Well, this short story made me cry more in 15 pages than any other book I've read this year -- except for Patrick Ness's gut punches masquerading as b...moreWell, this short story made me cry more in 15 pages than any other book I've read this year -- except for Patrick Ness's gut punches masquerading as books. This story of the Chinese-American son of a mail order bride who learns of his otherness from cruel neighborhood kids and begins to resent the source of his difference, his mother, was heartbreaking, poignant, and familiar. It reminded me of all the times my brother and I would refuse to eat with chopsticks or speak Korean, how we demanded nasty Lunchables instead of kimbap, the DELICIOUS Korean version of sushi that was packed in our lunches.
When Jack demands that his mother speak only English, she says,
“If I say ‘love,’ I feel here.” She pointed to her lips. “If I say ‘ai,’ I feel here.” She put her hand over her heart.
These two lines sum up why so many immigrants cling to their native tongue despite the protestations of their non-immigrant children.
Thanks to Flannery and Leanne for bringing this story to my attention. It's definitely worth the few minutes it'll take to read. Just be sure to have tissues handy.(less)
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.
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)
If you have any interest in reading this book, DO NOT READ THE GOODREADS SUMMARY. Read Tatiana's review instead. It's not that the summary is so spoil...moreIf you have any interest in reading this book, DO NOT READ THE GOODREADS SUMMARY. Read Tatiana's review instead. It's not that the summary is so spoiler-heavy, but it tells you more than you need to know. Some people may prefer that -- I suspect these are the same people who go on guided tours and stick to detailed itineraries when they explore new places. Not that there's anything wrong with that.* But I think you tend to miss the forest for the trees when you're too focused on finding the next turn, and what a forest Megan Whalen Turner creates. Okay, it's not a forest so much as a Sea of Olives, but you get the idea.
One of the reasons I loved this book was why I love books like Mockingjay and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: the politics of war. I love seeing how decisions made up high affect the battle on the ground and vice versa. I also love seeing how an ice cold queen, or a Tom Riddle comes to be the way they are. (Not that the Queen of Attolia and Lord Voldemort are anything alike.) My complaint about The Thief was the lack of action, particularly in the beginning. Whalen Turner more than makes up for that with this book. From the first page, things -- major things -- are happening. You don't even see an olive tree reference til, like, the SEVENTH page. And after that, the next reference doesn't come up for another hundred pages or so. Seriously though, how often do you see two powerful female heads of state battling it out? I wish HBO would buy the rights to this multi-layered, fascinating, incest-free story.
and ask, "What color is this?", the answer is easy.
But if the person pointed to a rainbow and asked, "What color is this?", the answer is no longer simple because a rainbow is every color. Likewise, a Marchetta book can't be narrowed down to one thing or one emotion. It's every emotion.
In Froi of the Exiles, as in Finnikin of the Rock, Marchetta shows the devastating effects of war, both internal and external, on people and on nations. But, despite the topic, her books aren't about devastation. They're about hope. They're about people. Marchetta finds the humanity in people deemed unworthy by other members of society, me included. The Froi I first met in Finnikin? Had it been up to me, he would be rotting somewhere in Sorel. Instead Marchetta refused to give up on Froi or on me and trusted that we'd learn and grow. Now he's the titular character and deservedly so because Froi's journey into Charyn is as complex and surprising as Froi himself.
As she did in The Piper's Son, Marchetta introduces a new cast of characters to surround the supporting-turned-lead actor. And like in Piper, I found myself wondering, How does she DO that?? With Froi, Marchetta got me MORE invested in the story, gave me MORE characters to love, and found MORE ways to break my heart. And while introducing us to Quintana, Gargarin, Lirah, and the people of Charyn, she doesn't forget about Finnikin, Trevanion, Beatriss and the people of Lumatere. Then, because that's not enough, there's the storyline involving Lucian of Lumatere and Phaedra of Charyn. It sounds like a lot, and it is, but it's not more than you can handle. If anything, you want MORE.
I'm being purposefully vague in my review because there's no way I can lay out this story better than Marchetta. If you've never read any of her books, there's a reason why people pay double the price of a US book to have her books shipped from Australia. Or, like me, they buy both the Australian and US editions. And ebook. And audiobook. I put my money where my mouth is when I tell you she is worth every penny. (Speaking of audiobooks, I've been listening to the audio version of Finnikin and Charyn is pronounced Sha-RIN, not CHAIR-in, which is what I'd been saying.)
