Archives for posts with tag: ★★★1/2
ImageGenre: Future Dystopia (Is that all you read, Patsy? PRETTY MUCH)
Notes: Book 2/50
Review: This shit is crazy, yo. It is like the Handmaid’s Tale meets the 22nd century. This novel follows a Red. What is a Red, you ask? Let me explain. Future America has decided that prisons and housing inmates costs too much for their ballooning budget. (True. I think we spend more on prisons than schools). In an innovative and novel stroke of genius they decided to chrome (aka dye the skin of) criminals based on their class of crime and release them back into the general population to be basically shunned and harassed and beat up until their sentence has been served. Hannah is a Red. And Red is for murder.
The really freaky/futuristic part of the book isn’t really about the chroming (but chroming is definitely the most interesting) is the fact that Hannah is convicted of murder for having an abortion. Some of the more fundamental Christian state (like most of the South, Texas, and the Midwest/West) has enacted a series of Sanctity of Life laws, much like quite a few of the laws that have been kicked around in Mississippi and even Virginia. These laws decree that abortions are not only illegal, but they are murder. A fetus is a person and has all the rights and liberties of a person.
Hannah comes from a very religious, very Christian, very conservative background. Her parents have taught her that a woman is only meant to be a helpmeet to a man. Men are the unequivocal heads of households and women basically tend to the home and raise babies. So when Hannah starts and affair with her pastor, Aidan Dale, she really has no where to turn when the affair leads to her pregnancy. She would completely destroy Aidan Dale’s life if she told it was he who fathered her child and she would be held in contempt of the court until she revealed the father’s name. She elects to have an abortion and is subsequently caught and sentenced for murder.
While I enjoy the general premise of this book, it really isn’t that original. Other than the chroming, this story has been told before. Definitely taking one star off for lack of originality. However, the chroming is intensely original. Geneticists inject a virus into a criminals body thay dyes their skin a color. The color cannot wash off or be cut off or whatever else you would think to do to it. The only downside is that the virus doesn’t last forever. It only lasts a few months and requires regular injections throughout a person’s sentence. To ensure that chromes come back for their injections, they also implant a different virus that has a delayed release. When a person is overdue for a new injection, the virus causes hallucinations, a whole host of other things, and eventually death. No one can outlast the virus. People have tried. Everyone has failed.
I am also tired of reading books completely slamming religion. I feel that it is too easy. Yes, of course religion can cause a lot of problems and contradictions and oppress people. But I’m tired of reading about religion being like this evil force and only when people get out and experience the world can they truly see that their religious lives were lacking. Hannah struggles with her faith after being ostracized by her family and sees the double standards she was subjected to in her family. (i.e. it was a woman’s responsibility to remain modest and not inflame the passions of men) There are a few brief glimpses of tolerant religion, but the author didn’t explore that deeply enough. Religion and faith are complex and vary from person to person and I wish she had explored Hannah’s feelings further.
Bottom Line: This story has been told before, but it’s really interesting if you like these kind of books. The transformation of Hannah from a shy, sheltered church girl to a ragingly confident woman is particularly intriguing. It’s worth the read!

Genre: YA Dystopia

Notes: 18/50 books. So much teenage angst.

Review: Sigh. Divergent, like you can tell from my review, started off so strong. I liked the characters, I liked Tris, and I liked her relationship with Four/Tobias.  She seemed strong, independent, and didn’t seem like a silly teenage girl for the most part.

Oh, how wrong I was.  Tris is a silly teenage girl with angst oozing out of her pores.  Before I rail on Tris and the problems I had with the book, let’s start with what I liked.

