Author Archive for Kara Horgan

07
Apr
14

Scootsa1000′s #CBR6 Review 15: Ask the Passengers by AS King

Unknown-4Ages and ages ago, way back when I was doing my first Cannonball, I read an amazing book called Please Ignore Vera Dietz by AS King. It was the kind of book that really stuck with me — I thought about it long after finishing it, adding it to a list of books in my mind that I would set aside for Bunnybean to read when she is old enough. But I never sought out any of King’s other books. Why?

Because of Lauren Oliver.

I’m going to pull a Bill Simmons, and go ahead and dub this situation THE LAUREN OLIVER THEORY.

 

She wrote a beautiful book once upon a time, called Before I Fall. And because of that book, I’ve fallen down a Lauren Oliver hole and can’t get out. I read all of her RIDICULOUS Delirium books, each worse than the one before it.  But I couldn’t give her up, because I knew that somewhere inside her mess of a dystopia there was a talented writer. And maybe someday we’d see her talent shine again. But it looks like we won’t and that maybe Before I Fall was a fluke.

And I was worried that King’s other books might be similar — what if the magnificence of Vera Dietz was a one-time thing and the rest of King’s books were Delirium-esque crap?

However, I’m happy to report that Ask the Passengers, while not as great as Vera, was still pretty damn good. Take that, Lauren Oliver!

ATP is the story of Astrid, a high schooler living in a very Stepford-esque town in suburban PA. At first glance, her life seems pretty regular: problems with her parents, no boyfriend, etc. But as we get to know Astrid, we find out that she — and many around her — have some pretty big secrets. Secrets about sexuality, drug use, lying, etc.

One of my favorite things about Vera Dietz was her relationship with her Dad. Sadly, there aren’t any relationships in this book that are as real, especially those between Astrid and her parents.

My main issue with ATP was a small one — Astrid’s mom was a complete and total shrew, and we don’t ever really find out why. Why has she pushed Astrid out of her life and pulled her little sister closer and closer? Don’t get me wrong, her mom was an interesting character — so obsessed with her status in the neighborhood and how horrible it would be if their family didn’t always look 100% perfect. I just wish we knew more about why she was that way.

Long story short, I’m so glad that I decided to give AS King another try. I’ll be on the lookout for more of her stuff at the library.

31
Mar
14

Scootsa1000′s #CBR6 Review 14: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Unknown-3There’s been a lot of recent hullaballoo about Red Rising. Pierce Brown is young and handsome and eloquent and has a lot to say about the world he has created in Red Rising, which I’m sure is making movie studios salivate at the prospect of finally producing the next Hunger Games franchise. But Red Rising is a lot more than a potential movie series starring very attractive young people. There’s some real writing talent here.

What exactly is Red Rising about? Well. Its about a future society on Mars, and the civil unrest that exists between the classes. Its about the government taking the best and brightest and forcing them to fight to become the leaders of tomorrow. Take the political strife and personal sacrifice of The Hunger Games, the manipulation of children for the purposes of battle from Ender’s Game, the political maneuverings of A Song of Fire and Ice, the mythology of the Percy Jones books, and then toss in some inspirational Braveheart/Henry V speeches. And then mix it all together and top it off with a huge pile of bat-shit crazy killing from Battle Royale. That’s Red Rising.

To be honest, I wasn’t too into it at first. It starts out a story about a boy named Darrow, who is a member of the lowest class of Mars’ society, the Reds (class is based on “color” — reds are low, golds are high. Anything lower than gold is more or less a slave.). Darrow lives in the mines of Mars, living a quiet (yet very poor) life with his wife, Eo. Eo shows him a glimpse of what life outside of the mines is like, and that just maybe the government hasn’t been completely honest with them. When his world turns upside down and he is shown that life on Mars really isn’t all that it seems, everything changes. Darrow is used as a pawn: through many lengthy and painful surgeries, he is turned into a “gold” fighter, and sent as a spy to infiltrate the extremely selective institute where the best of the best are trained to lead. The end goal is to bring down society from the inside, leading to a potential revolution and end to the color caste system.

At this point, I wasn’t 100% sold on this story.

And then.

Well, the less said, the better. Darrow is chosen for entry to the prestigious academy, and then all hell literally breaks loose. The academy isn’t quite what any of the gold students expect. At all. And at this point, I couldn’t put the book down. The last 70% of the story is out of control. But in a good way.

