Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Author: Laura Lippman
Series: Tess Monaghan (#11)
I came across Laura Lippman while googling for authors similar to Tana French. In an effort to accept the fact that I've already read all of French's currently released books, and she's probably not going to move up the release of her next one even if I ask really nicely, I thought I'd attempt to locate an author with a similar style. If you're in a similar situation this review might help you. Based on this novella alone it is hard to say that Lippman does compare to French; perhaps one of her standalone novels would make for a better comparison. While French's Dublin Murder Squad series is filled with deeply complex psychological mysteries with prose that easily propels her into the "lit fic" category, Lippman's story in The Girl in the Green Raincoat is a very straight and simple mystery story, with a clear and not unpredictable road from start to conclusion. This isn't to say that one is better than the other, but that they cannot really be compared, since they offer completely different things.
A large flaw within this novel is its side characters. The characters within the mystery itself fell flat and were used as walking chess pieces for Tess to play with rather than people who would actually exist outside of a daytime soap opera. Tess' boyfriend and best friend were hardly much livelier despite the latter having a few awkwardly placed perspective shifts. Perhaps they've been further fleshed out in earlier books and Lippman didn't feel the need to do so further here. This very well could be due to my choice to read them out of order and would entirely be my fault. Tess herself was the shining point of this book for me and is the reason I plan to pick up other books in this series. She's a modern Nancy Drew with the snark, stubborn curiosity, and feminist ideals of Veronica Mars. Like Mars she is not averse to dumpster digging for evidence. She's unsure that she'll ever have motherly instincts having never particularly wanted a child, questions her relationship as everyone does sometimes, still has eyes (hormones) for other men despite being loyal (women in relationships still have eyes!) and expresses distaste for the media's racist leanings and people who preface sentences by saying they heard something on NPR. I'm interested to see the beginning of her story and to experience her unravel a mystery when she isn't on bed rest.
I also felt that this book could have used further editing. The writing was very clunky in parts and hard to understand. Sentences did not flow or make sense. I found myself rereading to try to make sense of certain paragraphs to no avail. I don't come across this a lot as I find I'm usually not overly-attentive to such things (being no master of grammar or the English language myself) but here it became so frequent and obvious that I was unable to ignore it. The plotting was also oddly paced and the entire book felt rushed. I can see how it would be hard to write a complete story with your main detective on bed rest, but then, why write the story at all if it's going to feel forced?
It's safe to say that while I enjoyed Tess as a character and Lippman's subtle commentary on racism and sexism, the jury is still out on whether or not she will prove to be an alternative to French for me. For that to happen I would need a little more than an enjoyable mystery and a lot more depth to all of the main characters. It may seem like I didn't enjoy this book, but due to Tess and due to Lippman's intelligent dialogue, I did. Also, Dempsey, the miniature Italian Greyhound who had more personality than anyone else in the story aside from Tess. I'll be reading more of her books in the future but I may try one of her standalone offerings before diving back into Tess' world again, and would recommend anyone yearning for more Tana French do the same, instead of beginning with the Tess series.
"But "settle down" reminded her of settling, period, and she was furious again. Dissatisfied by conversation with Crow, she decided to talk to her daughter, who seemed to be kicking her feet rhythmically, as antsy about confinement as Dempsey. Don't ever settle, Fifi. Don't get married just because it's still marketed as the ultimate achievement for women."
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Author: Patrick Ness
Series: Chaos Walking (#1)
In my heart of hearts (somewhere in that deep dark black soul I seem to have sometimes when reviewing books I've vehemently disliked) I don't know if this is a full five stars for me, and yet, it feels inaccurate to even think of giving it a four. I've got a rule with books to follow my heart and not my head. If a book demands my attention and the characters worm their way into my good graces and I'm worried for them, or I cry for them, then yeah, that book is getting those five shiny stars. But let's not get distracted by the shiny things like wayward Dory fish. This novel isn't without its flaws.
"What are these men doing in an army?"
