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Bibliophilic Monologues

What I Did

What I Did. - Jason Sherman Alexie loved this.

Zenn Scarlett (Strange Chemistry)

Zenn Scarlett - Christian Schoon 3.5

Love Among the Particles

Love Among the Particles - Norman Lock Remarkably self-indulgent. I don't like it when the author is so strongly present in the story that the story cannot breathe.

You Don't Know Me

You Don't Know Me - David Klass I’m taking a YA Lit class this summer and the professor included this book in his suggested reading for old school YA. I went into it not knowing anything about the author or even what genre the book is about. I wanted to be surprised. And I was.I don’t really know how to accurately articulate how wonderful this book is. As I say about so many other novels, it is not perfect by any means but the writing is so incredible it makes up and then some for the little flaws.Usually, when I am faced with books dealing with realistic situations such as abuse, broken families and neglectful parents, I don’t feel like reading because the pain does not seem worth the payoff at the end. However, You Don’t Know Me sucks you in from the very first page and it doesn’t stop holding onto you until you have reached the very end. Then it spits you out and you are left wondering which earthquake shook your world and why you’re the only one who felt it.John has a crappy life. A really crappy life. The way he copes with it is by retreating into himself. His observations are so flippant and that flippancy expresses the utter tragedy of his pain so much more eloquently than melodrama and angst ever could have. His sense of self, his identity, his worth, these all have been fractured so much that it is not that we don’t know him but that he doesn’t know himself. He detaches himself from his life, makes himself into this observer who is watching himself getting beaten, his mom deliberately not paying attention to what’s happening when she’s not around. This book is brilliant. It will, if you give it a chance, make you cry and then make you laugh and then make you cry all over again.If my effusive praise does not convince you, look at these excerpts from the novel and tell me it does not make the breath catch in your throat.“The piece you have written for us is called "The Gambol of the Caribou." Now, Mr. Steenwilly, I don't mean to be critical. What I know about music could be squeezed into a peanut shell, and there would still be room for the peanut. But I looked up "gambol" in the dictionary, and it means to "skip or jump about playfully." It also means to "caper or frolic." Caribou are large, ponderous, woolly reindeer. They do not gambol. They do not caper. They do not frolic. And they certainly do not skip. It would be an interesting sight to see a herd of caribou skipping down the tundra, but, Mr. Steenwilly, it would never happen. You could write a piece called "The Caribou Standing Still and Freezing Their Butts Off." Or "The March of the Caribou." Or even "The Stampede of the Caribou." But "The Gambol of the Caribou" is not such a great image to build a piece of music around.” ― David Klass, You Don't Know Me ---------------------------------"Once upon a time there was a boy who had a life that was not a life. He lived in a house that was not a house with a father who was not his father. His friends were not true friends and basically he had nothing at all going for him. On the number line of boys he was a zero, neither positive nor negative, neither whole nor fractional.Then one day a princess agreed to go to basketball game with him. Fool that he was, he had a fleeting moment of glee. He thought he could become a musician, a scholar, a romantic figure. But something cannot be made out of nothing..."You Don't Know Me, David Klass

Emerald Green (The Ruby Red Trilogy, #3)

Emerald Green (The Ruby Red Trilogy, #3) - Kerstin Gier,  Anthea Bell Oh no, it's over! T . T

Sweet Dead Life, The

The Sweet Dead Life - Joy Preble The synopsis for this book is pretty convincing and I was sold as soon as I read it. We don’t read as much about brothers and sisters as we should or perhaps I should, possibly because I have two older brothers and I’ve lived the experience in real life and do not seek to repeat it in fictional life. Big brothers are often gross, coarse and mean. They are also unexpectedly sweet and caring, protective and warm. They scare away prospective boyfriends with a glower and have the weirdest tastes in music and movies. I have some questionable music tastes thanks to my brothers.What makes The Sweet Dead Life so sweet is the relationship between Jenna and Casey. They are in a terrible situation where the adults of their lives have checked out leaving them to fend for themselves. Their father possibly pulled a runner and their mother seems to be sinking further and further into depression. Oh and Jenna is on her way to dying. She’s almost there when Casey crashes the car on their way to the hospital and the game changes dramatically.Despite the presence of a feathered human being (not a werebird), there is very little holiness present in the novel. It is funny, poignant and disarmingly real. Jenna’s familial situation is narrated without romanticizing anything. From the mold growing in her mother’s bathroom to her brother’s uh…recreational activities under his blanket, Jenna narrates everything in an authentic fourteen year old voice. When her life takes a turn for the weird, she manages to convey disbelief without going overboard and her gradual acceptance of the A-word is believable.The weakest part of the novel is the so called mystery and the resolution of it. While it is not terribly done, it could have been stronger. I wish the mystery portions of the novel had been better woven into the rest of the narrative. However, I appreciated that the resolution is not neat and tidy. There is a sense of time having past and that some irretrievable losses have occurred. I liked that the ending is ambiguous in certain details and that though there is an emotional payoff, it is not in your face and explicit.I really liked this one, you guys. I recommend it.

