Monday, April 30, 2012

Lock and Key - a review

Lock and Key
Sarah Dessen
432 pages
Viking Juvenile

Every once and a while I pick up a book without knowing anything about the author or the plot. Every once and a while--after starting said book--I start questioning what I'm reading. With Sarah Dessen's Lock and Key it started off slow.

On beginning the book I asked what everyone probably asked: "Where is Ruby's mother?" Ruby is our underage protagonist that's been abandoned by her mother. Then I found myself asking "What kind of trouble is Ruby going to get into?" Ruby moves to her rich sister's house after being abandoned. She enrolls in a rich high school, and gets all the free clothing she could ask for. That's either a recipe for a disaster or a Lifetime movie.

Then I asked myself  "How did Sarah Dessen invent a beautifully fucked up character?" Ruby is an engaging character that's been dragged down so heavily that at certain points I had heart pangs for her.

On finishing Lock and Key I asked myself "How did Sarah Dessen invent a beautifully fucked up kid and make her transition into a well-adjusted teenager so slowly that I didn't even notice it was happening?" How did I miss one huge plot element until about three fourths of my way through this book? How is this possible?

That very plot element was so well hidden and so well crafted that I hadn't noticed it was there until it happened. Or until Ruby finds out about it, at least.

This book encompasses so many difficult issues to address that last week I found myself unable to blog about it. I think this is the third rewrite of my post on Lock and Key. I can't really be sure. I've gone back and Google plot summaries to make sure nothing was missed, I've reread some parts, I've even gone as far to tell the library I'll take the damn late fee for this one if I have to.

I still have a few questions about Ruby and all the characters in this book. It doesn't end on a cliffhanger. There's resolution here to be sure, but there are still a few questions to be answered.* My main question: who the frak is Sarah Dessen and why have I not been reading her work? Short answer: I'm a blind idiot. Long complicated idiot answer: books with heavy issues tend to frighten me.

Here's the opening line of my last rewrite of this post. I couldn't find a way to fit it in so I'll just tack it on here at the end. "Sarah Dessen's Lock and Key broke part of my heart, patched it up, and held my hand while it healed." That's blurb worthy crap right there.

*This book might be my Dutch Tulip Man. If you get the reference, good for you, if you don't,  you don't.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tune in Tuesday (13)

Tune in Tuesday is hosted by Ginger at Greads!

One of the guys from The Black Keys has a solo album out. I actually like it. This is my favorite:

I think I was talking about Creedence Clearwater Revival last week, and this week I heard something on the TV and thought the song was originally by them. It turns out the song from the Battlestar Blood & Chrome trailer (and The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo trailer) is by Led Zepplin, not CCR. It's a cover of Immigrant Song. It's been remade by Trent Reznor and Karen O. It's not bad.

Also, here's a bonus "this is going to be stuck in your head all day song" for today:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wanderlust - a review

Wanderlust (Sirantha Jax, Book #2)
Ann Aguirre
320 pages
Ace Books

This is a sequel to Grimspace. Click here for my review of it.

The sequel to a book in a series--not a trilogy--can go one of three different ways: it could suck, it could be awesome, or it could be a filler book; one that expands the universe and adds new characters along with new plot elements. Wanderlust is the last one of those things. It's a complete filler book.

And I ain't complainin'.

Sirantha Jax is back. She's broke because her previous employer (also the de facto government) has collapsed. That means she's out of a job and all her currency is worthless. So she's forced to take a new job as an ambassador to a planet of bugs. These are not your typical space insects  (these aren't Starship Troopers bugs either). They can mimic humans almost as well as Cylons can.

Also, her mother has been kidnapped, someone is trying to kill her, she's having guy problems, and there are those damned flesh-eating aliens that keep popping up every now and then. Not to mention space politics.

Compared to the break neck plot that Grimspace had; Wanderlust is lacking. It's got as much action as the first, but it's mostly a novel to setup the next novel. This became a problem early on because it felt like Sirantha was only put in certain situations to meet new characters.

The other problem being that it was taking forever for the crew to get to their destination. The interruptions went on for a while. "Hey, let's go here!" Oops. Fleshing-eating aliens. "Hey! Let's stop here!" Caught in a planet's civil war. But apparently one cannot simply walk into Ithiss-Tor.

