, the plot is fairly predictable. This isn't Sherlock (one of the many shows I watched in its entirety during my book slump -- what up, Cumberbitches!), where the plot is driven by its mystery. Rather it's the creativeness and freshness of Marissa Meyer's writing that kept me interested in the story. The Cinderella story is the roadmap, but Meyer blazed a completely different and unique trail to take us up to the stroke of midnight. I had so much fun reading this book and her wink wink nudge nudge references to Rapunzel and future characters in this series.
Did I mention this book is set in Asia with a hot Asian prince? Seriously, it's so nice to be able to reference a hot Asian male character other than freakin' Shang from Mulan. So help me God, movie studios, if you cast Jackson Rathbone as Kai, I will throw shit! I pictured a young Takeshi Kaneshiro as Kai. For the androids, I pictured Rosie from The Jetsons.
If you haven't read this already, you should join the thousands of happy, peppy readers and get a copy of Cinder tomorrow. Hi, Fred! Hi, Ethel!
One of my Top 5 Foreign Language Films (subgenre: drama) is Mostly Martha from Germany. Martha is a sought after, highly regarded chef with exacting...moreOne of my Top 5 Foreign Language Films (subgenre: drama) is Mostly Martha from Germany. Martha is a sought after, highly regarded chef with exacting standards. (I would call her the female Soup Nazi but Germans + Nazi reference... Let's not go there.) In the beginning of the movie, she talks about how the simplest dishes, like salmon in a light basil sauce, are the hardest because there's nothing to disguise or distract from the flavor. It's all about proper seasoning and precise cooking. These basic dishes are how to judge the quality of a chef. Likewise with books, I think the simple, slice of life stories are the hardest. Without big issues or fantastical situations or death, the story comes down to the characters.
Life in Outer Space is about Sam Kinnison and his group of friends as they navigate a year of high school. Sam is a movie obsessed, World of Warcraft playing geek with dreams of being a screenwriter. He's like Dawson Leery minus the giant head and ugly crying. His best friend, Mike, is a black belt in karate. Mike is also a disco dancing, Oscar Wilde reading, Streisand ticket holding friend of Dorothy, know what I'm saying? When Mike first came out to the group, which also includes Adrian and Allison, they did what any self-respecting nerd would do -- they googled. Based on search results, they ended up watching Xanadu, Lesbian Vampire Killers, and Dirty Dancing. Sam narrates,
"We watched Dirty Dancing. Mike fell asleep, but I had to admit I kind of liked it, which made me question my own sexuality, raising a whole heap of other questions I chose not to examine."
Their routine of avoiding jock/terrorist Justin Zigoni and his crew by hiding out in the IT office is compromised when Camilla Carter comes to town. Camilla is Australian by birth but has spent most of her life bouncing around the world with her famous music critic father. Camilla ends up in the IT office her first day because her laptop won't connect to the school's WiFi. Sam, the IT assistant, can't avoid her, especially when she notices his WoW screensaver and writes down her WoW name.
I want to hug this book. If you've read any of my reviews, you know I talk in movie. Sam, with his Top 5 lists, is a kindred spirit. He's also smart, funny, and totally clueless. He reminds me of two of my favorite YA boys: Ed from Graffiti Moon and Sam from Hold Me Closer Necromancer. Camilla is who Zooey Deschanel and Olivia Munn pretend to be. Hell, she's who I want to be! I mean, anyone who can use Sweeney Todd and Dirty Dancing to taunt is my hero. Adrian steals every scene he's in.
This book is about the little victories in life. Nothing earth shattering, just the times when you say yes instead of no. Do you reply back? Do you risk the dining hall? Do you give in to John Cusack??
Melissa Keil writes with a deftness that shows why she won the Ampersand Project. She gets the right mix of heart and humor and uses little details, like the fact that Sam downloads a movie using torrents, to add to the authenticity of the story. Like I said before, I think these types of stories are the hardest to write. However, when done well, they just make you happy that you read them. Life in Outer Space is done well. I can't guarantee that you'll be blown away, but I can say that you'll be glad you said yes instead of no to this.
Favorite quote: "I will shelve this insanity and store away the memory of her in the hope that one day it'll be distant enough to be useful for a screenplay."
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.
What do you do when you're sad? Me? Les Miserables (Original London Cast), Disc 1, Track 5: I Dreamed a Dream Upset about a boy? Wicked, Track 8: I'm N...moreWhat do you do when you're sad? Me? Les Miserables (Original London Cast), Disc 1, Track 5: I Dreamed a Dream Upset about a boy? Wicked, Track 8: I'm Not That Girl Outraged over something? Ragtime, Disc 2, Track 15: Make Them Hear You Getting ready to parrrrty? Rent (Original Broadway Cast), Disc 1, Track 14: Out Tonight
Why yes, that is a Korean edition of the Les Miserables Original London Cast. I needed emotional support on my first trip to Korea after being castigated for not speaking Korean well so I demanded my mother buy it for me.
