Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Friday, October 30, 2009

You Must Read This Book (After You Read Its Prequel, That Is)

Life should be good for Katniss Everdeen now: she not only survived and won The Capitol's Hunger Games, she outsmarted the powers that be and saved her fellow player from District Twelve, Peeta. She's rich now, living in a special section reserved for victors of the Games, and her mother and little sister are safe from the hunger that surrounds her community. Even better, she's able to spend her Sundays back in the woods with her best friend Gale, hunting and sharing their special bond. And then The Capitol comes calling for Katniss and Peeta to do their Victory Tour of the other districts and once again, Katniss finds herself in unbelievable danger as she realizes that the government will do anything to make her pay the price for defying them. Wow. Just Wow. Catching Fire had me from the first pages and didn't let go (and still hasn't). As Katniss and Peeta tour the other districts, they see that there is more oppression out there than they'd realized, and they are unable to stop themselves from speaking out, however subtley, against The Capitol. Of course this doesn't go over well and the pair know they will have to pour on their pretend love affair thickly in hopes that they can repair the damage they've done. It's only when they return home to a very changed District Twelve that it becomes clear that they are going to have to pay the ultimate price. The characterizations in this novel just got better and better as the story went on, with Katniss and Peeta's relationship deepening significantly. Collins does an outstanding job of making Katniss uncertain to whom her heart belongs as her life is on the line. Haymitch is back as well; his personal demons seem poised to destroy him on the surface, but is he hiding behind them for different reasons than it seems? So many layers, so much going on, all of it unbelievable in its wonderful, riveting awfulness. The world Suzanne Collins has created in Catching Fire is grim and despicable; yet hope abounds in the symbols of Katniss, Peeta, and a mockingjay pin. With former Games victors mixed into this novel, I could begin to see and understand the desperation that exists on all levels of this dystopian world. With all the action, betrayals, and subterfuge going on, I had to force myself not to gulp this entire book down in one big gorging session. With the final page, my anxiety was still climbing, and I know for a fact it won't be relieved until I hold the next book in the series in my hot little hands. It's that good. This is a not to be missed series for readers of all ages.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Last Breath

With his last breath, the man who had attacked Shaley O'Connor in the previous book, Always Watching, left her with a scary yet tantalizing comment: "Your father sent me." For this rock star's daughter who has never known anything about her father, these words send her into a tailspin on top of the chaos that has already plagued her in the past few days. But before she can share this information, her mother Rayne is injured and Shaley must focus on her healing. It is while Rayne is confined to her hospital bed that Shaley is finally, finally able to hear the story of her father and why she's never known him. But how can she come to terms with everything while there is a fiendish member of the paparazzi following her every move?

Last Breath picks up almost immediately after Always Watching, with Shaley's world taking a major shift after the recent murders on tour and her mother's injuries. The story shifts between Shaley in the present and her mother's story set in 1991-1992. Both points of view are equally enthralling, and Shaley comes to understand why her mother has kept the story from her for so long.

Last Breath is a short novel but a page turner. Shaley is entirely believable as a young woman desperate to know her own story, even if she is a bit headstrong in thinking she can take on anyone. There is a religious bent to the novel, but it is definitely woven well into the story and doesn't pull you out of the storyline itself. My only problem was the actual story of Rayne's past; it seemed to set the father up as a bit of a hero, which made me feel as though the author was trying to make him too sympathetic. But as the story progressed, I could see that in fact the author had plans for him that would take time to mature, so I can forgive that one minor fault. Last Breath is a good mystery that should capture anyone who enjoys watching the past revealed one layer at a time.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Give This One a Miss