This is very much a universe building and character building book. The new characters were very much worth the trouble, though. And Sirantha changes fundamentally by the end of the novel, and I can tell that things are going to be different in the third book of the series.

Space politics, flesh-eating aliens, and a girl with bad habit of getting in trouble. I will can't get enough of Ann Aguirre and Sirantha Jax. I enjoyed this one. Even if it was all setup for the rest of the series.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wanderlove - a review

Kristen Hubbard
352 pages
Delacorte Books

So here's a stupid question. Are you a Global Vagabond? That's what Bria Sandoval asks herself one day (after a breakup with her boyfriend, of course). She answers yes and decides to go to Guatemala. While there she meets the charming and handsome and mysterious* Rowan. (Rowan's sister is also there but only for about 20 pages.) The three leave behind Bria's tour group and decide to go to Belize so Bria can draw pictures of things and find herself.

Bria's got First World problems in a Third World country, basically.

Bria spends her time thinking about college and her future in America. She draws and thinks about art school. Rowan tells Bria constantly "When you're traveling you live now, in the moment." So she gets all cute by writing down Rowan's travel rules and not following them. These rules are listed throughout the book along with Bria's drawings.

(insert "I didn't know I was in love with this person until this moment" love story paragraph)

There's other parts that are charming as well: the descriptions of Central America, the descriptions of the food, the local customs, drinks, local sights, descriptions of other tourists, etc. There's also a barf part and a drunk part and a boat.

There's Kristen Hubbard's writing style which I fell into sync with automatically.***

There's a lot to like here.

And I like a good travel novel as much as the next guy, and I liked Wanderlove, but I spent the entire book trying to figure out what future this 18-year-old female character was going to pick. Because going into this one we all that there's only three outcomes.

1. Bria runs away with Rowan and never returns home.
2. Bria leaves Rowan and returns home.
3. Bria and Rowan die of dysentery.

Meaning that I completely missed the point of the novel.

Meaning that Kristen Hubbard is a saucy tart with a penchant for tricking her audience. To Kristen Hubbard: I see what you did here.

See, Wanderlove isn't a travel novel. Yes, its plot is about traveling through Central America, but this is much more of a "get the fuck over it and live your life" novel. This is a novel for getting over a shitty relationship. This is about a girl getting over a breakup and a boy trying to overcome his past. That's the kind of books I like.

Full Disclosure: I checked this out from the Louisville Free Public Library.
*Mysteriousness is the key ingredient in a male character these days.**
**Also, random tattoos.
***I don't know about other people, but I need at least 30 pages to adapt to a new authors writing style. It's something about learning how they use their comas and other punctuation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tune in Tuesday (12)

Tune in Tuesday is hosted by Ginger at Greads!

I've been listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival all week. I blame it on a last minute decision to watch The Big Lebowski on Saturday night instead of doing something productive (Netflix always catches me when I'm feeling unproductive). 

CCR is one of those bands that a lot of people have heard but never seem to know their name. The last few people I've mentioned them to only recognized their music from Live Free or Die Hard or "that one part in Forest Gump". Which makes me sad.

Of course, all is not lost. If you want a great CCR cover we don't have to look further then the greatest Halloween movie ever: Hocus Pocus.

You just can't find delightfully cheesy movies like that anymore.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Jane Austen Head Spin Experience

I was asked by a few people last week to "please post all the Jane Austen stuff in order" so it could be read in order. The following is a list broken down by each book (this is also the order in which the books were read).

The challenge was to read every Jane Austen novel in the month of February. Unfortunately I only ended up reading four. Mansfield Park is where I really lost it.

Please ignore the snarky titles of each post. I was clearly losing it.

The Jane Austen Head Spin Plan of Attack

Sense & Sensibility:
The Abercrombie & Fitch Experience
The Hot Topic Edition
The "With Friends Like These" Edition
Everyone is a Cartoon Character

Pride & Prejudice:
The Super Friends Edition
Come at me Bro!

Mansfield Park:
The Charlie Sheen Chronicles Part I
The Charlie Sheen Chronicles Part II
The Charlie Sheen Chronicles Part III

The Felicity-less Report
Get Down With the Sickness
The End

Friday, April 13, 2012

Book Covers for Guys

I'm getting tired of seeing book covers in other countries that are neater than the ones we have in America.  Especially since I'm a guy and need a discreet cover that's not too girly sometimes. So I'm fixing them. One by one.