If the soundtrack to your life is found on soundtracks to shows, this book is your kindred spirit.
Here are some things to know about Devan Mitchell: 1. She loves to sing and perform. 2. Her father just died. 2a. But it's mitigated by the fact that:
"Kids in musicals without parents always ended up okay -- Annie got Daddy Warbucks, Cosette got Jean Valjean, Christine got stalked by the Phantom though she did get to make out with Raoul."
3. Her stepmother can't stand her. 4. She found out about her birth mother through a book dedication. 5. She's never met her birth mother. 6. She's never kissed a boy.
"Also, ugh, really? Dad is dead and my long-lost mother would have totally preferred to stay long-lost, and I'm feeling sorry for myself about boys?"
Two of those things will change when she moves to Los Angeles to meet and live with her mother, award winning author Reece Malcolm.
The Reece Malcolm List is like an alternate world version of Gilmore Girls, exploring what would have happened if Lorelai had given up baby Rory and Rory focused on musicals instead of Harvard. Like the show, the book is a mix of humor and heart with snappy dialogue and a cast of memorable characters.
I liked Reece immediately. She's moody and socially awkward, and the only reason I don't mock the way Devan talks (like, like, like) is because Reece does it first. Okay, that also makes her kind of a bitch, but she's my kind of bitch. At 32, she's a successful writer but I love that she doesn't have her shit together. She's not only someone I would hang out it, but probably someone I already do hang out with. Devan never really fit in at her old schools but transferring to a performing arts high school finally gives her a place where she belongs. I mentioned the way she talks (like, like, like), but her voice is so authentically 16. I love that she's a bit timid and unconfident in real life but the minute she's on stage and in character, she unleashes everything inside. For a girl who's constantly apologizing, the one thing she doesn't apologize for is her talent. Reece Lissa tells her,
"When you sing you're this force of nature, all fearless and bad-ass. Then you switch off, and it's weird. It's like you really are in a musical, where you can only express yourself through song or whatever."
No wonder Reece is a best-selling author because that's the perfect analogy. Or whatever.
Of course, I have to mention the boys. There's the guylinered one and the Indian-Chinese one, which HELLO, but the one who held my attention was Brad, Reece's boyfriend. He's the most together person in the book and such a warm character. However, there are no perfect characters in this, and the realistically drawn characters are one of the strengths of the book.
You don't have to love musicals to enjoy this book, but if you are a theater geek, HANDS IN, A-CA-BITCHES! This book is your song.
I received an ARC of this from the author but waited so long to read it that I bought and reviewed the finished copy instead. Because that's how I do.
If I had to describe Me and Earl and the Dying Girl in 22 words, they would be: Adaptation meets the teen version of Larry and Leon from Curb Your Ent...moreIf I had to describe Me and Earl and the Dying Girl in 22 words, they would be: Adaptation meets the teen version of Larry and Leon from Curb Your Enthusiasm with a dash of Troy and Abed from Community. Basically, I loved the hell out of this book. Jo, the girl with the old coat and saucy new dress, promised me a snort-laugh. I snort-laughed. In fact, I went through the book in one snort-filled sitting, which I haven't done in a while.
The premise... actually, forget about the premise. Just read the book!
Did that actually work with anyone? If so --> I AM THE CIRCLE AND THE CIRCLE IS ME. If not --> Please continue reading.
I'm hesitant to include a summary of the book because it includes the c-word. The other c-word, potty mouths. Cancer. I saw this book on NetGalley for weeks and passed on it in favor of a book I haven't even read yet. The reason I passed, despite the jaunty cover, was cancer. Fuck that shit. Cancer, especially in a book, makes me think of something even worse: Nicholas Sparks. I am not a fan of cheap emotional ploys.
"Something about it always seems a little off. Eventually, you realize: These same exact sentences are also said by child predators."
To clarify, Greg doesn't have any problems with the church kids or their religious affiliation -- he's just making an observation on their methodology. Greg doesn't have a problem with any group because he works hard at being just friendly enough with all but close to none. The only person Greg is close to is his windmill-kicking partner in filmmaking crime, Earl. Greg's had a few brushes with girls, like the time a girl in Hebrew school thought they were dating because he was flirting madly with her in an attempt to catch the eye of her hotter friend. This girl, Rachel, aka Dying Girl, gets leukemia. Greg's mother berates him into going over to her house. Cancer and hijinks, but mainly hijinks, ensue. A cat named Cat Stevens, star of such films at Cat-ablana and The Manchurian Cat-idate, plays a prominent role.
If you're the easily offended type, get some pho then read this book. It's bawdy and profane. But it's also great. Parents and family are present, more so than I've come to expect in YA books. I loved Greg, even as he tried to modestly resist. I would compare him to Adrian Mole, expect I read Adrian Mole ages ago and can't remember if the comparison is apt. (Do you like how I'm throwing it out there anyway?)
