Archive for May, 2012

31
May
12

Scootsa1000’s #CBR4 Review #24: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Bunnybean took Coraline out of the library a few weeks ago and started to read it…we thought maybe we would read it at the same time and then present a Cannonball Point-Counterpoint type of review.  And then about two chapters in she started to get scared.  And she put the book down and happily took off with Laura Ingalls Wilder, leaving me alone to figure out another Neil Gaiman book.

As previously mentioned, Neil Gaiman and I have had a rough relationship.  I loved Neverwhere, and really liked Stardust.  I couldn’t finish American Gods, and was lukewarm about The Graveyard Book. But I feel like I’m supposed to love Gaiman’s books, and that if I keep trying, someday I will.

Coraline found me taking steps in the right direction.  I enjoyed the story of the bored little girl who finds a dark, alternate version of her world on the other side of a walled-off door in her family’s new apartment.  I haven’t seen the movie, but had an easy time picturing the differences between the real characters and the “others”, with their button eyes and pasty, clay-like flesh. The descriptions were simple, and yet incredibly detailed, and there was much to be appreciated. Simple little sections really stuck with me, in particular Coraline remembering her father’s bravery when they were attacked by a swarm of wasps. I loved the realism of that anecdote being remembered while Coraline was in a totally un-real situation in her “other” world.

I totally understand Bunnybean’s reluctance to continue with the story. Even though we found this in the Children’s section of the library, I’m thinking that the intended reader age is probably slightly older than 7. When I asked her what scared her, it wasn’t the dark hallways, the scary noises, or the unknown world that Coraline was facing, it was the button eyes.  She was petrified of the button eyes.

 

29
May
12

Scootsa1000’s #CBR4 Review #23: The Survivor by Gregg Hurwitz

For ages, people have been recommending Gregg Hurwitz thrillers to me, but I just hadn’t gotten around to reading one yet.  I have a friend that writes mystery/thrillers (and I’m just realizing, I am a lousy friend for not reviewing one and getting the word out about his books…add Chris Mooney* books to the list ASAP) who is always blogging and tweeting about Gregg Hurwitz, and really, that should have been enough to get me to pick up one of Hurwitz’s books. I have no excuse, and am sorry that I am arriving late to the Gregg Hurwitz party.

The Survivor tells the tragic tale of Nate Overbay, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who just so happens to be dying of ALS (this is not a spoiler, as we find out about in on page 1).  As the book begins, Nate is about to jump off a building — his marriage is over, his daughter hates him, and he doesn’t want to become a burden to anyone as he becomes weaker and weaker and eventually dies. However, suicide isn’t so easy…the window he is standing next to leads in to a bank (I know, really, a bank on the 11th floor?) where there happens to be a robbery going on.  Nate’s curiosity gets the better of him and he peeks in the window just in time to see the armed thieves shooting and killing bank employees and threatening a toddler.  Nate’s military training takes over, and BOOM, he takes out five of the six bad guys.  As the sixth man makes his escape, he warns Nate that he has ruined the plans of a very bad man, who will be very angry with him.

And so begins the roller coaster ride of Nate Overbay.

I really enjoyed the story, and particularly liked the surprises tossed at me by Hurwitz.  Every time I thought the book would go in a certain direction, he surprised me with a new detail that changed everything.  And the descriptions and detail regarding ALS as a progressive disease were heartbreaking.  I will most definitely be reading more by Hurwitz (I hear good things about You’re Next) and will keep an eye out for his books.

I should note that I received a free galley copy of this book from Netgalley.  The Survivor will be released on August 21 by St. Martin’s Press.

*FYI, if you like Dennis Lehane or James Patterson type books, give Chris Mooney a shot.  He writes Boston-based thrillers, and has a few characters with their own series. He’s a great writer.  I would definitely recommend Remembering Sarah, especially to anyone who read the Kenzie/Genarro books by Dennis Lehane.

20
May
12

Joemyjoe’s #CBR4 Review #4: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

The Giving Tree is about a boy and a tree who are best friends.  When the boy was little, he would play up in the tree, eat the tree’s apples, and swing on its branches.  He loved the tree.