Let me first gush over Ness' theme here: War. All of the ways in which he explores it. The Spackle scene most notably, a scene that made me feel physically ill and watered my eyes, the same way I'd feel after hearing stories of a similar nature on the non-fiction news. Because it's so true. It's so applicable to everything. Do you know how many Americans I've heard throw out slurs against people from the Middle East without batting an eyelash? Unnecessary wars and the terrorist acts of a few made it this way. It put weapons in the hands of boys and girls who, like Todd, had to accept the consequences of wielding them. It put hateful words in the mouths of people who wouldn't have ever called themselves racists. This book explores the lies we're told and how hard some people cling to them. How hard otherwise good people can cling to their hate when they've known nothing else.When their leaders and parents have told them this is how they should feel; and their loved ones have been sent to die at the hands of people who weren't the enemy. When people have written songs of putting boots in asses and how, don't you know, that's the American way? Making monsters of men.
"Somehow preaching became a movement and a movement became a war."
Let's talk about a brighter point. Manchee the talking dog. Manchee Manchee Manchee. I love him. Oh wait, that's not a brighter point. I hate this book. Why am I reviewing it? I better move past this point before I take away stars. Emotional manipulation is no one's friend, Ness. Cheap shot.
Viola Viola Viola. If you care for her at all, you'll read her short story: The New World. Lady badass with snarky intelligence and a good heart who not only rescues but is rescued. I like her friendship with Todd too. Particularly when he tells the sexist camp that she's not his but her own and when he realizes he can read her too. Orphans who make their own family. My poor heart.
My main issue with this novel is the ending. There isn't one. This book was basically one long chase scene with bad guys everywhere and for all Ness' preaching about Hope there wasn't an ounce of it in his novel. There wasn't, I swear, I looked.
I also want to mention that it took me some time to get into this book and I ended up putting it aside. It wasn't until I read the prequel that my interest was piqued and I had to know what happened. If you've put this book aside before I recommend reading that so you know more about Viola and it might give you the push you need to continue too.
"War is a monster. War is the devil. It starts and it consumes and it grows and grows. And otherwise normal men become monsters too."
Friday, November 2, 2012
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Series: The Lynburn Legacy (#1)
Publisher: Random House
Edit: 11/2/12 So after reading this snippet from the sequel I will definitely not (though I doubt I would have anyway) be raising this rating to two stars. You know what I imagine closes out that scene? These are the days of our lives... Is this a soap opera or a book, guys? Guess the relationship melodrama keeps on keeping on in book two.
Unspoken really isn't as bad as some of the other one star YA books I've read this year - The Body Finder and Shadow and Bone spring to mind. There really are some redeeming moments in it, and if it hadn't been for that last chapter, I might have rated it just a little higher. Perhaps those moments of redemption are what made this book's betrayal even worse. This was a story we've heard many times before - trying to pretend it was the opposite of that thing - instead of just being honest about what it was.
Kami Glass (Malese Jow in my mind) is quick to let us know that she's not like those girls. She starts the book by disliking another girl for no apparent reason other than her popularity (Holly will be played by Candice Accola) and is called out on her internalized misogyny by the love interest in the book. That, along with the cheeky humor, had me thinking from the very first chapter: I am going to love this book. I know what you're thinking. Where could it have gone wrong when you've got Malese Jow and Candice Accola involved?
I like SRB, and based on reading her blog alone, I know she didn't mean to promote a bad boy type as an acceptable love interest. It's clear that she's trying to do the opposite of that here, by having Kami question and dislike their connection half the time, but here's my issue:
Why include that type of love interest at all? Why include a love triangle? Why spend so much time on romantic melodrama that you don't allow your interesting side characters to develop beyond being perky and loving napping?
This whole story feels like something I've read before. Despite SRB poking fun at these other stories in her writing she chooses to use this Twilight-esque set up that sells anyway. It almost seems worse somehow. At least these other books aren't trying to pretend that they're something superior to what they really are. Ash, the third useless point of the Kami centered love triangle, could have been copied and pasted from any YA book that follows this same formula. Possessive Jared could too.
