27
Mar
15

Hzzzqz zo Lqzzqqq. CBR7 Review 16.

Unknown-2Finally, after what seems like ages, I’ve caught up with George RR Martin and finished A Dance with Dragons. (Just in time for GOT to start again on HBO!). I’ve enjoyed these books and the world that Martin has created, but they are a bear to review. THERE IS JUST TOO MUCH GOING ON. AND LOTS OF IT IS SUPER BORING.

This book is sort of a companion to A Feast for Crows. It takes place during more or less the same time period, but Martin’s universe has so many characters, they couldn’t all be contained in one massive tome. Some of these characters have fascinating, dynamic chapters full of exciting developments.

But most of them don’t. For a book that’s so very, very, very long, very little happens.

In fact, I could have done without a lot of the crap that happens here. Spoilers ahead, etc.

Tyrion is still on the lam, but now he’s performing in a fun carnival side-show! Cersei is still a horrible human being, but now she’s bald.

And lots of new characters appear, all of whom have tenuous claims to the iron throne. We get a Martell from Dorne, who attempts to marry Daenerys in order to bring their two powerful families together. We discover a secret Targaryen who is being groomed to become the King of the people. Victarion Greyjoy is in the mix, too, hunting for Dani, hoping to take her as his bride and rule Westeros.

Out of these new, minute characters, the one I’m most interested in is Jon Connington. Not because of his thirst for revenge against the Baratheon family, or his ability to bring the Targaryens back in to power, but simply because I want to know what’s going to happen with his greyscale.

Meanwhile, we have lots of snow in the north. SO MUCH SNOW. Pages and pages about how fast it is snowing and how hard it is to see and how impossible it is to walk around. Will Stannis and his army ever get to Winterfell in this snow? Will team Bolton ever find out who has been secretly killing men all over Winterfell and leaving the bodies in the snow? How about Theon and Jeyne — they are out in the snow on their own. What’s going to happen if they can’t see because there’s so much snow? The snow is so hard to shovel! WINTER IS COMING.

There is also snow at the wall. But I’m more interested in the fire at the wall. Melisandre’s visions, Mance Rayder’s secret identity, and the betrayal of Jon Snow are about the only interesting things going on up there. While I believe George Martin loves nothing more than to kill off major characters for fun, I can’t imagine that this is the last we’ll be seeing of Jon Snow. I feel confident that the fire and “the red” will come to his rescue.

What else? One weird, out of place chapter about Jaime and Brienne. (SERIOUSLY, as an editor, this almost drove me to drink. Why was this chapter here? Why not just toss it in at the end of the last book? WHY?). Too much Ramsay Bolton is  crazy stuff. A lot of weird, dysfunctional family stuff going on in Dorne. And Cersei is still horrible. But at least now, she’s bald. And Varys! Glad to have him back, even for just a few, short, horrible pages.

The worst of all of this? The Tyrion chapters, once he is off the boat and stuck with Jorah. I was thrilled that Jorah was back in the story, but come on. This was awful — the jousting with Penny, the sellswords. I just didn’t care about any of it.

Which pretty much leaves us with Dani. Still stuck halfway across the world, where everyone’s name is simply a bunch of z’s and q’s strung together, Dani’s story didn’t perk up until she disappeared from it on the back of her dragon. All of the political crap was deathly boring, until she vanished. And then her story was told by Barristan Selmy, positive she will return, bravely preparing for her to step back into the roll of Queen again. His stuff was great. But the rest was almost as bad as the Iron Islands bits from the last book. I wasn’t invested in her love story (triangle?). Of course she isn’t going to take Quentyn’s proposal seriously. And of course she can’t marry Daario (but it sure is nice picturing him as Michel Huisman, thank you very much). So she must stick with Hizdahr, who may or may not be the worst person in all of Mereen. I don’t know. And I don’t care. I just want Dani to get on with it and head on over to Westeros.