I like this (the UK cover):

I hate this (the American cover):

So I fixed it (the guy cover):

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Lover's Dictionary - a review

The Lover's Dictionary
David Levithan
224 pages
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Note: This post contains a lot of curse words.

I hate concept books. I hate books that seem to have a gimmick to them like this one. I hated, hated the idea behind this novel: a relationship told through the format of a dictionary. Concept books are hit-and-miss for me. The author either screws it up really bad because it's a really bad idea, or the author pulls it off and makes me question how the fuck they did it.

David Levithan's The Lover's Dictionary falls into the latter part of the category. How the fuck did he pull this off? Why is this so good? It's so short, most pages are just one line, and neither character is ever given a name but all the emotion of a full blown 600 page novel is here. So how the fuck did he do it?

I had to go back to English class in high school in my head to completely understand what I had just experienced. I was trying to remember a very short story from a genre called flash fiction. My teacher attributed the brilliant little snippet to Ernest Hemingway.* The entire story is "For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn."

That story was a kick to the gut the first time I read it. You don't have to have a character name to experience what that person must have been through. It's just six words. Six very powerful words.

The Lover's Dictionary is flash fiction told over and over again. It's little snippets of a relationship told out of order. We see the beginning, the ending, and the middle. We see the sex, the romance, the first kiss, etc. All of them told in a flash and all of them receiving a different kind of response from the reader: happiness, sadness, empathy, etc.

There's an episode of the show How I Met Your Mother where a character named Ted puts on red cowboy boots and proclaims "I can totally wear these!" And everyone tell hims "No. You can't pull those off. Sorry." It's not until Ted gets to the West Village in New York City that he's told "You're totally pulling those off." The Lover's Dictionary totally pulls off the fucking dictionary concept. It's going to live on my nightstand for a while.

Full Disclosure: I purchased this from Amazon.
*I can't find any sources that say for certain that this is Hemingway's work. If anyone could provide me with a credible reference I would appreciate it.
Update: Snopes shows that the story cannot be attributed to Ernest Hemingway.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Temptation - a review

Travis Thrasher
432 pages
David C. Cook

Well if it isn't my second favorite YA series with a boy main character that I'm currently reading (my first is The Knife series by Patrick Ness). The Solitary Tales--of which this is the third book--is also the one that absolutely no one is reading. (I'll be the book hipster who tells everyone he was reading Solitary before it went mainstream.)

Chris Buckley is back and he's still living in his freaky Buffyverse-like town. He has another girlfriend and more mysteries to solve. These mysterious include: who is this guy named Staunch? Who killed off one of his bullies? Why does he keep seeing dead people everywhere? And what the heck happened to his former employer? Also, what is the Smoke Monster and is Charlie really going to die?

Sorry. Wrong series. Because unlike Lost I actually got some answers out of this book.*

Chris spends a majority of this book ignoring his problems. He ignores his mother's alcoholism, he ignores the mysteries that surround him,** and he forgets who the enemies really are. He's also distracted by the lovely and lustily built long legged Lilly (he starts pursuing her upon sight).

Basically, Chris has 99 problems but a hatch ain't one of them.***

Instead of Losting us Thrasher Spiderman 2's us. He tells us that Chris is struggling and needs to find himself. That Chris is hurting in a way that only new love can heal. That Chris is a hero and needs to overcome his struggles. Thrasher is reminding us that even Superman had to go back to Krypton to figure some shit out.

I seriously consider Temptation and Solitary to both be superior to this third installation but that's because it's hard to pull-off that middle third-ish novel (I hate the word tetraolgy). The idea that Chris is back and is over Jocelyn's death, Poe's departure, and decides to just "go with the flow" is one I couldn't grasp. I wanted Thrasher to throw us right back into the mix immediately.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions. There is a Jesustastic ending which is acceptable because this is a Christian book series. There is the standard music playlist for the iPod, Walkman, and movie... there's a lot of good here. A lot of evil. And a lot of mystery. It's exactly what I expected and wanted out Thrasher even if I have to read a whole-nother book to get the answers I so desperately I want.