One thing about Marchetta that I think is often overlooked because she brings so much to the table is how funny she is. I laughed as much as I cried while reading Froi. Froi is a smartass to begin with, and combined with the grumpy old men and coddled manchildren of Charyn, there were scenes that had me laughing out loud.
Catie is great at choosing the perfect song for a book. I'm better with movies. With Froi -- damaged, destructive, hopeful, wonderful Froi -- I kept being reminded of something Ethan Hawke as Troy said in Reality Bites:
You can't navigate me. I may do mean things, and I may hurt you, and I may run away without your permission, and you may hate me forever, and I know that scares the living shit outta you 'cause you know I'm the only real thing you got.
And Melina Marchetta: I love her. She breaks my heart again and again, but I love her.(less)
Fourteen, smart, and totally adorkable. He’s also dealing with:
1. His parents’ divorce 2. ...on account of his father being gay. 3. Hav...moreMeet Dan Cereill.
Fourteen, smart, and totally adorkable. He’s also dealing with:
1. His parents’ divorce 2. ...on account of his father being gay. 3. Having to move and start a new school 4. ...because dad lost their savings. 5. Trying to shed his loser image and impress the girl next door 6. ...as he ends up answering to ‘dickhead’ in front of her on the first day of school.
Needless to say, things aren’t going well. After moving into his deceased aunt's house, the person he talks to the most is Howard, the judgmental poodle who came with the house.
Still, he has a list of six things, six seemingly impossible things, that he revisits and uses as a reference point to get through each day. For example, in order to cheer up his mom (#3 on the list), he confronts the school bully, Jayzo, about crank calling his house/mom's business.
Yeah, it doesn't work for Dan either.
Even as I cringed for him, I just wanted to give Dan a hug. I was cheering for him the whole way through and hoping that he'd end up taking the girl to the dance at the end.
This was so witty and heartwarming. I would be surprised that this is a debut novel except that the author is Australian. I appreciated how she tackled social issues such as homophobia without being heavy-handed or having her character rant on and on. Dan is also prone to typical 14-year-old petulance, but I loved his character's development. There was such a sweetness to how he liked Estelle.
This book may take some effort to get (Don't even get me started on Paypal vs Paypal Australia), but it's definitely worth it. Dear Dan, Love you big time!
I haven't been this excited about an author since I first read Melina Marchetta earlier this year. I'm not comparing the two since comparing anyone to...moreI haven't been this excited about an author since I first read Melina Marchetta earlier this year. I'm not comparing the two since comparing anyone to Marchetta is like comparing a book to Hunger Games -- unfair, but Cath Crowley is now firmly on my "Will read anything this author publishes" list. I loved, lovedGraffiti Moon and was prepared to be let down but still like this book. I mean, who could follow Ed and Lucy, Leo and Jazz? Answer: Dave Robbie and his black singlet can!
I'm schoolgirl giggling to myself as I read over my Dave highlights on my Kindle. Rose says about Dave,
"Whenever I'd call her Charlie Dorkin, he'd look at the ground till I stopped."
D'awwww, right? Is it any wonder that when Charlie looks at him, she imagines,
"I'm sounding so sexy that my song's hitting him in the chest and stealing what he keeps there."
I feel you, Charlie. I felt her longing, her isolation, her not fitting in, her wanting to scream and yell until people looked at her, really looked at her. I felt her disappointment when it seems her one true friend is growing away from her and her desperation to hold on to what was.
Rose, on the other hand, that bitch... you want to dislike her, she does dislikable things, but damn it, you understand her too. She just wants to leave her small town and the small future she sees in it and she'll do anything to get that wish. At 16/17, one of my clearest memories (and the impetus behind my applying only to colleges on the East Coast) was needing to leave -- and I lived in LA. I can't imagine the claustrophobia and fear Rose had, that if she stayed even one minute longer, she'd end up exactly like everyone else in that town -- stuck. And Rose is someone who wants to study science (another one!) and has a picture of protistan shells framed in her room.