You can't talk about this book without mentioning the humor. Bad puns and witty zingers abound. At first, it reminded me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars, and I thought FINALLY a book that isn't taking itself too seriously and is making an effort to be witty. Yet somehow this book managed to take itself too seriously and tell too many jokes. The situations the characters found themselves in were overly dramatic and ridiculous, but they'd always manage to tell a joke anyway. All of the characters began to feel like walking... well... bloggers. I love bloggers, I am a blogger, but no one talks like this in real life all of the time. The dialogue was awkward and jarring. Instead of developing the characters beyond beating us over the head with specific traits (Kami loves investigating and she's not like those other mushy YA girls! Holly is SO nice and perky! Angela LOVES napping and HATES people! Ash likes Kami and is surly! Jared like Kami and is surly AND destructive!) jokes would just be told instead.
The last several chapters (aside from the last one) are the ones I liked at least a little. They are when the only real character development happens and things start falling into place. Kami seems to stick to her guns a lot more; I thought her feelings toward her connection with Jared were well-written toward the end. Jared never gets any more interesting or likeable but I learn to accept it. Ash is doing things besides staring longingly at Kami and randomly making out with her in hallways. Holly and Angela get a thing that isn't just a rehashing of their assigned personality traits. The plot is finally doing something relevant. I thought we were well on our way to two-star-ville.
Then we got to the last chapter. I knew to expect a cliffhanger-trilogy-ending (why are we still doing this?) but I didn't know that it was going to involve the relationship too. I mean, seriously? What was that? I said in the comments that it was like SRB added it just to yell "RELATIONSHIPS DRAMAZ!!! MUAHAHA!" and run out of the room to go hang out with Stephenie Meyer, and I stand by this assessment. I might readjust my rating (might) when I am feeling less... surly... and not... snarling. Seriously, what was that about Angela and Jared snarling at the end? Did we need to focus on their joint snarling? Was that supposed to be a heart-warming bonding moment? I can't.
I would say my favorite thing about this novel is Holly, with Angela as my second choice. Unfortunately, Angela got to be a badass at the end but instead of just letting Angela shine subtly SRB also beat us over the head with a chain and made that into an over-used joke too. While Holly didn't quite get the development that I wanted (because clearly more time needed to be spent on more love triangle and relationship drama) I did think she may be one of the few original parts of this book. It's nice to see the perky blonde girl given a chance to be the friend and not the guy-stealing-skank. There's a reason I cast her as Candice Accola in my mind - but I think TVD does it better. TVD isn't the most original idea on the block, and it's guilty of a lot of the things that this book is, but to make up for it it takes care with its characters (except Bonnie) and never pretends it's something that it's not. Unlike the YA book world TVD also isn't surrounded by hundreds of shows just like it.
Regardless, I liked that SRB explored that hating Holly because she was popular with guys wasn't acceptable, and that it wasn't her fault, and that it wasn't necessarily what she wanted. I liked her relationship with Angela, even though I feel like that was another safe swing and a miss on SRB's part. It felt like another example of this novel stepping up to the plate to be something different and then not making an effort once it got there to actually let it be something different.
I can see why so many of my friends wrote gushing reviews of this book and I'm sure others will continue to enjoy it, but personally, it just rubbed me the wrong way. I won't stop reading SRB's stuff in the future because I feel like she has the potential to write great things. She seems aware of a lot of the things being done poorly in YA today: girl on girl hate, lack of homosexual relationships and POC, girls instantly falling in love with the bad boy without questioning their feelings, etc. I want to give her points for effort for almost stepping away from the pack but she didn't, not really, and I didn't care about the characters or plot enough to overlook this fact. This had all of the potential to be great and as I said before that's probably why it was so disappointing.
Yes, this review was mostly an excuse to look at pictures of Malese Jow and Candica Accola. Thank you.
Friday, October 12, 2012
Author: Tana French
Add It: Goodreads
Series: Dublin Murder Squad (#2)
Publisher: Viking Adult
While I am still working on the fourth book in this series I can safely say, without a doubt, that this is my favorite book of the four thus far. It's hard to say what calls to me here. It could be the way I relate to Cassie and all of her darkest wants and needs. It could be the creaky old house that is reminiscent of so many great gothic settings that have come before. It could be the overarching theme that all anyone truly wants is to belong and to spend every waking moment feeling wine in their bones, bare arms swirling in the cool moonlight, the safety of a homemade family, and a kiss on their lips after midnight... preferably by someone who is not the stoic homicidal maniac that they appear to be. This book is intoxicating with its freedoms and dreams.