Gena Showalter's Intertwined has a fascinating premise: Aden, the main character, has four other souls living within his head whom he constantly hears. Each soul has a special "gift", such as time traveling or raising the dead, but it's Aden's habit of conversing aloud with the souls that has landed him in mental facilities and foster homes since the age of three. Needless to say, it's been almost impossible for Aden to make friends, and the fact that he knows exactly how he will die (thanks to one of the souls) doesn't help his situation. Until he moves to the D and M Ranch for troubled boys and receives a vision of a beautiful girl who will become his love interest; suddenly Aden is eager to find out if the girl he sees briefly is the mystery girl and he gets himself enrolled in the local school in order to find out. Only Mary Ann is not the girl, though she does become a friend. Instead, the beautiful vampire Victoria reveals herself to Aden, accusing him of "calling" her into his life. Thus begins a relationship that finds Aden battling the undead, the school bully, a bunkmate, a werewolf, and assorted other paranormal creatures as he searches for a way to set the souls trapped within free and possibly even get the girl in the process.
Whew. That's a lot of description to pack into a little paragraph. Trouble is, that's only the tip of the iceberg with Intertwined. It seems that each new chapter brings further complications and characters to muddy the waters and make Aden's life more difficult. And that is the biggest problem with this book: it's so convoluted with plots, sub-plots, and coincidences that I'm still not sure what was the main focus. Though I rather enjoyed the characters of Mary Ann, Riley, and Aden, the rest of the cast seemed placed solely for convenience's sake, including love interest Victoria: how wonderful (cough!) was it that she has a gift of making people do and think whatever she wants (but doesn't really practice it on Aden) so that everyone can get out of tight scrapes easily? The conversations were often stilted, moving from today's slang ("Hawt!") to old-fashioned Romanian style vampire-speak within a page or less. And the whole drama with Mary Ann's bff Penny? Unnecessary and just plain distracting. I just kept feeling as though the storyline, while unique, could have been so much more if half of the ideas had been left out and more focus given to the characters' feelings. And at times, if I'm being honest, I felt that the writing style itself bordered on inexperience (though I know that's not the case of the author). All of this mixed together just makes the whole idea...well, silly and not very well planned out.
I still am giving this novel three stars, rounded up from 2.5 because there was a section where Aden and Mary Ann were developing a good relationship that I felt the pages flying by. And overall, it is a fast read with so much potential. There was some humor and some angst that captured me, but this novel needed an editor with a much heavier hand than the one it got. Obviously the ending is a set up for a sequel but I am sure I'll give it a pass. That ending fight scene alone was so poorly written that I'd feel like having my own eyes poked out to spend more of my life wading through too many coincidences and not enough substance.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Always Watching

Shaley O'Connor is used to life lived at a fast pace: as the daughter of Rayne O'Connor, lead singer of the band Rayne, Shaley's been on tour with her mom's band for almost three months when this book opens. Though she misses her friends back home, Shaley's content with the knowledge that her best friend Brittany is on her way to spend a few weeks with her, and the friends she has among the crew keep her from feeling lonely. Things seem to be going well for Shaley until Tom, one of her closest friends on the tour, suddenly turns up murdered...and it seems that his murder is only the first of many events that will leave Shaley scared and unsure of everyone, including her own mother.
Always Watching is a murder mystery set in the glamorous life of a rock star's daughter, where layers are revealed that make it more than just the story of a dead body (or two). Shaley has some issues: she feels that her mother, while loving, doesn't always show her much attention, and the mystery over her father's identity eats away at her. In fact, Always Watching is less about Shaley solving a murder than it is about Shaley discovering more about herself. This includes a rather unexpected (for me at least) encounter with a backup singer about God and how He is actually the One who is always watching. I admit to being a little thrown by that aspect of the novel--it seemed to come out of nowhere at the moment, but later attempts at having Shaley question God's intervention in her life flowed much more smoothly.
A slim novel and the first in a series, Always Watching is good, though not great. The murder scenes are described violently and Shaley deals with death in logical yet surprising ways. I found the feelings of adults about Shaley either shallow or creepy; the one page glimpses into the killer's mind throughout seemed forced and out of place to me. But Shaley is a fairly typical teen, even if her mother is a rock star, and her reactions are normal for the circumstances. This short book was a fast read and ended with enough questions that I will definitely be looking for its sequel.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me?

Oh, Georgia, you finally have the Luuurve God fully enamored and what happens? Well, plenty, as a matter of fact. In the tenth (and final! oo-er) book in the Georgia Nicolson series, Georgia's in a dither about keeping Masimo interested, playing Mercutio in the school play of Rom and Jul, keeping Angus and Gordy from eating Bum-ty, watching her parents reconnect, and figuring out just what it is precisely that she feels for the wonderful Dave the Laugh. With the Ace Gang along, Georgia's journey to maturosity is anything but smooth, but always, always humorous.

Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? picks up closely after the previous book; Georgia's still following Masimo and the Stiff Dylans around, using all her girly skills to keep him entranced. And entranced he does become; not only does he confirm that he wants to be with Georgia, he begins to show up at Stalag 14 unexpectedly for mini-snogfests and even declares that he will turn down moving to London with the Dylans in order to stay with her. All this attention forces Georgia to reconsider and what does she find? That most of her thoughts really belong with that fab lad, Dave the Laugh. But what's a girl to do when she has a Luuurve God in the hand and a "mate" who is now with someone else?