Jesse Andrews punches you in the face with his hilarious, assured debut. Highly recommended. HARF!
"In war, there are no unwounded soldiers." - José Narosky
Something Like Normal is about a 19-year-old Marine who returns home after serving in Afghanis...more"In war, there are no unwounded soldiers." - José Narosky
Something Like Normal is about a 19-year-old Marine who returns home after serving in Afghanistan for a year. Travis Stephenson is physically intact, but after spending a year on active duty and seeing his best friend get killed, his emotional scars manifest in a form of PTSD. Travis doesn't even feel like he's home because home to him is with his fellow Marines, not his parents' house in Florida where he never lived up to his father's expectations. He's also confronted by Harper Gray, a girl whose reputation got trashed after a little white lie Travis told when they were 13 years old got out of hand.
My biggest concern before reading Something Like Normal was whether a young adult book could accurately portray Marines. One of my favorite shows, HBO's Generation Kill based on the book by Evan Wright, set the standard with its raw, unflinching portrayal of Recon Marines stationed in Iraq. In Trish Doller's hands, my initial concern turned out to be moot. To use a Brad "Iceman" Colbert-ism, this book is pretty fucking ninja.
I love it when authors write about subjects they love. When Kirsty Eagar writes about surfing, her passion for it comes across the page and temporarily makes it my passion. Trish Doller loves Marines. Her affection for them is evident in her portrayal of these young soldiers and all the research that clearly went into making sure she did justice to their depiction. Though this story doesn't take place during battle, she gives us some insight into the conditions with her descriptions of the flea bites on the soldiers' legs and the sand that would get into every orifice. However, Doller's affection for Marines doesn't mean she turns them into saints. The passage that sold me on the book happens on page 10, when Travis talks about his motivations for enlisting. He says,
I didn't have a noble purpose in joining the Marines. I didn't do it to protect American freedom and I wasn't inspired to action by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I was in grade school then, and the biggest priority in my life was any bell that signaled it was time to leave school. I enlisted mostly because I wanted to escape my dad, who'd made my life hell since I quit the football team at the end of sophomore season.
This isn't about politics or patriotism -- it's about people. And those are the stories that I care about. I care about Travis and the friends. I laughed at their nicknames for each other, like Solo, Kevlar, and Fido.
In addition to not turning them into saints, I love that she doesn't water down the dialogue by making it PC or PG. Forget soldiers, what 19-year-old male do you know who doesn't swear or say politically incorrect things? Dawson Leery doesn't count. These guys say "fuck" and they call each other "retards." And so do the guys I know. They also fuck around with girls.
This brings me to what doesn't work for me and why I'm giving the book 4 stars instead of 5. Doller's love of Marines doesn't affect her realistic portrayal of Travis, but perhaps it led her to create a perfect, unrealistic girl for him. Harper, though likable, doesn't seem believable. A guy responsible for ruining her reputation for YEARS -- to the point where even parents know about her -- comes back into town and after one token punch to the face, she starts to get over it? Maybe it's because I'm Korean and a Scorpio, but I don't get over shit that quickly, IF EVER. And if I only get ONE hit, it definitely ain't going to the face. I never sensed any real tension, even when Travis's ex-girlfriend comes into the picture. Sure, Harper gets mad but... not really. Maybe she was in love with Travis since middle school thus making it easier for her to forgive and forget, but then, that just makes me want to hit her in the face.
Still, all the other relationships in the book are so well done that my issue with Harper seems minor. Travis's developing relationship with his mother made me cry. The love and desperation the mother of a soldier feels is so palpable. I also really like the depiction of Travis's relationship with his brother, in that there isn't one. Travis's father, the ex-Green Bay Packer, raised his sons to compete against one another, often favoring one over the other. It's no surprise that the sibling relationship is contentious and broken. It also helps you understand why Travis considers his fellow Marines his true brothers.
This book will make you want to hug a Marine -- if Trish Doller hasn't gotten to them all.
It allows you a look into the life of a guy, who happens to be a soldier. Stay frosty, it comes out next week.
Every once in a while, to prove that Goodreads isn't the boss of me, I'll read a book that none of my friends have read or reviewed. (Meanwhile, Goodr...moreEvery once in a while, to prove that Goodreads isn't the boss of me, I'll read a book that none of my friends have read or reviewed. (Meanwhile, Goodreads is all, Step back three paces. Turn around.) I can't remember how I first came across Getting Somewhere, but I remember that cover. I mean, just look at it! And the simple tagline: "Four girls. A million secrets." Count me in.
Getting Somewhere is about four strangers picked to live on a farm and have their lives monitored. To find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real... The Real World: Rural Michigan!
Lauren, Sarah, Jenna, and Cassie are average teenage girls, except that they are all in juvenile detention for various crimes. They get picked for a new rehabilitation program where they will be sent to a farm in the middle of nowhere to live, work, and get counseling. The book begins with Jenna getting off the bus in Hicksville, where she is greeted by Ellie, Grace, and Donna, the three women who run the farm.
