Archive for January, 2015

28
Jan
15

Per aspera ad astra. CBR7 Review #7.

Unknown-1Through hardships to the stars.

Christ. I just finished Golden Son a few minutes ago. And I am exhausted.

The sequel to the amazing Red Rising, Golden Sun picks up the story a few years after the events of the first book. And then the action LITERALLY never stops. Each time something completely nuts would happen, and a chapter would end, I’d say to myself, “well. there’s no way he can top that.”

And then I’d read the next chapter. AND MY GOD, PIERCE BROWN WOULD TOP IT.

This book is about so much. War. Politics. Love. Loyalty. Friendship. Society. The destiny of mankind. Still fighting to do what he thinks his martyred wife Eo would want him to, Darrow now plans to bring down all of society from within. To start a civil war in which all classes (in this case, colors) are equal. Where Reds and Golds are both seen as men who can contribute to society. Urged on by the secret Sons of Ares, Darrow wages war agains the Sovereign and her allies, in spectacular (Flying through space as a human missile in order to take control of an enemy space craft? Awesome.) fashion.

Easier said than done, of course. Other than two of Darrow’s closest allies, nobody knows about Darrow’s past, and how his secret affects his every decision. But his selection as the face of the revolution was well-planned by Ares himself.

I always knew a Gold couldn’t lead this rebellion. It has to be from the bottom up…Red is about family. More than any other Color, it is about love amid all the horror of our world. If Red rises, they have a chance to bind the worlds together.

Clearly, that’s a lot for Darrow to have put on his shoulders. And he and his friends do an admirable job for the most part to do what’s right. But it isn’t easy for any of them. Members of Darrow’s army who weren’t born Gold suddenly find themselves with a new world open to them. (Ragnar, the Obsidian, was an amazing character — the choices he made for himself were quite heartbreaking.) And not all of Darrow’s allies are open to the idea that other colors might be as worthy as the Golds.

The battles are brutal (my god, that scene underwater? I was practically holding my breath) and unforgiving. Like George RR Martin, Pierce Brown is not afraid to shock the reader with the violent and unexpected death of a favorite character. And that ending. Ugh.

Then farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear. Farewell remorse: all good to me is lost…Evil, be thou my good.”

Yeah, that’s not something you want to hear when you are hoping for a happy ending.

I love the style Brown uses in these books. Combining the spectacle of the ancient world with the technology of the future. The way that the Golds worship the customs of civilizations like Ancient Rome and Greece. The gravity boots that help you to fly.  The war-rooms and political maneuvering, straight out of history books. The razor swords that are a bit like bad-ass light sabers. The Shakespearean speeches given to rouse the troops before an epic, completely bonkers battle in space.

Lastly, a shoutout to Sevro, one of my favorite characters in both books. But every time I see his name in print, I see “Servo”, and picture this.

Unknown

I honestly can’t imagine what the hells and pain that the third book will bring. But I can’t wait to find out. These books are bloodydamn amazing.

20
Jan
15

The Lesson Here? Stay away from books ending in “ium”. CBR7 Review 6.

Unknown-1What do you want first? The good news, or the bad news?

The bad news is, Panic isn’t as good as Before I Fall. Ever since I read that one, I’ve (probably unfairly) compared all of her other books to its high standards. This one is close, but it just isn’t as powerful.

The good news? This book is far and away better than any book that Oliver has written that ends in “ium”.

Delirium. Pandemonium. Requiem [sic]. Panic far surpasses those offerings.

Panic is story of Heather, a recent high school graduate in a crappy town in upstate New York. She and her little sister live in a trailer park with their worthless mother, and Heather dreams of a better life anywhere else.

And so, without even knowing she was going to do it, Heather enters Panic — an annual competition for the senior class with a huge financial payoff for the winner. The only catch? Panic could ruin your life — previous students have been seriously injured and even killed.

Contestants are challenged to perform stunts ranging in difficulty from jumping into a quarry in the dark to spending 10 seconds in a fenced-in area with two tigers. Everyone in town knows about Panic, and about the dangers of Panic, but nobody in any position of authority really does anything about it…until, of course, it’s too late…

Heather and her friends form a sort of “alliance” — promising to help each other to complete the challenges and then split the prize money. But are they all being honest about that? Do they really plan to work as a team until the very end, or will there be some double-crossing?

I think one of the reasons that this book actually worked for me was that Lauren Oliver has a real ability to write and express herself like a real teenager. Her take on everyday life — going to the mall, getting ready for a party, breaking up with someone — is quite realistic. UNLIKE her take on love in a dystopian future…

I know I complain a lot about Oliver, but it’s only because I think she’s a real talent who is capable of great writing. Panic is definitely a step in the right direction for her.

20
Jan
15

You know that thing, where you get all excited for a sequel? And then it sucks? Yeah. That. CBR7 Review 5.

Unknown-1I had high hopes for Lola.

I enjoyed its prequel (of sorts), the very sweet Anna and the French Kiss, last year. I loved Stephanie Perkins’ story (It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown) in the short story compilation, My True Love Gave to Me.

