Thursday Review: The Fault is in Our Stars by John Green

20140411-134423.jpg

The Blurb:

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

My Thoughts:

I’m not sure if it was because I’d already seen a thousand spoilers on tumblr, or if it was because I read this in the days that followed my tonsillectomy (i.e half asleep and fuzzy with painkillers) but I did not find this book as sad as all the funny gifs on tumblr had me believe.

Despite the fact that I am apparently a heartless psychopath, I did enjoy reading the book. It was a good story, and a very, very realistic one. I can absolutely see how the endless expectations thanks to portrayals from countless books and movies portraying these kids as super heroes who are just so strong and inspiring could be as frustrating and exhausting all on its own. Hazel felt real to me. And that’s not to say that those super strong, always optimistic people in the face on insurmountable adversity exist. They do, but every person is different and so many stories use illnesses and handicaps as boxes to create archetypes. Every character in this story felt real. At the end of the book I felt like I knew them personally, and for an author to accomplish that with any character, much less all of them, is amazing.

Except for the author in the story. He felt fuzzy and abstract and I was mostly just annoyed by his existence. I understood the explanation for why he was the way he was but not in the way I got every other character’s rationales in the entire book, up to and including side characters I only met for a couple of lines.

I loved Hazel’s quest to find the ending of the book though. Even though her reasoning was never explicitly stated, John Green did not hit his readers over the head with the parallels between her fears and her mission. It was just there, beautiful, tragic, and completely understandable.

I completely get the people I’ve heard criticize this book by saying all the characters were a bit too clever in the same ways. Every character spoke in the same kind of poetic and abstract way, and I completely agree that if I were to ever meet Augustus Waters and his metaphors in person I would think he was arrogant. But that’s not a bad thing. Characters can and should be flawed individuals, and while the characters were all clever in the same way and kind of all thinking on the same level regardless of age or position, they had unique voices so it didn’t bother me. The language they used and the observations they made was what made the book so good.

Great read. If you’re a normal person expect to cry. I kind of feel less human for not really getting sad over it.

Advertisements

Thursday Review: The Exorcist by William Blatty

20140320-174747.jpg

The Blurb:

Four decades after it first shook the nation, then the world, William Peter Blatty’s thrilling masterwork of faith and demonic possession returns in an even more powerful form. Raw and profane, shocking and blood-chilling, it remains a modern parable of good and evil and perhaps the most terrifying novel ever written.

My thoughts:

Wow, have times changed. It’s always hard to review a book so long after it was written because the standards and norms shift throughout the years. For instance, I hear a ton of people say L.J Smith books are horrible and then compare them to Twilight, but what those people don’t get is that Twilight, or any other urban fantasy book would have never been published back when Vampire Diaries came out because publishers would have assumed it was too long, too complex, and too old for the intended audience. YA books used to be this teeny-tiny section of the bookstore and they were all maybe about as thick as a chunky crayon.

But because of those books by L.J Smith, R.L Stine, Christopher Pike, and countless others, books like Twilight, The Darkest Powers, and The Mortal Instruments are published now. Preferences evolved.

I’m going to assume the exorcist is like that for the horror genre instead of slamming it for not following a lot of rules and standards created by publishing today. Nothing struck me as terribly creepy, but I imagine this set the precedence that creepy was built upon. That being said, I am not surprised this book made such a famous movie. The book was written to be a movie. I could tell the author had a very clear image in his head of what this would look like on screen and didn’t go very deep into his characters thoughts or motives, which means nothing major to character development would have been cut on screen. Perfect for a movie.

For a reader who enjoys a good character driven novel, not so much. That being said, the crucifix scene was heart wrenching. Really I felt so sorry for that poor little girl the entire novel. As a parent the book horrified me, but I wouldn’t say it scared me.

So…I respect this book for the precedence it set and for becoming a building block to create other horror stories. It’s not fair to judge it by today’s standards because horror is all about pushing the envelope and once you’re past the push there’s no going backward and getting frightened by it. I’m glad I’ve read the book. But I probably won’t be reading it again.

Thursday Review: The Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger

20140315-140337.jpg

The Blurb: Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire — and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

The Parasol Protectorate is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.

This bundle includes the whole series: Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless, and Timeless.