I did have a few minor quibbles with this book. Many times, plots and characters were simply thrust into the story without any introduction or background. It took me a while to get used to this style of exposition (the first few times, I had to go back and check…had I met this character before? Did we already learn about this? No? OK.), but after a while, I simply got used to it. My other complaint? There is so much going on here, that when the next book comes out I’m going to have to do a re-read in order to prepare.

Please note: this book isnt’ for the feint of heart. It is at times brutal and violent. I noticed that it wasn’t in the YA section of my library, but rather in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section, which I think is for the best.

 

 

21
Mar
14

Scootsa1000′s #CBR6 Review 13: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Unknown-2There’s been a lot of CBR buzz about The Rosie Project, a fun story about finding love.

Don Tillman is a genetics professor somewhere in Australia. He is 39 years old and single. He’s in great shape (he does martial arts, he runs, he bikes, he eats well), and he is a pretty good cook. On paper, he’s a great catch.

But.

Don is also extraordinarily meticulous. He plans out his daily schedule to the minute. He eats the same dinner on the same night of the week EVERY SINGLE WEEK. When he meets new people, he works out their BMI in his head, and he will decide not to like you if you smoke. At the beginning of the story, when Don gives a lecture on Asperger’s Syndrome, its pretty clear (while never firmly stated) that Don himself has Asperger’s, or something quite like it. Don is lousy in social situations. He doesn’t have much grace when it comes to dealing with the emotional welfare of others. And yet…I quite liked Don and found him to be a very empathetic character. Its pretty much impossible not to root for Don all the way through the story.

Don decides he’s tired of being alone, and that his quirks shouldn’t force him into a life led alone. So he comes up with an intricate questionnaire (The Wife Project) that he posts online, with tons of specific questions that should lead him to the perfect, suitable mate.

And instead, Don meets Rosie. Rosie smokes. She drinks too much. She doesn’t dress the way Don imagines a woman should dress. And — egads! — she dyes her hair. On their first night out, Rosie tells Don about her quest to find her birth father, and the geneticist in Don can’t turn away from solving a puzzle like that.

They embark on what calls “the Father Project” — narrowing down a list of potential suspects, collecting DNA, etc. I enjoyed reading about Don and Rosie and their ridiculous exploits, trying to get swabs of DNA from these unsuspecting men. Sometimes it was a bit much — really, Don climbing out a window and scaling a building in downtown Manhattan was a little overdone for me — but usually it was entertaining.

And of course, it turns out that Rosie is the one for Don. But can she live with his quirks and his inability to love? Can he live with her unsuitable habits?

While I didn’t love it 100% as I had hoped, I still liked it very much and enjoyed reading about Don and Rosie’s adventures and their path to happiness. My one small issue with the book is that it was written as a book simply as a precursor to being a screenplay. And yes, it would totally work as a movie, but I just wish it had felt more natural as a novel. That’s not a huge complaint though — Totally worth the steep $1.99 Kindle price!

12
Mar
14

Scootsa1000′s #CBR6 Review 12: Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

51sKE4tAH3L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_I was seeing this book everywhere but I had no idea what it was about. I think I kept confusing it with The Rosie Project, another book with a red cover and odd font, which I had already downloaded on my Kindle, so I kept ignoring Me Before You every time I came across it. Finally, whatever fog lives in my brain lifted for a few minutes and I realized, no, this is in fact a very different book. One that has recently been very well reviewed by other CBR members. And I snatched it up and brought it home.

And I didn’t come up for air until I finished it. And I was a mess. Crying. Tears. Nose running. The works.

Me Before You is so many things. A love story. A story about sacrifice. A story about trying new things. And a story about becoming a better version of yourself.

Louisa (Lou) is 26 and lives at home in rural England.  She lives with her mum and dad, her ailing grandfather, and her sister and young nephew. She has a boyfriend, Patrick, who she’s been dating for 7 years. And she works in a cafe, which is enough for her. She is definitely a “people person” — chatty and friendly. She never really wanted anything more in life. Until the day that she doesn’t have that anymore.

When the cafe closes without warning, Lou finds herself back on the job market. She has no desire to “work the pole”, and it doesn’t really work out when she tries the fast food industry. All that is left is work as a home-care aid to a local disabled man. Lou takes the job, assuming the worst.

