8.21.2014

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Summary: A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

Review: I don't... I don't know what to say.

I was actually on a reading kick; I was pretty much obsessed with reading. I couldn't/wouldn't stop. As soon as I finished a book I found a new one. It lasted about a week. Because then I read We Were Liars.

I'd been excited to read it pretty much since I heard of it. I've read all of E. Lockhart's other books; Frankie and Ruby hold very special places in my heart. And when she said this book was different from all of her other books, boy did she mean it.

I was actually pretty on board with it. I liked Cadence's metaphors and imagery, and I liked how she could use her flashbacks to understand sinister meanings behind seemingly innocent conversations she'd participated in.

But the ending... was horrible. Like, the events. I know it sounds overdramatic, but I think a little part of me died. Honestly, I wish I'd just looked it up on Wikipedia and found out how it ends. (Both because going into it knowing would have made me pay attention to certain things, and also because I would have been prepared. Honestly, I probably should have seen it coming, but I really really didn't. You're welcome, Reader/Author Contract.) (I just looked it up, and it's not on Wikipedia. But I could have found a way. Should have...)

Anyway, now I'm having a hard time finding a book I'm willing to read. I need something light and fluffy, but not crappy. Pancakes, as opposed to cotton candy. As it were. Any suggestions?

(In all fairness, my reading kick also got derailed because I recently obtained this, and it's been eating up all my free time. TALK about an addiction...)

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, is-or-would-be-a-good-movie, is-this-a-kissing-book, pretentious

Rating

8.17.2014

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Summary: Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Review: Ugh, can we please stop having "big twists" that the audience figures out in the first chapter? Seriously. There's this big "reveal" that happens pretty much in the last 5 pages, and literally every single person who reads this book heaves a huge sigh and is like, "yeah, I already knew that, thanks." Not to mention that this "big twist" is hinted at in the summary of the book! Can we stop doing that? Please? #kthxbai

*steps off soapbox*

Now that that's out of the way, what a cute book! Futuristic, cyborg retelling of Cinderella. I am totally down with that. I knew I'd love it, but I'm not sure why I hadn't read it sooner.

Cinder was pretty adorable. She's tough and capable, but also loyal and sweet. And even though she lies to Kai, by not telling him she's a cyborg, I can understand why. And the two people in her "family" (I don't know if I legitimize her domestic situation by calling it a family, but you know-- the people she lives with) that she loves and are nice to her (her younger stepsister Peony and her android Iko) are actually people that I would like, too. (As opposed to Annoyingly Sweet characters -- it's always nice when the protagonist's friends are actually likable.)

Kai is also cute... to a point. I like his crush on Cinder, and I imagine that the reason he pursues her for so long is the whole "Thrill of the Chase" thing guys are always talking about in books and movies (and in real life sometimes, to be fair). But... for a prince, especially the heir to the throne, he seems to have a lot of free time on his hands. I mean, shouldn't he be meeting with ministers and governors and heads of parliament all the time? And why does he seem to only have one advisor, who ALSO has tons of free time (as evidenced by the fact that he has enough time on his hands to attend EVERY meeting Kai takes)? And shouldn't Kai, as heir to the throne, already have received a TON of training in leadership and diplomacy and management and stuff? And how, in some post-apocalyptic world in which there are only six countries left on Earth anyway, did we manage to keep an actual, honest-to-goodness monarchy, with rulers who are more than just ceremonial heads of state? Wait-- that might actually explain why Kai has so much free time. But if so, shouldn't his Prime Minister be the one negotiating a peace treaty with the moon?

And while we're on the subject of politics, I found Levana's diplomacy to be... well, pretty horrible. She invites herself to his palace with absolutely NO notice, makes demands of Kai's police and security forces, attempts to discipline his servants (with corporal punishment, no less -- not just bad diplomacy, but also super tacky), and tries to arrest his citizens! And then tries to maintain the charade that she might not declare war. Sorry, honey, but you pretty much already have.

However. Once I suspend my disbelief on the subject of politics, the book was quite riveting. I LOVED all the Cinder/Kai stuff, as is my way, and was super excited by the story -- it turned into quite a nail-biter. I'm excited to read the rest of the series.

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, excuse-me-half-the-book-is-missing, fluffy, funny, is-or-would-be-a-good-movie, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman, nook-ya

Rating:

8.13.2014

Casting Call: The Lunar Chronicles

So I'm actually ahead on the blog (for once), so you probably don't know yet about my obsession with The Lunar Chronicles. But I am a tiny bit obsessed.