This is a great book that touches on loss, wanting, friendship, and love but never falls into angst -- and thank you for that, Cath Crowley! I also loved the glimpses into each character's relationship with his/her parent(s), and how every teen seems to think everyone else has it better. Read this and you'll be singing the praises of Cath Crowley and black singlets in no time!(less)
Melina Marchetta... Only she could write a YA book where the main protagonists are a 21-year-old boy and his 42-year-old aunt -- and make you CARE so,...moreMelina Marchetta... Only she could write a YA book where the main protagonists are a 21-year-old boy and his 42-year-old aunt -- and make you CARE so, so much. A slew of new characters is introduced in this book, and the fact that the majority of them are from Tom Mackee’s aunt’s world does nothing to dampen the appeal to a YA audience. The reason for this is the skill with which Marchetta writes relationships between people regardless of age or gender. Adults aren’t stock characters who exist only in relation to a teen protagonist in her books. The adults in Piper’s Son not only have their own lives, but they have their own friends. I know, crazy huh? Did we ever see Jim and Cindy Walsh just hanging out with their friends??
That’s not to say that the entire book is about the adults, just that they get equal billing and importance as we catch up with the lives of our old friends Tom, Francesca, Justine, etc. Tom refers to Francesca, Justine, Siobhan, and Tara as “the four horsewomen” and he needs them to pull him back from the brink, even though he hasn’t talked to them for the past 2 years. Siobhan is in London and “that psycho Tara Finke” is in East Timor (soooo Tara, right??) but what is distance to a group of girls with cell phones and email? I love the way Marchetta writes female relationships because girls like the four horsewomen, who unquestioningly have each other’s backs, are just as real and true as Mean Girls. I lived abroad for two years with one best friend in Atlanta and another in Los Angeles, yet nothing major happened in their lives that I didn’t know about. It was harder and a more expensive to stay in touch, but moving away doesn’t mean the end of relationships unless you’re 6 years old. We get a glimpse into the future of our four horsewomen with the relationship between Aunt Georgie and her best friend Lucia. (view spoiler)[What Lucia says to Georgie after Georgie tells her she already went maternity bra shopping with a co-worker just kills me. (hide spoiler)]
So many different aspects of relationships are explored -- not just parent-child but also stepparent-stepchild, sibling-sibling and sibling-sibling’s spouse, etc. I could go on and on about this book because I loved the characters so much and just wanted to be part of their crazy, extended family, but I’ll stop here and just say, Read. This.
One minor not-even-complaint: (view spoiler)[Jimmy Hailler was probably my favorite character in Saving Francesca and I wish there was more Jimmy in this book. Maybe that just means Marchetta is writing a Jimmy-centric book next?? I can only hope. Either way, whatever Melina Marchetta writes next, even if it's just a grocery list, I'll be reading. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I just want to start off by saying, had it not been for the Los Angeles Public Library, I would not have picked up this book. Now that I have, I want...moreI just want to start off by saying, had it not been for the Los Angeles Public Library, I would not have picked up this book. Now that I have, I want to buy Melina Marchetta’s entire bibliography. Just a note to Harper Collins and their draconian library division.
I shied away from reading Marchetta’s On the Jellicoe Road despite the glowing reviews because I don’t like books about Death, especially the death of a parent. I knew this book had a parent dealing with severe depression, but the first thing mentioned in the summary was Frankie’s newly coed school so I figured this was the Australian version of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, which was fantastic. I was a bit disappointed early on to discover that Frankie Spinelli is not Frankie Landau-Banks, but this book and its protagonist have their own appeal.
Marchetta writes about depression in a way that doesn’t make the book unenjoyable or without humor. Nor is depression the main focus of the book. Ultimately, Saving Francesca is about a 16-year-old girl coming to terms with who she is while losing the usual safety nets of school, family, and familiarity. Oh, did I mention the cute boys?? I like the male characters in this book so much more than those in The Disreputable History.
This book is why I must go to Walt Disney World, take a cruise to Nassau, and fall in love with a mystery admirer/former child actor all while taking...moreThis book is why I must go to Walt Disney World, take a cruise to Nassau, and fall in love with a mystery admirer/former child actor all while taking care of someone else's children. And you best believe I will be charging manicures to my room, or "cabin", Karen Brewer-styles!
Aaaand I can't believe I remember all that off the top of my head. Kathleen Kelly was right -- when you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does! (I also can't believe I could quote that off the top of my head either.)(less)
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.
For me, at least. I've always considered myself an open-minded person, but then I look at my shelves (YA, Aussie YA, Aussie YA, Classic, Gen...moreNEW GENRE!
