Archive for March, 2014


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.




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.


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!


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.


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. 




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.


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.


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