Will is in a wheelchair, and lives without the use of his arms and legs. Will used to lead an exciting life, filled with adventure and women. Now he sits and watches movies, and slowly pulls away from the rest of the world.

When Lou and Will find themselves together, they hate each other, of course. But the rest of the story was such a surprise, I won’t spoil it for the few who haven’t read it yet.

The story was lovely and funny and heartbreaking. Uplifting and devastating at the same time. I simply loved it.

As an aside, I recently watched a lovely movie on Netflix with a similar plot. It was a French film called The Intouchables, and it was awesome. I highly recommend it.

12
Mar
14

Scootsa1000′s #CBR6 Review 11: Longbourn by Jo Baker

415ZYy1tNyL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_I’ve read Pride & Prejudice a handful of times, and am, in general, a big fan of Jane Austen (my personal favorite is Persuasion). And yes, I’ve fallen into the trap of reading prequels and sequels and spinoffs of varied quality. So I wasn’t in a huge hurry to read Longbourn. But I saw it at the library, and then remembered a CBR review from last year written by popcultureboy that convinced me to read it.

And I’m so glad I did.

Easily the best of the Austen books not written by Jane Austen, Longbourn is the story of what happened behind the scenes during Pride and Prejudice. What went on in the kitchen? Who cleaned up all of those dishes? Who got the dresses ready for the ball at Netherfield? And who washed all of the mud out of Elizabeth Bennett’s petticoats? The downstairs staff at Longbourn.

I loved reading the story that we all know from the perspective of Sarah, the housemaid and Mrs.Hill, Mr. Bennett’s long-suffering housekeeper. It was fun seeing what outsiders thought of Elizabeth’s forward thinking, or how they managed Lydia’s outrageousness, or Mrs. Bennett’s hysteria (answer: lots and lots of laudanum). The details were sometimes a bit much (no thanks, I don’t really need to know what’s inside Mr. Collins’ chamberpot), but seemed spot-on. I never tired of reading about the details of the day, of how much work it took to keep a house like Longbourn running as smoothly as possible. And I enjoyed the fact that the five Bennett girls lived in another world entirely, and clearly had no idea about any of it. Sometimes, honestly, I wanted to smack some of those Bennetts across the face because of their ignorance. SHOE ROSES DO NOT MAGICALLY APPEAR, LADIES!

My favorite bit of the book: the absolute villian that Mr. Wickham was in the eyes of the household staff. He really came off as a terrible, terrible man. 

I also enjoyed the progression of the love story here. A housemaid and a footman with a secret, falling slowly and quietly in love. My only wish is that there had been a bit less of the story told in flashback — I wanted more of the story in present day. But that’s really a minor quibble. 

 

 

09
Mar
14

Scootsa1000′s #CBR6 Review 10: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

511HpbE3NbL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Sometimes you might read a book that isn’t particularly well written, or doesn’t have the most original plot, but it just has SOMETHING about it that makes you love it. Its like the book was written just for you, and that’s a treat. And sometimes you read a book that has everything going for it — its well written, has an interesting plot and great characters. And everyone loves it. Except for you. And you don’t even know why.

This is precisely what happened to me when I read The Knife of Never Letting Go, the story of Todd, a young boy in a new world where men can hear each others’ thoughts and there are no surviving women. When colonists came to this new planet to start a new life, they encountered a virus that infected the men and killed the women, and right now, there are only a handful of men left. Until Todd finds a “hole” in the noise, and discovers Viola, a girl who recently crash-landed on Todd’s planet and is all alone. Todd and Viola join together on a journey away from Todd’s community, and slowly find out that everything Todd ever knew about his life was a lie.

I can’t really explain what I didn’t like about it. Patrick Ness is a really great writer. The new world that he created was beautifully presented, and his language and “noise” weren’t difficult to become accustomed to. His characters were sympathetic — really, who would wish ill-will upon Todd, or Viola, or even poor little Manchee? There have been tons of reviews of the book here over the past several years, and they’ve all been positive.

So, why didn’t I like it?

Honestly, I have no idea. I certainly don’t think it was a bad book. This simply wasn’t the book for me. I struggled to get through it, and if I hadn’t had a book club discussion to go to, I doubt I would have finished it at all. I’m doubtful that I’ll be reading the other two books in the trilogy.