I’m not feeling too confident about these next books ever being published. I wish George would stop blogging about the NFL and showing up on talk shows to talk about why the books aren’t finished. Just write them, George. Time is short, and winter is coming.

25
Mar
15

Fake boobs are weird, ya’ll. CBR7 Review 15.

Unknown-1I never think of listening to audiobooks. I don’t know why. I should totally listen to more audiobooks. I spend enough time in the car, shuttling kids back and forth, driving to Target 9 million times a week, and doing all sorts of other errands. When I requested Yes, Please from my library, I didn’t even notice that I had clicked on the audiobook version — not the regular hardcopy book — to add to my hold queue. But hey, I’m glad I did. Otherwise, I never would have had the pleasure of hearing Patrick Stewart saying “fake boobs are weird, ya’ll.”.

Indeed, they are, Patrick. Indeed.

I can’t help but compare this book to Bossypants and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?. But that’s not fair. It isn’t fair to Amy Poehler. And it isn’t fair to Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling and pretty much all other funny women who may or may not choose to write a book. But I can’t help it. My mind automatically makes these comparisons.

The major difference (in a positive way) is that I didn’t always like Amy Poehler when she told the stories that made up her life. She is brutally honest about some aspects of her life that aren’t perfect — divorce, drug use, her tendency to swear at strangers on airplanes, and her inability to apologize in certain situations. And while she was telling her anecdotes, sometimes I got a little bit mad and annoyed. But, in the end, it made me like her even more, and appreciate that she was willing to let it all hang out there. Even the ugly stuff.

This was the first book in a long time that I wanted to stop reading (or, I guess, listening to), and write my review only part of the way through. I wanted to let everyone know that Amy made me laugh out loud and cry, on DISC ONE. She got me by talking about her family and her parents and the day she was born. I loved listening to her tell the world about how important her family is to her. And I cried when she told us all to go out and call our parents and ask about the day we were born. I can’t do that, so instead, that night, I made sure to tell all three of my kids about the days they were born instead.

But then later, I cried from laughing when she talked about the way that people from Boston love to point out other people from Boston. I don’t know why we all do this, but its true. And I haven’t lived in Boston for 10 years, but I’ll never stop doing it.

Amy and I are pretty much the same age, and we come from the same part of the world. I didn’t work at the same ice cream parlor as she did growing up, but I went there SO MANY TIMES. I grew up right down the street from Boston College, and went to a similar school at the same time. Her stories about growing up really made me feel like I know her. (However, while she was wearing neon and using tons of hairspray, I was wearing black and using lots of hair dye. But still. We would have been friends if we had known each other, of this I am sure.)

Like I said earlier, I didn’t always like Amy in this book (really, the story about Chris Cooper and his wife was uncomfortable to listen to), but when I did like her, I loved her. This is getting added to the pile of books I’m setting aside for Bunnybean when she is old enough to read it, so that she knows there is always a place for a smart, creative, funny woman in the world.

16
Mar
15

I never, ever want to drink Gin & Tonics in a can. CBR7 Review 14.

UnknownEvery so often, a book comes out of nowhere that suddenly everyone is reading. The Twilight series. Oprah books. 50 Shades. And last year’s Gone Girl. Most of the time, these books are crap. But at least they get people reading and talking. I remember when Twilight came out, and a woman I knew — who never, ever read — was so obsessed with reading those books that she took time off from work and paid her nanny for extra hours so that she could read in peace. And last year, you couldn’t go a day without a conversation about Gone Girl. The shocking ending, the unreliable narrators, the brutal violence. Now it seems that everyone is trying to be the next Gillian Flynn.

While I’m not a huge fan of most of the books mentioned above, I’m glad that they exist. But sometimes, there’s so much hype about a book, that by the time you actually have a chance to read it, it doesn’t live up to all of the excitement. i think that’s what happened for me with The Girl on the Train.

Here’s what I liked about it:

An unknown, practically broke writer came out of nowhere to become this year’s most talked about author. Good for her. How often is the new, literary “it girl” actually a journey woman in her 40s? I’m happy for Paula Hawkins and wish her all the success in the world.

