Friday, March 23, 2012

Pandemonium - a review

Lauren Oliver
384 pages 

This is a review of the sequel to Lauren Oliver's Delirium.

There are zero pandas in Pandemonium. I twittered Lauren Oliver about this while I was reading it. She tweeted back "keep the faith". My black and white friends never showed up.

But I am not disappointed. No. I am thrilled. Lena is back. She's still an uncured--a person who can fall prey to the disease known as love. Lena is a different person from the young girl we met in Delirium. She's converted into a badass butt kicking version of herself that I didn't see coming. She's in New York City--the home of Cats--not pandas, and the place of new beginnings.

Alex is not back, but he is still here, he haunts Lena's thoughts and she questions her every move by asking What Would Alex Do? (WWAD bracelets soon to come)  We flash from a now (which is in a future dystopian America) to a then (which is also in the future but happens before the now).

There are new characters and what feels like an entirely  new world--a much bigger world than the Portland only setting from the first book.  We learn more about the Wilds: the uncured population that live outside of Deliria-free regulated zones.

We learn about the resistance and its operations within in America. We learn how Lena came to live in New York City. We get a few answers. We get a few more questions: think of Pandemonium as The Two Towers meets an episode of Lost: there's a lot of walking, it takes place on an island, and everyone has a secret they're not telling.

Lauren Oliver's writing is sound as usual. I still don't like the book cover. The new direction pleases me because just like the chick with only half her face on the cover, I didn't see a lot coming.*

So, for an Alex free, Deliria-loaded, panda-less book: she did really well. I am, once again, apologizing to Lauren Oliver for judging a book by its cover. I even enjoyed this one more than Delirium because there's a lot more action** and a lot more twists and turns.

This is much more of a guy book than the first one and that made me happy. The whole no pandas thing, though? Angers the fuck out of me.

Note: I read this on my Kindle. 
*Seriously? Why are the faces on book covers always cut in half?
**Explosions are cool. Battling with knives even better.
No pandas were harmed in the making of this review. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Will Grayson, Will Grayson - a review

Will Grayson, Will Grayson
David Levithan, John Green
304 pages Publisher: 
Dutton Juvenile

There's an old episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Will Riker beams down to a planet he narrowly escaped from by being beamed out several years earlier. He discovers another Will Riker that was marooned on the planet; the transporter cut him in two, basically. Both lived parallel lives until that moment and the event changed each one for the better*

Meet Will Grayson. He's a high school student with girl problems. His best friend is a gay football player named Tiny. He has a list of rules that he lives by (rule one: no talking). His parents are doctors and he lives a nice middle class lifestyle in Chicago. He's an interesting character.

Meet Will Grayson. He's a high school student with boy problems. His best friend is a goth girl he can't stand. He has no rules to live by and is a closeted homosexual. His mother takes care of him and he works at CVS Pharmacy to help her with the bills. He's an interesting character.

I thought--like with the Will Riker TNG episode--that I would be confused at some point as to who was speaking, and that it might be confusing when the other characters referred to one as Will, or My Will, or Just Will. That wasn't the case. John Green and David Levithan both adopted a writing style and voice for each Will Grayson that was the polar opposite of the other.

John Green didn't get me this time either: I did not cry once while reading this book. If anything I did the complete opposite of crying like an 8-year-old with a skinned knee; this time I cackled like a 90-year-old woman who just found her false teeth.

Yeah, yeah, David Levithan is in there too but he's never gotten a real emotional response from me. Well, until the ending of this book, that is. But it was a good fuck yeah response. Not a how will I ever feel the same again I'm completely exhausted emotionally response.

I really credit David Levithan for making what could've been a quirky road trip novel (John Green's primary ingredient) and turning it into a back-and-forth between two characters with unrelated problems.

It's a feel good book. It's a comedy. It's a musical. There's even an element of romance and a goth girl that everyone loves to hate. John Green and David Levithan are like two Will Rikers working in tandem. Both of them put forth an effort to make a different Will Grayson. Both of them succeeded and didn't need a transporter malfunction to do so.

Full Disclosure: I purchased this from a local used bookstore (if I remember correctly).
* Until a DS9 episode where Marooned Will Riker turns evil.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tune in Tuesday (10)

Ginger over at GReads! is doing something special this month: playlists based on books. This week  I've decided to pick a song for The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene.

I've decided to go with Hand Grenade by The Almost. If you've read the book then you know what grenade means, and if you listen to the lyrics close enough you'll... just listen to the damn song. It fits.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lola and the Boy Next Door - a review

Lola and the Boy Next Door
Stephanie Perkins
384 pages
Dutton Juvenile

Why do I keep doing this to myself? I find out about these contemporary young adult novels that have a semi-cult following and I read them with a ferocity that can only be described as piggish. I stuff my face full of characters like Lola, Cricket, and Max and immediately do a shot of bourbon to man up.