First of all, I really liked this book.  It’s not the best book ever written and it’s not fair to compare it to the Hunger Games, but I like it and will definitely be reading the third.  (I’m going to guess it’s going to be named Emergent – just going with the “-urgent” theme.  Roth, I expect royalties on the title. Thanks).  We get a much better look at the factionless.  We see what motivates them, how they organize themselves, and a better idea of what life is like for the people who don’t make initiation into their faction or were kicked out due to old age (Cough Dauntless Cough.  Heartless bastards).  Plus, Roth gives us a decent look at every faction in turn – she shows their idiosyncrasies and their strengths.  However, herein lies my biggest problem with the book:

HOW AND WHY DO PEOPLE ONLY HAVE ONE ATTRIBUTE THEY FOLLOW ABOVE ALL OTHERS? Like, does not being in Erudite make you a moron?  Some of the stuff that Tris points out to the Dauntless about their plans is ridiculous.  Is she the only one who can think logically because she’s Divergent?  Like, really?  Dauntless is just a bunch of brave, screaming idiots who will rush into danger without a plan?  And the Erudite can’t not think logically?  People don’t fit into boxes and asking me to accept that in this world, people do (mostly) fit neatly into boxes is beyond absurd.  Every person should have all five of the faction traits in them – that’s the only way to be a complete human being.

In this book, Tris seems to dissolve into a teen drama queen.  She has this massive guilt trip about shooting Will (which is fair, I would too) and she’s beyond convinced that Four will leave her because she’s just that unlovable.  Barf, please.  Having some insecurities is human, but harping on them all of the time and actually driving people away is pathetic.  She battles with depression, tells herself she doesn’t want to live, but when faced with death, actually finds she loves her life.  Please.  It was like she took every annoying characteristic Katniss had when she moped around about Peeta and magnified them.  Get a grip, girl.  Don’t you see there are more important things going on?!

Bottom Line: The series is addicting, but has annoying plot holes and mediocre world building. I would still recommend it because Dystopian Literature is fantastic, but I’m still saying Hunger Games  and Katniss > Divergent and Tris.

Welcome, welcome.  Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor.

I. Love. This. Book.  After growing up reading Harry Potter, I felt a little part of me die when I watched the final movie last summer.  No more midnight book premieres?  No more midnight movies?   No more heated discussions about he movie adaptation?  What will I do?!!?   It created a hole in my heart.  A gaping Harry Potter sized hole in my heart that nothing could ever fill.

Until The Hunger Games.

Ahhh, midnight showings are back.  (Forget the everyone else in the theater was in high school.  And I had to work this morning.)   Thank you, directors,  for creating a faithful adaptation to the book without adding frills, extra scenes, or taking out major characters.  My literary soul thanks you.  It is vulnerable.  And prone to anger.

Jennifer Lawrence at Katniss is perfect.  I may or may not have a small girl crush on her.  When the directors announced the casting list last year, I hated Jennifer Lawrence.  She was too blonde.  Too pretty.  Too stocky and strong to convincingly play a starving girl from District 12 with an insatiable desire to survive against the odds.  I was wrong. Bravo, Jennifer, you are everything I thought Katniss should be.

Stanley Tucci?  A dead ringer for Caesar Flickerman.  Rue?  Perf.  Effie? Perf.  I wasn’t super thrilled with Peeta, but not for any real reason.  I pictured him stockier and stronger.

However, this movie is not without its flaws.  In an effort to fit everything into the movie without making it 4 hours long and to set up Catching Fire, the directors seems to go for a bare bones approach.  They stripped out everything except what was essential and necessary to the story.  So, basically, we are left with a skeleton that gives us a good idea of what everything looks like and the layout of the land, but without details to flesh it out.  Character development fell completely by the wayside.  Katniss and Peeta’s budding relationship and its complications (is Katniss is playing the sponsors and the audience to garner sympathy and packages?  Or does she really fall for Peeta?) is completely lost.  When she kisses Peeta, it feels forced and completely unbelievable.  I mean, for god sakes, we never even get an explanation of why Peeta teamed with the Careers in the first place.

And Katniss’s survival skills and cunning don’t come across in the film either.  In the book, she is constantly figuring things out.  She and Haymitch have an almost telepathic understanding and connection.  But there was no hint of that in the movie.  Gifts just come to her from the sky.  Without he asking for them or working for them.  Which, to me, was a huge freaking let down!  Half of the reason she stays alive is her ability to understand how the game works – and to use it to her advantage.  The nuances of the character didn’t translate.  For example, at the end of the book when she and Peeta are going to eat the nightlock berries, she doesn’t do it with a rebellion specifically on her mind.  Her actions are more complicated and less thought out.  But in the movie, the nightlock reads like a blatant “Fuck you” to the capitol and President Snow.