Paula Hawkins didn’t pull any punches in making her characters unlikable. That was a brave choice.

Her vivid descriptions of modern-day London life was so spot on, I practically felt like I was riding along on the train with Rachel. Or heading out for a coffee downtown. Or commuting on a crowded train every day. The train scenes were the ones I liked the best.

But mostly, I didn’t really like this book. Spoilers, ahoy.

I didn’t like a single character. The three women who narrated the story were all just the worst. And I hated Rachel most of all. Yes, I’m sorry that she was manipulated and treated poorly by her husband. And yes, I feel badly that she had become an alcoholic. But come on. She was just awful. But in her defense, I was really glad that she didn’t turn out to be the killer. I honestly suspected her for a huge chunk of the book.

And because Rachel, Megan, and Anna were so unreliable in their versions of the story, every other character in the book was tainted. Was Cathy a shrewish bitch? Or was Cathy just fed up with a roommate who would pee and throw up in her hallway? Who knows?

I can’t deny that the book was a page turner. I’m sure it will pop up in thousands of beach bags this summer. And I’m glad. Whatever gets people reading. I wonder… if I had picked this up on a whim, without all of the accompanying hullaballoo, would I have enjoyed it more? Regardless, I’m glad I read it. I’m just sorry I didn’t enjoy it.

11
Mar
15

I want a lying cat for my birthday. Thanks. CBR7 Review 13.

UnknownVolume 3 of Saga was kind of a let-down for me, but only because I didn’t have Volume 4 right in front of me to read immediately. And now I’m mad that I don’t know what happens next because there’s a wait for it at the library and COME ON. WHAT ABOUT MY NEEDS, OTHER LIBRARY PATRONS?

Volume 3 of this amazing graphic novel starts off by introducing us to a couple of new characters — two investigative (tabloid?) journalists who want to break the big story about Marko and Alana’s illicit love affair and the child they are on the run with. This is an unbelievable story that could give these guys the big break they’ve been waiting their whole career for. While they travel around, talking to people with ties to the couple (Alana’s step-mother, other soldiers from her platoon, robot soldiers, etc.), they start to raise eyebrows for asking too many of the right questions. Needless to say, these two are left with quite a conundrum — literally, that if they publish their findings, they die. I really can’t wait to see what happens with these guys. They know that a story isn’t worth dying for, but I don’t think they plan to go down easily.

But enough about the new characters…What about everyone else?

For Marko and Alana, they are still trying to find a safe place for their family, or whatever is left of it. They wonder how they can provide for little Hazel while on the run, considering all available options, including some ridiculous sort of reality TV. Their love and strength as a couple continues to grow, and is tested beyond belief when they have to face bad-ass Gwendolyn.

Gwen is still after them, with The Will, and young Sophie in tow. Gwen never loses sight of her task — to catch up with Marko. But The Will isn’t as eager to keep after them. When they spend time on a lovely, green planet, he thinks they could make a life for themselves there. He has feelings for Gwen, and wants to protect Sophie. And as much as I like The Will, I have to keep reminding myself that he isn’t actually a very good guy, and that a happy ending probably isn’t in his future.

My favorites remain Lying Cat and ghost Izabel. These two, while on opposing “teams”, are fiercely loyal to their friends. Izabel’s scenes with Marko’s mother were somewhat heartbreaking, as the two opposites slowly became friends. Izabel’s devotion to Klara after the horrible battle at the lighthouse really showed what an asset she was to Hazel and her family.

And yes, other stuff happens. Stuff with Prince Robot, the Freelancers, and Mister Heist. Things with flying sharks and little seals dressed up like boys. Alligator maids and fox mechanics. And it’s all fascinating. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a graphic novel fan, do yourself a favor and give Saga a go. Its so unlike anything I’ve read before.

06
Mar
15

I’m just glad there weren’t hoverboards and government mandated surgeries here. CBR7 review 12.