Listen, I have no problem reading a book with seven characters of the same race and gender. But, unless their names are Happy, Dopey, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Bashful, and Doc, I'm going to have a tough time remembering them and telling them apart. This is both a positive and negative attribute of the book -- I loved that Neff refused to make her characters easily identifiable stereotypes for simplicity's sake, but it lessens the impact of the story when I can't remember why a detail is important to a certain character, or even who the character is at first. Donna? Sorry, girl, I kept forgetting who you were. For the record, she's the cook at the farm.
Another issue that I had, that also contributed to some disconnect with the characters, was that the story was told in the 3rd person present tense.
"Sarah thinks Ellie had better watch out for poisoned apples."
I'm making it sound like I didn't like this novel, and that's not true at all. In fact, I ended up buying the Kindle edition after a few chapters because I had so many notes scrawled on various scraps of paper. This book is gorgeously written. Neff draws pictures in my mind with her words. Take this line:
"Sarah shakes her head hard to dislodge the image, tries to listen to Donna's story, but her mind is like a cracked plate, too damaged to hold the contents."
I also liked the idea behind the prison farm and the book itself -- going back to basics and working the land, then working on yourself. At first we see the girls struggling to adapt as they learn basic farm skills. Then we gradually start to see the different reasons the girls ended up where they are, and the various issues holding them back. This isn't an action packed story, but rather a slow burn. The heat turns up slowly as we learn more about the characters until it erupts and the girls learn not everything can be undone. This is an ambitious, challenging, and ultimately rewarding book by debut author Beth Neff.
Do not be alarmed by how accessible this book is to people living in the States. This does not diminish the awesomeness that we've com...moreDear US readers,
Do not be alarmed by how accessible this book is to people living in the States. This does not diminish the awesomeness that we've come to expect from Australian authors. Nor do you have to jump through hoops or swim through the rings of Fishpond hell to get it!
This book is a series of letters to and from Elizabeth Clarry. Her new English teacher decides to revive the Lost Art of Letter Writing and has his students write letters to the rival high school. Elizabeth's penpal ends up being Christina Kratovac. Through the letters between Elizabeth and Christina, Elizabeth and her mum (THE HILARIOUS ALL CAPS OVER-EXCLAMATION POINTER!!!!), and various unsolicited letters, we get a look into the lives of our characters. The Celia in the title refers to Elizabeth's lifelong best friend and potential missing person -- potential because she often chooses to go missing.
This book was first published in 2000 so there are some dated references, like Walkmans. Remember those? But in this age of Twitter, Goodreads, and blogs, where we (or at least I) spend a good portion of my day chatting, tweeting, and emailing people I've never met but formed solid relationships with, this book is actually rather timely. I totally related to how Elizabeth and Christina's friendship began and grew, how you can feel like you know someone without being able to recognize them on the street. Sometimes I find it's easier to share things with someone you don't have to see everyday. You can also find people who share your very specific interests (Melina Marchetta + San Antonio Spurs + Friday Night Lights + Graffiti Moon + GIFs of waving bears + Tom Hardy's ass), which is an instant basis for friendship.
Basically, I really enjoyed this book. And you can too! Really available, not Fishpond available, at IndieBound, B&N, and Amazon.
Yours sincerely, A dues-paying member of the We ♥ Aussie YA Association
This book starts with 16-year-old Chloe Camden willingly and cheerfully dressed in a burrito costume so, naturally, this book started with me rolling...moreThis book starts with 16-year-old Chloe Camden willingly and cheerfully dressed in a burrito costume so, naturally, this book started with me rolling my eyes at Chloe Camden. I'm not the only one as Chloe's best friends are freezing her out for reasons unknown to her. She figures this will blow over and returns to more pressing concerns, namely her Brad Pitt-loving grandmother dealing with the onset of Parkinson's and her Junior Independent Study Project (JISP) being rejected by the new school counselor. Chloe, though, Pollyannas through and says things like,
"Fun is everywhere. You just have to find it. Or make it."
What is her deal, right? Is this really a book about the effects of uppers on high school students?
When the counselor hands her a new JISP focused on the school's failing radio station, Chloe uses her experience as a burrito for Dos Hermanas Mexican restaurant to come up with a plan to possibly save the radio station.
Insufferable, optimistic cow!
Now Clementine, the nose ringed girl with an attitude who runs the radio station, is someone I can get behind. She loves the station and dreams of someday owning one. For the sake of the station, and the fact that she is outvoted 5 to 1, she agrees to a call in show hosted by Chloe called -- wait for it -- Chloe, Queen of the Universe.
