Archive for May, 2013


Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 23: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Unknown-2Rainbow Rowell. Make a note of the name.

In the past few weeks, I’ve read her two novels (I recently raved about the divine Attachments), and both have left me wanting more. MORE. MORE!

Like Attachments, Eleanor & Park takes place in Nebraska. While Attachments took place mainly in 1999, this book takes place in 1986, the era of the Smiths and the Cure and all of that other wonderful music I listened to in high school (I’m guessing Rainbow and I are around the same age).

Eleanor is a new student at Park’s school, and she sticks out like a sore thumb. Bigger than the other girls (convinced she’s fat, but I’m not so sure), with bright red unruly hair, and a fashion sense designed to take notice away from her torn and old thrift store clothes (and her thrift store clothes aren’t because she thinks they are cool, its all her family can afford). She’s got a tough life at home: 5 kids in one bedroom, a drunk and violent stepfather, and a mother that is afraid to step up for her daughter. Eleanor was kicked out of the house last year, and is only just returning to her family, just to find that its worse than when she was there before.

The scenes in her house really, really bummed me out.

Meanwhile, Park is her new seat-mate on the school bus. Half-Korean and totally punk rock, Park initially has no idea what to make of Eleanor. But slowly and surely, he finds that they have much in common.

They start sharing comics (their bonding over The Watchmen was truly a beautiful thing), and Park makes her tapes of music that he thinks she’ll like. Smiths, The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen. And Joy Division.

I loved the part of the book where they just talked about why they love Love Will Tear Us Apart. Heartbreaking and amazing.

Their relationship slowly builds until they can’t stand being apart. The need they have for each other overtakes everything else in their lives, and its lovely to read along and see their relationship progress.

But, because the book starts out at the end, we know that things aren’t going to end well for these two.

I wish I could have stayed in the middle of this book for much longer. The beginning was great, and the ending was depressing. But the middle was simply perfect.

Favorite scene: It killed me when Park’s mom got tipsy on wine coolers and gave him an Avon Lady gift to give Eleanor for Christmas. The talk they had about her previous life and how it might be similar to Eleanor’s brought me to tears.

Thank you Rainbow Rowell. I can’t wait to read what you write next (Fangirl, out in September).




Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 22: Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan

Unknown-1About a million books ago, during CBR3, I read and enjoyed a book called Maine, about Irish Catholics growing up in the Boston area and vacationing in Maine. It hit close to home for me, an Irish Catholic from the Boston area who frequently vacationed in Maine. It wasn’t great literature, but a quick read filled with realistic characters and some interesting perspective on all things Boston Irish (the Coconut Grove plot was enough to hook me). A few weeks ago at the library, there was a cute little display of “Beach Reads”, and I saw Commencement on the rack, Sullivan’s novel before Maine.

This was totally a beach read. There was sand stuck all up in the back book jacket and water stains all over the book. Seriously. It reeked of Bain Du Soleil. This book was well-loved by beach goers.

And it was fine for what it was.

Commencement tells the tale of four girls (Celia, an Irish Catholic from the Boston area; Sally, a rich private school girl from upscale Wellesley; April, an angry activist from Chicago; and Bree, a beautiful southern belle) who meet up as “first years” (never use the word FRESHMAN) at Smith College. They become best friends and their story is told via flashbacks intermingled with present day narration as they gather for Sally’s wedding, and later after a tragedy strikes.

Sullivan is a graduate of Smith, so I felt that her description of the day-to-day life at an all women’s school were pretty spot-on. Beautiful campus, quirky town, strong friendships, and lots and lots of self-discovery (politics, relationships, sexuality, etc).


I much preferred the in-college story to the out-of-college story. The subplot about April working for a radical feminist filmmaker that gets her into trouble was not for me.

Also, I am really, really tired of how so many books (I’m talking to you, Sarah Dessen) throw a date rape sub-plot into a story and then just kind of…let it disappear into thin air without any real resolution.

I think I’ll continue to read Sullivan’s future books (her new one comes out next week), because I like the Boston tie to them. They make me a little bit homesick, but in a good way.



Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 21: VJ — The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave by Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, Martha Quinn, and Gavin Edwards

imagesI’m old enough to remember when MTV played music videos, and only music videos. I had a big crush on goofy Alan Hunter, and my friends and I would plan sleepover parties around the debut of new Duran Duran videos. MTV launched in 1982 (I definitely don’t remember watching it then, but can remember sometime in the mid-80s) and changed the way that music was listened to and purchased all over the world.

