Honest and lively YA book reviews
I have spent all week cleaning up vomit. Most of it canine. Some, I'd hazard to guess, feline. Sadly this is just the way the cookie crumbles when your pets get into the garbage. All there is left to do is shrug and grab the mop. Again. This is really not my favourite pet-care chore. In fact, it's my least favourite. It turns my stomach. As a nurse, there's not a lot of bodily fluids that have this effect on me. I'd like to think I've mostly suppressed my disgust reflex. But vomit? No. Never. However, I would gladly wipe up puke off the floor all day long than ever subject myself to Adorkable by Sarra Manning again. Ever. This book caused me pain.
That old familiar jaw-ache reared it's ugly head when I was first introduced to our delightful main character and co-narrator, Jeane Smith. Jeane is super cool and totes amazeballs at life. That is, if your definition of cool is being completely vile to anyone who wanders into your vicinity, purposely dressing as if you are colour blind or insane or just really lazy with your laundry and cultivating a deep seated, frightening superiority complex.
Jeane's a self sufficient, 17 year old living in London and running her online empire - Adorkable: the brand, from her living room. She has all the usual "boy trouble", school shit and in the end discovers that it's okay to be different. That's pretty much it. This book is very poorly plotted. There's way too much of Jeane sounding off, Jeane being cruel and abrasive and Jeane verbally and mentally abusing her peers, to fit much actual story line in there. There are a lot of threads begun and then just left loose to flap. Like Jeane's uncomfortable situation with her family which she mentions a few times but makes no move to resolve, or her awkward relationship with her ex-boyfriend who she swears she's still best buds with but never calls, never thinks about and never really sees again. But she does find the time to squeeze in a "relationship" with the most totes amazeballs guy in school, Michael (our second co-narrator) who also happens to be just about the most boring guy ever to breathe. He's wheeled along behind her, cowering from the blindingly, brilliant light of her sheer awesomeness as they half heartedly toss a few bland jokes and insults back and forth. It really is pitiful. The worst of it is that Michael isn't only dull and pathetic. He's also an arrogant self absorbed dick:
I'm really not enjoying the wilderness survival aspect of this book. It wasn't what I was expecting.
You know that old tag-line for those awesome sweets, Skittles - "taste the rainbow"?! Welcome to Alison of Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson's world!! She has a condition/gift/anomaly whereby she can taste colours and lies, see the colour of numbers, feel sounds. What she has is called synesthesia which is a phenomenon in that the brain's wiring relating to senses and memories is tangled and intertwined (I'm describing this in a very simplistic way. If you want to learn more you should read chapter 3 of The Tell-Tale Brain by VS Ramachandran. He explains it waaaay better than I ever could) in a way that certain memories are experienced alongside sensations. One of the most common examples of this amazing ability is that numbers are often "seen" in the mind's eye as a specific colour, but sounds, smells and tastes can be wrapped up in all kinds of different memories like songs, shapes and textures. It's pretty amazing and studying people who have synesthesia can offer some really incredible insights into the geography of our brains. But I won't get into that just now .....
Alison has synesthesia and everyone is very keen to label her as cray-cray, possibly because she flipped out and ranted and raved all over the place about murdering her school mate and nemesis, Tori by vaporisation. But all is not as it seems as Alison is shipped off to a teenage psychiatric unit and is forced to question her own sanity and if she can truly believe what she sees with her own eyes.
"The breakfast coloured sun."
"icy, Decemberish water"
"I carried them in my fingers, like suitcases"
"It brewed in her as she eyed the pages full to the brims of their bellies with paragraphs and words."
"The oldened young man."
“Fear is shiny. Ruthless in the eyes.”
“Handfuls of frosty water can make almost anyone smile,"
"Pinecones littered the ground like cookies."
"He crawled to a disfigured figure."
“Could she hear my cursed circular heart beat revolving like the crime it is in my deathly chest?”