For me, at least. I've always considered myself an open-minded person, but then I look at my shelves (YA, Aussie YA, Aussie YA, Classic, Generation Kill) and I realize how limited my book choices have been. I read my first Urban Fantasy series this year (Mercy Thompson, baby!) and now with Friends with Boys, I've entered Graphic Novel territory.
And I liked it!
This is the story of Maggie McKay, a homeschooled girl about to enter the shark tank of high school for the first time. She's dealing with typical teenage problems: a mother who's just run off, aggravating older brothers, and a ghost who follows her around. Anyway, who has time to worry about a ghost when you have to worry about fitting in for the first time. The setup to this story reminded me a bit of Mean Girls, but instead of Regina George and the Plastics, you have Matt and the Pack.
What I really liked about this was that it didn't go for the expected -- and easy -- route with mean girls but instead focused more on Maggie's loneliness and mean boys! The homeschool stigma is there for Maggie, but her older brothers dealt with the brunt of it when they first entered high school. While friendless, Maggie plays the role of observer and watches the dynamic between Matt George and her eldest brother, Daniel, Matt and the mohawked Alistair, and Alistair and Daniel. She finally makes a friend in Alistair's equally hair-challenged sister, Lucy. Lucy is energetic and spunky, a vibrant, lovable character who often puts her foot in her mouth while trying to draw Maggie out of her shell. However, there is nothing vindictive about Lucy. The Mean Boys, on the other hand, are constantly on the prowl. Wait til you get to the part about Maggie, the Mean Boys, and a stolen wooden hand.
I really enjoyed my first foray into graphic novels. It totally felt like cheating. A book with pictures! Lots of pictures! But there's also a plot there. It felt a bit disjointed at times with the different storylines (high school story, sibling story, ghost story, etc), but overall, it was well done.
If you want to try this novel for yourself, you can buy it tomorrow or read the entire novel on Faith Erin Hicks's website for another week. Here's the link. As Rayanne whispered to Angela in the opening credits of the ultimate high school show, "Go now. Go!"
I don't know if it's because I was a Speech & Debate/JSA nerd, or that I grew up wanting to be Clair Huxtable, or maybe I just watched too many ol...moreI don't know if it's because I was a Speech & Debate/JSA nerd, or that I grew up wanting to be Clair Huxtable, or maybe I just watched too many old movies when I was younger, but to me, chemistry is about everything that is unsaid when you're bantering back and forth. It's the passion and intelligence behind good conversation.
Julie James's Practice Makes Perfect has a lot of passion, a lot of intelligence, and a helluva lot of chemistry. It's a contemporary romance that feels like a throwback to great old movies like His Girl Friday and Woman of the Year.
Payton Kendall and JD Jameson are senior litigation associates at a top law firm. They are equally matched, equally paid leads who are fighting for a promotion to partner that only one of them can get but both equally deserve. They've hated each other for 8 years -- 8 long years where they've had to keep tabs on the other for, um, you know, one-upmanship purposes. Yeah, one-upmanship purposes only. When they are brought together to work on a $20 million case, their forced camaraderie in front of the client has them acknowledging the other's competence for the first time. And you know what? Competence is sexy as hell too. Their snappy retorts back and forth for the past 8 years barely masked the tension between these two fierce competitors, but could it be sexual tension? *Dun dun!*
I liked Julie James's debut novel, Just the Sexiest Man Alive, but I liked this one even more. The bantering between the leads and their love-hate relationship reminded of the Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn dynamic. The sex was also very PG-13, but that's okay because it's about the buildup before. I'll definitely be reading more of James's books.
This book also reminded me of one of my favorite songs, Mind Sex by dead prez:
See I ain't got to get in your blouse It's your eye contact, that be getting me aroused When you show me your mind, it make me wanna show you mines Reflecting my light, when it shines, just takin our time Before the night's through, we could get physical too I ain't tryin to say I don't wanna fuck, cause I do But for me boo, makin love is just as much mental I like to know what I'm gettin into
We could have mind sex, we ain't got to take our clothes off yet We can burn the incense, and just chat Relax, I got the good vibrations Before we make love let's have a good conversation.