Bottom Line:  If you are a fan (AND YOU SHOULD BE), see this movie.  Highly recommend.  Although if you start the Team Peeta or Team Gale shit – I will cut you.

In A Nutshell

    • Genre: Paranormal Romance, Action, Adventure, Gore, Horror, Drama, Angst.
    • Notes: Weakest premise of all the series so far, but also some of the strongest moments of character development.
    • Recommended For: Fans of Frost, Fans of The Night Huntress Series, Fans of True Blood, Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

If only Frost had laid more ground work for this books premise, it would have been the strongest in the entire series . . . This books plot line has so much to do with my critique that I’m going to put it first:

SYNOPSIS

Her deadly dreams leave her in grave danger

Since half-vampire Cat Crawfield and her undead lover Bones met six years ago, they’ve fought against the rogue undead, battled a vengeful Master vampire, and pledged their devotion with a blood bond. Now it’s time for a vacation. But their hopes for a perfect Paris holiday are dashed when Cat awakes one night in terror. She’s having visions of a vampire named Gregor who’s more powerful than Bones and has ties to her past that even Cat herself didn’t know about.

Gregor believes Cat is his and he won’t stop until he has her. As the battle begins between the vamp who haunts her nightmares and the one who holds her heart, only Cat can break Gregor’s hold over her. She’ll need all the power she can summon in order to bring down the baddest bloodsucker she’s ever faced . . . even if getting that power will result in an early grave.

Before I start to say what I found failing in the book I want to preface it by saying, that although I found the journey weak, the destinations were monumental. That being said, the entire plot line rides on the belief that Cat met a man name Gregor at the age of 15 and was whisked away conveniently to Paris all before she met Bones. But she doesn’t remember any of this because for some reason Mencheres was able to wipe her memories using strong green-eyedness and magic.

OK. Wait- what? The first time I read the beginning of this book I wondered if I could hire Sassy Gay Friend to go have a chat with Frost. I had that similar SGF thought at Frost, “What- What- What are you doing?!”

I can go along with a lot of plot lines – I mean I’m reading about a vampire-human hybrid that hunts vampires with her vampire husband and works for the government. Clearly I’m on board to stretch the realm of possibilities. But when you start to go so far off your own developed storyline to create a fresh villian, I have some problems.

It’s not that I don’t think the premise is a good one – It’s actually pretty interesting. The problem is it’s weak hold onto the rest of the canon. How can I believe that all of this back story happened when in earlier books Frost has gone out of her way to show that Cat can’t be “green-eyed”. The only hint Frost gives that there was any ground work for this exposition is that Cat has always disliked and distrusted Mencheres. So I’m not saying it’s completely impossible in canon, I’m saying that it seems a little too convenient. Like a sewed patch on a pair of jeans. It fits, kind of, but you know it’s patched on after the fact.

The first time I read this it took me awhile to get into the story. I couldn’t get over the critiques I’m mentioned, but let me say I am glad I did.

While I don’t applaud Frost’s method of getting to where she does in this book, I do applaud her outcome. This book has one of the most, if not the most important character development scenes in the Cat & Bones relationship. Many of their underlying issues, some of which as a reader I didn’t notice until they were named, are addressed in the way I like them to be – ANGST ANGST ANGST.

I’m an angst fan, I’ll admit. And I don’t mean Harry Potter Book 5 whiney-angst. I mean betrayal and heartbreak and what-ifs. That is the angst I find dramatic. Pre-pubescent bitching isn’t angst.

This book delivers in the angst category, but it also defends the purpose. While I am a fan of angst, I’m not a fan of poorly written, meaningless angst. There is nothing meaningless in the drama between Cat & Bones in this story. This may be the darkest their relationship gets – atleast so far in the series.