What an exciting ending to one of the funniest series I've ever read! Georgia's stream of consciousness is hysterical, and her interactions with the Ace Gang are laugh out loud funny. I love Georgia's relationship with baby sister Libby (though I admit I'm a little concerned with how Libby will turn out--another series idea, hmmm, Ms. Rennison?). Georgia personifies what most teens are thinking and feeling when caught up in the excitement of luuurve, and the way Ms. Rennison draws out the intense relationship between Georgia and Dave is just...Groovy. Fab. Full of wisdomosity. In this final installment, there is hope for Georgia and her mates, but mostly there is laughter and fulfillment for all the loyal fans who have followed Georgia through boy entrancers, snog fests, sex gods, and Scottish wildcats. Count this fan as one well satisfied.


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A New Spin on Werewolves

Grace remembers being attacked by wolves when she was eleven, but what she remembers most is the wolf who stopped the attack and saved her. For years his yellow eyes have haunted her, and she's watched fervently each winter for his return to the forest near her home. Somehow she knows he will always be there to watch over her. And then the unthinkable happens; a fellow classmate is not only attacked by wolves, he is killed by them. What will happen to Grace's wolf when the town is on the rampage, running to destroy the animals?
Sam has watched Grace for years but their first "official" meeting is more than a little awkward; he turns up, naked and shot, on her deck. Suddenly he's actually talking to the girl he feels he's known forever, and she's responding. And though he tries to keep his true nature in check, he knows it's just a matter of time before he will once again disappear from her life. But that certainly doesn't stop the feelings that rapidly develop between them, and now how will Sam be able to face a future without Grace's touch and love?
Shiver is a new, unique spin on the werewolf genre. In Stiefvater's world, it is the cold temperatures that bring on the shift from human to wolf, and each year the time to shift back to human comes later and later until one day there's only wolf. Knowing that there is a definite deadline to their love, Grace and Sam fight the cold as best they can, hoping for a miracle that will allow them to stay together. But the newly created wolf, Grace's classmate Jack, throws kinks into their plans as his unstable nature puts others in jeopardy. Stiefvater gives the story just the right balance of poignancy, anger, and hope, with Grace growing more self-assured as she wrestles with Sam's impending departure. Stiefvater also fills the pages with a longing between the two that kept me enthralled, and a back story that fleshes out the reasons behind unexplainable actions. I was engaged and I was entertained, but mostly I was just captured by the beauty of the frozen world of Shiver. Excellent and creative.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Come On Fall Break!

Just thought I'd check in and let everyone know I'm really NOT dead...just brain dead, if that counts. We are 7 weeks into school and my reading has fallen off majorly as my attention span has decreased--it seems my brain is flitting from one thing to another as I hit overload. School's been a bitch so far this year with a principal who leaves a lot to be desired, an assistant principal constantly on spin cycle, and generally declining morale. We're trying to hang in there but it's hard when your leadership is so poor. But enough about that...

Of course the fall television schedule has eaten into my reading time as well. I am a reality tv junkie. I'd join a twelve step program but I'm actually waiting for a television show to be developed around that theme (maybe there's been one and I just didn't know?). Currently I am watching Hell's Kitchen (which finishes in another week or two), America's Next Top Model, Ghost Hunters, Destination Truth, Survivor, and Project Runway. Oh, and The Amazing Race! Mix in The Office, Glee, and Vampire Diaries and you've got some major time occupying television.

But I AM reading. I finally finished An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon, and while I can't review it here (check out my review in The Historical Novel Society, coming soon!), I will say I absolutely loved it. I've always loved Jamie Fraser, and this installment is no less wonderful. A couple of good cliffhangers, too! But it's a chunkster and it took nearly two and a half weeks to plow through 800+ pages. Then I decided that it'd be best if my next book was something completely different, so I've gone for Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, a young adult book about werewolves. Good so far, then who knows what I'll pick up next?

So that's a minor update on what's going on in the life of The Taminator. Fall break is October 19-23 and it can't come soon enough for many, many, many reasons. If I do nothing but rest and read, it will be successful. Until then, I'll keep plodding along, my brain fried and my hope resting in vacation time ahead.