Before the story gets interesting, things start off by focusing a bit on Cassie and Sam to allow us to see how their relationship has grown since the events of In the Woods. Sure, Sam is about as interesting as a golden retriever* (so far anyway, where's his book that details all of his mental shortcomings, French?) but I am not in the camp that believes Rob and Cassie should have ended up together at the end of In the Woods. Sure, Rob's phone call to Cassie was heartbreaking, but I hoped that she really did leave the phone on for vengeance because I am kind of a vindictive bitch when scorned, and it pleases me to see my fictional counterparts doing the same and standing up for themselves. Maybe Rob and Cassie are meant to be (whatever that means), but perhaps not now, and I think that's ok. Rob treated Cassie poorly and abused the connection that they had. He has no one to blame but himself and it's certainly not Sam's fault for falling in love with her and treating her better. I read in an interview of French's that she has considered going back to Rob and Cassie's story some day, and that suits me just fine. I think it makes sense that Rob might get a better grip on his demons, Cassie might get a better grip on hers, and those crazy kids might just work it out yet. Patience, doves.
"And God the taste of undercover on my tongue again, the brush of it down the little hairs on my arms. I'd thought I remembered what it was like, every detail, but I'd been wrong: memories are nothing, soft as gauze against the ruthless razor-fineness of that edge, beautiful and lethal, one tiny slip and it'll slice to the bone."
Have you ever wanted to step into the shoes of someone else's life and just stop being you for awhile? Then the basic set up here will appeal to you. The set up will also appeal to you if you've ever dreamed of giving up your routine job and living in a house with peace-loving-manic-pixie-hippies. Is that a dream that anyone has? I bet it is, and you just don't know it, because I have to say I was jealous of the life that Cassie got to live undercover. As jealous as she was of Lexie. I also don't care if the plot that led her there is entirely implausible and something that would never happen because this isn't The Twilight Zone. This is fiction. I also don't believe a wizard named Dumbledore with a long beard is going to be knocking down my door to invite me to a secret wizarding school in England** but that's never stopped me from falling in love.
"In all my life I had seldom wanted anything as wildly as I wanted to be in there, get this gun and this phone off me, drink and dance until a fuse blew in my brain and there was nothing left in the world except the music and the blaze of lights and the four of them surrounding me, laughing, dazzling, untouchable."
You see that sentence there? I've never felt more put on paper. I know that feeling, and this is why Tana French's writing is so good. It feels like you're reading about yourself. I mean, granted, that's probably only if you're like me and partially mentally unstable, but be honest, you are, aren't you? I also know the feeling of a friendship so close and co-dependent that at its best it's the most wonderful feeling in the world because it feels like home, and at its worst it's murderous and leaking poison until it blurs your entire world. The writing and the characters are painfully raw and honest, and French is very good at making us all question our basic morals and beliefs. I would go so far as to say that this book was the most beautifully written of her Dublin Murder Squad collection. The mystery was subtle and the only one of the first three books where I can honestly say I didn't know how it would end. I would say that even if you didn't like or love In the Woods you should give this book a shot before writing off French completely. She may just surprise you yet.
*But Golden retrievers are fucking awesome, ok, those muther fuckers are so devoted to fetch they deserve a medal.
** Yes, I actually do believe that, and your attempts to disillusion me will be met with disgust and derision.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Author: Tana French
Add It: Goodreads
Series: Dublin Murder Squad (#1)
Publisher: Viking Adult
"Move closer, follow the three children scrambling over the thin membrane of brick and mortar that holds the wood back from the semi-ds. Their bodies have the perfect economy of latency; they are streamlined and unselfconcious, pared to light flying machines. White tattoos-lightning bolt, star, A- flash where they cut band-aid's into shapes and let the sun brown around them. A flag of white-blond hair flies out: toehold, knee on the wall, up and over and gone."
