Archive for January, 2014

30
Jan
14

Scootsa1000’s #CBR6 Review 6: The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson

Unknown-3Let me begin by saying that I received an ARC of this book from Random House in exchange for my review. And it was a hard copy! I love that. I was so pleased to actually receive pages with a cover instead of the usual e-book.

And that’s where my joy ends.

The Opposite of Maybe is not a bad book by any means. I was just disappointed because it didn’t measure up to its potential. I know, I sound like someone’s grandma here, but stay with me for a minute.

Maddie Dawson is a pretty good writer. Her dialogue is smooth and real, and her descriptive prose was rather well done.

But.

Her characters didn’t seem real to me at all. And their personal situations? No.

Just no.

Rosie is a 40 something who has been living with her artist boyfriend Jonathan for 15 years. No need to get married for these two, they live in THE NOW and have nothing to tie them down. No house, no kids, etc. When Jonathan gets the offer of a lifetime to move across the country RIGHT NOW, he proposes (why?) but then cancels the wedding. Rosie does the right thing and stays back in Connecticut and moves in with her grandmother.

Her grandmother. Ugh. Soapie (her real name is Sophie) raised Rosie when her mom died. Soapie is not a very pleasant or nurturing person, and its clear that many of Rosie’s bizarre neuroses come from Soapie’s odd behavior (and the fact that she never knew her father and her mom was dead).

Also living with Soapie is Tony, a landscaper who needed a place to live, so he trades room & board for making sure Soapie is ok. Tony is in his 30s and ruggedly handsome, funny, and kind. Tony is struggling with his personal life a la Ross Gellar — his wife is marrying a woman and their son lives with the two moms.

Early on in the book, Rosie finds out that she is unexpectedly pregnant. Jonathan is all the way in California and has never wanted children. Rosie is worried that she’ll be a terrible mom. But Tony is there to help her through all of her struggles. He turns out to be the best thing that could have happened to her, right when she needed it.

GOSH. WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL HAPPEN?

Look, I didn’t mind the awkwardness of the characters so much as I had a problem with some of these forced plot issues. Seriously, Tony is just going to sit back and allow the moms to have full custody of his son who he loves more than anything? Just because they asked? I do not accept this.

Rosie is still going to consider moving across the country to be with Jonathan simply because she thinks the baby should know its father? Even if Jonathan has lousy people skills, has no plan for the future, and, oh, does not want a baby? I can’t with this.

I’m grateful that I was given a chance to read this book, and am sorry that I don’t have anything better to say about it. Maddie Dawson, keep it up. You have the talent, maybe you just need a new editor!

 

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28
Jan
14

Scootsa1000’s #CBR6 Review 5: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Unknown-2Holly Black is an author who’s been floating around on my radar for a while. I was intrigued by the fact that she lives out in Western MA, kind of near where we rent a house in the Summer. I liked that she has such an ardent fan base — from both readers and other writers. So I finally broke down and read one of her books, and I’m glad I did.

Tana lives in a screwed up version of our world. Vampires are real and the world is struggling with how to control both the vampire population as well as those that have been “infected” (i.e., bitten by a vampire, but not completely turned until they drink human blood. It takes 88 days for the infection to go away). In order to attempt some semblance of normalcy, the government has created various “Coldtowns” across the country. These are walled cities (our story takes place in the former Springfield, MA, which made me laugh) where vampires are allowed to live and feed off of willing humans (via shunts and other unpleasant methods). People who are “cold” are urged to move there (as it is nearly impossible to beat the infection on your own), and people who dream of becoming the next Lestat move there, too. The only way out is with a marker, given to you when you capture or kill a vampire on the loose in regular society.

Tana is at a friend’s party, passes out in the bathroom, and wakes up to find that 40 or so of her closest friends have been murdered by vampires in the night. She thinks she’s the only survivor, until she checks the bedroom for her coat and keys and finds her ex, Aiden. Poor Aiden is tied to a bed, like an offering, and he’s Cold. Also in the bedroom? A chained vampire (Gavriel), who looks crazier than anyone Tana has ever seen before.