This tale of the birth of MTV and its original 5 VJs (Video Disc Jockeys) is told in vignette format: the four remaining VJs (JJ Jackson died a while back) talk about how their lives — both personally and professionally — changed thanks to MTV.

MTV was looking to hire 5 “faces” to introduce video clips: a jock, a rocker queen, the girl next door, “the jew”, and the old rocker. They filled these spots with Alan Hunter, Nina Blackwood, Martha Quinn, Mark Goodman, and JJ Jackson. Virtual unknowns, they became celebrities overnight. They were thrust into the world of Rock & Roll, and suddenly were surrounded with cocaine and sex everywhere they looked.

There are many ridiculous music anecdotes in the book — Frankie Goes to Hollywood and and the Police don’t come off as being the most professional guys out there, while Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan are exactly what you might think — professional to the core.

But mostly the book is about the egos of the VJs, many of whom thought they were as big as MTV and felt they would always be famous. They took their drugs and cheated on their wives and expected the party to last forever.

I was hoping for a few more stories about the bands in the early 80s, and was disappointed there was so much more of Mark Goodman talking about all of the beautiful women he cheated on his wives with. Seriously. With that hair.

I wanted to love it, but didn’t. But, I couldn’t put it down, so that must be something, right?


Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 20: Sever by Lauren DeStefano

UnknownAnyone remember that episode of Seinfeld when Elaine was trying to get enough holes in her punchcard for a free sub, even though the sandwich shop was disgusting and the subs were terrible? She couldn’t stop eating them because she wanted her free sub as a prize. And then she lost the card when she gives a fake phone number to the man they simply call “denim vest”?

That’s how I feel about this book. This book was my bad sub.

I didn’t like the first two books of the trilogy, but I couldn’t not read the last book. I know, I’m an idiot.

Sever takes place immediately after the events of Wither and Fever. Our supposed heroine, Rhine, is on a mad quest to find her brother, who has apparently turned into a domestic terrorist. And he seems to have information about their parents and maybe a key to finding the cure for the virus that kills everyone.

But it takes her more than half of the book to actually get up and begin to look for him. She keeps saying that she has to go, but she doesn’t. So annoying.

Other annoyances:

The trilogy is called “The Chemical Garden Trilogy”. But the phrase Chemical Garden is only used three times and barely even explained. WTF?

The writing is redundant and boring. Rhine tells us over and over and over and over that her sister-wife Cecily has really grown up over the past year. She’s so grown up now. Did I mention that she’s really grown?

Rhine cannot make up her mind about anything. She loves Linden. She wants to stay with Linden. She can’t be married to Linden anymore. She misses Linden. ENOUGH.

Worst of all is Linden’s father, Vaughn. Is he a hero or a villain? I honestly have no idea. He was described as both and opinion constantly flip-flopped.

Silver Lining here: I’m all done and there aren’t any more books in this series. I am a glutton for punishment.

Let’s finish up on a lighter note, with something from Denim Vest, the great Kevin McDonald.


Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 19: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Unknown-2I haven’t given out many 5-star reviews during my tenure as a CBR participant. To me, 5-star means a book that I’m completely in awe of. One that I’m so jealous that someone else wrote. I wish I was Rainbow Rowell, and that these characters she invented were mine. I wish this book had never ended. I would have read it forever.

And come on. The reviews from narfna and Travis_J_Smith say it all. This book is perfection.

Attachments is a love story. But its also about best friends. And finding yourself. And parents letting go. And growing up.

And its super funny. And sometimes sad.

Lincoln, the perennial college student, finds a job as an IT tech on the night shift at a small Nebraska newspaper. Part of his job is to follow up on emails that have been “red flagged” with inappropriate content, and to send warnings to the people involved in the email discussion. Which is fine, until he starts reading email conversations between best friends Jennifer and Beth.

Lincoln gets swept up into their lives, and falls in love with Beth.

Before he ever even knows what she looks like.

And when Beth emails that she has a crush on the handsome, mystery IT guy, I was practically cheering when I realized it was Lincoln.

I loved that this book was about Y2K, the most useless problem ever invented. I worked on a Y2K task force in 1999, and I remember thinking what a complete and utter waste of time it was.