I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I picked up this book. Long ago I had asked for recommendations for books that would grip hold of my head and bend and twist it, until I was no longer sure of anything, much like the film Shutter Island or even the television show LOST. I grew up on Nancy Drew and was looking for that same excitement from reading again. I wanted to work my brain while I read and fall into the rabbit hole of the story until I hit the bottom, and all other light and sound was blocked out, because only the really good books can make pesky reality go away for awhile. When I read the synopsis, I wasn't sure that this book was what I was looking for. Crime fiction? I never read it. I moved this book to some dark corner of my to-read shelf where books go to die of loneliness because I can never read every book I want to read. It wasn't until Reynje read the book and I saw her updates and review that I decided to finally pick up the book on a whim, and I've got to thank Reynje, because I had no idea what I was missing out on by not having read this series yet. Everything about this book is lovely, the writing is atmospheric, and the characters are flesh and bone at your fingertips. The mystery isn't necessarily hard to figure out, but nor is it overly obvious, and it's still a worthwhile adventure to watch the characters minds break as the story unfolds around them.
"My gift, or fatal flaw, is for nostalgia. I have sometimes been accused of demanding perfection, or rejecting heart's desires as soon as I get close enough that the mysterious impressionistic gloss disperses into plain solid dots, but the truth is less simplistic than that. I know very well that perfection is made up of frayed, off-struck mundanities."
Certainly, I never thought I'd relate to Rob Ryan, but here we are. French creates characters so psychologically screwed up that I kind of love and hate myself for indentifying with them to any degree. It wasn't just Rob I related to, and towards the end of the story I definitely understood the feeling of being in Cassie's shoes, and wanted to hit Rob with a shoe, but that's just French's brilliance at work priming me for immediately moving on to book two which furthers along Cassie's story. I think that her books are probably infused with subliminal messages, but I cannot prove this with any amount of evidence other than my bank statements for the past two weeks, and I suspect those won't hold up in court.
"This was our last and greatest dance together, danced in a tiny interview room with darkness outside and rain falling soft and relentless on the roof, for no audience but the doomed and the dead."
I can see why people ship Rob and Cassie, and perhaps in some secret-dark-fucked-up-corner of myself I do too. In fact, I know I do, because they remind me of feelings I've felt too. Cassie and Rob are connected in every way; the good way and the bad way and everything in between. That makes it all the more heartbreaking, doesn't it? That they couldn't get it right? At the same time I think Cassie can (and does) find a healthier connection elsewhere. Sometimes connections that deep bring more sadness than happiness, and while they certainly can't be denied or ignored when they're at their best, when they're at their worst there's no armor thick enough to protect someone during the implosion. Sometimes people need a balance and not a... likeness. And in fact it was nice to see a realistic relationship played out on these pages. People don't always turn out to be who someone else thought they were. People let people down. People move on. People are so rarely heroes and people are so flawed, often too flawed to give themselves to someone else. Besides, Cassie is the hero of the story, and she doesn't need to be saved, so. I believe Regina Spektor wrote a song about her once.
it's alright, it's alright, it's alright
no one's got it all
You know what I am not moving on from though? That ending. I do think it's more haunting this way, but I'm the cat whose curiousity got her killed, and I NEEDED more. If you've read it, you know what I mean, if you haven't, you should find out for yourself. I don't want you to hold back from the story because that would be a shame. You should go into this book expecting the best and the worst, in every storyline, and every character, because this book builds you up and lets you down in turn.
"And then, too, I had learned early to assume something dark and lethal hidden at the heart of anything I loved. When I couldn't find it, I responded, bewildered and wary, in the only way I knew how: by planting it there myself."
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Author: Holly Black
Add It: Goodreads
Series: Curse Workers (#1, #2 & #3)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
I was late to the Curse Workers series and read all three of the books in a hurry; read them in such a hurry in fact that I raced through them before I wrote reviews for any of them. So here are three mini reviews of each book and my final thoughts of the series as a whole. Whether or not this contains spoilers depends on how sensitive you are to them. I don’t reveal anything big, aside from perhaps something that is very major in White Cat, but was something I actually knew of before I started reading the book and didn’t mind knowing. Proceed at your own risk through the individual reviews, or once you've read the mini White Cat review, skip down to the series review which is definitely spoiler free.