Georgette Heyer is the first author I've read who makes Jane Austen seem emo. Don't get me wrong, I adore Austen and consider WWJD to stand for "What...moreGeorgette Heyer is the first author I've read who makes Jane Austen seem emo. Don't get me wrong, I adore Austen and consider WWJD to stand for "What Would Jane Do?", but I really enjoyed this charming and angst-free Regency tale of Venetia and her Wicked Baron, the rake Damerel. Oh Damerel... Imagine Sense and Sensibility's Willoughby and Jane Eyre's Rochester without their respective issues -- or wives. Damerel is charming, mischievous, and funny. The same could also be said of Venetia, who is nearing spinsterhood at, gasp!, five-and-twenty.
Heyer touches on social issues, whereas Austen really delves into them, but don't confuse lightness of touch for lack of deftness. How can else an author get away with mentioning orgies while staying true to the time period? And not just mentioning them, but having her characters joke about them! There is so much humor and laughter throughout the novel, and not because the characters are ridiculous or silly.
You're laughing along with them, not at them. Okay, maybe you're laughing at too serious Aubrey, who nonetheless ended up being one of my favorite characters.
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.
Enter Darcy Franz Pele Walker. He's just a regular guy with a regular life -- two parents, some friends, a crush. I think the book was titled Slice: Juicy Moments from My Impossible Life because such normalcy is kind of impossible to find in YA these days. (Seriously, there needs to be a No parents were harmed in the making of this book disclaimer.) I forgot how charming a simple slice of life story can be. I loved Darcy and his smartass comments. I loved his parents and his relationship with them. I want there to be a sequel where Darcy meets Dan Cereill and the greatest bromance since Turk met JD ensues.(less)
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)
You know what, reviewing a fantasy is as big a pain in the ass as reading one, so here's my review of Finnikin of the Rock: Read it. It's Marchetta. I...moreYou know what, reviewing a fantasy is as big a pain in the ass as reading one, so here's my review of Finnikin of the Rock: Read it. It's Marchetta. It's great. Long, but great.
One thing I want to say though is: Evanjalin kicks ass. Usually in Marchetta books, I'm drooling over the male lead (Jonah Griggs! Tom Mackee!). But as great a character as Finnikin is, Evanjalin is better. Like, I may need to start a "girl crush" shelf for her awesomeness. She's strong, she's smart, and she will have your ass thrown in a prison camp because she has a plan that she believes in. Ya Ya!
Now that that's off my chest, here's the review I started before I tapped out:
I usually stay away from fantasy because as a genre, I find it inherently tedious. Unlike dystopia where you take an existing world and just FUBAR the shit out of it, in fantasy you have to build the world from the bottom up, describing every river, tree, rock, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in the area. THEN you get to fuck it up. As a reader, it's exhausting -- and that's when it's done well! Apparently, it's exhausting for the author as well as Melina Marchetta said in an interview,
"I remember the prologue of Finnikin nearly broke me whereas the Prologues of Jellicoe and The Piper’s Son stayed the same from the moment I first wrote them, give and take a word or two."
So yeah, I had some concerns going into Finnikin, even with Melina! Marchetta! at the helm.
Right away, however, the book caught my interest by delving into action described as the five unspeakable days. A kingdom is destroyed and divided, half the people trapped inside its walls at the mercy of an impostor king, and half the people exiled outside at the mercy of an indifferent world. The story begins ten years later with Finnikin, 19-years-old and living in exile with Sir Topher, the assassinated king's First Man. They've been traveling around Lumatere's neighboring countries for 10 years but a dream calls Finnikin to Sendecane and the temple of the goddess of light, Lagrami. In his dream, he heard the name Balthazar, the King's son and heir, and sole survivor of the massacre of the royal family during the five unspeakable days. Instead of Balthazar, though, a girl named Evanjalin is waiting for him at the temple.
Had I seen this book in a bookstore (when they still existed, I mean), I would have immediately dismissed it based on the cover alone. The flames, the...moreHad I seen this book in a bookstore (when they still existed, I mean), I would have immediately dismissed it based on the cover alone. The flames, the red lips, Lips Touch... come on. However, after seeing Tatiana and Meredith's reviews, I decided to give it a try. Plus I had just finished Jellicoe Road and knew that whatever I read next wouldn't compare, so I might as well try something different. Lips Touch, to put it simply, was lovely. This book of grown up fairy tales, each beautifully illustrated, was an unexpected treat. I highly recommend it, especially after reading something as rich and emotionally complex as a Melina Marchetta.(less)
I can't remember what grade I was in when I first started highlighting, but I remember my teacher looking down at my now entirely fluorescent yellow p...moreI can't remember what grade I was in when I first started highlighting, but I remember my teacher looking down at my now entirely fluorescent yellow page and saying, "You're only supposed to highlight what's important." I replied, "But this is all important." That's how I felt reading The Lover's Dictionary. I wanted to highlight everything. I only meant to read the first few pages, just to see what it was about, but I didn't end up closing the book until I was done. Each entry provides a picture into the life of our couple. You start off with one picture...