Full Disclosure: I ordered this from Amazon.
**He ignores the mysterious but gets a lot of answers. This would be like me deciding to quit my job and still getting a nice paycheck every week.
***Lost reference number 99 on this entire blog. Yes, I'm counting.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tune in Tuesday (11)

Tune in Tuesday is hosted by Ginger at Greads!

I have no idea why I've been listening to The Killers all week--actually, I do. My iPod crashed and then iTunes decided to be an ahole and erase all the music I had on it when I attempted to sync it (iTunes only erased the music I didn't buy in the iTunes Store).

Whatever. The Killers was one of the only CDs left on my iPod. My favorite song by The Killers:

Also, bonus "I can't believe I like this one song by this one band and I won't admit it in public" song. February Air by Lights:

Independent Book Blogger Awards

Look, I signed up for the Independent Book Blogger Awards to meet other bloggers. I am not expecting to win. The most I can hope for is that I Florida this thing. You know, I screw up the vote for someone else. You can vote for me by clicking the button below. I'll also put it on the sidebar.

Okay. I'm done bothering everyone now.

Independent Book Blogger Awards
Vote for this blog for the Independent Book Blogger Awards!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Tempest - an audiobook review

Julie Cross
9 Discs
Macmillan Audio

There comes a point when I am so starved from a lack of new Doctor Who episodes that I start to investigate other time travel books and movies. I am almost always disappointed. Nothing can stand up to a guy in a Bow Tie with a smart mouth and a penchant for reminding people to trust him.

Enter Tempest: part one in a trilogy of a time traveling teenage romance series. Jackson Meyer is just a normal teen boy with a normal teen girlfriend--except that he can travel through time. One day his tart of a girlfriend Holly is shot in the stomach and Jackson travels back to 2007.

Jackson gets stuck in 2007 and decides to date his now 17-year-old girlfriend all over again. Because, ya know, totally hooking up with your then underage girlfriend should be your top priority. Not, you know, preventing a shooting that according to the Time Laws that Julie Cross created is impossible to prevent (spoiler alert: it turns out to be preventable).

There's also a nerd character, a dad character, a missing mom character, a dead sister character, and The Bad Guy Characters. All voiced by a narrator who does what he can for the generic teens. (seriously, he voices the nerd character Adam with a very nasal and throaty voice, and then breaths like he has asthma--because all smart people sound like that--other than that, no complaints).

Time travel novels have always given me headache. What's possible and what's not possible, up is down, cats and dogs living together, etc.* There always seems to be an easy out. Just go back and erase everything and start all over again. Or just go back and tell yourself not to cross the street that day. It's an easy out made complicated by the fact that most authors change their own time travel rules when they write themselves into a corner.

Unfortunately, Julie Cross does this. I'm not saying this is a terrible or horrible book. It's actually the opposite. So for those of you who enjoyed it: DON'T GET ANGRY WITH ME WHEN I SAY THIS. I enjoyed this in a SyFy Channel Mystery Science Theater 3000 kind of way.**

Let's go through my Cheesy B Movie Check List: we have teenagers who curse entirely too much, lines of dialogue from a father character that made me chuckle, sex scenes in which our main character has to talk himself out of banging his 17-year-old girlfriend, bad guys who call themselves the Enemies of Time and, AND, AND! it's about time traveling teenagers!

Julie Cross made an entertaining book. It made my day easier and it made me pause while I typed at my keyboard at work a few times. I think I even ate popcorn at one point while listening to it. That makes Tempest a true popcorn book and a nice piece of entertainment. I'm not looking for deeper meaning or a repeat experience, I save that for Doctor Who.

Full Disclosure: Macmillan Audio sent me this.
*I still can't get my head wrapped around the last episode of Star Trek: Voyager.
**The last time this happened it was Battlefield Earth

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Grimspace - a review

Ann Aguirre
320 pages

I've been looking for a series--be it books or TV or comics--to fill  the void Farscape left in my head a long time ago. Something chaotic and alien but at the same time familiar. Something that's the right blend of military science fiction, space opera, romance, and is mostly action oriented. I also wanted cool characters who are given snappy lines of dialogue to spout off at the right moments. And at least one space lizard.*

I got everything I wanted in Grimspace. Space lizards? Check. A female version of Malcolm Reynolds?** Check. Flesh-eating aliens? Check. Neat space jumping sequences in which the main protagonist moves herself and a ship through space? Check. Action? Check. Check. Check. Check.