Chloe isn't oblivious to her ridiculous over-the-topness though. It's just who she is -- someone who wears her heart on her sleeve and her mouth. She loves to talk and she loves people regardless if they love her back, which she's just now realizing may be the case with more people than she thought. Somewhere along the way though, I realized that my cold, black heart was actually (willingly and cheerfully, no less!) Team Chloe. She called to mind another redhead and his farewell speech on The Tonight Show:
I encounter people when I walk on the street now, who just give me sort of a sad look; I have had more good fortune than anybody I know. And if our next gig is doing a show in a 7-Eleven parking lot, we will find a way to make it fun, we really will, I will have no problems. I don't want to do it in a 7-Eleven parking lot, but whatever.
Finally, I have something to say to our fans... Here's what all of you have done: you made a sad situation joyous and inspirational. So to all the people watching, I can never, ever thank you enough for the kindness to me, I'll think about it for the rest of my life, and all I ask is one thing, and I'm asking this particularly of young people that watch:
Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it's my least favorite quality, it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, it's just true!
I rag on rappers who put on a hard, tough persona even though they're really from the suburbs (of Canada!), but by that token, I couldn't fault Chloe for being who she so effervescently was. Her personality, which annoyed me at first, was a reflection of the charmed life she's lived. I decided to put on my skates and go along with her for the ride.
This book touches on subjects like bullying, Parkinson's, addiction, and poverty, and it may be said that it glides blithely right over them. I agree to a certain extent and would refer you to books like Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler if you want something with more depth. However, what this book does well is show a positive approach to those situations -- even if it means gliding over them. I'd recommend this book to the younger end of the YA spectrum (junior high school), but I think older fans will like it as well. Before you know it, you'll be on Team Chloe too!
I know, like, 50 Koreans and 3 of them are named Grace Park. Seriously. So when I read the summary of this book, I got super excited. An Asian-America...moreI know, like, 50 Koreans and 3 of them are named Grace Park. Seriously. So when I read the summary of this book, I got super excited. An Asian-American lead! In a book that has nothing to do with Kim Jong-Il, the Korean War, or karate! Well, you know what they say about people who assume.
No, no, there's no mention of the Dear Leader, the war, or ninjas -- but there's no mention of any Asians either. Grace Park could easily be Grace Smith and the author wouldn't have to change anything in the story. This was a disappointment to say the least because there was no other draw to this story for me. The plot about three female roommates who decide to boycott men after some horrendous dates isn't particularly unique or noteworthy. The three perfect men they meet, bartenders ofcourse, aren't special either.
Still, I'm a sucker for a good romantic comedy so not all was lost. I got over my disappointment and settled in for some light reading. There's a scene early on where the guys, who are sick of only attracting drunken barflies at work, decide to head to the library to meet "nice girls." I think there was a Saved by the Bell episode with the same premise, but hey, I liked Zack Morris back in the day. That's where the guys meet Grace, who is helping her librarian friend reshelve books. One of the guys is dared to ask Grace where the Playboys are. Poor Screech. Thus begins a series of coincidental encounters where Grace and her friends meet Zack, Slater, and co.
After about the 5th encounter, I noticed that I wasn't even halfway through my Kindle book. I checked online and saw that it was FOUR HUNDRED AND TWENTY-TWO pages. Now, unless one of the characters is a dragon or a unicorn, there is NO reason for a romance to be 400+ pages. It reminded me of an episode of Sports Night where Jeremy has to cut his first highlights package for a game. He asks Casey to look over his work and Casey tells him -- after watching 8.5 minutes of clips that should've been 30 seconds -- "Make it shorter."
Jeremy: "I don't know what to do." Casey: "Make it shorter." Jeremy: "I've tried everything!" Casey: "You should try making it shorter." Jeremy: "I can't imagine what I'd cut."
This is the conversation Victoria Michaels should've had with her editor. Apparently, this book started out on a fan fiction website? I'm not biased against self-published books, hello Angelfall!, but this could've benefitted from tighter editing. Had this book been 200 pages less, I probably would've given it 4 stars. It's cute and cotton candy fluffy, but 422 pages of "I love you!" made me want someone to die. Violently.
Imagine Brad x Angelina fan fiction. Now take out all the kids and throw in a lot of snark and chemistry. Oh, and take out all the kinky sex while you...moreImagine Brad x Angelina fan fiction. Now take out all the kids and throw in a lot of snark and chemistry. Oh, and take out all the kinky sex while you're at it. You know you were thinking it! What you're left with is Just the Sexiest Man Alive.
Jason William Bradley Andrews is the 3x Sexiest Man Alive and reigning Hollywood heartthrob. He also happens to be from Missouri with a self-taught passion for architecture. Are you rolling your eyes yet? I was, especially after some early Pride and Prejudice references.
"Obviously not busy with anything important enough to tempt me."
"But your approval is harder to earn and therefore worth more than the others."
Seriously, as much as I love Darcy, I can't with all the Pride and Prejudice anymore. (Unless it involves Tom Mackee and Tara Finke. Then it's a thousand times yes!)