And so I was excited to finally get this from the library, after waiting what seemed like forever.

But I was disappointed. This book just wasn’t as fun or cute, or sadly, even as likable.

Lola is a 17-year old high school student in San Francisco. But that’s not all. She has two dads! She has a super-cute, punk rock boyfriend! She wears totally wacky costumes every day! She’s so different! Lola is special!

But I found that the story incessantly telling me just how different and special Lola was made me really dislike her. I hated pretty much everything about Lola and her boyfriend, who was 23 years old. I simply don’t accept that her overbearing, overprotective dads would EVER let that happen. No matter how many brunches Max came to, and no matter how many times Lola would check in during her date.

No. Just no.

I also hated every single long and tedious description of Lola’s wardrobe. I get that she has style and a vision. But Lola was just ridiculous. Wigs and glitter and togas and boots. How did she afford it all with a simple movie theater job? And where did she put it all? And of course, in the end we find out that the costumes are the real Lola, and that she isn’t trying to hide behind them. Blech.

But it wasn’t all bad.

I liked the relationship with her dads, and the turmoil caused by her mom.

I liked the idea of Cricket (THE BOY NEXT DOOR, DUH), but wasn’t fully invested in their relationship. When we first find out about neighbor Cricket (DO NOT EVEN GET ME STARTED ON THIS NAME), who’s been gone for two years, he’s done something so very bad, so absolutely egregious, and so hurtful to Lola, that she drops a stack of dishes when she finds out he’s back at home. I expected something far, far worse to have been his crime. Yes, Cricket and his sister were kind of jerks to Lola, but come on. Get. Over. It.

Anna and St. Clair show up in supporting roles here, and I honestly had no real opinion about them. Except that Lola was not a very good friend to them, and I didn’t really get why they put up with her.

Yes, there is a third book. And yes, I’ll probably read it. But I don’t have very high hopes.

13
Jan
15

Read this. That is all. CBR7 Review 4.

Unknown-1When I finished reading this, I immediately went to the CBR website to see what others had said about it, so that I could make comments on its awesomeness. I was quite surprised to see that there aren’t any reviews of this book up on the blog. I’m actually shocked that there hasn’t been more buzz about I’ll Give You the Sun. It seems such a perfect, “cannonball-ish” book. And it has such a pretty cover!

Noah and Jude are twins. They used to be as close as can be — they finished each other’s sentences, they would sit shoulder to shoulder for hours, they defended and protected each other — no matter what. At the start of the book, the twins are 13. Jude is gorgeous and blonde, a surfing daredevil who loves bikinis and boys. Noah is a bit of an introvert, but a very gifted artist. And he just might like boys. They live with their mom (an art writer and professor, who brings her joie-de-vivre into every last thing she does), and their dad (a bit of a tough guy, a scientist who definitely is not ready to welcome a gay son into his life). Oh, and Jude’s pretty sure that her dead grandmother speaks to her on a daily basis.

Their lives are filled with color and light.

And now they are 16. The twins barely speak. They can hardly stand to be in the same room with each other. Noah is popular and daring. Jude dresses only in baggy black clothes and has cut off her beautiful hair. They live with their dad, who isn’t so tough anymore.

Told in alternating narration between Noah and Jude, we find out just what has happened over the past three years.

We learn about the terrible tragedy that will define them forever. About the art school that tore them apart. The cute baseball player that lives next door. The gorgeous, but drunk, British art student that is waiting for an angel to save him. And about the artist who can help to bring them all back together.

I know, it sounds kind of corny. But I swear, it isn’t.

Reading it, I would get so involved in a specific character and what they were doing at that exact time, I would get mad when the chapter would end and switch timeframes and narrator. But then I would get wrapped up again, only to get mad at the end of the next chapter. I wanted more and more and more from both timeframes and from both twins.

That’s not to say that the book felt incomplete at all, because it didn’t. It had exactly the right amount of everything. It was lovely and sad and funny and uplifting and depressing and real. I can’t wait to see what Jandy Nelson does next.

 

09
Jan
15

In which I think I miss out by not being the target audience. CBR7 Review 3.

Unknown-2My YA-themed book club has been picking mostly winners lately. But every now and then, we hit a bump in the road and the book turns out to be one that we generally don’t care for (Plain Kate, Anna Dressed in Blood). I’m going to go ahead and put this in the “miss” pile, but not because it was bad, but more because it just wasn’t my thing.

From what I understand, Rachel Hawkins is a terribly popular writer of various YA series (Hex Hall?), mostly with a bit of a supernatural bent. And I wish her well. But I won’t be reading any more of her stuff.

Rebel Belle is about Southern beauty Harper. Harper is everything a high school girl dreams of being. President of student council. Homecoming Queen. Head cheerleader. Her boyfriend is the most gorgeous athlete at school.

But Harper also has some other things going on. Her sister died in a drunk driving accident a few years ago, at her Cotillion (a coming out party? I’m from New England. I don’t know.). And now Harper’s Cotillion is approaching, and she’s both excited AND dreading it.