Beyond the wonderful angst there is also a sub-plot that Frost develops in preparation for the next book. I’m not going to say what as it is a spoiler, but I wanted to bring it up to point out another amazing thing Frost does as a series writer. Frost is able to fully develop and maintain a rising action, while introducing a new exposition or introduction for the next book. Which is why I criticize so harshly the exposition for this book. She doesn’t introduce it at all or even hint at it in any of the previous novels. The reader is truly blind-sided by it, making it even more noticeably awkward in the scheme of the whole series.

Overall, my only complaint is the weak justification of the exposition, but I absolutely love reading this book after you get over the initial “WTF?!”

After all that I wonder – did anyone else feel it was shoddily constructed in the beginning? I’d love to know what you thought.

★★★1/2

Yours Until Dawn Book Cover

In A Nutshell

    • Genre: Romance, Angst, Regency England, Historical Romance
    • Notes: Fluffy but with a plot strong enough to keep you interested the whole time.
    • Recommended For: People who like the Beauty as Florence Nightingale meets the Beast plots.

Proof that sometimes the run-of-the-mill romance novels can surprise you . . . I took a chance on this one because of it’s high rating on Goodreads and it’s synopsis reminded me so much of my favorite fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast, that I knew I had to give it a shot. I really love it when romance authors draw from the fairy tale plots and use that story as a skeletal structure and give the reader something to enjoy that also holds a sense of nostalgia. Another successful retelling of Beauty and the Beast that I’ve reviewed on this blog is Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier. While both of these books draw from the same source material, the results are emphatically separate.

Marillier’s book is completely steeped in Irish Mythology and celtic legends and so it’s result plays more with the fantasy, mystery and magic of the original fairy tale. Yours Until Dawn on the other hand plays up the victimized “beast” character in Gabriel and introduces a new kind of “beauty” in Samantha who is his strict, but caring, nurse.

SYNOPSIS

Gabriel Fairchild’s valor during battle earns him the reputation of hero, but costs him both his sight and his hope for the future. Abandoned by the fiancée he adored, the man who once walked like a prince among London’s elite secludes himself in his family’s mansion, cursing his way through dark days and darker nights.

Prim nurse Samantha Wickersham arrives at Fairchild Park to find her new charge behaving more like a beast than a man. Determined to do her duty, she engages the arrogant earl in a battle of both wit and wills. Although he claims she doesn’t possess an ounce of womanly softness, she can feel his heart racing at her slightest touch. As Samantha begins to let the light back into Gabriel’s life and his heart, they both discover that some secrets — and some pleasures — are best explored in the dark …

I enjoyed reading this very fluffy and fun book. It’s not often I find Regency Romances, that contain a good amount of angst, fun. Medeiros’ style, in this novel, reminds me greatly of Julia Quinn’s ability to play up humor alongside heart and angst. That being said, it’s not the best regency romance novel I have every read. It wasn’t always a driving plot that kept me awake through the night, but it was able to surprise me with it’s twist towards the end. It’s not an earth-shattering twist but I didn’t see it coming and it made the book stand up and make me take notice.

As for the characters, Gabriel is a bit whiny in the beginning. He plays up the role of solitary, victimized hero in a completely predictable way and Samantha responds in the expectably strict, but caring nurse way. All that predictability being said, I was continually curious as to why Samantha sought out the position and Medeiros keeps you guessing.

You could say this book was an unexpected surprise as I expected to be reading the same-ol’ same-ol’ regency romance and I found a mysterious, light, and sensual romance. So if you’re looking not to think too hard but want a book with a more substance than the “Cotton Candy Novels” I mention in another review then this is your book.

★★★1/2

Genre: Fiction, bildungsroman (fancy-shmancy way of saying “coming-of-age novel”)

Notes: Take your time.  This is not a book that should be read in one afternoon while lazing around on the couch. You’ll be confused by the fact that a Goat is talking with a Chicken and you’ll wonder how you ended up there and have to backtrack like five pages.  Slow down!

Review:  I’m guilty of devouring books like they’re disappearing tomorrow.  I’m a chain reader. I start my next book as soon as I flip the page of the previous one.  I had to slow down with this book, as I have to do with all Mitchell’s novels.  His writing tends to be denser and a little more complex than the novels I’ve read recently.