...but by the end of the book, you have this:
But not as cheesy.
One of my favorite entries:
It's always something we have to negotiate — the fact that my parents are happy, and yours have never been. I have something to live up to, and if I fail, I still have a family to welcome me home. You have a storyline to rewrite, and a lack of faith that it can ever be done.
I am an emotional wreck. Much like when I first read The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants a few years ago, I was not prepared for all the emotions th...moreI am an emotional wreck. Much like when I first read The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants a few years ago, I was not prepared for all the emotions this book brought up. You strike again, Ann Brashares! Everything in this book probably affected me more than the previous ones because I'm the same age Tibby, Carmen, Lena, and Bridget are now. And at this point in our lives, the friends we have are those we've chosen to have for the rest of our lives, so the loss of any one of them (for whatever reason) is devastating. It means you've lost a part of your future as well as your present and your past. I didn't even know this book was being planned until the day it was published so I remained spoiler-free, which is good because had I known, I may have chosen to skip this book. I'm still recovering from Sweet Valley Confidential and the carnage Francine Pascal did to my memories of Sweet Valley High. I was afraid Brashares was pulling a Pascal after the first few chapters of Sisterhood Everlasting, but she came through. Tibby, Carmen, Lena, and Bridget are in different places (literally and figuratively) and ten years have passed since Forever In Blue but unlike the characters in Sweet Valley Confidential, they're still recognizable. I still felt an emotional connection to the characters even though I hadn't read the books in years and didn't particularly feel the need to read a 5th book. At times it felt like an extended epilogue, but it was still a pleasant reunion -- one I hadn't planned but still came away feeling positive about -- with characters I once loved. (less)
Sooooooo cute. This book is so cute! We start off with Jennifer and Beth, BFFs and co-workers at an Iowa newspaper. (Or maybe it was Nebraska. Whateve...moreSooooooo cute. This book is so cute! We start off with Jennifer and Beth, BFFs and co-workers at an Iowa newspaper. (Or maybe it was Nebraska. Whatever, same difference.) Told via their email exchanges, their chapters are smart and funny with great dialogue and chemistry. Think Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, or you and your best friend. Then the chapters alternate to Lincoln, the guy in charge of IT security at the paper. The story is told from Lincoln's perspective, and whereas we only get to see Jennifer and Beth through their emails, we learn about Lincoln and his background. And that's where we, and the story, run into a slight problem -- because Lincoln for all intents and purposes is kind of a loser. Let's look at the evidence:
1. He lives at home with his mother. 2. He hasn't had a relationship since he broke up with the love of his life. 2A. It was his high school girlfriend. 2B. They broke up 9 years ago. 2C. NINE YEARS AGO!! 2D. After he followed her out to college in California. 2E. He's been adrift ever since. 3. He spends his Saturday nights playing Dungeons and Dragons.
In the first few chapters, Jennifer and Beth's snap crackle pop were what kept me reading because Lincoln was just so sad and dull and pathetic. And then came Lincoln's physical description.
He's basically Joe Manganiello. YES. That plus the fact that he became less woe-is-me made the story pick up and then zoom into AWESOME territory.