“His eyes were cold and brown — like coffee stains"
Imagine you don't know The Book Thief by Markus Zusak exists (maybe you don't?) You've never read it, okay? (maybe you haven't?) Now imagine I showed you the quotes I listed above. Imagine I asked you: "Is this a book you would be interested in reading?" Based on those quotes alone, what would you answer?
Nah? Me neither. The writing style of this book completely ruined it for me. Mr Zusak managed the skilful feat of turning what could have been an emotionally charged, fascinating and captivating story into a stuttering, disjointed and uncomfortable collection of words on a page. I read the entire book in a state of mild irritation. This is not the reaction I was expecting to have. The Book Thief is hailed as a literary masterpiece, a triumph!! Instead, it read to me as experimental fiction gone wrong. In my opinion, the author was just too heavy handed with the symbolism, the metaphor and the feels. The recipe calls for a pinch of each. He was glugging them in by the bucket load, along with an entire bottle of gimmick, a block of poetry-esque prose and an extra large packet of rambling and I just didn't enjoy it. I was left feeling bloated and uneasy. The whole thing felt way too much like a grad school project for me to take seriously. I believe this was originally written by Zusak as adult fiction, and then on being marketed for America was labelled for teens. Very telling. There's nothing wrong with YA. That's pretty much all I read so I kinda love it. But there's a different standard expected for adult fiction. A richer storyline, deeper character development, sophisticated writing style. These were nowhere to be found in The Book Thief.
I have a penchant for piercings. Nah, not so much facial piercings. I stopped with my nose. But ear piercings. I like to collect them. I went for the biggie in September: a scaffold piercing. Some call it an industrial. For all you not riveted to your Big Book of Piercings it's basically two piercings at the top of your ear with a bar passing through both. FYI, the top of your ear is made of cartilage and requires considerable force to pierce through. So needless to say, this kind of piercing hurts like a bitch. I went with my sisters to get it done in their home city. Their piercer is hot. He tattooed my wrist last year - holding his hand for 45 minutes was like holding a little piece of heaven. So when the room started sliding away and I felt the cold grip of a faint around my throat as he forced that needle through my cartilage twice I said, "Nope, not today" and fucking pulled my self together. There was no way I was collapsing to the floor in the presence of this beautiful person. But I swear I came this close.
Similarly, you have no idea how close I came to giving up and laying on the floor whilst reading Matched by Ally Condie. This book is about as painful as a scaffold piercing but minus all the blood. I felt an almost overwhelming desire to shove more needles through my ear just to have something to do because this book is a major snooze-fest.
Hello? Hello plot?! Where did you go? Come back!! We need you!! Yeah, Matched has next to no actual plot going on. The basic story goes that Cassia lives in a Society (that's right. Society with a capital S) which has somehow reserved the right to dictate who she marries, where she works and when she dies. It's all very The Giver-ish, but without the menacing undercurrent. Cassia is paired with her bestie, Xander but finds herself falling instead for the dark and brooding guitar playing, poetry writing Ky (naturally), who she then begins a dangerous and illegal affair with. There's a bunch of hill-walking, angsting and sorting (whatever that is. Can anyone help me out here and explain exactly what sorting actually is?!) going on, all the while Cassia uncovers secrets and discovers the Society isn't as perfect as she's been led to believe.
Suicide is a tricky thing. It's almost impossible to understand unless you are or have been in that dark, bleak place struggling to get out. It's hurtful, it's confusing, it's frightening and heartbreaking to know that someone you love could be so torn apart inside that they cannot contemplate continuing to live. To experience suicidal thoughts is overwhelming, terrifying but in a sense peaceful. To know there's a way to escape the pain of the unbearable weight of severe depression is, in a funny way an enormous comfort. I feel like even now, in what we would consider to be a modern and progressive society depression and mental illness in general is massively misunderstood. It's difficult for people to handle because so many people just don't get it. I remember hearing all the time people saying, I don't understand self-harm. How could a person deliberately hurt themselves. This is the wrong question to ask of a sufferer. The same way that "Why would you want to kill yourself?" is the wrong question to ask someone having suicidal thoughts. All it serves to do is highlight a lack of understanding and isolate the sufferer further, trivialising their experience as ridiculous. It can be a very lonely place when you're battling depression. It can feel like the whole world is against you, like you have nowhere to turn to get help. Instead of saying "I don't understand" or "How could you do this" how about practising a little empathy.