04
Mar
14

Scootsa1000′s #CBR6 Review 9: Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto

UnknownLike everyone else, I’ve been swept up by the amazing True Detective on HBO. The storytelling and acting are really great, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens this weekend on the finale. I really have no idea where its going — but I love reading the theories and speculations all over the internet. Yellow King, Carcosa, Spaghetti Monster, Rust Cohle — they are all amazing creations. I had no idea that the series’ writer, Nic Pizzolatto, was also a novelist.

Galveston is about an ex-con (who still does shady work for a living) named Roy Cady. He’s doing some work for an even worse guy down in New Orleans when we first meet him, in the late 1980s. In the very first chapter, Roy finds out that he’s dying of lung cancer, and that he really doesn’t have much to live for anymore. No family, no loved ones, nothing much accomplished in his life full of regret.

And then Roy meets Rocky, a young girl down on her luck, under very bad circumstances. And Rocky changes Roy’s life — both for better and for worse.

Galveston, like True Detective, jumps from past to present. We see Roy as he was, and we see the man that Roy ended up. We find out how Rocky’s influence changed him, and how he changed himself. And we see that, even though Roy wasn’t a very good guy, it doesn’t mean he wasn’t a good man.

I liked a lot of things about Galveston. Pizzolatto has a hard-boiled writing style, like James Ellroy and Don DeLillo. He writes tough, violent bits that are quickly counteracted with scenes of real humanity. While Roy wasn’t a guy I was necessarily “rooting” for, I really did end up liking a lot of the secondary characters, and worried for the well-being.

But there were also a few issues I had with the book as well. And I wonder if I would have felt the same if I had discovered Pizzolatto as an author without knowing anything about True Detective.

It was nearly impossible to picture anyone but Matthew McConaughey as Roy, as he was described as the modern version of Rust Cohle — tall, thin, cowboy boots, long hair pulled back. And Roy had a habit of carving little aluminum men out of beer cans, just like Rust Cohle. They both drive beaten up Ford F-150s and drink to mask their emotional pain. Both stories bring out the worst of the gulf coast (Louisiana, Texas), really not painting a very pretty picture at all. And both are filled with really bad people doing really bad things to young girls and women. So, a lot of the story and details didn’t seem particularly fresh to me. More like a retread of what I’ve been watching on HBO.

But that’s not really all that big a complaint. When writing is good, its good. And Pizzolatto is a good writer who has some dark stories to tell.

23
Feb
14

Bunnybean’s #CBR6 Review 2: A Haunting in Williamsburg by Lou Kassem

511WICGRmcL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_In school, my teacher just read this book to us. Its about a girl named Jayne, who just moved from California to Williamsburg, Virginia. Her parents work for the government and have to move around a lot, which is hard for Jayne.

Her parents have to go away for the whole summer, so Jayne goes to live with aunt Liz. Aunt Liz works at a hospital, and she DOESNT believe in ghosts.

Jayne meets a real ghost inside Aunt Liz’s house, who was part of her family during the Revolutionary War. The ghost’s name is Sally, and she and Jayne have a lot in common. Sally tells Jayne about their family history: Her brother, Jeremiah, was a spy for the colonies. He had a special silver coin to prove that he was a spy. Sally was hoping to marry Colin, but Colin lived far away, in British territory. Jeremiah went to Colin’s house, and Colin gave him a ring and a love letter for Sally, asking her to meet him in Baltimore so that they could be together. But for Colin to get to Baltimore, he would need a silver coin like Jeremiah’s, and he didn’t have one. Jeremiah gives Colin his coin and heads home to Sally. Jeremiah is stopped by American soldiers, who think he is British because he doesn’t have his coin, and they shoot him dead. So Sally never got to Baltimore and Colin never got to marry her.

Later in the book, Jayne meets one of Colin’s descendants, a man named Dr. McNeil. Jayne finds Colin’s original letter and ring, and offers it to Dr. McNeil for his family history, but Dr. McNeil tells her to give them to Sally, instead.

Jayne gives the letter and ring to Sally, which makes Sally happy and makes her feel complete. She won’t have any need to haunt anymore.