However, my opinion changed after the description of Taylor Donovan. Initially, all we know about Taylor is that she's an ambitious, smart, successful lawyer from Chicago. It's only when she overhears women gossiping about her in the bathroom that we learn that she looks like Angelina Jolie. I stopped rolling my eyes because I realized Julie James is in on the joke and writing with a wink wink nudge nudge. Jason even has a dream featuring Brad and thinks, "Brad Pitt. Jason almost laughed out loud at the thought. He wished he was Jason Andrews."
So, plot: Taylor is temporarily relocated to LA by her firm for a $30 million sexual harassment trial. The firm assigns her to help Jason prepare for an upcoming role as a lawyer. Jason blows off their initial meeting for a trip to Vegas and then strolls in to watch her in court. He's captivated, she's pissed, sparks fly. Jason wants to learn more about her; Taylor, with the assistance of Us Weekly and every secretary in her office, knows too much about him. Despite Jason laying on all his Sexiest Man Alive charm, Taylor can more than hold her own. She even catches the eye of the thinly veiled (and hilarious) Orlando Bloom character whose name I can't remember because I just called him Legolas in my head. Lots of hijinks and sarcastic banter between Taylor and Jason ensue.
This book was a LOT of fun. I loved how witty and sarcastic Taylor and Jason were. I liked Jason's obvious and thus dorky attempts to get Taylor's attention. What didn't work for me was that after Taylor was photographed with Jason once, there's NO WAY her identity would be a secret for long, especially after a night out at Hyde. I know, I know, this is a romance not a biography, but Taylor's Mystery Woman status was one of the big plot points, and there's just no way TMZ wouldn't have had her entire CV and high school picture on their website within 24 hours. Also, a night out at Hyde where they were surrounded by other customers but NO ONE whipped out his/her cell for a pic? Some random family friend took a pic of Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds at her family Thanksgiving dinner and posted it on Instagram -- not even Twitter -- and still the major blogs sniffed it out in a matter of hours.
Ultimately though, my complaint is minor and won't take away from your enjoyment of the novel at all. This is a fun read with great dialogue. And a DJ AM reference! (RIP) Just an FYI (because I like to be thorough in my reviews): There aren't any Victoria Dahl-esque sex scenes. It's actually fairly chaste.
I just got my paperback copy of Angelfall today, so I thought I'd revisit this book and write a proper review -- one that doesn't involve a Korean gra...moreI just got my paperback copy of Angelfall today, so I thought I'd revisit this book and write a proper review -- one that doesn't involve a Korean grandma, a cell phone, and a 911 operator.**
I've made some successful forays into fantasy recently (Finnikin of the Rock, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Seraphina), but as a genre, two elements repel me: tedious world-building and nonsensical names. The latter reason is why, despite some glowing reviews, I can't even consider a Rachel Vincent novel. Angelfall, a self-published dystopian fantasy about a 17-year-old girl named Penryn, looked like a potential disaster. However, it was only a $0.99 potential disaster, so I decided to risk it and buy it for my Kindle.
I'm so glad I did.
Angelfall throws you into San Francisco 6 weeks after angels descended and attacked. All we know is that the angel Gabriel was gunned down, unleashing an angel apocalypse all over the world. Penryn, named after an exit off Interstate 80 by her mentally unstable mom, is trying to survive in this new world order, with angels up top and humans trying to fill whatever space they can underneath, no matter the cost to themselves. It's human nature in its basest form -- survival of the fittest, kill or be killed. Penryn can fend for herself. Her paranoid schizophrenic mother made sure of this, enrolling her daughter in self-defense classes from an early age. However, Penryn isn't just fending for herself. She's caring for her handicapped younger sister, Paige. Except Paige gets taken by an angel while Penryn is defending another angel from certain death. Now Penryn must trust this injured angel, Raffe, to take her to the guarded angel aerie to find her sister.
And that's just the beginning.
Going back to my two fantasy dealbreakers, there is no tedious world-building -- some would say that there isn't enough world-building, or world-explaining, but that works for me. I'd prefer to know less, at least initially. Secondly, Penryn's name fits her completely. This isn't a cool name; this is a name chosen because it was there. Like her child.
Angels were another potential stumbling block because I consider myself devoutly agnostic. I don't mind religion if it's intrinsic to the story and the characters, like in Sorta Like a Rock Star. I just don't like being preached to.
Oh, is this unrelated? SO ARE MY REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS TO THE REPUBLICAN AGENDA.
Imagine my delight in finding out Raffe, the angel, was agnostic! And that wasn't even the turning point for me because I was already invested in the story. I loved the dynamic between our two feisty leads, Penryn and Raffe. I really loved what happened when Penryn pulled out her Ally McBeal "I am a trained kickboxer" card and punched a man twice her size, fully expecting all the people around her to swoop in and stop the fight before any harm came to her. Not in this new reality. This is the kind of detail I love. It shows how societal norms have changed, that a man fighting a woman who challenges him isn't the end all because they've seen the end all.
