Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Magnificent Vibration

I'm a big Rick Springfield fan, but I have to admit, I wasn't so sure about reading a novel written by him because, know, really, what sort of writer would he turn out to be? So with my sights set low, I dived into a novel that has our main character conversing with a God who texts and answers the phone. And then...surprise of all surprises...I found myself sucked into the story and actually enjoying it. Really enjoying it. Who woulda guessed?

The basic story revolves around Horatio "Bobby" Cotton, and his unlikely conversations with a God who is at times irritating and very oblique. Through flashbacks, we get the story of Bobby, as told in the book Magnificent Vibration (which he stole from a local shop). Life wasn't very pretty for Bobby, with parents who were mostly cold and whose sister has a myriad of emotional issues. Bobby tries to hold it together, even if he is inordinately obsessed with sex and his penis (but then again, maybe not...teen boys are notorious). As the flashbacks continue, we find Bobby as a young adult adrift and not particularly motivated, who marries badly and ends up worse. Meanwhile, there's the present day version of Bobby, who finds a hot, almost-ex nun, and a rather beefy man and discovers they both have the same book. As the story progresses, some very surreal moments take place as the trio tries to figure out what the meaning is of the strange coincidences that have brought them together.

While the premise is odd, it is oddly compelling as well. Vulgar? Yep. Intriguing? Yep. I was totally drawn in by the hapless Bobby, especially in his teenage form. Springfield has a way of pulling the reader so that the oddness becomes something to be dissected rather than puzzled by. While I wasn't so crazy about the ending, I did enjoy the references to the Loch Ness monster, the deep bond of a brother and sister, and the funny view of life as evidenced by our sort of hero. Definitely worth a read and pretty interesting to boot.


Monday, May 26, 2014

The King

It's been a while since I read The King; I purposely waited until the expected furor died down before settling in to write a review. I've read reviews that praise the book and some that flog it within an inch of its life, and now it's time for me to decide which side I'm truly on.

I liked it.

Before you cast that negative vote, please read what I have to say, and recognize that this is my opinion, and mine only. I have some very close friends who loathed this book, mostly for what it could've (and should've) been, and in some respects, I agree with them. Ward really really needs an editor or someone to keep up with her details for her. This is a big, big issue that must be addressed because she rewrites history with surprising nonchalance. In that regard, my friends are correct: there is no excuse for some of the inconsistencies she continues to make. Her readers have been loyal and many reread with a fine tooth comb. If she can't keep her facts straight (or at least give plausible reasons for changes), she needs to employ someone who will do that for her. When someone's skin color keeps changing (Selena), we have a problem.

But those things aside, The King is actually pretty well done. I was pleased that everyone seemed to get a shout out, though Ward's Caldwell universe has grown so large it's hard to keep them all involved. I adore Trez and iAm and am glad to see them featured. And say what you will about Assail and Sola, (and I'm NOT a fan...Assail could have been so much more than just another male on his way to getting mated), that shower scene was hot. I also liked the general flow of the book, and the glimpse back into Wrath's lineage through his parents' storyline. I didn't like the interaction between Wrath and Beth throughout most of this book; Wrath was a jerk who only knew his side of the story and refused to entertain his shellan's. And that ending tied things up a little too easily and a little too well for my taste. But Lassiter? That angel made the entire book in my opinion. He stole my heart and the show every time he appeared on the page.

When I think of my overall rating of this book, however, I think of the fact that I continue to enjoy visiting the world of Ward's, and I continue to enjoy my interactions with the Brothers. Sure, I'd change a few things, including all the product placement, and I'd beg Ward to never again allow the name Miley Cyrus to even jokingly be used in these stories, but overall, I did enjoy the book.

By the way, if Ms. Ward is reading this review, I'm available for said position mentioned earlier: I'd be one heckuva fact checker. I'm very certain that could apply to many of her readers, some of whom are way more irritated than I am about this series.


The One

I knew I wasn't going to read The One for any deep, philosophical glimpses into a post-apocalyptic society; hey, we're talking a royal version of The Bachelor here, correct? But for what it is, The One is an enjoyably light read that intrigued me enough to gulp it down in two short afternoons. As with most escapist reading, it accomplished its goal in that respect very well.