I read the last three books in this series, Blameless, Heartless, and Timeless, in such quick succession, I can’t exactly remember what event happened in what book. What I do know is that the books read extremely fast, so the pacing was great. The content was entertaining. The characters were fascinating. And the world was just plain fun. There were a few things that happened for the sake of pushing the plot forward and not a whole lot else (a trip to Italy comes to mind) but it was done with such tongue in cheek fun I didn’t even mind.

There’s not a lot I haven’t said about this series that I didn’t mention in the reviews for the first two books. If you’re looking for a fun, light-hearted read, this is the book series for you. I can promise the series stays consistently good (pacing and such actually improves) as the series goes on. I’ll be reading the Finishing School books next, and I’m waiting on pins and needles for the Prudence series. If you like the supernatural, steampunk, or books set in England, check this series out. You won’t regret it.

Thursday Review: Imdalind series by Rebecca Ethington

20140228-143605.jpg

Blurb for book 1:

Joclyn Despain has been marred by a brand on her skin. She doesn’t know why the mark appeared on her neck, but she doesn’t want anyone to see it, including her best friend Ryland, who knows everything else about her. The scar is the reason she hides herself behind baggy clothes, and won’t let the idea of kissing Ryland enter her mind, no matter how much she wants to.
The scar is the reason she is being hunted.

If only she knew that she was.

If only she had known that the cursed stone her estranged father sent for her 16th birthday would trigger a change in her. Now, she is being stalked by a tall blonde man, and is miraculously throwing her high school bully ten feet in the air.

Joclyn attempts to find some answers and the courage to follow her heart. When Ryland finds her scar; only he knows what it means, and who will kill her because of it.

My review:

This entire series is a fantastic, non-stop read. The plot is amazing, the world building is amazing, the characters are SO amazing. This book series gives heart wrenching a whole new meaning, by the way, so fair warning. I know this isn’t the most detailed of reviews, but because I’ve read all the books that are out I’m kind of afraid to say anything specific because this book series changes in such wonderful and interesting ways. I don’t want to spoil anything! Read the series. Especially book one, it’s like Ethington created a brand new fairy tale. It has that feeling behind it, that timelessness. But it’s all new and amazing. Cannot say enough good things. Go read.

Thursday Review: The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

20140228-132304.jpg

The blurb:

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA gives a rich and hilarious new meaning to complaints about “The Boss from Hell.” Narrated in Andrea’s smart, refreshingly disarming voice, it traces a deep, dark, devilish view of life at the top only hinted at in gossip columns and over Cosmopolitans at the trendiest cocktail parties. From sending the latest, not-yet-in-stores Harry Potter to Miranda’s children in Paris by private jet, to locating an unnamed antique store where Miranda had at some point admired a vintage dresser, to serving lattes to Miranda at precisely the piping hot temperature she prefers, Andrea is sorely tested each and every day-and often late into the night with orders barked over the phone. She puts up with it all by keeping her eyes on the prize: a recommendation from Miranda that will get Andrea a top job at any magazine of her choosing. As things escalate from the merely unacceptable to the downright outrageous, however, Andrea begins to realize that the job a million girls would die for may just kill her. And even if she survives, she has to decide whether or not the job is worth the price of her soul.

The review:

I think this is one of the rare cases where I liked the movie better. The book was good, but I feel like the movie did a better job capturing what the author was going for.

In the movie, I got the impression that Andrea was desperate for a job, any job, that would help her career path. In the book, she could have stayed with her parents longer, but didn’t want to. Could have moved in with her boyfriend, but didn’t want to. Could have stayed on her friend’s couch, but didn’t want to. Applied to the magazine in a random daze while sick (i.e did not seek out amazing opportunity, was not even aware this *was* an amazing opportunity), got the interview, and meh, why not, decided to work there.

In the movie, her boss was the devil from the get go. In the book she had a month of boss free time where she sat around wrapping Christmas presents and learned the ropes. Honestly, her boss didn’t even seem that bad. Her requests were demanding, but Andrea seemed more irate at having to send out her dry cleaning than track down the Harry Potter book before publication. Maybe this is a problem with the book being a bit dated, but nowadays that position might not even pay. It’s not exactly unusual to graduate college, work in a competitive internship for pennies or college credit, get stressed beyond belief, have a boss from hell, and hate your life, but suck it up because that’s the job market. Andrea had this golden opportunity handed to her (she didn’t even seem to actively seek it out, which is irritating) with tons of perks and spent so much time whining about stuff that shouldn’t have bugged her, that the stuff that should have didn’t pack a punch. Plus she did SO much stuff she should have been fired for (buying four cups of coffee every day for the local homeless people on the magazine’s dime as one example), that the constant “threat” of her getting fired never felt real.