Without thinking, she saves the two of them from the monsters sleeping off their blood fest, and they drive off to Springfield in order to help Aiden with his infection and to get a marker for bringing Gavriel to the Coldtown. And that’s just the first few chapters. Things really get out of control quickly.

Sound confusing? Well, to be honest, the first 100 pages or so were actually a bit rough going for me. Lots of details and rules. But I give Holly Black a lot of credit — she’s created a new version of our world that was pretty outlandish, yet still believable. The characters seemed like real people with real problems. Even the vampires.

I also enjoyed the exploration of what makes a vampire a vampire. Are vampires cruel because there was always something evil lurking and hiding away inside the human before they turned? Or is cruelty a part of the vampire curse? What about the vampires that can’t handle the life, and commit suicide every day in Coldtown? An interesting take on the Nature vs. Nurture debate we all studied in our high school Shakespeare classes.

I can only assume that this book is the first in a series (or, dare I say, a TRILOGY?). I’ll gladly pick up the next book to see what’s going on with Tana, Gavriel, and Aiden. The book was fun, and I enjoyed reading it.

21
Jan
14

Bunnybean’s #CBR6 Review 1: Wonder by RJ Palacio

Unknown-1I got this book for Christmas (my mom read it last year and recommended it to me). I really liked it.

Its about a boy named August (his family calls him Auggie) who has facial abnormalities. We don’t ever know exactly what’s wrong with him, but the book gives us a lot of clues when describing his eyes, ears, and mouth. Other kids are sometimes afraid of him and usually not very nice to him.

At the beginning, his mother tells him that he’ll be starting middle school (5th grade) at a new school, and he’s never been to school before. He meets a few kids who aren’t too bad — Summer and Jack seem like they could be good friends — but he also meets Julian, who is a real bully.

Auggie’s favorite holiday is Halloween, because he gets to put a mask on and spend the day like a regular kid. But this year, his Halloween is ruined when he overhears Jack making fun of him with Julian. (It turns out to be a big misunderstanding, but Auggie feels really depressed).

The book is told from the voice of all different characters — not just Auggie, but Jack, Summer, and Auggie’s sister and her friends, too. They don’t have a lot in common, but they all care about Auggie and they all notice that he’s special on the inside. He’s a great kid: funny, smart, and caring, and he’s always willing to stand up for his friends and for what’s right.

Almost everyone in the story ends up realizing that there’s more to Auggie than how he looks. Even some of the kids who were mean to him at the beginning become his friends and his defenders.

There are some really sad parts (characters die who are important to Auggie), and some of the bullying — from both the kids AND their parents — was hard to read. But overall, the book made me happy.

The book really teaches us all that you should be nice to everyone, no matter how they look on the outside. We’re all the same on the inside, and that’s whats important.

16
Jan
14

Scootsa1000’s #CBR6 Review 4: Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Unknown-2All day long, I kept telling myself, hey, you really need to sit down and write that review. And then instead, I did laundry. And I emptied the dishwasher. I went to the gym. I caught up on The Good Wife. I did pretty much EVERYTHING I could think of.

But there’s no avoiding it any longer.

I didn’t like this book at all.

I’m sorry. I know it came highly recommended. I know that some people adored it and even warned me that I’d be a weeping puddle of feelings at the end.

But I wasn’t. By the time I finished it, the only thing I felt was relief.

Plain Kate is a young girl somewhere in Eastern Europe, in a world filled with magic and witches, but not in a good way. Her mother died when she was born, and she was raised by her father, a kind and talented wood carver who taught her to create art from wood. When the plague comes to Kate’s small town (and of course, some innocent young women are burned, as they are thought to be the witches who caused the plague), Kate’s dad dies, too. For a while, Kate tries to live on her own, with her charming cat, Taggle. Until one day, a stranger comes to town, and offers Kate her “dearest wish” in exchange for her shadow.

And so begins Kate’s quest to get her shadow back.