I wish. Oh I wish I could grow a mullet and wear camo and drive a pickup truck. Instead I drive a Honda, wear tartan button downs, and read too many contemporary YA novels.

I also wish I could relate to Lola: a fashion queen with a penchant for dressing in costumes instead of outfits. Or relate to Cricket: the boy next door who is a genius (who also wears a lot of tartan button downs).  I wish I could stand up and shout "Rah rah rah!" for these two characters to hook-up. After all, I routed for St. Clair and Anna in Stephanie Perkins' Anna and the French Kiss.*

I can't explain my lack of enthusiasm for Lola and Cricket to hook-up. Only that the tension between the two characters to get together is much different than Anna and St. Clair's. With those two characters we knew there was a chance they might not end up together. With Lola and Cricket? There's never a doubt (spoiler alert: they end up together).

I'm even skipping a general plot outline because that's all that really happens in the entire book. Except for the parts about fashion and dresses and wigs (I kept having to Google things I didn't know about--what the fuck is a Bakelite bracelet?).

I just couldn't connect to Cricket and Lola. I couldn't make myself give a crap about their relationship or friendship or "it's complicated" BS. The only character I could connect to is Lola's 22-year-old boyfriend Max. Max with his garage band, his multiple tattoos, and his teenage girlfriend.

I can relate to Max. I've got tattoos. I've dated a girl that's four years younger than me: heck, I've got a garage blog instead of a garage band. I think Stephanie Perkins should write a crossover novel about Max. He's a far more interesting character than Lola or Cricket and he's not even in the book that much.

The romance is okay, the writing is neat, but the characters are so... plain. The only thing interesting about Lola is that she has "dads" instead of "parents". The only thing interesting about Cricket is that his name is Cricket.**

Don't get me wrong. This is a cute book. This is a nice companion novel to Anna. But there's a romance here that only a girl could appreciate, and a lot of fashion talk that only a Project Runway fan could enjoy. A heavily tattooed guy who shoots bourbon? He's better off reading something else.

Full Disclosure: I bought and read this on my Kindle.
*I was glad to see that these two characters show up in this book. I'm glad both were still happy and in love.
**Stupid names in books really piss me off. And this name in particular angered me. I mean, really? Cricket? 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Thief - a review (kind of)

224 pages - Megan Whalen Turner - The Thief

Full Disclosure: I purchased and read this on my Kindle.

Recommended by Elizabeth Fama.

There's something about Magen Whalen's Turner's The Thief that strikes me as odd: its main character (Gen) is an amalgam of Bruce Cambpell's Ash (but without the chainsaw arm) and The Next Generation's Q (but without the omnipotence).

Then there's the setting. It's somewhere between Lord of the Rings serious and Discworld silly. It's hard to figure out exactly how to describe it. It's like LoTR and Discworld hooked up and birthed an entirely new land (think of it as Gondor and Anhk-Morpork having a bastard child after a brief stint of dating).

Just like LoTR there's a long journey to a faraway land. Just like Discworld there's a hero with a smart mouth. We also have a few supporting characters who are far more interesting then they should be for such a slim novel. I chalk it up to Turner's writing for creating minor characters that have stuck in my head far longer then they should have (the last time this happened to me it was The Princess Bride).

There's also a mythology that goes with this book. Verbal stories told by both the Magus* (think of him as the king's Number Two) and Gen about the old Gods (which are woven into the story). The dialogue between the two characters is snippy but also the best part of the book.

The Thief is mostly setup without being setup. It's a great standalone but isn't a standalone. I could never read the next one in the series and be pleased with it.** That's easily done for any book, I think, but Turner's world of clashing swords and trickster Gods is engaging and worth exploring. 

*I demand Ian McKellen play him in the movie version.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Top 5 Fictional Crushes

I list my Top Five Fictional Crushes after Jacqueline from Book Nerds Across America asked me "Do you get crushes on fictional girls like how I get crushes on fictional guys?" The answer is... not really.


Tune in Tuesday (9)

Ginger over at GReads! is doing something special this month: playlists based on books. This week I've picked Sinister Kid by The Black Keys to represent Todd Hewitt from The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer (I have yet to read Monsters of Men).

Not only are The Black Keys a great band; I think Todd would actually listen to them.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Delirium - a video review

In this video review of Delirium by Lauren Oliver I mispronounce Hillary Clinton's name, I get flustered and go on a rant in which I cutoff my own head, and there's a neat train sequence that involves a lot of cursing (you'll understand later).

