Author Archive for Kara Horgan

13
Feb
15

Star-crossed lovers, indeed. CBR7 reviews 9 & 10.

Unknown-3So many other Cannonballers have been praising Saga, the graphic novel series from author Brian Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples, I just had to know what all the fuss was about.

As you must be aware by now, Saga tells the tale of Marko and Alana, lovers from warring planets (Marko has horns! Alana has wings! They are so different!) who find themselves pregnant and on the run from the many, many people who want them dead. As the story starts, Alana is giving birth to their daughter, Hazel. Hazel has horns AND wings — clearly an abomination that the powers-that-be must destroy.

The family enjoys about two seconds of precious togetherness before their race to survive begins. This book grabbed me and hooked me from page 1, and has yet to let me go.

What I love about these books (so far) is they way that a very familiar tale is being told, but in such a unique way.

Marko and Alana are LITERALLY star-crossed lovers. Marko’s parents don’t approve! He has horns and she has wings! How could they stand to be near each other? But this isn’t Romeo & Juliet by any means.

This is a rollicking adventure through a version of space we’ve not seen before, with new creatures and beings, all on the hunt for a young man and woman. But this isn’t Star Wars, either.

I spent a lot of time (seriously, a lot. too much) thinking about some of the characters here. Lying Cat (who seems to be a Cannonball favorite), is a delight. The Will, who I know I shouldn’t like, as he is trying to kill our heroes, is really growing on me. His willingness to risk everything in order to save the slave girl really got to me. Gwen is so kick-ass, I can’t help but like her. Izabel is just like our babysitter, except for the fact that she’s only a torso (thankfully). Alana has just about the most awesome haircut in all of literature. How can you not worship a book with such a great haircut???

And don’t even get me started on Prince Robot. Sometimes at night when I can’t sleep I start wondering about him. He has a human body, but a monitor for a head. HOW DOES THAT WORK? WHY AM I SO WORKED UP ABOUT IT? And then I can’t stop thinking about it.

These books are so new and exciting, and completely unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. The characters are deep and complicated, which is no small feat, considering the small amount of text used. The good guys aren’t always 100% nice, and the bad guys do good things sometimes. I’m on the library list for the next two volumes, and I’m getting antsy. I NEED to find out what happens next. If that’s not the sign of a great story, I don’t know what is.

03
Feb
15

High School really never ends. CBR7 review 8.

Unknown-2Like Julia Roberts at every single awards show, I’m gonna go ahead and make this review all about me.

You see, I am a stay-at-home mom with three kids in elementary school. I am the room mother for the kindergarten class. I live in a suburb just outside of Washington DC that is equal parts hard-working folks who are doing ok and CRAZY MONEY PEOPLE.

Lots of other moms at school come to volunteer dressed to the nines — in outfits straight off the runway, hair and make up perfect, skinny as a rail, in tottering high heels. I usually show up in jeans and doc martens or straight from the gym in running clothes. Waiting for PTA meetings to start, they all gossip about the new resort they just stayed at on some island I’ve never heard of. I sit and read my paperback of A Dance With Dragons (side note: almost done!).

I get emails and texts from all the kindergarten moms asking about nut allergies, party invitations, playdates, vaccinations (YES, THIS), and where to find the best French tutors.

Other moms scratch their heads and seriously ask me why we were bothering to add an addition to our house. Why wouldn’t we just tear the whole thing down and build a bigger house?

 

This is just some of the madness in my town. Its all friendly enough, really. But there isn’t much mingling between the groups. Parents mostly stick to their own kind, like there’s an invisible barrier running through the town. Like high school, all over again.

And so, it was pretty easy for me to quickly fall into the world that Liane Moriarty created in the fictional town of Pirriwee. Except luckily, nobody has ever died at one of our school’s parent functions. Yet. Really, its only a matter of time.

But enough about me. What about the book? After seeing review after review in January, I had to see for myself what all the hype was about. And when it was $3.99 on Kindle, I couldn’t resist.

I enjoyed this book immensely — I read it in about 24 hours and picked it up any chance I had. While parts were ridiculous (teenage girl auctioning off her virginity online?), other parts hit close to home (party invitations. the worst.). I enjoyed how the story was primarily told from the perspectives of Madeline, Celeste, and Jane — each representing a very different type of school parent that I know. And the secondary characters like the “Blonde Bobs” were all too realistic. But it was fun the way that Moriarty used police reports and interviews as a way to get to know all of the other parents.

HERE BE SPOILERS:

I was surprised by the identity of the victim (I had pretty much guessed every single character at one point or another), but didn’t buy into the way that everyone was hiding information from the police in order to protect Bonnie. I get that Madeline would want to protect Celeste, and that Jane might not want the world to know about her relationship with Perry, but lying about the incident simply didn’t ring true for me.

But other than that, no complaints from me. I thought it was a fun read, and I’ll make sure to keep an eye out for some of Moriarty’s other books.

 

 

 

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.




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