Happy holidays to all my lovely followers!! I've not been here at Booklikes for long but I've been made to feel very welcome and for that I'd like to thank you all and wish you and your families a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014!! Looking forward to more reading, blogging and sharing in the new year - bring it on!! :D
This book reminds me of those peppermint chocolates in the green bag you can buy at the market for like 99p. You eat one and life is great, it's sweet and melty and smooth. Fine. So you keep trucking - you eat another. And the seed of doubt is planted. Do you really like these candies? Do you?! They're very sweet after all. But you bash on. And you eat one more. And no. You do not like them. They're sickly, they're samey, they're all the sugar in the entire universe compressed into a bite sized circle of tooth-achingly saccharine nastiness. And yet, you keep coming back for more. You can't stop putting these goddam sweets into your mouth until you literally have to go lie down in a darkened room until your stomach ache eases off.
Similarly, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare was just too much. I was so overloaded by the sheer volume of stuff shoehorned in there I had to go relax in a hot bubble bath to de-stress. The characters were so overpoweringly samey compared with every other character Cassandra Clare has ever written about. Ever. I felt the same way I felt while eating those goddam peppermint chocolates - stuffed full of the same, repetitive junk until I was queasy and shivering. But still I carry on. I keep eating and I keep reading. Why? There's something, like a masochistic moth to a white hot flame, that keeps drawing me to Cassandra Clare's writing. I don't even know what. Maybe Ms Clare hides some subliminal messaging in there somewhere. Like - "Keep reading, you know you want to. Buy my books. Give me all your money." There's really no other reason why I keep inflicting these fucking Shadowhunters on myself.
Cats!! Cats everywhere!!
I made the rookie mistake of allowing my cats to have complete freedom in my house. Now they do whatever the fuck they like with no regard for anyone's safety or personal space. They peed on my ex-flat mate's bed so many times that in the time she was living with us she had to buy seven new duvets. That was a little embarrassing.
They walk on the kitchen counters and sit right behind the stove while I'm cooking so that the minute my back is turned to get something out of the fridge their little heads are dipping into the pans, tasting and licking everything. I left a pot of soup out on the counter to cool and they walked in it. They walked in my soup. Every time a cupboard opens they're in it. My giant ginger cat is the worst for this. He has managed to get himself shut in the closet, the pan cupboard and the fridge amongst others. My siamese cat is like a dustbin. He eats anything and everything. He ate a packet of yogurt covered raisins last week. That's not even approaching resembling cat food. My husband says the pets are worse than having a baby. He says at least a baby doesn't move for a while. But the cats are into everything. They'll try and get into the shower with you for god's sake!!
They've smashed all my favourite mugs, made inroads into destroying most of my vast house plant collection and shredded an entire armchair. The giant cat has somehow (we haven't figured it all out yet) managed to work out how to get on top of the kitchen cabinets and waits up there until I go through to switch the kettle on in the morning before doing a dive-bomb sneak attack from above. That's a whole lotta cat to be coming at you from a height, believe me. And the crazy thing? We're adding another one to the mix. My husband has reserved an oriental kitten for me for Christmas. It's not a surprise, he had to let me know as she's not ready until next month. He didn't want me thinking I was getting nothing. So we've got a three-cat-tornado to look forward to - a force so destructive, so powerful the house will be reduced to ashes in it's wake.
I sound like I hate them. I don't. I adore them. They're incredibly loving, sweet and affectionate. They are literally the best cats I've ever met. But they don't come without their quirks, and none of my knit wear is safe.