White Cat – White Cat is without a doubt my favorite book of the series. I am pretty sure that you gain 100 cool points just by reading it. I mean, crime workers who wear fancy gloves, what’s more classy than that? Mafia families! Magic! Betrayal! Intrigue! The entire book has a very noir vibe that I have yet to see anywhere else in the YA genre. Since this book was the first in the series it was all very fresh and exciting. I loved the story of the white cat. I loved Cassel’s occasionally snarky narrative. I couldn’t put it down.
Red Glove – In comparison with its counterparts Red Glove was somewhat of a disappointment. It wasn’t bad compared to other books, but something was missing, and it didn’t live up to the expectations set by the first book. What is most memorable about this book to me was the way Cassel handled the situation with Lila despite his feelings for her.
Black Heart – I enjoyed Black Heart a lot and was happy to see the series pick back up after Red Glove. You never knew what was going to happen next because anything and everything can happen in this world that Black created. Lila particularly came into her own in this book and started to be an even more interesting character. Nothing cooler than a lady crime boss in training, right? The first book in the series still holds a slide edge over Black Heart for me, perhaps because it was all so fresh and original, but my significant other who read the series with me said this book was his personal favorite, and he’s a very picky reader.
Series: This series is just lots of fun. I place a high value on originality and anything that is not trying to be the Next Something Else and this series offers just that. I also like that the main protagonist is a boy. I’ve always gravitated toward books with girl narrators, but Cassel’s voice was snarky and sarcastic and so interesting, it inspired me to make an effort to seek out more male driven narratives.
If you’re looking for lots of entertainment and something quick, easy, and imaginative then give this series a try. I’ve heard that the audiobooks are great and are narrated by Jesse Eisenberg, so if audiobooks are your thing, they might be worth checking out instead of the other formats.
My personal average rating for the series:
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Pages: 277 (Paperback)
Author: Shirley Marr
Add It: Goodreads
Publisher: Black Dog Books
Fury was a book I was fully prepared to love. I have high expectations for any book with a badass looking redhead on the cover. I have spent many years lamenting the fact that I am not, in fact, a badass redhead. Any chance I have to live vicariously through a literary character to attain my Ginger dreams is a chance I am eager to take.
Unfortunately, the contents of the book did not live up to the cover for me. Perhaps I am a little burnt out on books that use high-school as a setting, which is why I am gravitating more towards YA set in the Fantasy genre lately. I have been out of high-school for several years now and I tend to relate more to characters in YA that come across as older. The characters in Fury were very immature and catty. Girls vs. Girls. It annoyed me and did not endear me to them. The biggest issue for me in books is not feeling connected to the characters, and unfortunately that was the case here. I couldn’t care about the outcome because I didn’t like any of the characters.
One thing I liked was the idea of girls taking things into their own hands. It was sad to me that this was often overtaken by the girls fighting amongst themselves and competing for status. There were some nice moments when Eliza was thinking about what had happened to her friend. I thought a lot of the quotes about [spoiler: rape] were spot on. I was happy to see that [spoiler: the rape] was a large part of the plot and wasn’t just inserted as a throwaway incident, which too often happens in books, and always angers me.
Another thing that really bothered me throughout the book was the dialogue. I thought that it was strangely wooden and it didn’t feel to me like things people would actually say. I also didn’t think there was a good balance between the dialogue and Eliza’s thoughts. Chunks of dialogue would often take up a lot of space with nothing in between and girls would be in the middle of cat fights for no reason before I even knew what was going on.
I also didn’t think that the way Eliza’s case was handled was entirely realistic. I don’t think subjects of a murder investigation would get to walk around in bloody evidence and go out to dinner at diners. It just made the whole thing too implausible for me.
I hate to say that this book wasn’t for me as Shirley is a lovely person and very respectful of reviewers. Everyone knows we need more authors like that these days. But no book is going to be liked by everyone and this just wasn’t one I can say I enjoyed.
Check out some different perspectives on Fury: The Midnight Garden & Cuddlebuggery Book Blog
This book was provided as a touring copy by The Midnight Garden. For more information about the tour click here.