Plot: Jennifer and Beth write typical BFF emails to one another detailing the minutiae of their lives. They use their work emails despite knowing that Big Brother or IT Guy can read them. IT Guy Lincoln does read them because they keep popping up on his security filters. As he reads them, he finds himself falling for Beth. He doesn't know what she looks like, but he loves her personality. (That's the dream, isn't it?) Beth, however, has a long-term, live-in boyfriend who is a musician and therefore absentee. Remember that Lincoln isn't Prince Charming either (see evidence above). Yet.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised and charmed by this book. I loved the female dynamic. I've had some, if not most, of the exchanges that Jennifer and Beth have with each other. And as I read, I began to appreciate Lincoln more and more. First and foremost, I love that he's not a Darcy. He's shy and awkward and nice -- a totally normal guy (except for the whole Joe Manganiello thing). As a reader, you're not swooning over him in the beginning because there's nothing to swoon over! You grow to like him as he grows. I would've probably stayed up all night to finish this except my Benadryl kicked it. A fun, enjoyable read, I highly recommend it. (less)
This was the nerdiest, dorkiest book ever. And it was awesome. So awesome, in fact, that the minute I finished the book, I googled Colonial Williamsbu...moreThis was the nerdiest, dorkiest book ever. And it was awesome. So awesome, in fact, that the minute I finished the book, I googled Colonial Williamsburg. (PS. Their website address is www.history.org *Russell Crowe in Gladiator voice* NERDS UNITE.)
Like the great rivalries of yore -- Montagues vs Capulets, Jets vs Sharks, Lucille I vs Lucille II -- the Colonials and the Civil Warriors are enmeshed in a decades long battle. It started when Civil War Reenactmentland had the audacity to open across the street from Colonial Essex Village. This much history in one place may sound too good to be true, but according to the Colonial Williamsburg website, there's a Historic Jamestowne less than 10 miles away. However, they just formed a partnership.
Our heroine Elizabeth Connelly, government name: Chelsea Glaser, is descended from historical interpreters, i.e., her parents do this shit too. Her life has been Colonial Essex Village since she was 6 years old. This familiarity with the land and the history gets her elected as the Colonials' Lieutenant. Right after she's elected though, she gets captured by some Civil Warriors including a tall, handsome fella, an Ultimate Warrior if you will.
Look, some people descend from reenactors and some people descend from WWF fans. Thanks, Grandpa.
What follows, besides Cold! Hard! Vengeance!, is the geekiest prank war imaginable. It's the battle of anachronisms, which to a historical interpreter is akin to slapping them on the face AND insulting their mama. Chelsea and co. strike back by placing phones, those modern, newfangled contraptions, throughout Reenactmentland right before opening time.
You can discover the rest of the shenanigans for yourself, including some thorough discussion about ice cream.
Oh, but it can, Draco.
I was pleasantly surprised and very amused by Past Perfect. I loved the tone, the humor, the setting, and even those slutty milliner girls. It reminded me a bit of an angst-free Jellicoe Road. I highly recommend this book -- and then we can all road trip to Colonial Williamsburg together! Leila Sales even made a Past Perfect playlist for us via Spotify! http://bit.ly/obw8MX (less)
I gave Shine 4 stars, but it's a very disappointed 4 stars. For 2/3 of the novel, Lauren Myracle had me. I was totally invested in the story and the c...moreI gave Shine 4 stars, but it's a very disappointed 4 stars. For 2/3 of the novel, Lauren Myracle had me. I was totally invested in the story and the characters. I bought the atmosphere of Black Creek and how it had devolved after the closing of the local paper mill. My anxiety increased with every chapter as the mystery behind Patrick's attack built and built. And then came the final 1/3 of the novel. So disappointing -- even more so because the majority of the novel was so taut and well written. Still, Shine brought a small town in the Carolina mountains to life for me and had me interested and invested, which is no easy feat. It also addressed issues such as homosexuality and poverty in a frank manner without condescending to YA readers.(less)
Zazie Lalochère is my hero, or perhaps antihero. Both? She's a preteen-teen (her age is never stated) from the French country who gets dropped off wit...moreZazie Lalochère is my hero, or perhaps antihero. Both? She's a preteen-teen (her age is never stated) from the French country who gets dropped off with her uncle, Gabriel, in Paris for two days so her mother can spend time with her new boyfriend. Immediately, it's obvious that Zazie is a character. When she finds out that the metro she so desperately wants to ride is closed due to a strike, she cries, "Oo the bastards!" But the moment she wins my heart comes a few pages later when she declares she wants to be a teacher. Her aunt and uncle are suitably impressed and say teaching is a good profession with a good pension. Zazie responds, "Pension my arse." The reason she wants to be a teacher is actually: "To bitch up the brats."
Everyone in this book, from Zazie to Gabriel to the landlord's parrot, is actually kind of an asshole. The landlord calls Zazie a little slut, Zazie spits in his face and accuses him of being a pedophile in front of a crowd of people. Hijinks ensue. But as the great Ms. Clairee Belcher once said:
The book is really just a series of random scenes punctuated by smartass dialogue and the occasional man-napping and attempted rape.
