Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Yaqui Delgado Wants To Kick Your Ass

Written By Meg Medina
Original Publication Date: March 26, 2013
Rating: 5 Stars

Book Notes:
I received this ebook for free from the publisher, via Netgalley.
I've been sitting on this review since February 23rd, I wanted to wait until pub. date for it to go live, and it's been truly making me antsy.

"Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass," is what Piddy Sanchez is told, in the very first line of this moving novel about bullying.  This is news for Piddy, she doesn't even know who Yaqui is.  Turns out, Yaqui thinks that Piddy's stuck up, because of her good grades, lack of "Latina" attitude, and she shakes her butt when she walks. I love this premise because it shows exactly how inane the reasons are for a particular teen to be singled out of the crowd and bullied to, really, the end of their rope.  Bullying is an inanity, I've seen too many books try to give good reasons to the bully for hating those they bully; that's just not how it works.  More often than not it is a ridiculous non-reason that a student is picked out and picked on by her peers.

What I really loved about this book was that while the characters were Latina (and I know I missed things because of that - I really know very little about the Latina culture), they were people first and foremost.  This was not the story of Piddy Sanchez, a Latina girl who was getting bullied for not being Latina enough.  This was the story of Piddy Sanchez, a girl, who was getting bullied because of some ridiculous non-reason.  Piddy's mother was not only "Piddy's Mother," but a woman with a rich and slightly disturbing past, first and foremost. Even the minor characters were richly written; there wasn't a single character that felt incomplete or flat.  I could relate to almost all of the high school students.  

Okay, now that I think of it, Yaqui's cronies were pretty flat, but they were barely characters, simply extensions of the twisted mind that was Yaqui.

Another wonderful thing about the way this book was written is that it expresses the difficulty and confusion that a bullying victim feels when trying to decide what to do.  Sure, we're told over and over again that telling an adult is the correct thing to do, but as teenagers, all we can see is that if we tell an adult we'd be considered a narc or a tattletale and then the bully would probably hate us more.  In fact, not only would that make the one bully hate us more, but it could possibly make the rest of the school hate us as well.  Being a teenager is hard and this book expresses one facet of that, beautifully.

The chapter when all the threats come to a head, and there is a fight, is painful to read.  I needed to put the book down after reading it.  The humiliation and fear and desperate desire to forget it ever happened were so real.  While, my bullies never made it to actually beating the shit out of me, it was something I lived in fear of for a good portion of my middle school career.  Piddy's thought processes and actions throughout the entire book were so real.  I can't help but wonder if Meg Medina went through something similar in high school, herself.  We all have our horror stories from that part of our lives, in one way or another.

Honestly, I'd love to see this become a required reading book for high school or middle school English classes.  There needs to be an update on some of the novels that we have our children reading about bullying, because some of them are so out-dated that they're down right unrelatable.  This tale is horrific and completely relatable and modern.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The River

Written by Michael Neale
Original Publication Date: 2012
Rating: 3 Stars

Book Notes:
I received this book for free from the publisher, via Netgalley.

I didn't realize until after I requested the book that this is a novel that is considered religious fiction; the summary gave me no such clue.  I guess I wasn't thrilled when I read that, because while religions all fascinate me, "Religious Fiction" tends to mean a books that "Shove Christianity Down Your Throat."  Luckily, this book really didn't give off that vibe.  It's comparable to how I love Flyleaf - yes, they're technically Christian Metal, but they're not overtly so, and I love them anyway.  Now, I didn't love The River, but it was a nice story.

When Gabriel Clarke was five years old, his father took him out to The River.  A risk taker in a kayak didn't know The River well, and he went over the falls; Gabriel's father jumped in after the man.  The man survived, but Gabe's father never resurfaced.

Gabriel moves out of Colorado and to Kansas where his mother lives, where he struggles to overcome the mental issues that The River instilled in him.  He grows up, damaged, in more ways than a "normal" child, until he rediscovers The River and the healing begins.

Bottom Line:  This was a nice story, though the writing style was fairly simple and nothing terribly special.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mini Review: dreamland

Written By Sarah Dessen
Original Publication Date: 2000
Rating: 3 Stars

I decided to go with a mini review for this, as really the book only took me 3 hours to blast through, and I can assume that the review probably won't be terribly long.  Now as I'm reading through some other reviews on Goodreads, I'm seeing that this is one of Sarah Dessen's darker books.  I'm not sure how I feel about that, as I feel like this reads very similarly to a lot of young adult that I've read in the recent past.  I'm not saying it was bad or boring, but I didn't see it as any darker than young adult that I liked a lot more and young adult I liked a lot less.