The moral of the story felt heavy handed. Sorry, it’s actually not Andrea’s responsibility to crash her career for the sake of her alcoholic friend. And anyone who has ever had any experience with real alcoholics knows it’s not about their friends or their support net, it’s about the alcoholic. No friend, no matter how great can help an alcoholic that doesn’t want to help themselves. Had Andrea actually been available all year, she wouldn’t have stopped her friends descent into darkness or whatever. She most likely would have just enabled her. But I would have had much more respect for Andy had she actually asked to rush home and been coldly shut down then quit in a fit of rage instead of the sequence of events that occurred. I would have more respect for her if she had asked. Period.

However, in the real world, where crashing with your parents for the next couple months after losing your job *isn’t* an option, she’d have to suck it up and stay in Paris for a couple days, distracted and worried, but responsible. And boyfriend guy, why schedule a trip and book a hotel room and all that stuff three weeks before the end of her internship? And by the way, I remember my first year student teaching (which as a teach for America candidate was his experience only 1,000 more hectic), an absentee significant other isn’t even on your radar.

Parents, why get so upset she hasn’t seen her nephew three weeks before the end of her internship (okay, that one’s pretty bad, but why even bring it up right then?) Andrea, why assume you can take a vacation while your boss is out of town when throughout the entire book everyone has been telling you how much work it is when she *isn’t* there and you experienced that twice? Even if she hadn’t gone to Paris, how many times did she call Emily while she was there? The conflict would have happened no matter what.

I just couldn’t figure whether or not her job was really that bad, or if Andrea was just so spoiled she didn’t know how to handle having a job. The truth was probably somewhere in the middle, but that didn’t seem to be what the story kept trying to tell me. The show and the tell sent massively different messages. Her boss sounded like a jerk, but what actually happened when Andrea couldn’t deliver her impossible demands (which occurred several times in the book)? Nothing. No consequences beyond a bit of verbal assault, which, again, wasn’t actually that bad. I’ve heard a lot worse. I’ve heard a lot of really good people who have actually had to fight tooth and nail for their job and to whom keeping said job was the difference between feeding their families or not, duck their head and put up with much worse.

Fun read, and despite my gripes about the character it actually was fun to read and well written. I enjoyed the dialogue and the descriptions. It’s a good book. I just couldn’t buy into the premise.

Thursday Review: Violet in Private by Melissa Walker

20140228-132043.jpg

The Blurb:

The return of Violet, the not-so-confident model.

Violet Greenfield knows she’s supposed to be a super-confident nineteen-year-old because she’s done runway shows in New York and internationally. But now that she’s finally headed to college, she’s afraid she’ll turn back into that girl who blended into the walls in high school. Vassar is just two hours away from New York City, her friends in fashion think she’s crazy to stop modeling now. And her old friend Roger is there…but things have been weird ever since they kissed. The real question is if she’s not going to be Violet on the Runway anymore…who is she?

My review:

I loved this book. Really, truly loved it, which is so strange because I wasn’t that big of a fan of book one (though I did like book two more). This book did a fantastic job of showing Violet’s growth (as well as every other character introduced in book one) and introduced some fantastic new characters, and had a steady plot. The ending did not wrap everything up in a nice neat bow, but felt resolved (best kind of ending). I love that none of the characters were perfect and none of the characters were 1000 percent evil (except her agent). Each character was crafted with realism and three dimensional flaws and strengths that worked together to show growth overtime. Some of the most annoying things about the characters introduced two books ago as teens became their best attributes. Really great job on character development all around.

One thing that I think made this book such a great read is that the author captured that feeling or reconciling the different aspects of your life once you hit college so well. Violet always struggled with her identity as a model versus her identity with her friends and family in her hometown. College gave her the opportunity to craft an identity that blended the best of both worlds and the lessons she learned there.

Surprisingly good read.

Thursday Review: Infinity Glass by Myra McEntire

20140228-124206.jpg

The Blurb: The stakes have risen even higher in this third book in the Hourglass series.

The Hourglass is a secret organization focused on the study of manipulating time, and its members — many of them teenagers -­have uncanny abilities to make time work for them in mysterious ways. Inherent in these powers is a responsibility to take great care, because altering one small moment can have devastating consequences for the past, present, and future. But some time trav­elers are not exactly honorable, and sometimes unsavory deals must be struck to maintain order.