So, on a basic level, Number9Dream is about a boy named Eiji Miyake who leaves his podunk town and moves to Tokyo in search of the father who abandoned him before birth.  However, this novel moves between dreams and reality without much warning.  We get tastes of how Eiji wishes he behaved and wishes he handled situations versus the way things actually went down.  Eiji uses his daydreams as a means of escape from the disappointing, dead-end life he leads on a quest to find a father who has absolutely no interest in meeting him.  In a city of a like 10 million people stacked on top of each other.  Pretty hopeless.

Truly, I think this is my least favorite book by Mitchell.  Granted, I really like Mitchell and saying I like this novel least still puts it leagues ahead of some other novels I’ve read.  But I didn’t see how a lot of the plot events connected to each other.  For example, Eiji somehow gets caught up in the Tokyo underworld, sees a ton of people violently murdered one night, and almost has his organs sold on the black market.  How he gets caught up with the yakuza gang in the first place is unclear to me, and I didn’t feel like it lent anything to the story, other than showing Eiji’s gullibility and his determination to find his father even when he has to sign a blood oath with the yakuza for one night of service in return for his father’s file.  First of all, Eiji, you’re retarded.  Signing an oath with a violent gang can only end badly.  Second, stop trusting people who say they have information about your father.

Bottom Line: I’m not saying this book is a must read, but it’s good.  Despite my ambivalence about the book, I still got pulled into the story and had to know how Eiji’s quest ended.  Even when I groaned with impatience when Eiji did something stupid, I couldn’t help but love him.

Genre: Fantasy

Notes: Epic.

Review: I like fantasy.  I like magic.  It was/is my life’s ambition to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and when my owl didn’t arrive at 11, I was slightly disappointed Dumbledore didn’t see it fit to let me on the Hogwarts Express.  But that’s beside the point.  Hogwarts has nothing to do with the setting of “A Game of Thrones.”  (But Dumbledore better be glad Snape took care of him first…I’ve been practicing my Unforgivable Curses.  And they will work because I will mean them!)

In all seriousness though, I got into this series because my roommate at the time finagled a free 3 month trial of HBO just so she could start watching the show.  The show is amazing.  Given it’s HBO, there is a lot of sex, nudity, blood, and swearing, but really, isn’t that what we want in a tv show?  Plus Sean Bean was born to play a medieval lord.  When I moved to South Carolina and set up my Comcast account, lo and behold, I had a free 6 month trial of HBO!  “A Game of Thrones” helped me get through those first lonely weekends with no friends.  Don’t worry though, I think I made one friend in Charleston.

I’m not one to say the TV or movie adaptation is better than the book, but I wish I had skipped this book and gone straight to number 2.  If i had read the book before I watched the show, I might have felt differently, but HBO did such a good job that reading the book didn’t give me any further insight into the characters or illuminate any events the show may have left out.  They got it all in there, except for minor details that really don’t add anything critical to the story.

The saga starts in a mythical land where summers can last years and winter can last a lifetime.  There isn’t really much said about how people survive in the winter, except for the oft-repeated phrase “Winter is coming,” which are the words of the house Stark – the northernmost House.

The Houses constantly shuffle and posture for power.  Lords wed their daughters to the sons of Houses they hate for alliances.  Men lusting after power double cross other men they’ve pledged their allegiances to, women (cough Cersei cough) use their husbands as puppets, and a sense of honor doesn’t lead you anywhere except to a public beheading.  In the game of thrones you either win or you die.

Martin does an excellent job with his characters, for the most part.  Some of the characters are flat and two-dimensional (Jon, Catelyn, and Sansa), but the majority have motives, personalities, and live in the gray area between good and bad.  Even characters you think are wholly bad do something to redeem themselves for a time.  And characters you think are wholly good reveal a troubling amount of bloodthirsty behavior.  Lord Baelish and Tyrion Lannister never fail to keep you guessing and you can’t help but love Arya Stark.

Bottom Line: If you haven’t seen the series on HBO, read the book.  If you have, skip ahead to the second.  Take this as fair warning though – there are a lot of characters to keep straight.