Caitlin's older sister Cassandra runs away on Caitlin's 16th birthday (what a bitch, right?  She couldn't have waited 24 hours?).  This throws her life into chaos and Caitlin spends the next months trying to both step into her sisters shoes, comfort her mother, and be nothing at all like Cass. The conflicting ideals of what she wants to do throws her into a world that she never thought she would be a part of. 

At times I wanted to shake Caitlin.  Why was she staying with Rogerson through all the emotional and physical abuse!?  However, this is where I give Dessen a lot of credit, Caitlin reads like a real person in an abusive relationship.  Rogerson is spoken of as though he were her meth or cocaine.

Gone Girl

Written By Gillian Flynn
Original Publication Date: 2012
Rating: 2 and a Half Stars

I'm having a really hard time putting into words what I thought of this book.  On one hand it was incredibly easy to read, I've read reviews that said it was slow moving - I disagree - I thought it ebbed and flowed in such a way to make it compulsively readable.  On the other hand, however, all the characters were horrible and evil; I read characters more than I read plots and having such horrible characters just made me crazy.  Anyway, I'll just start writing and see where it leads.

Amy and Nick have been married for 5 years on the day that Amy goes missing.  Their house looks like there has been a struggle: furniture is flipped, their door is left open, etc.  One by one, as the clues come out, the investigation closes in on Nick.

Amy had a charmed life growing up, she was the inspiration for the wildly successful series of children's books, written by her parents, called Amazing Amy.  Nick and Amy met and lived in NYC, writing for various magazines, until they were both laid off.  When Nick's mother was diagnosed with cancer and his father's Alzheimers became much much worse, they move back to Missouri to take care of them.

The problem.  The people in the novel are horrible.  They're all evil.  Even though the books were called Amazing Amy, I was mentally combining Horrible Harry and Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Day to make up 
Horrible Harry Doing Awful Things on the Terrible Horrible No Good Day
Nick is terrible, Amy is terrible, the lawyer is terrible, the cops are terrible.  I hated them all.  I wanted them all to turn up murdered.

And just to make things even worse for me, I didn't have to "figure out" any of the twists of the novel. They were so obvious to me that I just knew them before they happened.  All right, there was one or two that I didn't see coming, but in a novel of that many twists and turns, they should have at least made me think, right? 

I did enjoy the readability factor, I wanted to see how it would wrap up (though the actual ending made me want to kill things), so I read it quickly.  It flowed well, even though it was just unwrapping one terrible thing after another.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mini Review: The Bell Jar

Written By Sylvia Plath
Original Publication Date: 1963
Rating: 4 Stars

Let me see if I can phrase this correctly.  I found The Bell Jar to be both an easy read and a difficult one.  Language-wise, the book was easy to read, it flowed; Plath has this way of giving you an entire picture with just a simple few words.  However, where I found it difficult to read was the bluntness and the truthfulness of the decent into a world inundated with dark thoughts and depression.  To some extent, especially when we're in our late teens, early twenties, I think this is something that everyone struggles with.  Trying to find your place in the world is a hard, scary, thing to do and some of us handle it better than others.  Plath encapsulated this in her vaguely autobiographical novel.  She was really writing about the "Quarter-Life Crisis" 30 or 40 years before the phrase came into vogue, and she did so brilliantly and truthfully.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Ten Tiny Breaths

Written By K.A. Tucker
Original Publication Date: 2012
Rating: 1 Star

Book Notes:
I received this ebook for free from the publisher, via Netgalley.

I'm sorry?  He's too beautiful to be a creep?  This is going to end badly, isn't it?  Pull out my hair, bad.

You know, I actually really like this main character.  Unless she's around Trent - then she turns into a simpering moron.

Women can fall in love or lust without turning into simpering morons, truly we can.  I know this is contrary to popular belief in the Romance genre, but it is true.

Why did I request this book?  Oh, right.  I fell victim to the "Oooooh.  Pretty Cover!" disease.  And then I actually read the summary, and felt a sinking in my stomach.  I hadn't read the reviews close enough before requesting it to realize that it was a book considered New Adult.  New Adult has been a genre I've been avoiding like the goddamned plague.  I think it's a bullshit genre made up as a publishing, marketing, gimmick.  "Hi, I'm a sad Twilight reader, I'm growing up.  I think I'm too old for Young Adult, but I can't handle Adult literature.  What do I read?  Oh wait!  This new genre is just for me!  New Adult!  It is easy to read like Young Adult, but it says the characters are between 18 and 25!  Just like me!  I'm a big kid now!"  Bullshit.  Fucking bullshit.  New Adult doesn't exist.  It's the writing style, not the age of the characters that makes a novel Young Adult or Adult.  I've read YA with 25 year old characters before, and I've read Adult literature where the main character is 6.  It's the style, not the age of the character.  The style that seems to make up New Adult is badly written Young Adult Romance.  We already have a genre for that.  It's called Young Adult Romance.