If you're reading this review, you know the basics of how we got to this point: America is one of four young women left vying for the attention and potential marriage of Prince Maxon. Throughout the first two books, America's been inching toward a true relationship with Maxon, despite her feelings for childhood boyfriend, Aspen. In this final installment, she's decided to fight for him, though of course the road isn't smooth. Despite Maxon's protestations of his intentions to choose America, she frequently messes things up and acquires the wrath of the king in the process. There's also two rebellions going on, and somehow America finds herself in the middle of negotiations that may bring down the caste system once and for all.

While I loved this story--it's hard not to--the constant fighting between America and Maxon, complete with about 5000 misunderstandings, eventually wore at me. I like a good, headstrong, righteous heroine, but America spent a lot of time making things worse when they didn't have to be. Frankly, from a slightly more mature standpoint, I can't see this marriage working out in the long term if these two don't learn to build on what they have and stop bickering over past slights. But that's the beauty of the novel once again...I don't have to worry about those things because the story itself isn't about that. It's about two young people who aren't perfect finding one another when they least expect to and learning how to make a difference in lives. I could bemoan the fact that we didn't get a lot of closure on the rebellion aspect, and that there was really no point to some of the incidents, but that would just be a distraction from my overall enjoyment of Cass's writing and the storyline itself. Definitely fun and surprisingly touching at times, this series is one I'd have no problem recommending when you're in the mood for light reading.


Sunday, May 18, 2014


After The End is sort of a post-apocalyptic novel, and yet it's not. What it is without a doubt, however, is an excellent read with pages that fly by. If there are flaws, they are minimal, and I'm already waiting for the next book.

So what makes this book so interesting? The writing, pure and simple. When we are introduced to Juneau, she's a young woman of seventeen surviving in the Alaskan wilderness after the devastation of World War III drove them to a remote place on earth. She and her clan know there are others out there--the appearance occasionally of planes overhead confirms that--but they believe the others may be contaminated or perhaps "brigands" ready to take all they have. More striking than all this, though, is the mystery of the Yara, a sort of natural force that the clan can tap and use to Read and Conjure; all the children of the clan bear witness to their connection to the Yara through a bright starburst pupil marking them. When Juneau goes out hunting, she is panicked when she realizes helicopters have invaded her home and taken all the members of her clan, so she goes out past the boundaries set by the Elders in search of her family. What she discovers is that she's been lied to all her life: there never was a World War III and life is going on. Tapping into the Yara, Juneau discovers that a boy named Miles is the key to finding those she loves, and she teams up with him, not realizing his father is also searching for her because apparently she knows something vital.

Well, that's the bare bones of the story, and it comes nowhere near explaining what really works for this book. Juneau's naiveté is quickly overcome as she discovers the desperation of her plight, and Miles's determination to make his mistakes up to his father override a lot of the choices he makes. Their relationship develops slowly, but the danger both are in forces them to re-evaluate all they know. The back-and-forth method of changing points of view works very well as we see what makes each character tick, and the fact that there really aren't too many other characters to actually interact with makes the story focused. If I'm not sure of the magical elements, I can still buy into the humanity of the story and the breathless way Juneau moves to avoid those chasing her. The truth is, I don't know who to believe at this point, and that's part of the appeal. This book merits a strong 4.5 stars and definitely has me thinking about what's coming next.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Give This One A Miss

I've always liked Charlaine Harris's writing, up until about the last 2-3 Sookie Stackhouse books. Then I felt she descended into a pattern of description of clothing and food, and away from the characters themselves, which made for not very interesting reading. Still, I was willing to give her new series a try because I was hoping it would be fresh and exciting.

I really shouldn't have bothered.

The story is set in Midnight, Texas, and features the strangest group of people as very odd friends. There's young Manfred, new in town, and possibly psychic; there's Fiji, a young witch who is in love with Bobo, who owns the pawn shop. There's Lemuel, a vampire, and his often-missing girlfriend, Olivia; there's the Rev, a man of God who doesn't speak much. I could go on and on, each one more oddly named than the rest, and none of them particularly endearing. The story essentially revolves around getting to know the group and the disappearance of Bobo's girlfriend, Aubrey, whose body turns up almost halfway through. Not that I cared, really; no one is the sort you'd cheer for and the "gang" who is behind many of the attacks seems to be not quite as smart as a gang should be.