This is a novel that I thoroughly enjoyed -- so much so that after finishing it on Christmas, I gifted it to 5 friends that night. (And still only spent $5!) This is a quality story with quality characters written by a very qualified author. I highly recommend it.
**My original review posted on Dec. 25, 2011. Saved per Shirley Marr's request.
Review to come. Too much wine tonight. And Bailey's. And, okay, a little Johnnie Walker Blue earlier. What can I say, Christmas started with Grandma accidentally dialing 911 and yelling in Korean before hanging up. It's been a long day.
I can count on one hand the number of fantasy books I've enjoyed, but after reading Kat Kennedy's glowing review of Seraphina, I was intrigued by the...moreI can count on one hand the number of fantasy books I've enjoyed, but after reading Kat Kennedy's glowing review of Seraphina, I was intrigued by the promise of smart heroines, dragons, and jazz hands. Really, who can turn down jazz hands?
With that in mind, I eagerly started this book. Then I got to mentions of saarantrai, houppelande, and quigutl.
Remember, amateur fantasy reader here. I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm scared off by double letters and words that start with Q.
Another thing that's kept me away from fantasy: the world building. I get that it's a necessary evil part of the genre, but... a pain in the ass to read -- especially since I am not a skimmer and I re-read things I don't understand. Quigutl? Yeah, I had to go back for that, only to find out that it wouldn't be explained til 50 pages later.
The story is a lot to take in at first because you're hit with the worlds of Goredd (human) and Tanamoot (dragon), and the half-human/half-dragon world of Seraphina. Seraphina's world is as fascinating as it is confusing because it exists in her mind, created by memories left by her deceased mother. It's populated by odd characters that Seraphina names Fruit Bat, Pelican Man, etc.
I gave myself 100 pages to decide whether to keep reading this book or not. I'm so glad I stuck with it.
Rachel Hartman takes what could easily be cliche characters and plot and makes them compelling and intelligent. She doesn't dumb it down for her readers or make it easy for her characters. Princess Glisselda, the fiancee of Prince Lucian, is also one of the most likable characters in the book. Prince Lucian is an actual knight in shining armor, but Seraphina is more often than not coming to his rescue. That brings us to Seraphina, a brilliant musician who struggles with the legacy her mother left her. I'd be pissed about metallic silver scales too.
But who has time to dwell on scales when Lucian and Glisselda's uncle has been killed and all clues (namely, the lack of a head along with the body) point to a dragon as the culprit. This murder just before the anniversary of the peace treaty between humans and dragons could tip the balance towards war. There's discontent on all sides -- humans who aren't happy living with dragons, dragons who feel they've given up too much to humans, knights who fought during the wars and were banished following the peace treaty. Assassinations are plotted and identities are revealed as the nation of Goredd plans to welcome the leader of dragonkind.
And this is just the beginning (I hope!) of a series. I don't mean to keep using the word "intelligent" but Rachel Hartman writes characters that actually use their brains. Deductive reasoning! It happens! Seraphina reminded me a lot of The Thief in that as good as it was, I know the sequel is going to be even better. Nevertheless, this book stands very capably on its own. It is as much political thriller as it is fantasy, which I love. I also loved the discussions of parentage and the legacies, both beneficial and detrimental, that parents leave their kids. I can't believe this was a debut novel! It was so assured and entertaining. I definitely look forward to reading more of Rachel Hartman's work.
Growing up, my mom tried to do the Asian mom thing and ban TV during the weekdays. So of course, I binge watched trashy daytime TV during holidays whi...moreGrowing up, my mom tried to do the Asian mom thing and ban TV during the weekdays. So of course, I binge watched trashy daytime TV during holidays while she was at work. The TV was basically on from the time she left to an hour before she got home -- you know, so the TV would be cool to the touch if she was inclined to check. From 12-3pm, I watched All My Children (RIP), One Life to Live, and General Hospital. General Hospital was the only one I ended up watching regularly.
I loved the wealthy and ruthless Quartermaines:
the hot but evil Cassadines:
and the lovable, All American Spencers.
Remember, this was the era before Wikipedia so the only backstory I knew was that Luke and Laura Spencer's wedding was the most watched daytime event in history and Elizabeth Taylor even made a special appearance. Imagine my shock when I found out that the Luke and Laura story began when Luke RAPED Laura. You know, because he loved her and wanted her SO much. Apparently in Port Charles, first comes love, then comes rape, then comes the baby in a baby carriage.
Vigdis Gunnarsdatter is beautiful and headstrong. Her doting father welcomes two men into their house. The younger man, Ljot, is tall, dark, and handsome. He quickly falls for lively, intelligent Vigdis and asks for her hand in marriage. Vigdis is also smitten but, feeling unready, she asks him to wait for her answer. Soon after, Vigdis's childhood friend Kaare, another dashing Viking specimen, comes by and shows up Ljot. His pride injured, Ljot reacts brashly and suddenly assumes the worst about Vigdis and Kaare and her noncommittal answer to his proposal. Still, he wants to marry her and asks her again for her hand. She responds,
"You cannot have loved me so much either; no sooner did you hear evil spoken of me than you believed it and spread it abroad."