So today we're going to have a small casting session. 

Full disclosure: I only just started Cress yesterday, so apparently there are some characters I haven't met yet?

Anyway.

In my head, Cinder looks like this:


Battlestar Galactica-era Grace Park, who is too old and I don't think Cinder is Asian? Anyway, in my mind it's who she looks like.

Kai:


Jordan Rodrigues, AKA Christian from Dance Academy.


When thinking about Scarlet, I find that looks-wise Debby Ryan is a good fit. Except I've seen too many episodes of Jessie, and that girl gets. on. my. nerves. So instead,


I think Shailene Woodley has the right blend of toughness and sweetness to pull off Scarlet. And even if she IS Hollywood-skinny, she doesn't look like a stick.


Cress, who is young and adorable, I picture as:


G. Hannelius, the adorable girl from Dog With a Blog.


Captain Thorne I kind of want to cast as Wes Aderhold, except that I can't handle him after he was so creepy as Wickham, and also he's a LOT older than my choice for Cress (who in real life is 15). So let's go with


Spencer Boldman, who is tall and has the kind of smile that would make girls swoon over a felon. As I said, I haven't finished reading Cress, so I don't know how that dynamic is gonna be, but I'm comfortable with this age gap (he's 22). She's at the age where she WOULD crush on a guy this old, but they're close enough that I could be convinced that it's not creepy. In a couple years, that is.

Heck, I think I'm gonna cast Wes Aderhold after all. As Wolf.


He's age-appropriate for Shailene, good at being soulful and a little dreamy, and also enough of a creeper that you never quite know which side he's on.


And Levana, who is described (before she opens her mouth) as looking sweet and innocent:


That's right. Gigi Darcy herself. I went there.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Can you think of a better Cinder, maybe one who looks like she might actually be Allison Paige's niece? Tell me in the comments!

8.12.2014

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick

Summary: Based on the Emmy Award–winning YouTube series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

Twenty‑four‑year‑old grad student Lizzie Bennet is saddled with student loan debt and still living at home along with her two sisters—beautiful Jane and reckless Lydia. When she records her reflections on life for her thesis project and posts them on YouTube, she has no idea The Lizzie Bennet Diaries will soon take on a life of their own, turning the Bennet sisters into internet celebrities seemingly overnight.

When rich and handsome Bing Lee comes to town, along with his stuck‑up friend William Darcy, things really start to get interesting for the Bennets—and for Lizzie’s viewers. But not everything happens on‑screen. Lucky for us, Lizzie has a secret diary.

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet takes readers deep inside Lizzie’s world and well beyond the confines of her camera—from the wedding where she first meets William Darcy to the local hangout of Carter’s bar, and much more. Lizzie’s private musings are filled with revealing details about the Bennet household, including her growing suspicions about her parents’ unstable financial situation, her sister’s budding relationship with Bing Lee, the perils of her unexpected fame, and her uncertainty over her future—and whom she wants to share it with.

Featuring plenty of fresh twists to delight fans and new readers alike, The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet expands on the web series phenomenon that captivated a generation and reimagines the Pride and Prejudice story like never before.

Review: Ok first of all, if you like Pride and Prejudice but haven't seen The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, go and watch them. Now. Seriously.

Here, here's the first one. All you have to do is click on it:



You're welcome.

So now that that's out of the way, let's talk about the book.

I wasn't sure I'd like it. After all, book adaptations of Pride and Prejudice are pretty much a dime a dozen. Between zombies, modernizations, sequels, murder mysteries, Downton Abbey-ification, you name it, there are probably hundreds. But LBD was what I put a LOT of energy into obsessing over for the two months while I was in Korea by myself. So I went ahead and pre-ordered the book.

I was surprised by how much I liked it. I don't know why, because the writing in the videos is great. But I pretty much loved it. It was really great at telling the story without just writing description in between dialogue taken from the videos. I mean, for the first half, that was easy, because the videos are mostly just recaps of stuff anyway. Not a lot of action actually happens on screen, so it was nice to see it "on screen", as it were, in the book.

The second half had a lot of added material, which I love, because it included more Darcy. And it was a great way to include a lot of little things from Pride and Prejudice that didn't make it into the webseries.