The one thing I did like in Plain Kate was what Kate got in return for her shadow. SPOILER: She wishes that her cat could talk so that she wouldn’t be so lonely anymore. Taggle was awesome, and pretty much the only character I found at all tolerable.

Kate ends up leaving town, because they’ll burn her for sure when they notice her distinct lack of shadow. She ends up traveling around with a group of gypsy-esque folks, then being turned away from them for being a witch, but then joining forces with them to fight the real evil in the story. Honestly, by that point, I was so checked out, I’m not even sure that’s how it really went.

Erin Bow isn’t a bad writer at all. But this book was so stiff and stilted, and really just quite boring. (Note to narfna and malin — THIS IS WHY I THINK I DONT LIKE FANTASY. HELP!). I’m truly bewildered by all of the high ratings this book received and absolutely shocked that it is the January pick for my book club. Since joining (its part of the international Forever Young Adult group — the books are usually great!), we’ve read mostly good stuff. And even the books I didn’t love 100% were still better than most of the YA I was previously familiar with. Here’s hoping the February book is better!

10
Jan
14

Scootsa1000’s #CBR6 Review 3: Written in Red by Anne Bishop

Unknown-4Let me just start out here by saying that this sort of book isn’t usually my cup of tea. It has elements of all sorts of things I don’t go for: fantasy, paranormal, and for god’s sake, it even had HANDSOME WEREWOLVES.

But I really, really ended up liking this book. Thanks to Malin, who reviewed it for CBR5, when I saw it at the library I decided to give it a go.  It took me about 100 pages to get into it, and up until that point I kept wondering if maybe I should just put it aside and move on to the next book in the constantly growing TBR pile. And then…something just clicked for me. And by the end, I was disappointed that I didn’t have more to read, and googling the author to find out when the next book was coming out.

Quick overview: Meg is a runaway looking for protection from a mysterious someone who is trying to return her back to where she came from. She finds shelter in the local “courtyard” — a section of each city set aside for the Others (werewolves, vampires, shapeshifters, and all kinds of other spirits who were the original settlers of the earth, way before humans). In the town of Lakeside, the Others are making a bit of an effort to live alongside the humans. The Others run businesses (like a cute book store and cafe combo, I would totally go there if I lived in Lakeside), hire human employees, and try really hard not to eat their customers.

Meg stumbles into the courtyard and sees a Help Wanted sign in the bookstore window. The courtyard is looking for a Human Liaison to the Others — someone to sort their mail, accept all of their deliveries, and get packages where they need to go inside the gates.

Oh, and it turns out that Meg isn’t your typical human. She is a blood prophet (i.e., she has visions of the future when she is cut) and is worth unknown sums of money to her owners. That’s why there’s a huge manhunt underway for her.

But Meg charms the Others and falls under their protection. She particularly charms little Sam (a werewolf boy so traumatized by his mother’s death that he lives in a cage and won’t change back into a boy), and his uncle Simon, who runs the courtyard. Simon, who just so happens to be very handsome and temperamental. Simon, who has no need for humans. Simon, who inexplicably finds himself drawn to Meg, and suddenly becomes willing to risk everything for her.

I loved the weird little world that Anne Bishop created. Not quite our world, but similar enough to understand easily enough. I enjoyed the characters (especially the Others and their disgust with humans) and wanted to know more about them. And I particularly liked the lack of romance here (but I’m not so sure I’ll be able to say that about future volumes in this series). Everyone loved Meg for who she was and what she did, not for what she looked like.

I’ve looked over Anne Bishop’s other books and I’m not convinced that I’ll look into her other stuff, but I’ll continue with these books for sure.

06
Jan
14

Scootsa1000’s #CBR6 Review 2: Takedown Twenty by Janet Evanovich

Unknown-3At this point, honestly, I can’t imagine that I need to tell you what these books are about. This is the 20th in the series. If you haven’t read one of them by now, I doubt you ever will.

Not much new happens here. Stephanie eats, Stephanie has to get a new car (bullet holes to the old one!), Stephanie can’t decide between Joe and Ranger, Stephanie and Lula somehow capture bad guys, Stephanie takes her grandma to viewings at the funeral home.