The dialogue might also be annoying at first because a lot of it is written colloquially.
"I'll ksplain," says Gabriel.
Usually went someone sends me a text like that ("Wot r u doin 2day?"), I want to kill myself. However, Raymond Queneau isn't some undereducated teenager. As explained in the Introduction, this was a linguistic experiment and parody by the man who co-founded the Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, "a literary workshop whose raison d'être was the invention of fiendish linguistic constraints." Basically, Queneau was having some fun with Zazie. And that's why, despite the seeming randomness of plot and phonetic dialogue, Zazie in the Metro works for me. It's not meant to be highbrow, though it's written by someone in the highest echelons of French intelligentsia, and it doesn't seem like it wants to be anything. Yet, thanks to Zazie, it's still memorable and entertaining. It just feels very French. That may not be a strong enough reason to read this for a lot of people, but it was more than enough for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it.(less)
She's Ms. Chareth Cutestory. I'm waiting for her to just go ahead and title her next book "Awwwwwwww" becaus...moreThis is me reading a Jennifer Echols book:
She's Ms. Chareth Cutestory. I'm waiting for her to just go ahead and title her next book "Awwwwwwww" because that's all you do as a reader.
The protagonists in this book are co-drum majors Virginia Sauter and Drew Morrow. Having just read The Boys Next Door, Virginia and Drew didn't quite measure up in the "Eeeeee!" department to Lori McGillicuddy and Adam Vader, but there were plenty of satisfying cute moments. The scene stealer in this book was new band teacher, and recovering Pizza Hut employee, Mr. Rush. He may actually be my favorite Echols character ever -- but I still love you, Adam Vader!
These books are guaranteed to make you smile even after a shitty day, a string of meh books, or when your favorite basketball team gets bounced out of the playoffs by a lower seed. Just read 'em and enjoy 'em.(less)
This book sat on my desk for six weeks before I decided to pick it up. Initially, I was put off by the length (450+ pages) and dystopias in general. I...moreThis book sat on my desk for six weeks before I decided to pick it up. Initially, I was put off by the length (450+ pages) and dystopias in general. I've read too many blah-to-meh ones recently (Exhibit A: The Maze Runner, Exhibit B: Divergent), and the idea of starting another series -- because God forbid a dystopia not be a trilogy! -- was off-putting.
After some encouragement from Noelle, who promised some fun ass-kicking, I decided to give it a try and I'm so glad I did! First, don't be scared off by the page count. This is an easy, fast read. Second, this is a well-written, easy, fast read. Third, this book, like the cheese, can stand alone. After finishing it, I immediately searched for when the next book would be released but even without a sequel, I would be content with this book. Saba, the main character, is awesome -- prickly and willful, but fierce and independent. The author creates a memorable, visual world but doesn't have to spend pages and pages describing it. This is the most I've enjoyed a dystopia since, dare I say it?, The Hunger Games. (less)
More surprising/unusual than the protagonist being a deaf girl who manages a rock band is that the male romantic lead is *cue trumpets* Asian-American...moreMore surprising/unusual than the protagonist being a deaf girl who manages a rock band is that the male romantic lead is *cue trumpets* Asian-American! Yeah, he's nerdy and plays something called the marimba, but he ROCKS too! I loved this book. I want to hug this book.(less)
I really didn't think I'd like or relate to this book at all -- I mean, cows? Farms?? Wisconsin??? -- and I definitely wouldn't have picked it up had...moreI really didn't think I'd like or relate to this book at all -- I mean, cows? Farms?? Wisconsin??? -- and I definitely wouldn't have picked it up had Noelle not Kenneth Parcell-GIF recommended it, but I'm so glad I did! DJ kicks ass. The story is told from her perspective, and her character and the tone of the story reminded me a little of Ellie in the Tomorrow series. My one (and I do mean ONE) criticism is that at times, DJ sounds so young she's veering on childish, but I definitely needed the simplistic explanations of life on a farm. (Who knew wet hay could start a fire?!) Catherine Gilbert Murdock writes DJ so well and with such knowledge that I believed this story was semi-autobiographical until a quick Google search proved otherwise. After reading a few trilogies that shouldn't be trilogies, ahem Uglies, I'm glad there's more to DJ's story and I cannot wait to read the next book. Like now.(less)