OH, and also? Harper has just been given super-ninja-magical-fighting powers.

Seriously.

It turns out that there is a student at her school who is actually an Oracle and needs protection at all times from ancient sects that want him dead. AND OF COURSE, that student just so happens to be Harper’s nemesis. A nerdy dude named David who has had it out for Harper since the 3rd grade.

Toss in a bunch of historical references to Charlamagne, some sort of fun training sequences, lots of southern small town observations, and the dreaded love triangle, and there’s your book.

Again, not bad. Harper seemed like a good girl with her head on her shoulders. I wouldn’t have a problem with my daughter reading this series. But they were really on the Y side of YA, and just not interesting enough for me. I guess there is a sequel coming out soon, but sadly, it will have to come out without me.

05
Jan
15

300 Pages of Blah. CBR7 Review 2.

Unknown-1For CBR5, I read — and enjoyed — Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave, the first book in a proposed trilogy about an alien invasion that threatens all of humanity. This book is the second in the series.

And I did not like it.

At all.

This was 300 pages of nothing. Filler that could have been condensed down to a few chapters. Ugh.

We still have the very unlikable Cassie as the heroine in this tale. And suddenly, she’s everyone’s last hope. Other than the fact that she loves her brother and risked her life to save him, I have yet to see her do anything interesting, brave, selfless, or exciting.*

*Ahem. This brings to mind the horrible Cassia from Ally Condie’s “Matched” books. Remember how she was supposedly the best thing ever, yet we all hated her? Good times, indeed.

Other sections of the story are told from various points of view. And I enjoyed these slightly more than the chapters told by Cassie. But that doesn’t mean that I actually enjoyed them. We got to learn about toddlers who’ve been turned into bombs, a boy obsessed with the last snack cake on earth, rats, and teddy bears.

The entire last third of the book is told from Ringer’s perspective.

Who?

Ringer was a minor character in the first book, boosted up to second heroine status here. While I found her to be a more sympathetic character then Cassie — and we actually get instances where Ringer does things and says things that prove that she is a brave, strong, intelligent soldier — her story was a mess. I get what the author was trying to do with her character, but the details were all over the place. Too much made up alien technology, too many made up words, and a very confusing finale.

And I haven’t even mentioned Cassie’s half-alien boyfriend, Evan, yet. Poor Evan, fighting against the alien DNA that’s been nesting inside of him for years. He’ll do whatever it takes to save Cassie and the rest of humanity. Or will he?

Actually, that’s a serious question. I have no idea what was going on with Evan and his nemesis-with-benefits, Grace. Are they alien? Are they not? I. Don’t. Know.

I closed this book completely unsure about what had just happened, and sadly, I didn’t care.

02
Jan
15

A Satiric take-down of the Disney-fication of pop music and culture. #CBR7 Review 1.

Unknown-1Let me preface this review by saying, get off my lawn.

I am not a fan of Justin Bieber, nor the whole “boy band” thing, in general. I don’t really understand how people can become YouTube or Vine personalities to the extent that they are suddenly making huge amounts of money and touring around the country (to a predominantly young audience) as instant celebrities. Auto-tune? No thanks. I miss record stores and the experience of listening to an entire record, as opposed to just downloading singles and never really getting a feel for what kind of artist or musician someone is.

And all of the above reasons are why I thought The Lovesong of Jonny Valentine was kind of genius.

Jonny Valentine is a huge pop star, out touring the country to support his latest cd. His audience is primarily young, “tween” girls, his song titles are mostly made up of texting acronyms, and Jonny’s mother is his manager. Jonny is only 11 years old, and he’s constantly worried that his fame is fleeting.

Jonny is monitored in every aspect of his life. His mother micromanages his diet, his physical activity, his friends (or, lack thereof), his interaction with girls, his haircut, and his internet access. Jonny hasn’t seen his father in years, he hasn’t spoken to his friends since he was discovered as a YouTube sensation, and his only companion is his bodyguard. Jonny isn’t sure that this is the life for him.

He’s constantly worried about what new pop sensation is lurking around the corner, he hates having his record label set up pretend dates for him with other young singers, and the only thing in his life that he understands is his video game.

But Jonny has real talent, and could make it big in the business with a few tweaks to his image. Is he cool enough? Do his pants hang low enough? Is his hair floppy enough? Is his baseball cap gansta enough?

And Jonny thinks that maybe, all he wants, is to be a regular kid and go to school. Live in a house, not on a tour bus, and not worry about his carb intake for five minutes.

Poor Jonny, right?

That’s the beauty of the story. We spend chapter after chapter learning all about Jonny and his life, and his desire to be normal. We learn that his mother isn’t quite as savvy a business manager as she thinks she is, and that there is more to the distance between Jonny and his dad than we realize.

And then, the author changes everything. Every shred of sympathy I might have had for Jonny went right out the window. And I laughed and laughed.

A nice satire on the age of tween Disney-fied stars and the current state of the music industry.

That’s right, get off my lawn.




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