The Shambling Guide to New York City

The Shambling Guide to New York City - I have made it a mission to check out all accessible UF novels as I am attracted to novels featuring kickass female protagonists. Who are flawed but have qualities that make me root for them and their happiness despite their flaws. Protagonists such as Rachel Morgan and Cassandra Palmer. Though Lafferty has quite an impressive backlist, I haven’t read anything by her so I went into The Shambling Guide intrigued but not expecting anything. I was very pleasantly surprised. The writing is smart, crisp and to the point.Urban Fantasy is a genre in which lyrical prose really doesn’t work. It is fueled more by the plot unfurling than by character development. Lafferty delivers perfectly on that count. We meet Zoe as she searches around a seemingly decrepit bookstore. There she sees a job ad for an editor in chief. A position she has just lost due to her affair with her boss without realizing he was married. I am a bit skeptical about that. How does a man hide his wife? Especially when she’s the chief of the police in the area? Wouldn’t she drop by the office? Wouldn’t other people know? Do men really hide their wives like that?Anyway, I’m getting distracted. As I said, flawed protagonist. And while I don’t condone adultery and cheating at all, I will take Zoe’s flimsy excuse that she didn’t know he was married. The novel is jam packed with action. Things are happening at full speed and there is just the right amount of tension and danger. There’s even a slightly yoda-ish lady and a crazy surprise at the end that I liked. There is a little romance and Lafferty does awesomely well in making the romance a side plot. I hate books that promise to be UF and end up as romance novels disguised as UF.What I especially liked about this novel is that while the setting and characters are fantastic, they’re realistically fantastic. There are overweight vampires, zombies who bring brains for lunch, incubi who are creeps and change appearances according to their targets and hunger level (that was quite fascinating). All the supernatural creatures mentioned are fascinating and unique and have something to themselves other than the stereotype popular culture has foisted on them.. Zoe is a very likable protagonist and she completely won me over. I look forward to following her on more adventures as she writes/edits traveling guides to other cities. Strongly recommended.

Enchanted, Inc.

Enchanted, Inc. - Shanna Swendson So boring. I kept on waiting for something fun to happen. I waited in vain.

Stormbringers (Order of Darkness)

Stormbringers - Philippa Gregory I gave it a fair chance but three strikes in the early pages have me DNFing it:1. The writing is surprising amateurish considering that the author is a bestseller. 2. The use of " Insha Allah" is incorrect. Dear authors, if you want to use a word or phrase from a language not your own, do some research and find out not just what it means but the context in which it is used. The phrase "Insha Allah" means "if God wills" and is used in sentences about the future usually like "It's going to be okay, insha Allah." Or, "I'll pass the exam, insha Allah." 3. One of the characters, Frieze, pulls off his hat only if the fish wives are prettier which is admittedly a small thing but it annoys me, the implication that the physically unattractive are undeserving of courtesy.There would probably have been more had I continued reading but I don't have the time to read books that annoy me.

The Runaway King (Ascendance Trilogy Series #2)

The Runaway King - Jennifer A. Nielsen I always hesitate before I read the sequel of a novel I really loved. Because I am scared that the continuation will not only not move the story along in a way I can love but that the disappointment of the sequel will also colour the way I remember the first book. However, I worried needlessly where The Runaway King is concerned. I think I may have liked it better than I did The False Prince which is saying something since I liked that one a lot.Jaron, as Sage is now known, is the King of Carthya. It is a tenuous position at most because his regents are murmuring about having him removed and installing a steward until he comes “of age.” And there is not a thing he can do about it (which I couldn’t understand since he is the king and one of the perks of that job is being able to do whatever you want to). And then there is the reappearance of his frenemy who promises to destroy Carthya if Jaron doesn’t surrender himself to the pirates. There is Imogen and Amarinda whom we don’t see too much of.The novel is quick paced, the characters are well hewn and the world building is done well. This book will and should appeal to both boys and girls. Nielson does several things very successfully in this novel. She manages to balance the quick pace with introspective moments that add substance to the narrative. She avoids making a male Mary-Sue out of Jaron/Sage which would have been very easy to do. She also manages to insert humour into bleak situations which I appreciated a lot. What I liked the most though was that she approaches romance, what little there is of it, with less melodrama and more pragmatism. As much as YA novels will want you to believe that love is the be all and end all of teenagers’ lives, no matter who or what they are, real life will tell you otherwise. I like that Jaron and Amarinda accept their situation because the events occurring around this world are already far too convoluted to introduce romantic drama into it. Also, though Jaron may have feelings for Imogen, non-verbalized ones, he is smart enough to understand and accept the reality of his situation and responsibilities that come with his position. I would have been really annoyed if in the midst of saving his country, he had decided to throw caution to the winds and asked Imogen to marry him.It could still happen in the next book but I have full confidence that whatever romance the next novel holds will have its own portion and will not take over the entire narrative. What I didn’t like, however, was Jaron’s noble idiocy at the beginning where he sends Imogen away “for her own safety.” Barf. That’s a tired trick and I’m glad that someone actually confronted him with that. The ending, though, contained an unnecessary cliffhanger. I’m sure people who have read book two will read book three so there was no need to attach that little portion at the end.All said and done, I enjoyed this one quite a lot. I can’t wait to see what the third, and presumably the last, book holds in store for Jaron and his kingdom.

That Time I Joined the Circus

That Time I Joined the Circus - J.J. Howard This book, oh this book. It starts off rather nicely. It certainly is very readable and the protagonist, Lexi, is initially rather relatable and more importantly, easy to empathize with. Her life falls apart completely and she has no choice but to hare across the country (ish?) to find her mother who, according to her sources, is working at a circus. Only the circus comes along without her mother in it.The trouble I had with this book is the lack of realism in the characters and the events occurring and the decidedly Mary Sue-ishness of the protagonist. I am totally cynical so I did not believe that Louie, the owner of the circus, accepts Lexi into the circus out of the goodness of his heart. Just like that. I do not believe that he would concern himself with the details of what she’s doing as long as she was doing something. I do not believe that Lexi would remain unscathed living with men in a small trailer as she does and that she has no problem abandoning a fellow girl to her fate when Louie’s daughter suddenly asks her to move in. I don’t believe anyone would be so nice as to share to limited space with a sudden friend.Also, Lexi had the potential to be a substantial character but because things happen for her so smoothly, she just never develops into anything. At all. And apparently she’s irresistible to boys because there’s the best friend she fooled around with in New York, the ride attendant dude at the circus and this seemingly divine creature called Nick who, for reasons I cannot even begin to comprehend, falls for Lexi but out of the goodness of his heart and very noble attentions, decides to back off and let Lexi go free…yeah, I don’t get it. It’s like something out of the 18th century. And they barely knew each other, Nick and Lexi, and she’s hurting and so in love with Nick and I’m throwing up in my mouth, yeah.I thought this would be a mother/daughter book. I was wrong. The mother does appear for all of 45 seconds because Nick being handsome, rich and noble, finds her for Lexi (out of the goodness of his heart, remember that, the man has a heart of premium gold) and somehow, Lexi’s dad turns into a bad guy DESPITE the fact that the mother CHEATED on him. And he’s the bad guy. Why yes, I barfed again a bit.The problem with this book was that nothing seemed organic. Things didn’t happen as a matter of course, naturally due to the narrative, no. Things seemed unnatural and cobbled together because there needed to be a plot and the author needed to get from A to be B. I get it. Writing is difficult and sometimes seems downright impossible but there’s a certain art to the craft that I found this novel to be lacking.It’s not the worst book I have read but it is one of the most ridiculous. I can’t recommend it to you guys but hey, you may like it anyway.