This was a pretty good book. I enjoyed the way my teacher read it, and probably wouldn’t have liked it as much if I had read it on my own. We live in Virginia and we are studying colonial history, so that part was interesting.

 

23
Feb
14

Joemyjoe’s #CBR6 Review 1: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

WestingGame6Last week, we drove to New York and we listened to the CD of The Westing Game in the car.

The Westing Game is about 16 people who are brought together because they are all mentioned as heirs in a very rich businessman’s (Samuel Westing) will. And they can only inherit his fortune of $200,000,000 if they can solve the mystery of his murder.

The heirs are paired together and given a set of clues and $10,000 to help them solve the mystery. The clues were pretty tough and didn’t make a lot of sense at first, as we see more information, it becomes a little bit easier to figure out.

The book is really exciting. We don’t know who the murderer is or who will solve the mystery until the very end. There is a lot of action: bombs go off, people are poisoned, and some people even die. Some characters lie, not many are telling the truth, so there are a lot of twists and turns in the story. At different parts of the story, I thought different people had murdered Mr. Westing, and I kept changing my mind.

My favorite character was Otis, the delivery boy. Or was he really a delivery boy????????

I loved this book, everybody should read it. It is a good mystery.

20
Feb
14

Scootsa1000′s #CBR6 Review 8: This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Unknown-4For the past 5 of 6 months, I’ve been juggling two different book clubs. The first one, the one I’ve been in for years, was starting to get on my nerves. Not the people so much as the book choices. They just weren’t for me. I’m not a Twilight Mom and I’m not an Oprah addict, so there wasn’t much there for me. And I found myself a second, more “me” club. But even if I didn’t read the chosen books for the original club, I still liked to go and hang out. And at our last meeting, they mentioned that the new book was HILARIOUS and SEDARIS-LIKE, which piqued my interest.

And then they told me that it was being made into a movie with Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jean Ralphio, and Connie Britton (and her magnificent hair). And when they said Timothy Olyphant was in it, I was sold. I was excited for the first time in a while about a Book Club Book.

And for the first half of the book, I was as excited as the rest of my friends. I laughed out loud a few times. I enjoyed picturing various actors in my head, playing out the scenes I had just read. And, you know, Olyphant.

The book is about 4 adult children who come home for the funeral of their father. The siblings haven’t seen much of each other recently, and aren’t really an emotionally open group, so there are lots of sarcastic barbs and funny comments to mask their grief. They are told by their mother and their rabbi that their dad wanted them to sit shiva, so they find themselves stuck together in their childhood home for the first time in ages for an entire week.

Our main character is Judd. Judd has recently split from his wife, the beautiful Jen, who was cheating on him with his boss, a Howard Stern-esque DJ. The story is told from Judd’s perspective, as he interacts with his sister, two brothers, and their various spouses, children, and girlfriends. He also spends time with his next door neighbor (the brain damaged Horry), his high school girlfriend, and various other friends and relatives he hasn’t seen in a while.

They all have their problems. Judd’s sister Wendy is in a loveless marriage and has three young children she can’t control. She was Horry’s high school girlfriend, and Horry will never get over her. Judd’s younger brother Phillip is a bit of a mess — always changing jobs, sleeping his way through the NYC female population, and getting in trouble with the law constantly. He brings his new, much older girlfriend to the funeral, trying to prove that he’s growing up finally. Judd’s older brother, Paul, holds a huge grudge against Judd because of something that happened in high school. And, by the way, Paul is married to Judd’s ex girlfriend, which leads to a few very awkward scenes in the book. And then there’s Hillary, their mother. Hillary is a famous child psychologist, who has written some of the most popular child rearing books ever. She also loves plastic surgery and inappropriate outfits, and she just might have something important to tell her children while they are all gathered together.

I liked how the book used humor to deal with serious situations: infidelity, infertility, grief, sexuality, religion, and faith.

But then, about halfway through the book, I got really tired of the humor and the sarcasm. I really just wanted someone in the book to step up and deal with an adult situation like an actual adult, and not laugh it off or ignore it. And by the end, when actual small steps were made in the right direction for some of the characters, it was too late for me, I just didn’t care anymore.

I know Tropper is a fairly popular writer with a few other novels under his belt, I’m just not sure I’ll bother to read them if they are the same “humorous” style. But I’ll still see the movie.

 




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