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tune in Tuesday (8)

I originally posted this yesterday but it didn't get through on Blogger. I apologize for the delay.

Ginger over at GReads! is doing something special this month: playlists based on books. So I figured I'd take a shot and this and pick a couple of songs that I think fit Delirium by Lauren Oliver. I know I haven't posted a review of this book yet but you guys should know that I really dug it (I'm really behind on my slang these days, so 'dug it' means really cool).

I'm going to do three things with each song. I'm going to explain why I think it fits the book, which lyric most represents a particular moment or feeling in Delirium, and finally the song itself.

I will warn you. This is not a spoiler free playlist. IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK TURN AROUND NOW.

Delirium - a playlist

The Opening
For opening to Delirium I could only fit Got No Love by The Kooks. Delirium is about a society where the emotion love has been 'cured'. It's been eradicated by an all-powerful American government bent on promoting  safety through fear. The slow and steady drum beat at the beginning is fairly reminiscent of a marching army towards battle. Other instruments then join in and the most important lyric is sung "Don't let them get you down". We get to know the characters and find that love is generally considered a sickness that must be purged, but some resist, and we soon find out that Lena's mom was one of them.

Lena Meets Alex
It was difficult to pick a song for when Alex meets Lena for the first time. I decided to go with Awake My Soul by Mumford & Sons. The song is melancholy and starts slow but soon picks up in tempo. It really captures what Lena is feeling about Alex. Once again, the steady drum beat is in the background, but this time it represents a heart beating faster and faster. The most important lyric: I struggle to find any truth in your lies. When we first meet Alex he is a liar but only for all the right reasons. We then see a spark in Lena that really does awake her soul.

Lena and Alex Sneak Around
Eventually Lena starts to wake up to the idea of Alex and other emotions that she's confronting for the first time. That's why I picked Check Yes Juliet by We The Kings. The lyrics and guitar rifts match the hectic feelings that Lena's experiencing and she really is running around town at this point. Lena is also a runner who thinks that Romeo & Juliet is a cautionary tale. Give this song a listen and try not to think of Lena running to the cove to see Alex. Lyric: "They'll tear us apart if you give them the chance."

Lena and Alex in Love
Lena is finally in love with Alex and doesn't give a flip. She's embraced the curse that is love. Embrace the Curse by I Hate Kate is the on for this. It's a fast paced punk pop song with neato lyrics: "It's me against the world today and that's fine. I stand. I embrace the curse." Lena's feelings for Alex continue to grow after this point but this song captures the tone that's in the book; a frenzied rush to the head and a need to get up and dance in the face of everyone else. (try not to shake your foot during this song, I dare you)

The End
The close of this novel is open ended and leaves a lot up in the air. We have Lena standing on the opposite side of a fence, Alex is injured on the other side. Lena runs off and the book ends. This song captures that perfectly with its dark tone and loud guitar strums. Once again there's a slow steady beat in the background to remind us that the government is haunting our two star-crossed lovers. "The end begins just as it starts". I'm really looking forward to Pandemonium.

If you guys have any songs to add or any opinions on the ones I picked please let me know. I'll be posting a non-review of Delirium this week. I'm calling it a non-review because I curse a lot in it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cinder by Marissa Meyer - a video review

Links to stuff I mention:
Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Once Upon a TimeGrimmTin Man, The Hunger Games (no link provided because that crap is everywhere), Sailor Moon, Delirium by Lauren Oliver.

Supplemental reading:
Are Adult-Oriented Fairy Tales the Next Big TV Trend?
Spurred By Success, Publishers Look for the Next 'Hunger Games'

Macmillian Audio has  provided with an audiobook exerpt from Marissa Meyer's Cinder. You guys can give it a listen below.

Friday, March 2, 2012

TGIF (2): Book Moments

TGIF is hosted by Ginger at GReads.

Book Moments: What has been your favorite moment (scene) in a book that you've read so far in 2012? Please be kind & not include spoilers.

This should be a fun one and kind of quick. 

Across the Universe by Beth Revis. Amy goes to her father's storage locker and takes away a couple of notepads and a copy of The Art of War. She decides at that moment that she's going to have to fight Eldest (even though she's been on the ship for two days). It was so over-the-top cliche and dramatic and hokey that I couldn't help but smile at how stupid the scene was.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. All of the almost hook-up scenes between Anna and St. Claire. They were really cute and better than actual kiss scenes. Spot on, Stephanie Perkins.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. Manchee the Talking Dog. Nuff said.

I would also like to apologize for not posting a new video or, err, post for several days. I've been busy and am trying to secure a better camera at the moment. If not I'll be back to posting regular written posts on Monday. 
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