I feel the same way about Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor - I both loved it and despaired of it.
Text from: http://www.buzzfeed.com/alannaokun/insanely-clever-gifts-for-book-lovers
For the meticulous type who wants to mark exactly which line they left off reading.
For pages that demand to be kept flat (especially during times of food and/or booze consumption).
For the person who needs help distinguishing between the teetering pile of books on their bedside table.
For the slightly pretentious yet endearingly immature.
For the daydreamers who need a quick hit at work or school or wherever they happen to be (many titles available).
I have this friend who I can't stand. I'm using the term friend rather loosely here, I think recently we have spiralled downward into somewhat frosty acquaintances. She's violently pretentious. She has this thing about champagne. She knows all about the vintages and what vineyard the grapes were grown and the names of the crows that perched on the goddam vines while they were growing and all that other boring shit that she trots out at dinner parties, for some reason thinking people will be impressed. I'll tell you a secret - I "accidentally" stole one of these vomit inducingly expensive bottles of champagne recently. And I drank it. And it wasn't all that. Tasted exactly the same as every other bottle of champagne I've ever drank from. But oh no - this friend would insist she could detect notes of oak, or a hint of apple or whatever other bullshit she dreamt up. I mean she has a wine cellar for fucks sake. Not in her house. No. She has a rented wine cellar. Because let me tell you something. It's all a facade. It's all smoke and mirrors. Oh sure, at every dinner party, event and function we attend she's wearing her Louboutins, she's sipping her freaking champagne and she proclaiming loudly about her trip to Portugal or Greece or somewhere (yeah, I don't really listen that hard .....) to find a marriage location (her actual words. Whatevs girl .....) but I know it's all fake. I've been to her crummy apartment. I've sat on her frayed and faded red couch which reeks of cat pee. I've seen her so poor she's sitting on her bedroom floor crying, sorting through her clothes, picking out things to sell on eBay. I've seen her desperately trying to make something to eat out of a packet of mushrooms, a block of mouldy cheese and some questionable smelling chicken because she's spent all her money on fucking champagne.
This is my exact problem with her. She's so dishonest. I don't have a problem with someone having money and enjoying flashing it around a little, talking the talk at some party. But don't do this unless you actually have money. And don't forgo petrol that week to find the money, forcing you to get up at 4am to allow you the time for the two and half hour walk to work. This is a true story. There are a lot of people this crazy chick has fooled but I'm not one of them. I've known her for too long. I've shared an apartment with her. I've seen her sticky taping her bath taps back together because she can't afford to hire a plumber. That's a pretty dark time for anyone to live through. But instead of accepting that everyone goes through these things, and working hard to make life a bit more bearable, she's attempting to skip that and fake success instead, scrimping where no-one has any business scrimping (like tea bags. I'm really not happy reusing tea bags.) and splashing out on "props" for her trendy, lavish lifestyle. Yeah - her imaginary trendy, lavish lifestyle. I've tried an intervention with her. I was genuinely concerned about her spending habits and her sustainability. But she's not interested. So long as people flutter to her at social events, wowing over whatever bottle she brought for the evening I guess she feels like she's winning. But she bugs the crap outta me. I know it's petty to still care, it's not my problem. But I can't help but care when we were once close.
I'm digressing. What I'm trying to say is that reading Gone Girl was rather like spending an evening with this friend - boring, uncomfortable and with the knowledge that you just know you're being lied to constantly.
The basic plot is pretty straight forward: Amy disappears. Whodunit? I can't really say much more without spoiling the whole thing.
There are people in this world who love women. There are people in this world who love men. There are people in this world who love men and women. There are people who want to dress like a boy, and there are people who want to dress like a girl. And there are people who just want to dress in whatever way they feel comfortable. There are people in this world who follow a specific religion. There are people who follow no religion. There are people who follow their own edited version of faith and belief. There are people who are black, brown, white, pink and every shade in between. There are people who speak Spanish, or Chinese, or English, or any other number of the 6500 languages spoken around the world today. There are people who don't speak at all. There are people in this world who have mobility challenges, learning challenges, social challenges, mental health challenges. There are people who grow up quickly and there are people who like to take their time. There are millions of variations of tastes, desires, facial feature arrangement, values and everything else that makes us who we are. Get over it.