So then, because he loves Vigdis as much as Luke loved Laura, he rapes her. After he's done, he assumes Vigdis will want to run off with him and become some Scandinavian Ljot and Laura. Vigdis throws a rock in his face. Finally, a proper reaction.
However, in addition to the physical and emotional pain of the rape, Ljot leaves Vigdis with one more thing -- she's pregnant with his child. This is really where the story begins, and it is a great story. I picked this book up after scouring my local bookstore for authors whose name start with "U" for the A-Z Author Challenge, and I nearly gave up after the first page (I mean, really, FOUR footnotes on the FIRST page?!?). Fortunately, I stuck with it and was pleasantly surprised by this very readable story. Sigrid Undset manages to write an epic that deals with vengeance, consequence, family, and love in a scant 200 pages. And this book, published in 1909 and set in the 11th century, deals with the issue of rape in a way that leaves modern writers in the dust. Undset follows the lives of both the victim and the perpetrator after the rape, but Vigdis refuses to live victimized. She is up there with Evanjalin in terms of female characters who kick ass. Ljot is also not your stock villain, and he regrets what he did, but Undset and Vigdis refuse to romanticize or condone him. He also lives with the consequences of his actions and has the most beautifully twisted line towards the end of the book.
Books like this are why I do random reading challenges. They're not what I would normally pick up, but they end up being worthwhile and rewarding. I highly recommend this short saga. It's no wonder that Sigrid Undset ended up winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1928. Gunnar's Daughter is a stunning debut novel.(less)
First, you have Gracie. Kickass soccer superstar on an all boys team. The problem isn't that she knows this, the problem is she knows it and lords her supremacy on the field over her teammates. (Like Ladybugs in reverse without the cross dressing, Catie!) There's a "No I in team" speech here but Cath Crowley is too talented for that. Instead she gives us Martin Knight.
Martin Knight is the captain and Gracie's sole supporter on the team. The first time a timid, young Gracie approaches the team, he tells her, "Stick with me, Faltrain." Me: a puddle of goo. Every time Martin says something, I turn into goo but Gracie, of course, rolls her eyes and then averts them to another guy who may be a jerk.
Nick. As if.
It wouldn't be a Crowley book without kooky, slight-to-moderately dysfunctional parents. Gracie's parents have the most awesome meet-cute ever, but Gracie's dad has been away on business for awhile, longer than necessary now that she thinks about it, and things don't seem so cute anymore.
Then, in addition to team and family tension, Gracie's BFF is moving to London. She's without her support system as she has the most hilariously horrible date ever.
It involves a tongue in the ear.
I loved Gracie & co and I really liked this book. I wouldn't say it's on the same level as Graffiti Moon, and earlier on I wanted less points of view (and I could do without the definitions that start each chapter), but overall it was a solid, enjoyable, funny read, let alone a debut! I just adore the way Cath Crowley writes. Some of my favorite quotes:
He looks like he wants to stuff what he's just said back in his mouth and swallow. I catch a tiny glimpse of his home life, scattered around us like little crumbs of sadness.
I've got a fist in my stomach; whenever I open my mouth it punches out at anyone who gets in my way.
The two best quotes are at the end, but they're a little spoilery so I didn't include them. It may involve a tongue in the ear.
Megan Whalen Turner, you sly minx. I spent the first HALF of the book wanting to beat myself with a horsewhip after each and every detailed descriptio...moreMegan Whalen Turner, you sly minx. I spent the first HALF of the book wanting to beat myself with a horsewhip after each and every detailed description of the horses and stale bread and rocky path that our motley yet intrepid crew of five set out on. Led by the King of Sounis' magus, or advisor, our protagonist thief Gen is dragged from his prison cell to undertake a mission at the behest of the King. Gen just has to steal a stone that may not even exist and has never been stolen before -- that or die in prison. He's joined on this quest by two of the magus's apprentices, who he christens Useless the Elder and Useless the Younger, and a soldier named Pol. The seemingly endless trek from Sounis to the Super Secret Special Stone Spot is painful for both Gen and the reader. By the 20th olive tree mention, you've either fallen asleep along with Gen or strongly considered abandoning the book. But then the second half starts and things start happening! They've reached A place and at this point, you don't even care if it's THE place. And then the action picks up some more and 2/3 into the book, you realize that all those meaningless details in the first half of the book are actually breadcrumbs that set the stage for the story -- that's really going to take place in Book Two. A slow clap for Ms. Whalen Turner because she has me. I am invested in the story, in Gen, in the queens, in the heirs, and in her world. But damn, was it an arduous fucking trip to get here.(less)