Anyway, I decided to put my preconceptions aside, and try to read this with a blank slate.  I was hoping it would surprise me.  I was wrong.

Kacey Cleary is 20 years old.  Four years ago, on the way home from a high school sports game, the car her father was driving was hit by a drunk driver.  Everyone in the car - her mother, her father, her best friend, her boyfriend - all died, except for Kacey.  Her little sister, Livie, was saved by a cold that had kept her home that afternoon.  Custody was taken by Kacey and Livie's Aunt and Uncle, until the day that their uncle climbs into bed with Livie.  Kacey and Livie run away to Miami, and that is where this novel starts.

The thing is that I actually think I liked Kacey as a character.  She was believably fucked up after the way she watched almost everyone she loved die around her.  She was constantly angry, but competent, could take care of herself.  Yes, she needed to get help, but the character was well built and interesting. 

 My biggest complaint about Kacey, is that authors have got to learn that "watery" is not an attractive sounding adjective for eyes.
Aren't my watery blue eyes beaaaaautiful!?
Cute, right?

And then we met Trent.  And that's where everything in this novel went bad.  Kacey takes one look at this man and decides that all her intellect is going to disappear.  She even says at one point that her instincts tell her that he is dangerous.  And yet, she still wants him?  Dafuq?  He's a goddamned stalker.  He follows her to work, to the gym, and just watches her.  And yet, they still date?


And then there's this twist, that I of course, had figured out way before the author revealed it.  I'm honestly still not sure what I think of this twist.  Of course it makes me hate that stupid romance x1000000 more than I already did.  Story-wise it was interesting, but romance-wise it made me want to pull out my fucking hair at the root.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Eyre Affair

Written By Jasper Fforde
Original Publication Date: 2001
Rating: 2 Stars

Book Notes:
Jasper Fforde is certainly tipping his hat to 1984 with the Goliath Corporation and the Crimean War.

"HyperBookwormDoublePlusGood."  That hat tip to 1984 just became a deep bow.


Your uncle has been kidnapped.  The bad guy just shot the crap out of your unit.  He's probably going to kill Martin Chuzzlewit, and possibly your uncle when he realizes he's been duped.


I had such, amazingly high hopes for this book.  I adored Shades of Grey  (no, not Fifty Shades of Grey, Godfuckingdamnit) and assumed that a novel written by the same brilliant quirky mind in a universe where you can step into novels, especially when stepping into one of my all time favorites, Jane Eyre, would be of the same caliber, if not better.  I was bloody disappointed.

Thursday Next is the stereotypical drop-in Female Agent Character; see The President's Daughter and Sympathetic Sue, from tvtropes, to see what I thought of how her character was built.  She was wanted by various parts of Special Ops because of what her father did in the Chrono Guard.  Her brother was lost at war, and because of something to do with this fact, she also broke up with her fiance of the time.  My real problem with Thursday as a narrator was that her entire focus was on the "pity me" crap from her past.  All she can think of during the climax(es) of the novel is of Landen, her ex-fiance.  I know she's a woman, but come on Fforde, we do think of things other than our men.

It made me want to kick her in the face hole.

Acheron Hades - what an evil name, right?  Okay, so he's kidnapped Thursday's uncle because he built the machine and bred the bookworms that allow one to step into fiction.  Okay, so he's stolen a manuscript or two.  But Gods above, he is taken as such Serious Business, and I don't see him as as evil as his name and his adversaries seem to make him out to be.  It just escalates too damn quickly for me to really see him as a villain, instead all I saw him as was a mostly-invincible dolt who wanted to be evil.  He was a Card Carrying Villain, instead of a truly evil man.

What really, really, disappointed me though, was that even though this novel is called The Eyre Affair, we don't really get to jump into Jane Eyre until two thirds of the way through the book, and it was so random after the first 2/3.  It seemed like two different stories that were really only barely related to one another.

It did earn itself a star because the stuff with Jane, Rochester, and Thursday was pretty fucking cool.  I just wish there'd been more of it.  And the parallels between Jane and Rochester and Thursday and Landen almost made Landen bearable - almost. 

And that ending!?  Dear Gods, we wrapped it up with a neat little bow.  And they rode off into the sunset, Happily Ever After.  

Headdesk.  Please excuse my while I shoot myself.

I am honestly not sure I care enough to read the rest of the series, which is really, really sad because I so loved Shades of Grey (I recommend it to everyone!).  I just fear that while this was Fforde's first novel (obviously) that this lack of editing continues.  He really needed a good editor for this book, but the series has done so well that I'm afraid he's been given free reign.  Though on the flip side of that same coin, I'm sure that in the past 12 years, the man has matured as an author and it'd be interesting to read one of the more modern Thursday Next stories.  Hmm.  We'll see.