Every Day by David Levithan is one fucked up logic train, but the values and ideas it holds are beautiful.
"no matter what religion or gender or race or geographic background, we all have 98% in common with each other. Yes, the differences between male and female are biological, but if you look at the biology as a matter of percentage, there aren't a whole lot of things that are different. Race is different purely as a social construction, not as an inherent difference. And religion - wether you believe in God or Yahweh or something else, odds are that at heart you want the same things. For whatever reason, we like to focus on the 2% that's different, and most of the conflict in the world comes from that."
The story goes that A is an entity who does not possess a body, instead inhabiting a different body each day, never for more than one day. A has grown used to this way of life and has settled into this bizarre routine until along comes Rhiannon and A falls in love, finally finding a reason to long to stay put.
So yeah, the premise is strange. But that's not what I loved about this story. The rules are too riddled with holes for me to really get on board. No. What I loved about Every Day are all the things we can learn from A's unique perspective and outlook on life.
We had a super crazy storm here yesterday. Goddam snow showers all afternoon, as you can see from the last picture in the square. But the wind!! The wind was the worst of it. The bridge was closed, so that's a sign that some pretty nasty weather shit is going down. That bridge connects the city to the rest of the world. They don't close it lightly. The top pictures in that square I took this morning when I walked my dog in the park. That insane wind blew all those branches down. These are some old trees, so that was some strong wind.
I have to share this story: My now ex-flatmate has this little three year old niece who she watches when her sister needs a break. She took the kid to this zoo we have in the city. It's a mini-zoo, it's not like we've got tigers or anything wicked cool like that. But the day she decided to take her niece was incredibly windy. Not a great day for an outdoor activity, but they pressed on. They were stood watching the wolves in their pen whipping about because the wind tends to freak animals out somewhat. Well, my ex-flatmate is standing there holding her little three year old niece's hand, just quietly observing, just minding their business, enjoying their aunt-niece time together when this massive gust of wind swoops in and blows this huge goddam tree over on top of one of those wolves. Crushed it. Crushed it good and proper. It was horrific. I'm sure this girl wanted to create a memorable day for her sweet little niece, but I don't think this is exactly what she had in mind - death and destruction are not usually a given at a peaceful family outing .....
So you know when you're really looking forward to eating potato salad, and you saved it in the fridge for days and you can't stop thinking about it and you're imagining taking a bite and there's chives, and mayonnaise and creamy potato goodness and you just know that it's gonna make a really sucky day feel a whole lot better, like nothing else on earth will fill that void in your heart except potato salad right now, I mean it's the only thing that will cure this grey haze you've been wandering around in for the past few days and you have never been so sure of anything in your life than that potato salad is going to lift that pressure that's been heaped on your shoulders, there's literally no other fix than sitting down with a fork and that pot of potato salad and just letting it give you a big savoury, comforting hug. You know that feeling right?! Well sure maybe it's not potato salad, but just go ahead and substitute your favourite comfort food and you'll get an idea of the feeling I'm trying to remind you of here. Well now picture this: your darling hubby ate your goddam potato salad. He just ate it. With no ceremony I imagine. With no appreciation for what that potato salad means to you. Urgh - I bet he ate it standing over the damn sink or some other similar insult to potato salad/comfort foods everywhere. That potato salad deserved more.
And so did I.
I feel the same way about my stolen potato salad/happiness that I do about Legend by Marie Lu: bitterly disappointed and a little bit betrayed.
The back cover promised me that Legend was "based on a retelling of Les Miserables". Uhm ..... Really?! Where?! When?! I tried to shoehorn Legend into the story of Les Miserables but I just can't make it fit. