Tuesday, July 28, 2015

BR: The Martian

by Andy Weir

There's this movie being made with Matt Damon, directed by Ridley Scott, and all these other famous people. So of course, I read the book (check out that sick cover).

Summary (goodreads):

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

My Thoughts:

This one was so good. It might be the hype machine, my love for science, or the ass-clenching last 30 or so pages, but wow, I loved it. I'll be the first to admit that I can probably count on one hand the number of sci-fi books I have read and/or remember reading, but this one has seriously stuck with me. When I pass by it in a bookstore or a grocery store, I'll stop and read a few pages/a chapter/the last 40 pages *shifts eyes*.

You know the docking scene in Interstellar? Andy Weir manages to conjure up the same crazy tension with WORDS. WORDS, you guys, they're kinda great. I loved Mark Watney, he's freaking awesome. I loved the science aspect of this, it's hard to explain, but it's like its own living breathing thing. There's this global feel as you do get to bounce back to Earth at some points in the book, and you really get this swell of affection for humankind.

I'm not one for writing reviews anymore, but well, here's just a recommendation. There's one book on my "best of 2015" bookshelf on Goodreads, and it's this one.

Here's the trailer (but it's kind of spoilery!):


9.2/10

Sunday, June 21, 2015

six years of holes In My brain

So, this blog is 6 years old today. 

I started it the summer after finishing 10th grade (I remember I did summer school for Physics during that time). I've just graduated from university this past April. 

Like, I'm a university graduate. 

How does time go so quickly? 

YA is different (but also not), the book blogging community has exploded, so many things have changed and evolved, but the love for books has never wavered. I'm so glad I was able to hold on to a small piece of this gargantuan thing they call young adult literature. Thanks for being a part of that, dear reader. 

I hope you guys are reading good books. I always hope you guys are reading good books. 

Currently [reading]: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews 

Currently [in life]: working for the summer in a lab.

Next [read]: The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne (thanks Nomes for the rec)

Next [in life]: ???????

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

BR: Saint Anything

by Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen has written 12 novels… and I’ve read every single one of them (she has her own tag). That should be a clue to how much influence she has had over my reading habits these past five years – she’s a staple of Young Adult fiction, and rightfully so (in my opinion).

Summary (goodreads):

Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.
**

My Thoughts

To be honest, the last book of hers that I really loved was Along for the Ride (perhaps my favourite Dessen book?). Her two books since then have been forgettable disappointments, so while I was excited for Saint Anything, I wasn’t sure if it would be a hit or a miss.

It was a hit.

I hate it when people use the phrase “return to form” because I believe authors (and people) should change and evolve over time, and should never feel constrained by past success. Given that, I just wanted to say that Saint Anything is a return to the wonderfully compelling Dessen books that I fell in love with in the past.

Ah, the characters! I loved the way Dessen portrayed the family dynamics, the looming shadow of Sydney’s incarcerated brother is perfectly noted, having enough of an influence but not overpowering. Her mother and father were well written and nuanced as well, but gosh, I really loved Sydney. I may have found a lot in common with her – studious, invisible types with troublemaker brothers (thankfully not in prison, but also not as big-personality), but her character growth was just so well done. Even without these similarities, I would want to sing praises for days; I really just wanted to follow her story til the end since I was so emotionally invested in her.

Of course, I adored Layla and Mac as well – I’m such a sucker for these people who are busy and full of life and love, and who’ll take the lost people under their wing- I loved the small details Dessen gave her, with the romance books, instruction manuals, and fries. And pizza. Guys, there is pizza for days, and it is glorious. This should be a PSA. I thoguht Mac was so sweet, and I’m glad the romance wasn’t overpowering. Also, the supporting cast was classic Dessen – think Wish Catering from The Truth About Forever – despite limited screen time, they each had their moments to shine. I also adored the callbacks to the Dessen universe (so many!).

The pacing was a little off at times – there was a bit too much info-dump in the beginning and too much closure at the end, but between the two bookends, I felt the novel coasted along at a comfortable pace, I’m not exactly sure if I liked this or not. I'll admit the book is a bit formulaic, but where it works is the execution, and this one worked on pretty much every level.

8.7/10 – because I really did adore this one, Sydney’s character arc was beautiful and earned, the supporting characters were delightful, the writing was engaging, and well… it’s Sarah Dessen. I love her. And you should read her latest, it’s her best one in years.









source: publisher
author twitter / blog / website

Saturday, April 11, 2015

BR: All The Rage

by Courtney Summers

I've read every novel (minus novella) that Courtney Summers has published, and I feel like I have this "bond" with her books - mostly because she debuted the year I got into blogging (2009) and I remember reading reviews of Cracked Up to Be and then buying the book for myself just to know what the big deal was (it was a BIG deal). I've been a fan ever since; I've got all her books on my bookshelf back home and all of them are brilliant (several 5-star reads!).  I'm gonna plug an interview I did with her a couple years ago because that was on my blogging bucket list (click here!), and I fondly say that she is the "plus one" to my holy trinity of YA authors.

Wow, that was a long intro. Let's get to her book.

Summary (goodreads):

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous.But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive? 
**

My Thoughts

Before I start, I want to mention how important this book is. Summers brilliantly tackled difficult themes and the current discourse around rape, and I want to say that All the Rage is a book that should be read and discussed and thought about. It's a book that is especially relevant in our current cultural climate, where the realities of rape culture are horrific (among many other things), ad Summers intelligently explores the complexities and consequences of our societal standards.

So what about the book? Many good, some not as wonderful.

This first bit is a bit of a rant on the structure as opposed to actual bookish parts: The novel is split into a sort of "Now" and "Before" and "After" type of thing, but I really had some issues with it. Claiming a passage as "Now"sets up a reader to expect certain things, and it can help the reader get into a mindset of timelines, of setting up a story, to expect information that can fit into what "now" should be like. I promise you that I read this book carefully... because I wanted to throw my hands up in exasperation, I was so frustrated. If "now" is NOT the "now", why in the world would you label it as such? I just hated how unnecessarily confusing it is. It's the very first thing that pops up, and it completely throws off the first third of the book. Two weeks before what? Before the "now"? Well, apparently not... The reason I have such harsh feelings about this is that I feel like the confusion I was feeling really hindered my enjoyment and ability to be sucked into the novel immediately. Okay, moving on. That might've been an overreaction, sorry.

The characters... I liked Romy. I liked her a lot, she was well written, gritty, fierce, and very, very raw. And hugely unlikeable at times, but it's part of the package, and it's what makes her stand out. She's a sympathetic and complex character right from the start, Summers has some truly spectacular prose that makes Romy become this very REAL person. I think Summers' writing is her biggest strength, and it is through the fact that the writing is so well done that it actually shields the flaws of the book. The secondary characters just "okay". They have moments to shine, moments to spit out the hard truths or reveal the darkness and cruelty of human beings, but they don't feel as fleshed and nuanced out as I would have hoped. They feel well-placed and well-written, but fall into "prop" mode to move the story along. I get it -- it's Romy's story (rightfully), but I would have liked to see something more (what a vague phrase, I know).

The mystery... okay, in order for a good mystery to work, I personally think there needs to be certain elements: 1) it needs to be interesting, 2) I (the reader) need to care (I just made those up off the top of my head).
Interesting? Yeah, I guess. Not tremendously so, but it gets the point across.
Did I care? Ummm, I guess. Except this is where I felt the book ran into trouble-- it couldn't decide what it wanted to be. Does it want to be an examination and commentary of rape culture and young women? Did it want to be a mystery? Did it want to a character exploration of PTSD? It probably wanted to be all these things, and while it worked on certain levels, it also didn't. The mystery just lacked heart. Romy had heart, the mystery did not, if that makes sense. Romy has such a complex relationship with her peers and Penny and her community, but it never felt that Romy was emotionally invested in the mystery for the sake of the mystery-- therefore, I as a reader did not *really* care either. What I DID care about was how it affected Romy, and in that sense, Summers definitely succeeded in making me invested in her character.

I've briefly touched on the writing, but to nobody's surprise, it is superb. It's unforgiving, and deserves the highest of compliments.

It's a book that may be ambitious, but is such a welcome addition to the very relevant discussions we must have as a community. Romy Grey is worth everything and brings the reader into her intimate reality, but at the expense of the overarching mystery. But I dunno, even after writing that, I don't mind. I was always about the characters anyway*.

Well done again, Courtney Summers. You haven't disappointed me yet. Thank you for writing this book.


"You should have believed me." -- the one line that just brooooke my heart. 



8.5/10 m - I was frustrated with the structure/set-up, and wasn't as engaged with the mystery plot. I also feel like the marketing/summary for the book is a tad misleading. However, I loved the writing and the characters and the incredibly important themes of All the Rage. It's very, very good, and I'd highly recommend all of you to read it. Also, damn, that cover is PERF.



*I read this book last year, and while the plot doesn't really stick with me, I can still remember the emotions and the writing style. The details might not be there, but I still remember how the book made me feel.

author website / twitter / tumblr

Friday, March 6, 2015

BR: Landline

by Rainbow Rowell

3 down, 1 to go... anyone have a copy of Attachments?

Summary (goodreads):

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn't expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?


**
My Thoughts

Rainbow Rowell is a disgustingly talented writer.

Am I the right demographic for this book? Probably not. I'm not married, for one. I'm not in love, for another. In any other author's hands, these characters would have felt over the top and terribly cheesy to me (I'm cynical like that), but Rowell really sold it. I believed in Georgie McCool and her imperfections and desperation to make things right.

I remember when I met Rainbow Rowell- she was in Canada for her Fangirl book tour, and during the 45 seconds you get to chat with the author as she signs your books, I remember telling her how Eleanor & Park (my favourite read of 2013) made me believe in love. It was real then, and reading Landline was like a reminder of how well Rowell could make these things feel real. There's just something about the turns of phrase that she uses, how it feels so intimate and real- like it's a small story but the stakes are still so high, because this is life beyond a first kiss and a boyfriend. She also writes some incredible dialogue.

I didn't think it was perfect - the story started snagging somewhere around the last third and it just didn't completely click for some reason; I felt that as it was crossing the finish line, it had already lost its momentum.

Reviewers had mentioned that they didn't find Georgie likeable, but I just found her to feel incredibly alive, and with that came the validation of her emotions and actions and difficulties. I kind of liked that the magic phone was never really explained, although it's a bit of a cop-out, it worked within the story. And oh, how I adored Neal and his dimples (I need to learn to have his temperament).

This is really a love story, and as someone who dislikes love stories, I liked this one a whole lot. It's not for everyone though, because it's the type of story that won't always work for everyone. It's not perfect, but it's very different, very well written, and very, very good.


8.4/10









source: library
author website / twitter / tumblr
Angieville's awesome review just because