A Corner of White (The Colors of Madeleine Series #1)

A Corner of White  - Jaclyn Moriarty I love Jaclyn Moriarty’s writing. I may not always love her books but her writing is superb. She has this way of linking words, thoughts and pictures that is seamless, beautiful and sometimes heartrending. When I heard that Moriarty was writing a new book, I was happy. I did a happy dance to prove my happiness and it was okay, because no one could see me dancing. And that’s how I like it.I picked up an ARC of this book at ALA but Scholastic Canada sent me a complimentary review copy, a finished copy, of the novel and if you haven’t seen the book in its physical form, you are missing out because the book is beautiful. Scholastic books are always so beautifully crafted. The cover is different from the Australian version and at first it perturbed me but then I read the book and now I reckon this cover fits the book better than the Australian one does.On to the book itself. If you have read Shades of Gray by Jasper Fforde, you will have some idea of the content inside. But more on that cryptic statement later. First, I have to admit that I spent a good portion of this book frustrated. I didn’t realize that Madeleine and Elliot would have separate stories and their only contact would be through the white pieces of paper on which they wrote letters to each other so I kept waiting for them to meet. To interact in person rather than textually (though to me it would be all textually, that kind of blows my mind, hee) and when that didn’t happen and doesn’t seem like it will happen, I got impatient.However, once the story gets its groove on, and I’m not gonna lie, it takes a while to get its groove on, it is full blast fantastic, The Kingdom of Cello is well built, the politics, the seasons, the geography, heck, even the dialects of the various people living there. The stereotypes and the habits, it is all so well imagined and expressed. Elliot is an interesting character – Madeleine imagines him as some sort of bucktoothed, fantasy loving geek when it couldn’t have been further from the truth. Both protagonists have daddy issues but both have lucked out on their mothers. Between Madeleine and Elliot though, I liked Elliot better because I couldn’t get a handle on Madeleine. She’s a rather fey creature and though we get a lot of stuff from her, the interiority that I wanted, the glimpse of her that I wanted remained elusive. And I think this is rather intentional because Elliott seems more substantial because he has always had a strong foundation, a family, friends and a strong sense of self. Madeleine, on the other hand, is fragmented. She’s a mixture of people, places, colours and languages. We cannot grasp her wholly because she doesn’t know herself wholly. I don’t know if it is intentional but I like that we come upon her as she is being formed.Of course, she has the signature craziness of all of Moriarty’s protagonists and I loved that. Her fascination with colours (the model on the cover is Madeleine in a scene) connects her to Elliot.The Kingdom of Cello is beset by a problem of hostile colours. They attack in swarms and can kill or maim unsuspecting citizens. Elliot and Madeleine converse a lot about colours and it’s fascinating – this will be a perfect companion book for Fforde’s dystopian novel, I’m just saying. Anyway, I won’t go into too much detail about the colours because that is an experience best had without any expectations. The book is far stronger in the second half than in the first half and the ending is awesome. The ending is actually what pulled the rating up from 3 stars to 4. The ending sets up the next book perfectly and pulls together all the strings that you had no idea were waving about.The book is not Moriarty’s best but it does contain some wry but absolutely on point observations about the world. It is a delightful foray into fantasy but Moriarty’s signature technique (?) remains: strong characters, fresh and funny writing. I’m not sure this book will be for everyone as it requires a lot of patience but if you want something that will leave you with a warm glow at the end, this is definitely it.