I kept reading, hoping I'd finally get interested, and then mostly so I could write this review. What made the characters quirky and fun in the Sookie books is totally lacking in this book; there's just no spark. I may have been engaged a time or two, but overall, I just couldn't have cared less. I won't be looking for the next one.


Thursday, May 08, 2014

Read The Taking. Right Now. It's the "IT" Book of the Summer!

Wow. Just the premise of this novel had me intrigued, but once I started reading Kimberly Derting's The Taking, I was avoiding sleep and thinking about it until I finished...and dang, I'm *still* thinking about it. Well written with an expected but not patronizing reveal, the details and the emotion move this story along and kept me gripped from the get-go. From the dropped clues to the harrowing climax, I had a vivid suspense movie playing inside my head the entire time. So good!

Basic facts: Kyra Agnew disappears at age 16 after an argument with her father, making the poor decision to leave the car to walk home. For five long years, her friends and family look, worry, agonize, and grieve over their loss. When Kyra wakes up behind a dumpster at a local convenience store, she's sure her parents are gonna be ticked with a capital T over her staying out all night. Imagine her surprise and then horror when she goes home to a place where someone new lives, her parents have split, and her boyfriend is now dating her best friend--and five years have passed. Now technically 21, Kyra doesn't feel as though any time at all has passed, though the proof lies before her in her boyfriend Austin's younger brother Tyler, now a tall, engaging seventeen year old. In fact, Tyler seems to be the only one who Kyra can relate to, and he does a sweet, amazing job of sweeping her off her feet. But it doesn't take long for Kyra to realize that if the world has changed, so has she, in ways she could never imagine. So who is she? And what happened to her during the time she was away?

It's hard to find a stopping point in this novel because each chapter leads to yet more questions and startling developments. While a few things bugged me (Why wasn't Kyra returning a major news story? Why was Tyler so smitten so quickly?), nothing detracted from my overall enjoyment and the fascinating idea of this novel. If Kyra was sullen, well...most sixteen year olds are, and her entire world was upside down. And if the climactic events leading up to the final, intense turning point seemed a bit "out there"...well, it's all forgiven because I am totally, completely caught up in the storyline Derting has created. Who hasn't wondered if there is life besides us out there, and just what their intentions would be should we encounter them? And please don't get me started on that cliffhanger of an ending! I am certain I will explode before the next entry in this series shows up. As it is, I'll be spending quite a bit of time thinking of Kyra and hoping for the best until I have the next book. Spellbinding and intense, The Taking is going to be the hit YA book of the summer.


Saturday, May 03, 2014


Panic is a game thought up in the small town of Carp, New York, about 4-5 years before. All graduating seniors are eligible to play (after having been coerced to provide a $1 a day into the pot for the entire senior year). This year's pot is $67,000 which could not only be life-changing, but could get someone out of Carp for good. The problem is, Panic is a dangerous game and there is a very real possibility that lives could be lost when the challenges include walking between two towers with no safety net, staying in an abandoned house overnight, and much, much worse.

To Heather, however, the challenges would be worth it if she can only win. Staying in the abusive, neglectful household of her mother with her younger sister is no longer an option, so she becomes determined to finish Panic.Along with her friend Natalie and Dodge, a boy out for revenge, Heather steels herself in order to try to make it to the final challenge--Joust, where the last two people drive at one another. The first to swerve loses.

There's so much going on in Panic and I won't try to do it justice by recounting all the stories. Despite being unsure if I even liked any of the characters for a while, I found I could not put this book down. The idea of a deadly game is not really out of the realm of possibility, even if I thought the adults were too clueless overall to be realistic. Surely if the game's been going on for so long, someone would have figured out how to put a stop to it; I really felt that even the police were overly dull, especially after some characters end up in the hospital. I also disliked the ease with which the characters used alcohol; maybe that works somewhere in real life, but it wasn't necessary to the story and could have been left out altogether.

When I first started reading, I felt sure this book would end up at maybe 3 stars because, as I've said, the characters aren't very likeable (and really don't ever get much better). It's just that the story swept along at a clip that kept me turning the pages. Oliver is a master at world-building but even better at plot building; as the story moves, layers are revealed and connections are made that pull the reader further and further under the wave. If this book has a dearth of people to cheer for, it more than makes up for it by having a thoroughly compelling storyline that just begs for the big screen treatment.