With the Infinityglass (central to understanding and harnessing the time gene) at large, the hunt is on to find it before someone else does.

But the Hourglass has an advantage. Lily, who has the ability to locate anything lost, has determined that the Infinityglass isn’t an object. It’s a person. And the Hourglass must find him or her first. But where do you start searching for the very key to time when every second could be the last?

The review:

Dear publishers of books. If you are going to have a book series that changes narrators each book, do your readers a solid. Either have the character narrating on the cover instead of the same girl on all three covers (which while I like the cover sequence has nothing to do with the chain of events past book 1 since we are no longer focusing on that character), OR have a helpful blurb on the back that names the narrator “Dune xyz and Hallie always blah blah blah” instead of “praise for hourglass” then a bunch of reviews. Or at least have your goodreads summary mention your protagonist by name? I spent *pages* trying to figure out who was talking once Dune took over narrating, partially because it took me a minute to remember who Dune was, he didn’t make much of an impression in the first two books. Because of that problem, it took me a minute to get into this book. I felt like there was a departure in tone with this book, but that might have just been because I started off confused.

Once I figured out who was narrating, the book went much smoother. I really enjoyed Hallie as a narrator. Actually, I enjoyed every single female character McEntire introduced in this series. She never fell into tropes or stereotypes, she was inclusive to woc, and her characters were independent, fully fleshed out and realized characters with personalities and voices that were distinct from one another. Ditto for the men of the series. McEntire handles character building and pacing very well. World building got a bit convoluted in the last half of this book, but it’s difficult to say whether that was intentional (the plot deals with a device that literally shifts the rules and nature of time) or not. It did get confusing, and to be honest, I’m still not a hundred percent sure why the final solution worked the way it did. Don’t get me wrong, it was explained repeatedly. I just didn’t *get* it, so that might be me. I was also reading this book in bits and pieces on a cruise ship so my focus might have been elsewhere.

But I kept coming back to this book.

While on a cruise.

Very good series, definitely worth a read.

Thursday Review: Timepiece by Myra McEntire

20140222-172951.jpg

The Blurb: A threat from the past could destroy the future. And the clock is ticking…

Kaleb Ballard was never supposed to be able to see ripples – cracks in time. Are his powers expanding, or is something very wrong? Before he can find out, Jonathan landers, the man who tried to murder is father, reappears. Why is he back, and what, or whom, does he want?

In the wake of Landers’ return, the Hourglass organization is given an ultimatum. Either they find Jack and the research he’s stolen on the people who might carry the time gene, or time will be altered – with devastating results for the people Kaleb loves most.

Now Kaleb, Emerson, Michael, and the other Hourglass recruits have no choice but to use their unusual powers to find Landers. But where do they even start? And when? And even if they succeed, it may not be enough…

My review:
I actually enjoyed this book more than the first (and I enjoyed the first). Kaleb was a narrator I could relate to easier than Emerson and I really enjoyed his character arc and his relationship with Lily. I was very surprised to find he was the narrator because as much as I love the cover, nothing warned me Emerson was not the narrator until line one. Instead of a summary, my book had reviews on the back, which is oh so not helpful in determining what the book is about. But it was a welcome change.

I enjoyed the faster pace and the way the rules of time were changing. I think the ripple effect of book one was well handled. I can’t get much into the book without spoiling book one, but I really, really enjoyed this book. Check it out.

Thursday Review: Hourglass by Myra Mcentire

20140220-232915.jpg

The Blurb:
One hour to rewrite the past . . .

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.

So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may also change her past.

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should’ve happened?

My review:
I’ve been very into time travel books lately. And I think it’s because time travel books tend to be good reads. Ruby Red, Timebound, and now Hourglass, all very enjoyable reads with well developed characters, interesting world building, and good plot lines, even if they all suffered from a bit of instalove.
I actually don’t even mind instalove, I dislike instalove obstacles because they tend to be superfluous. The characters are going to end up together, it’s a given. And unless the romance IS the story, all the obstacles tend to do is lengthen the books, distract from the plot, and add clunky scenes. If an author is going to write instalove, embrace it, get the characters together from the get go. It’s not like love becomes drama free the moment two characters hook up.