Unknown-3A few years ago (CBR4?) I read Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies and really, really didn’t care for it. But I kind of liked Scott Westerfeld, so I kept up with what he was working on. When I read ModernLove’s review of Afterworlds, I decided that this would be the book where I gave Westerfeld his second chance. The idea sounded so clever and the book was so pretty. I couldn’t say no.

I’m mostly glad about that decision.

Afterworld’s is something different. It’s actually two stories in one. Not two alternating narratives, but two completely different novels tied together as one.

Book one is the story of Darcy Patel, a recent high school graduate who bangs out a novel during NaNoWriMo and sells it to the first publisher she contacts. The novel tells of her struggle to become an adult and a real writer (which she does not consider herself to be). She struggles with money, relationships, deadlines, and being on her own for the first time ever.

Meanwhile, book two is Darcy’s novel. Lizzie Scofield is the sole survivor of a brutal airport terror attack. But her experience with death brings her to the underworld, where she finds out that she’s a psychopomp, i.e., a guide for the newly dead. She can see and talk to ghosts, including the ghost of her mother’s best friend who was murdered when she was 11 and has been living in her closet for all of these years. And of course, she meets the super-hot god of death while she’s on “the flip side”.

Here’s what I really liked about this book.

The book was gorgeous. The Lizzie chapters have a black margin header, and the Darcy pages are white. The pages looked bold and bright and were clearly marking which story was which. (Any kindle readers out there with this book? Is there any special formatting? Just curious.)

Westerfeld’s female voice is actually quite good. Darcy and her sister Nisha talked to each other like real people. Darcy and her girlfriend Gen had real problems that Darcy handled about as well as an 18 year old would. I liked her friends from high school (Carla and Sagan. Ha!). I loved that Darcy couldn’t stick to her budget and that her sister called her by her last name. These details brought the white chapters to life.

I also really enjoyed the fact that this was a pretty honest view of the world of YA publishing in the age of social media. A very supportive, but extremely competitive community, with superstars and failures, and that all it takes to create a bestseller sometimes is one random picture on the internet. I didn’t think Darcy’s huge payout for her first novel was very realistic, but the rest of her year in New York seemed to be pretty accurate. Being a writer isn’t easy and this glimpse made becoming a success look nearly impossible.

I didn’t enjoy the black chapters as much as the white chapters. I wanted more details about a lot of what was going on (but I guess I wasn’t alone, Darcy’s editors wanted more, too). I didn’t feel like I knew very much about any of the characters at the end, other than that Lizzie had special powers and that Yama was really handsome. Mr. Hamlyn was a bad guy, but he had been through a traumatic experience. Lizzie’s mom and friend Jamie were supportive and kind. And Agent Reyes had a terrible job. But what else? The characters were very two-dimensional, which was maybe done on purpose, demonstrating that this was Darcy’s first novel and that she needs to grow as a writer. In that case, it was really well done. I hope that was the case.

I’m glad I read this and gave Westerfeld another shot. I still don’t plan to go back and read any of his dystopian stuff, because I really, really hated Uglies. Like Lauren Oliver, maybe dystopia just isn’t for him. Maybe writing about real people and real situations is where he excels.

02
Mar
15

This book made me feel a whole lot of nothing. CBR Review 11.

Unknown-3Remember last year I read Anna and the French Kiss? It was cute and refreshing. Then I read Stephanie Perkins’ awesome short story, “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown.” And I assumed that Stephanie Perkins and I were a match made in heaven, best friends forever.

And then came Lola. And I still want to punch Lola in the face.

So, here we have book three in the “trilogy” that is made up of Anna, Lola, and Isla. Isla and the Happily Ever After. And while it is nowhere near as good as Anna, it certainly isn’t as cringeworthy as Lola (punch).

You may remember Isla as a very minor character in Anna…she was a junior at the Parisian high school where all of these epically cool and wealthy american kids went. She was very shy and kind and totally obsessed with Anna’s friend Josh, but Josh had a gorgeous and beautiful girlfriend, so Isla just pined away for him on the side.

This story is all about Isla and Josh and their rocky road to romance. But is isn’t only about teenage, angsty romance! It also teaches us about political campaigns, Spanish architecture, graphic novels, and autism.

What I liked about the story is that Isla acted like a normal teenage girl when she and Josh (SPOILER, but not really, as the title actually includes the words “HAPPILY EVER AFTER” ) broke up briefly. She was sort of nasty to everyone around her, ignored her family at the holidays, didn’t eat, checked her phone obsessively, and was just an all-around unpleasant character to read about. I didn’t really enjoy it, but I liked that it was kind of real.

I also sort of liked her friend Kurt. I was glad that he was a well-drawn, three-dimensional character. Not just “he’s autistic, so he acts this way”. I was happy to see him grow as a person and find that there was more in life and at school besides living in Isla’s shadow.

But I really didn’t love anything else. The more I read about Anna and St. Clair, the more annoying I find them. And Lola’s outfit in Paris made me cringe. I didn’t really need them to be in the book, at all. If we need to have all of these sequels about all of these crazy characters, what about one for Meredith? She seems interesting, yet we know almost nothing about her.

I guess as a grown-up human who has been married for a while, one of my main gripes with this series is that all of these characters are so, 100% ready to settle down with their boyfriend from when they were 18. Yes, of course, that happens a lot. But I am having trouble getting on board with all three of these couples living “happily ever after”.

Stephanie Perkins, I like you. I know you can write. I just need to read something new from you.

And when Cricket is brought to trial for murdering Lola, I’d be happy to act as a character witness in his defense.

13
Feb
15

Star-crossed lovers, indeed. CBR7 reviews 9 & 10.

Unknown-3So many other Cannonballers have been praising Saga, the graphic novel series from author Brian Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples, I just had to know what all the fuss was about.

As you must be aware by now, Saga tells the tale of Marko and Alana, lovers from warring planets (Marko has horns! Alana has wings! They are so different!) who find themselves pregnant and on the run from the many, many people who want them dead. As the story starts, Alana is giving birth to their daughter, Hazel. Hazel has horns AND wings — clearly an abomination that the powers-that-be must destroy.

The family enjoys about two seconds of precious togetherness before their race to survive begins. This book grabbed me and hooked me from page 1, and has yet to let me go.

What I love about these books (so far) is they way that a very familiar tale is being told, but in such a unique way.

Marko and Alana are LITERALLY star-crossed lovers. Marko’s parents don’t approve! He has horns and she has wings! How could they stand to be near each other? But this isn’t Romeo & Juliet by any means.

This is a rollicking adventure through a version of space we’ve not seen before, with new creatures and beings, all on the hunt for a young man and woman. But this isn’t Star Wars, either.

I spent a lot of time (seriously, a lot. too much) thinking about some of the characters here. Lying Cat (who seems to be a Cannonball favorite), is a delight. The Will, who I know I shouldn’t like, as he is trying to kill our heroes, is really growing on me. His willingness to risk everything in order to save the slave girl really got to me. Gwen is so kick-ass, I can’t help but like her. Izabel is just like our babysitter, except for the fact that she’s only a torso (thankfully). Alana has just about the most awesome haircut in all of literature. How can you not worship a book with such a great haircut???

And don’t even get me started on Prince Robot. Sometimes at night when I can’t sleep I start wondering about him. He has a human body, but a monitor for a head. HOW DOES THAT WORK? WHY AM I SO WORKED UP ABOUT IT? And then I can’t stop thinking about it.

These books are so new and exciting, and completely unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. The characters are deep and complicated, which is no small feat, considering the small amount of text used. The good guys aren’t always 100% nice, and the bad guys do good things sometimes. I’m on the library list for the next two volumes, and I’m getting antsy. I NEED to find out what happens next. If that’s not the sign of a great story, I don’t know what is.




Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.