There were the usual A, B, and C plots. In the A plot, a serial killer is working the city of Trenton, targeting old ladies who play Bingo. Ranger brings in Stephanie, who brings in Grandma and Lula for the usual hijinx. In the B, Stephanie has a bunch of skips that she has to track down, including Joe’s godfather Sunny. When Stephanie goes after him, Joe’s grandmother gives her a series of curses and hexes and evil eyes, leading Stephanie to quit her job as a bounty hunter and try out life as a butcher (spoiler alert: she isn’t very good at it). And in the entertaining C plot, we had a stray giraffe loose on the streets of Trenton. Lula names him Kevin.

The only things that happened that were slightly different or new were:

Ranger goes to a bar with Stephanie and eats onion rings. I don’t think we’ve ever seen him eat a single carb in 20 books, and here he decides to go and eat onion rings (and cheese fries, I think). Stephanie was surprised at his behavior, but really, I think I was more surprised. I kept waiting for an explanation for this crazy decision, but never got one.

Lula wants to buy a fancy purse that costs $10,000. So of course, she decides to go back to being a ‘ho. What really bugged me about this plot was simply that neither Stephanie nor Connie batted an eye at this. They didn’t try to stop her or even question her decision. As I remember, Lula’s life as a ho wasn’t so great. Of course, the point is a moot one, as Lula didn’t earn a single dime. But it bugged me.

I’ll keep reading these books for as long as Evanovich wants to write them. But I think its time for Stephanie to grow up a bit and figure out her future. She wants to settle down, so she should. No need to be buried in concrete in hidden basements or thrown off of bridges any longer. But even if she does decide to have a family and stay out of the bounty hunting business, I hope Ranger keeps his tracking device on her. God knows she needs it.

 

 

02
Jan
14

Scootsa1000’s #CBR6 Review 1: The Shade of the Moon by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Unknown-2I remember the day that I went to the library on the advice of one Mr. Stephen King and picked up a crazy little book called The Hunger Games. On that very same day, I also got a book called Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. I devoured both books and thought they were both pretty good. But I actually preferred Life As We Knew It. It was a great story with a strong, young heroine. An asteroid hits the moon, knocking it out of its place in orbit, bringing it much closer to the Earth. Millions die as the tides change and the coastlines are flooded. Crops stop growing, as survivors can’t predict sunlight and the seasons any longer. Volcanic activity is out of control, leading to ashy skies and poor air quality. Disease and hunger claim more of the original survivors, as they learn to live on their own, without electricity or any other comforts they are used to.

The heroine’s name was Miranda, and she told the story of her life in diary entries. She was a real character, who came alive on the page. I believed her teenage angst and admired her fight to survive with her family.

I guess the book was a success, as there have been 3 sequels so far. And now I’ve read them all. And each book was a little bit worse than the one that came before it.

This most recent book, the fourth in the series, was by far the worst. In fact, it was awful.

The Shade of the Moon is the story of Miranda’s youngest brother, Jon. He lives with his stepmother and half brother in an upscale town where the residents are treated like royalty. The population is made up of doctors, scientists, engineers, and other professionals who can help rebuild society. They get free housing, food, domestic staff, education, transportation, whatever they need.

And Miranda and the rest of her family? They don’t live there. They live in slums because they don’t have any of the necessary skills to be admitted to one of the “enclaves” where the higher echelons of society live.

Of course, there is a class war. Riots, violence, etc. And I didn’t care at all. Jon is the least sympathetic character I’ve come across in a while. His special skill is that he plays soccer.

Really? Yes, really.

And Jon falls in love with a kind-hearted girl who’s father is a doctor. Sarah and her father don’t see class or society lines like everyone else around them, and that makes them dangerous. So Jon has to pretend to hate her. Ugh.

Sadly, Miranda is sidelined to being an extremely minor character here. She was such a strong personality, I can hardly believe that this moron is her brother.

A disappointing entry into a once strong series. I’m hoping this is the end.




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