I loved that this book had best friends in it that were funny and honest. They weren’t afraid to critique each other about potential mistakes they were making in their lives. And they both loved Colin Firth.

And I know it was a bit creepy the way that Lincoln was virtually stalking Beth, but c’mon. He was just so cute about it. And it was pretty much his job to read her email, so there’s that.

Thanks to everyone who has been recommending Rainbow Rowell this year. I can’t wait to read Eleanor and Park next.



Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 18: Just One Day by Gayle Forman

imagesSometimes I’ll discover a new writer and devour as much of their work as I can really quickly. And while I usually enjoy the books, I do find that some authors have a tendency to repeat certain important themes that are relevant to them. Jennifer Weiner usually writes about a girl who used to be fat, who became less fat by swimming, and does not have a father figure in her life. Sarah Dessen really likes the beach, seems to dislike parents of all kinds, and usually has a non-reported date rape show up at some point in her books. And I guess Gayle Forman really likes the idea that every story has two sides.

Her first set of “he said/she said” books were If I Stay and Where She Went, which told the same story from different perspectives. One book I liked much more than the other, but still a refreshing way to tell a love story.

Forman is in the midst of repeating herself with her new characters from Just One Day. In this book, we meet Allyson, a “good girl” who has had her entire life planned out for her by her parents, and who has never gone astray from these plans. Until she meets a handsome actor while she’s touring Europe with a teen tour group, and she suddenly runs off to Paris with him.

They spend a single day together, and for Allyson, her entire life changes.

While I didn’t completely buy that Allyson would trek halfway around the world to try and find a boy that she spent 24 hours with, I did like the way that Allyson was written. I felt bad for her when she couldn’t acclimate to life in college, and I loved her friend Dee. I was relieved when she and her mom finally re-evaluated their status as mother and daughter, which ended up strengthening — and ultimately saving — their relationship.

And I’m sure Willem was super cute and fun, and I”m glad he made her realize all of these hidden things about herself. But still. I’m not sure that the last 50 pages needed to happen. An independent trip to Paris to replay the night they shared? Sure. But her impromptu visit over to Amsterdam seemed more like stalking to me.

In any event, I’m curious to see how Forman presents Willem’s side of the story in her next book. And Forman’s writing makes the story worthwhile, even if I don’t necessarily believe the plot (a problem I also had with Where She Went). And it really, really made me want to go back to Paris.



Favorite gif Ever. That’s All.



Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 17: Prodigy by Marie Lu

Unknown-1Why do I keep reading these YA trilogies? I always know going in to them that I’m going to be disappointed, and that the first book will always be the best. I feel like these authors are being forced by publishers to take good stories and split them into three, even if the story isn’t strong enough, or long enough, to do so. Curse you, Twilight!

Prodigy, book #2 of the “Legend trilogy”, definitely suffers from trilogy-itis. While there are some strong bits and interesting plot points, overall the story suffers from being stretched out into an entire book. I read Legend last year, and thought much the same. Marie Lu has some talent, for sure. Her narrative is rarely boring, and she succeeds where many others who attempt to tell the story from alternating points of view — her characters actually have different voices and have different things to say.

This book takes place pretty much immediately after the end of Legend. June and Day are on the run from the Republic, heading to get help from The Patriots, who may be able to find Day’s brother. They get caught up in an assassination attempt on the new Elector (who is, of course, young and handsome), and June and Day discover that not everything they have been led to believe is the truth. Surprise.

For once, I’d like to read a trilogy that doesn’t have a forced love triangle, or quadrilateral, or any shape at all. Day loves June. June loves Day. Anden really likes June. And Tess loves Day. And Kaede seems to like someone, but we never really find out about that, thankfully. So much time is spent being jealous and whining about who likes who, I really wanted to whip out my red editing pen and mark the hell out of this whole plot. We could have saved 100 pages that way.

(Also, I could have easily taken out another 50 pages of June’s weird OCD descriptions of stuff. How she counts seconds and measures rooms and all of those creepy details. Was she such a type A in the first book? I can’t remember.)

I didn’t hate the book and am not walking away as annoyed as when I finished Requiem. But still.

I wish it had been better. I just feel like there was a bit more potential from the first book and am slightly bummed out that it was so very generic.


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