That being said, I enjoyed the characters a lot. Emerson was interesting, Michael was kind of bland, but Kaleb and Lily were fun. My absolute favorite characters were Thomas and Dru. It’s so rare for plots about kids with special abilities to include supportive family members that this book was very refreshing. However with the exception of Thomas and Dru, who were both actually pretty young, not of the adults seemed very adult. Everyone seemed to be right around the same intellect and conversation level, which given that the other adults weren’t just older, but held PhD’s in very difficult subjects seemed odd. Still, I prefer mature, intelligent characters to whiny immature teens. I didn’t get the bad guy or his motivation much. But there’s more books in the series, so I’m sure it’ll clarify. Very promising start.

The time travel element started very strong but got a bit convoluted at the end. But that convolutedness seems to be the impetus for the rest of the series. Time is getting screwed up and needs to be fixed so all the rules kind of get thrown out the window. I loved the addition of seeing “ghosts” of time in rips. This was just such a neat concept. Can’t wait to read the rest.

Thursday Review: Violet by Design by Melissa Walker

The Blurb:
I was going to get out of the modeling business for good.

But now I’m having trouble sticking with my decision. After all, if it wasn’t for modeling, I might still be the invisible wallflower. Hot guys like Paulo wouldn’t be interested in me. And I’d never have seen Brazil or Spain-and now France! On the other hand…

I also wouldn’t have to choose between my best friend from home and my agent’s shrill demands. Or anguish over my body the way only runway models do. Not to mention all this trouble I’m getting into for speaking out in the press about eating disorders.

Maybe the life of an international model isn’t for me. But if I quit for good, I might always wonder…What if?

My review:

I actually enjoyed this better than book one because the arc was very similar, but this book tackled issues in a different way that I appreciated and had more developed side characters. I think it helped that the issues approached in this book were body image and weight, which is something all girls feel pressure about, whereas most girls aren’t models who deal with the pressures of fame, money, and nervous breakdowns due to the depression of maintaining a stressful career as a teenager. Plus, in book one, all the issues Violet had seemed so avoidable with one key word. Moderation. In this book, the issues go beyond Violet’s personal, and frequently bad decisions to factors outside of her control. Violet gains five pounds, is told to lose it, complains publicly on her blog, suffers consequences from her blog going public, and unexpectedly lands an ad campaign with a place trying to improve their PR by caring about body image…yet they still want her to lose five pounds. Disturbed by the hypocrisy of it all, Violet is torn between furthering her career and selling out.

In book one, Violet’s all or nothing approach kind of bothered me, but this book helped me see that’s her character. Moderation isn’t in her vocabulary. She either jumps head first into the darkest depths of the dark side of modeling, or quits completely. She either starves herself, or eats a half gallon of ice cream a day. She falls in love the exact same way. Violet doesn’t do half measures. I think that was easier to see this round because this book did have models who could live the lifestyle with professionalism and grace without completely losing themselves. The career isn’t evil, the other girls aren’t bad or lost. It’s just not a good path for someone as impressionable and sometimes immature as the protagonist and that’s okay. Flawed characters are more interesting. As an adult that sometimes struggles to get by, it was pretty frustrating watching Violet get handed opportunity after opportunity and seems hell bent on destroying them all. But that’s an age thing. The romances in this were frustrating, but again, this isn’t for my age group. One thing I really liked is this book focused a lot less on the whole “but I never thought I was pretty” thing.

There’s this trend in YA books to have obviously beautiful girls think they’re plain. And frankly, it’s annoying. I’m not talking about books with plain girls who discover the beauty of their own bodies, or find a guy who sees them as beautiful, or discover the friends they’re jealous of are jealous of how they look. That’s actually kind of realistic. Everyone is much prettier than they think they are and the message that we are our worst critics is an important one. But there’s a line and a lot of books cross it. Sorry, but if you’re pretty enough to be able to literally get recruited into modeling off the street, or be able to quit and have your agent bend over backwards to bring you back, or have multiple guys fall for you, or have a room of photographers go completely still and breathless when you walk out on stage, you’re more than average and refusing to accept that or acknowledge that actually makes girls feel worse about themselves because if she thinks she’s ugly, what the heck does that make actual average people? By this book, Violet’s mostly accepted she looks good, not in a vain way, but in a healthy one. Even though she crash dieted and got embarrassed when her agent kept making comments about her weight, I was never under the impression Violet thought those five pounds made a difference in herself or the way she looked. It was just something she had to lose to keep her job.

This book improves upon the first one. Worth a read if you enjoyed book one at all.

20140220-213425.jpg