War of the Witches

War of the Witches - Maite Carranza, Noel Baca Castex 3.5


Parallel - Lauren   Miller Reading this novel is like turning into a yoyo. You are up and then you are down and then you are dizzy and then your head is spinning and you are not aware whether you are standing up or sitting down. Or if you are in fact upside down. These things happen.If you are familiar with chaos theory (which I am not) and know anything about The Butterfly Effect (Wikipedia helps), you will know that according to it, a small action could have drastic consequences later on. For example, if you are sitting in class one day and realized that you had lost your eraser but instead of asking the person sitting beside you for one, you decide to just cross out the word or whatever and continue with your work. Seemingly harmless, yeah? Now consider this, if you had asked the person for the eraser and struck up a conversation with them, you may have become friends and that person could have introduced you to his father who was one of the interviewers at the university you wished to go to. And had you met the father, you would have been more comfortable at the interview which would have led you to passing the interview and getting accepted, graduating with honors, becoming say a doctor and saving thousands of lives. All because you asked for an eraser.With me so far?Okay, Parallel, truthfully, it confused the heck out of me for the first third. I am not scientifically-inclined to begin with and I just couldn’t place myself in the narrative so I took a break. A long break. So long that I almost didn’t come back to it but I did and I am so glad I did because this book is kind of awesome. Still confusing and not perfect, but original and interesting.There is some kind of collision between two universes and Abby gets displaced or something like that – this is the hazy part. The parallel world is one year behind the “real world” and somehow all the actions of her parallel self affect Abby in the real world. I think. Let’s go with that. So the chapters are alternate usually from high school parallel Abby to Yale Freshman Abby. But the “real” Abby is actually a movie star. Yikes. Anyways.The pacing is steady and the writing is unproblematic. The mechanics are unclear but that could just be me. I liked seeing how the high school Abby’s decisions affected Freshman Abby in the future. That was the fascinating part.There is a love triangle and it was handled rather clumsily but still, there are two separate Abbys and so two different soulmates and just…I’m getting confused again. I did like the friendship between the best friends, warts and all.I think you need to read this book for yourself. It’s certainly different and other people may articulate their reviews with greater eloquence than I seem to have the capacity for. I enjoyed the novel mostly though I wasn’t a fan of the waffling. I thought the ending was a bit too neat and too smug, if that makes sense, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the novel as a whole. Recommended.

River Road (Sentinels of New Orleans Series #2)

River Road  - Suzanne  Johnson I enjoyed River Road a bit better than I did its predecessor. I found the prose flowed better and the situations, as they occurred, were better planned out. The pace, too, was quick and as this genre functions primarily on the thrills it gives readers through the action scenes, this was a good thing.I also like that Drusilla, unlike the many tough-talking badass UF protagonists out there, doesn’t know how to handle a gun. She’s a bit softer than a UF protagonist usually is and I liked how that makes her distinct. She’s not super strong but she is smart and so she has to find ways to make up for the lack of physical strength. I also like how Drusilla’s elven nature is coming to the fore and her heritage is going to be discussed possibly in the next book. I can’t wait to see how that pans out.The descriptions of New Orleans feel authentic and the world-building is very well done. However, the characters, apart from the main two, could do with a bit more work. Three years have passed (in book time) since the events of the first book and I expected that to have a lot more bearing on the characters than it actually does. Drusilla is unchanged as are Alex and Jake. It seems weird that Alex wouldn’t have told Drusilla that she was “going out” with him and who goes out with one person for three years without the family ever meeting her? And the city isn’t that big, how has Drusilla managed not to run into Jake despite her partner living in the flat above Jake’s bar. Stuff like this detracted from my enjoyment of the book.Additionally, there are two other things that still bother me about this novel. One is Drusilla’s many suitors. Alex is cute and I can accept that there is friction between Dru and Alex, then there is Jacob, who, okay, his presence has a lot of potential for tension and conflict and I understand his presence too but then there is Jean LaFitte. She’s nowhere like Anita Blake but three guys is pushing it.Two, this girl is judgmental as hell. I dislike slut shaming. I don’t think a woman’s morals should be judged by her sexuality or the clothes she wears or the twist of her hips. If you feel insecure about another woman’s beauty, confidence and sexuality, the issues and the insecurities are yours. There is no problem with the other woman being as she is. Besides, the “slut” in question is a nymph so it’s her nature.I hated that Drusilla described a nymph as a slut. And mentioned it once and again. I also disliked that Drusilla didn’t want to wear red because it was reminiscent of a brothel or she didn’t want someone’s mother’s thoughts to go that way. I also didn’t like her saying “Happy Hooker” to describe what she’s not with regards to her own sexuality. I think the author needs to have more sensitivity and a keener awareness about the messages that she may be unintentionally sending through Drusilla. I like the world and the settings. I like the mythology and I like the idea of a Beyond. However, I do not like rape culture.I will read the next book though, with the hope that Drusilla will get more sensitive, more aware and less judgmental.

Mortal Fire

Mortal Fire - Elizabeth Knox 3.75