Usually I'd like to try and talk about the book on its own, apart from the videos, but I don't know that I can in this case. The videos are such a big part of the book (including links to the videos themselves, so you can see exactly where they fall in the story. This is the only time I've ever been tempted to buy the Nook tablet, bc the links didn't work on my iPad.) that I can't really separate them. The book does tell the whole story, though, so if you're staunchly anti-YouTube, you'll still know what's going on. But you should watch the videos.

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, fluffy, funny, is-a-movie, is-or-would-be-a-good-movie, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman, nook-ya, thought-provoking

Rating:

8.09.2014

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Summary: Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they're rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen's relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and -- finally -- a reunion in the city where they first met.

A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith's new novel shows that the center of the world isn't necessarily a place. It can be a person, too.

Review: So... am I getting old? Because while the story in this novel is cute, I feel like I'm not quite as charmed by it as I should have been.

Maybe it's the fact that I'm a fully grown adult. Or the many times I moved away from friends (and boyfriends) during my own adolescence. But I kind of want to give Lucy and Owen a talking to. One that boils down to "get over it, my young friends."

Does that make me old?

I'm a little preoccupied with the question.

Anyway, despite their weird kind-of-relationship thing, I liked the book. I liked Owen and his dad's (heartbreaking) story; their journey towards healing from Owen's mom's death was strong storytelling. And I liked Lucy's story and how her relationship with her parents plays out. (Although stories that end with "if you'd only asked, I would have..." tend to break my heart a little bit.)

Overall, once I got over the way their relationship makes me want to yell at some kids and tell them to get off my lawn, I rather liked it.

Goodreads Shelves: bechdel-test, fluffy, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman, pretentious

Rating

7.25.2014

Guest Review: Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore

This review is brought to you by my amazing sister, Kelli. You can find her on her blog and on Goodreads.


Summary: Amy Goodnight knows that the world isn't as simple as it seems—she grew up surrounded by household spells and benevolent ghosts. But she also understands that "normal" doesn't mix with magic, and she's worked hard to build a wall between the two worlds. Not only to protect any hope of ever having a normal life.

Ranch-sitting for her aunt in Texas should be exactly that. Good old ordinary, uneventful hard work. Only, Amy and her sister, Phin, aren't alone. There's someone in the house with them—and it's not the living, breathing, amazingly hot cowboy from the ranch next door.

It's a ghost, and it's more powerful than the Goodnights and all their protective spells combined. It wants something from Amy, and none of her carefully built defenses can hold it back.

This is the summer when the wall between Amy's worlds is going to come crashing down.

Review: Rosemary Clement Moore writes the wittiest interactions between characters.  This book might be worth a read simply for the scene with the cow.  Hilarious.  Add in the quirky supernatural family, a sweet romance, a mystery, and a ghost, and this is probably my favorite of her books to date.

Rating

7.23.2014

Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins and Jamie Hogan

Summary: In her Bangladesh village, ten-year-old Naima excels at painting designs called alpanas, but to help her impoverished family financially she would have to be a boy--or disguise herself as one.

Review: As I'm preparing to move to Bangladesh in a few months, one of the things I'm doing is reading books about it. I'm reading books for older people, like A Golden Age, but I'm also reading as many children's books about Bangladesh as possible, because a) I can read children's books faster and b) there just aren't that many books about Bangladesh out there.

Rickshaw Girl was good. Written at about a 2nd grade reading level, it tells a story of Naima, who is crazy frustrated by gender restrictions. She desperately wants to help her family earn money, but she can't because (in her village at least) girls and women don't work or earn money. Despite how predictable her story is, I was happy to see her find a role model by the end, who helps her overcome gender roles in her community by giving her a chance.

I could feel the love Naima and her family have for each other, and my heart broke with Naima when, in the process of trying to help her family financially, she accidentally makes it worse.

Overall, I feel like this book helped me gain a perspective for what life is like in rural Bangladesh. I think it would be a great story to share with kids (and grown-ups) who want to learn about and understand other cultures.

Goodreads Shelves: be-proactive, bechdel-test, my-kind-of-woman, thought-provoking

Rating

7.15.2014

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

Summary: An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

Review: Ok, I'm of two minds about this one. One the one hand, I liked it. It was a quick read, and I liked Prenna and Ethan's relationship (for the most part). For the first half or so, I kept comparing it to Pivot Point and Split Second, in that it was a story about a community of outsiders who had to blend in to the Normal World while keeping secrets about their identities. And I liked The Here and Now's discipline better, and its Big Brother-ish vibe.