Then the boy grew up he didn’t want to play with the tree anymore.  He wanted to take the apples and sell them for money.  The tree gave the boy all of his apples.

When the boy was a man, he wanted a house.  The tree gave him all of its branches to build a house.

When the man was older, he wanted a boat.  He cut down the tree all the way to a stump.

Then, when the man was really old, all he wanted was a place to sit down. He sat on the stump to rest.  And the boy and his tree were together again.

This was kind of a sad story, but sort of happy at the end.  I liked it alot.  I loved it.

 

20
May
12

Bunnybean’s #CBR4 Review #16: Matilda by Roald Dahl

First of all, this was the best book I’ve ever read.

Matilda is a five year-old genius.  She has really mean parents and an even meaner headmistress at school, Miss Trunchbull.  They don’t care at all that she’s very smart.  But she does have one nice teacher, Miss Honey, who encourages Matilda to be as smart as she can be.  Matilda also seems to have special powers — she can move things with her mind.

Matilda loves to read, but her parents hate books.  They won’t let her read, and always say “No More Books!” and make her and her brother (who they are very nice to for some reason) watch tv all the time.  She has to go to the library when her parents are out to be able to read at all.

At school, everyone is afraid of Miss Trunchbull, even the teachers.  She hates kids.  She hates learning. She throws kids out the window, she picks them up by their hair, she makes them eat a whole cake (even if they don’t want to!) until they feel sick, and she says lots of mean and nasty things.  Using her magic, Matilda scares Miss Trunchbull so badly that she decides to leave the school, leaving the children free to be happy and learn.

Matilda’s only real friends are Ms. Phelps (the librarian) and the lovely Miss Honey.  When Matilda’s parents get in trouble with the police (her father sells cars that he knows are bad and then steals money from customers) they plan to move away to Spain, Miss Honey lets Matilda stay with her and then adopts her.  Then Matilda can read all she wants and get a terrific education.

I am really enjoying all of these books by Roald Dahl and I think I’ll read the BFG next!

18
May
12

Scootsa1000’s #CBR4 Review #22: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Last year, I read and loved Lauren Oliver’s beautiful debut, Before I Fall.  At the same time, I also read and was pretty much indifferent to Oliver’s new creation, Delirium, the first in a trilogy about a new world where Love is considered a disease and all teens have a procedure to more or less become lobotomized, thus creating a society where nobody has any emotion and can easily be controlled.

As much as I was underwhelmed by Delirium, I will continue to stand by Lauren Oliver, because I know there is talent there, and I know we’ll see it again someday.  So I will continue to read her stuff and hope we see the dazzling writing soon.  And so, I picked up Pandemonium at the library, and was honestly expecting it to be worse than Delirium.

A brief overview: Lena (the heroine of Delirium) has successfully escaped Portland and is now in the Wilds, but without Alex, who she saw die before she made it over the wall.  She has been “adopted” by a new group out in the Wilds of New Hampshire and learns how to live and survive in the world.  She goes undercover in NYC, pretending to be a supporter of a group that encourages all youth to get the procedure, regardless of potential health problems.  The spokesman for the group is a young man named Julian, who is dying of a brain tumor, and knows that the procedure will probably kill him.  And yet, he still tells his supporters that he will have the procedure as soon as he is of age. And when he is kidnapped by a rogue organization, Lena follows him, and is captured herself.  The rest of the story is about Lena and Julian and what they learn from each other, etc.

The good news first:  I actually thought the new installment to the trilogy was better.  I liked that the chapters alternated between present and future…I think it made me have to concentrate a little bit and pay attention to the story (because, sometimes with the dystopian trilogies, I have a tendency to scan the boring parts).  Like in the first book, I liked the way Oliver described the cities in this strange future — both the orderly sections (above ground), and the strange and disorderly sections (like the city below the city).

And the bad news: Because I have actually read other books before, nothing in this story surprised me.  The two “twists” at the end were so completely obvious, I almost had to laugh. But then I try and remember that this is a YA book, and that I am not a YA…and that maybe if I were, I would have been surprised or shocked or excited or…anything really.