Sirantha Jax is a jumper. She can move herself and a ship through space. The problem is that once a jumper jumps so much they tend to burnout (this means death). Sirantha is in her thirties and should have died by now, but she hasn't. That leads the Corp (queue the ominous cello because they're the bad guys) to lock her in prison so she can be studied. She's then rescued by March (queue the heroic music) who wants to use her for nefarious--but ultimately good--purposes.

Sirantha travels across the universe in a true Farscape fashion: she lands on alien planets, gets in fights, has a smart mouth, and is attracted to the ship's captain March (here's that romance element I wanted). Most of the short chapters (each only lasting a few pages) end with a punch or a kick or a revelation of some kind. None of it feels forced though, and the short chapters allow for quick reading in what is mostly an action oriented book.

Will Grimspace ever win a Hugo Award? Or a Nebula? No. But it's pulpy, it's science fiction, and the main character kicks ass. Sometimes all I want is a laser battle and a space lizard. Sometimes I want a hero who doesn't give a fuck and just shoots the flesh-eating aliens without questioning the morality of it first.

(I think we really lost the "shoots first hero" when Lucas went back and made Han shoot second--but that's another argument for another day).

Ann Aguirre delivered me a nice series to start. It might head into familiar territory with space corporations and space battles; but I am beyond the point of caring. I got a book--set in space--that really entertained me. Ann, I salute you. You brought out my fanboy side again.

Full Disclosure: I bought this on Amazon for my Kindle.
*You gotta have space lizards in a science fiction book. I just can't take it seriously if you don't.
**I can't go into how Firefly the crew is. But there is a mechanic. And a doctor who kind of doubles as a shepherd. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Million Suns - a review

A Million Suns: An Across the Universe Novel
Beth Revis
386 pages

Note: This is a review of the sequel to Across the Universe and contains mild spoilers for the first  book.

Elder and Amy and the rest of the violent wacky bunch are back on board the Godspeed. They're still traveling across the universe and they've got 99 problems to solve but a dictator-like Eldest ain't one of them.

I think it's fair for me to point out that I did not like the first book in this series. Alright. To be really fair replace the words did not like with psychotically foamed at the mouth at one point over. Here. I'll do it for you: 

I psychotically foamed at the mouth at one point over the first book in this series.

I just can't understand characters who go against the logical course of action, or who make snap decisions that come out of left field. Like Amy's insistence in the first book to overthrow the generational ship's government. She says it with all the same effort as saying "I'm going to eat this Pop Tart right now." Like it's completely normal to wake up from a frozen coma and decide to topple a government.


Those same problems are still in this second book. There's still a lack of common sense in Elder and Amy that I will never understand. There's also an obvious killer on the loose (but you aren't suppose to know who it is--but you will totally figure it out).  And a revolution is about to kickoff all up in that beast (one that could be prevented with a little calming drug in the water supply, but once again, whatever).*

Oh and there's also that pesky problem of the ship slowing down as it travels through space (WHICH IS FUCKING IMPOSSIBLE--but don't worry it gets explained logically within the first few pages).**

So far this looks like a negative review. Wrong. I'm going to do what I now call a Beth Revis and twist this review all up in your face and make you crap your space pants. And I'm going to do this in the last 20% of my review. Just like what Beth Revis did with A Million Suns.

There are things here to enjoy. There are a few payoffs that I wasn't expecting. There were a few plot twists that I did not see coming. There were a few new characters introduced that I did like. More of the ship is explored. More of the ship's history is explained. Everything that you think happened in the first book? Yeah. Flush that dren out of an airlock and call it a day.

So, I went from hating the first book to thinking "Maybe I should give that one a try again" to "Nope. Not gonna do it." Because really, I think it's enough for me to say that I will be reading the next book in the series.

Take your small victory, Beth Revis, and write me a sequel to this one that is equally as entertaining.

Full Disclosure: I read this on my Kindle and received my copy from the Louisville Free Public Library.
*Seriously. These are the most morally oriented teenagers ever. 
**If it weren't explained I would've contacted Neil deGrasse Tyson. He would have set Beth Revis straight. Or slapped her. 
Side Note: I read this entire book while high as a kite on Benadryl. I have determined that I would've enjoyed this one even without the aide of drugs.
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