In the second half of the book, though, things fell apart a little bit. For starters, all of a sudden Prenna and Ethan are In Love?? After avoiding him for two years and doing her best to maintain emotional distance, now all of a sudden they flip a switch and they're soulmates? I'm a little skeptical that a teenage boy would put so much energy into pining over a girl who is a self-confessed "expert liar" and never tells him anything about herself.

Speaking of which, for a girl who's had Being Undercover drilled into her continuously for the past four years, she does NOT think on her feet. (Or at all, really. But I'm ok with a person being Book Smart and not Street Smart. Common sense, after all, usually isn't.)

Also, really? The security that's kept over them is based on lies and fear, sure. But they put together a group of people to migrate to the past based on finding people who were passionate about going back and preventing the plague... and then are surprised when those people try to change the past? Maybe you should have started with stupider people, is all I'm saying.

And the plot itself... confused me. I could follow it on its (fairly predictable) way, but a few plot holes bothered me, and I think a couple of things that don't have satisfactory explanations are camouflaged by time-travel paradoxes.

I felt like Brashares was trying to put a lot into the emotional impact of the book, which was fine, as far as it went. I liked her descriptions of Feelings; they worked ok. But without a solid narrative to hold them up, I just wasn't as invested in the feelings of the characters.

Goodreads Shelves: bechdel-test, fluffy, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman, pretentious

Rating:

7.08.2014

Guest Review: Reboot by Amy Tintera

This review is brought to you by my amazing sister, Kelli. You can find her on her blog and on Goodreads.


Summary: Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).

Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.

The perfect soldier is done taking orders.

Review: I wanted to love this book.  You read the summary; how could this book not kick A?  I'm still not entirely sure how, but the fact is that it failed to deliver.  She took an amazing concept and just phoned it in.  It's well-written, but pretty superficial.  I can accept that it's YA, so she chose to not go as in-depth as something written for an older audience, but it still read as top-level.  It wasn't totally egregious, though, until she managed to cram about 200 pages worth of material into the last 50 pages.  When I realized how close I was to the end, I assumed it had to have a cliff-hanger because there was no way to resolve the issue.  Wrong.  She resolved it by telling the story like I read my kids their fifth bed-time story.  Having said that, at least it wasn't a waste of time.  Still worth a read, but I wouldn't move it to the top of the pile.

Rating

7.02.2014

The House Girl by Tara Conklin

Summary: Virginia, 1852. Seventeen-year-old Josephine Bell decides to run from the failing tobacco farm where she is a slave and nurse to her ailing mistress, the aspiring artist Lu Anne Bell. New York City, 2004. Lina Sparrow, an ambitious first-year associate in an elite law firm, is given a difficult, highly sensitive assignment that could make her career: she must find the “perfect plaintiff” to lead a historic class-action lawsuit worth trillions of dollars in reparations for descendants of American slaves.

It is through her father, the renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, that Lina discovers Josephine Bell and a controversy roiling the art world: are the iconic paintings long ascribed to Lu Anne Bell really the work of her house slave, Josephine? A descendant of Josephine’s would be the perfect face for the reparations lawsuit—if Lina can find one. While following the runaway girl’s faint trail through old letters and plantation records, Lina finds herself questioning her own family history and the secrets that her father has never revealed: How did Lina’s mother die? And why will he never speak about her?

Moving between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this searing, suspenseful and heartbreaking tale of art and history, love and secrets, explores what it means to repair a wrong and asks whether truth is sometimes more important than justice.

Review: So... I dunno. I'm kind of "meh" on it. It took me about three weeks to really get into this book (or if it didn't take three weeks, it certainly felt like three weeks), which says to me that I just... I dunno, didn't care? About the characters? Question mark?

Josephine's story took a long time. Like, all of her narration is pretty much made up of one day. So while her story was interesting, it was pretty slow going.

And Lina... Ugh, I was pretty apathetic about Lina. In her defense, so is she. But still. She's young and still trying to figure herself out. But at the same time, as a person, I didn't find her terribly interesting.

The writing, though. Maybe it was a little over-descriptive, but it was also beautiful. So even though it was a cumbersome read at times, it was enjoyably cumbersome.

Goodreads Shelves: bechdel-test, fluffy, my-kind-of-woman, nook-book, pretentious

Rating
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