I’m guessing the third book will mostly be about Lena’s love life, her mother, and the resistance staging a potential uprising against the government.  I’ll read it, because one of these days Lauren Oliver is going to blow me away again.  I just hope its sooner than later.

11
May
12

I feel the same way about Scotch

10
May
12

Scootsa1000’s #CBR4 Review #21: City Under the Moon by Hugh Sterbakov

Like all of you, I love to read.  And in some cases, I love to re-read.  Books by my favorite authors (Stephen King, Jane Austen, Christopher Brookmyre, Ian Rankin, and James Ellroy) are like little presents to myself that I can open over and over again.  Last week, I was in the middle of re-reading both Wizard & Glass (Dark Tower book 4) by Stephen King and American Tabloid (the most awesomest book ever, by James Ellroy), when I saw a tweet from actor Seth Green praising a book called City Under the Moon by one of his Robot Chicken colleagues, Hugh Sterbakov.  As a big fan of Robot Chicken (I could watch the Take Your Daughter to Work Day skit every day and still laugh), I put King and Ellroy aside and picked up City Under the Moon, knowing nothing about it.

Wow.

I really, really enjoyed this book.

City Under the Moon is a book about werewolves, but I wouldn’t call it a horror novel.  Its also a political thriller, a bit of an action novel, a pop culture treasure trove, and also hilariously funny in parts.

City tells the story of a werewolf attack in New York City that soon turns into an epidemic.  Thousands upon thousands are infected or killed, leaving the government and scientists at the CDC scrambling to find a solution to a problem they never believed could actually exist.  While the POTUS and his team of advisors weigh their options (the slaughter of millions of innocent civilians in order to save the rest of the world?), and the CDC tests out various deadly germs and bacteria that could bring an end to the epidemic (but kill everyone else in its path), the FBI sends a specialist team to Romania to track down the origin of the werewolf curse.

Super-soldier Brianna Tildascow puts together a team of Marines and they try to track down the Master werewolf, along with internet geek and supernatural guru Lon. Lon believes that if they can find and kill the Master, then every werewolf created from his bloodline will be cured.  They team up with Romanian werewolf hunter Yannic Ilecko and set off on a wild race against time — as they only have so much time before the full moon in New York City, when they fear the werewolves will no longer be able to be contained to the island.

The clues they find lead them to the Master, who is asking the world to FIND A CURE.

One thing I loved about this book was the level of detail.  The characters were all beautifully formed, and the story was full of historical, geographical, and architectural details that were so interesting, it was almost as if New York City, the Chrysler Building, and the United Nations, and the Transylvanian castle were living characters in the story.

I also really enjoyed the humor and the pop culture stuff — how can you not love a book that references Buffy, the Creature Double Feature, erotic fan fiction, the term “hey now”, and Grabthar’s Hammer?  But the book was oftentimes serious as well, and that was well-done too.  Because the story mainly unfolded in New York, there were many references to life after 9/11, and how sadly, the tragedy hadn’t done enough to change the views and actions of most Americans.  One paragraph really stuck with me on that end:

“Despite September 11, 2001, Weston knew Americans weren’t prepared for this kind of hardship.  They couldn’t comprehend the cruelty, the unfairness of a no-win scenario.  Responsibility had become a forgotten myth.  They sat back and ignored wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and famines, genocides and human rights atrocities all over the world, fostering ill will that was becoming increasingly legitimate.  Accountability? They’d turned to the government to fix a massive economic crisis borne of their own irresponsibility, and then they complained about the way it was handled.  Patriotism? As long as it suited their schedule of Internet porn, rock climbing, Starbucks, video games and romance novels.  Sure, the occasional Hurricane Katrina came along, but it was quickly knocked off the front page by the infidelities of a reality television couple.”

But did I mention that this book was scary?  And funny? Well, it is.  Trust me.  I was so glad that the ending left a door open for a potential sequel…and I will happily read anything else that Mr. Sterbakov wants to write in the meantime.  Any book that makes me forget about Ellroy and King must be pretty good, right?

I should note: I received a free copy of this book from Hugh Sterbakov (@DarkHugh) when I tweeted him to ask about it.




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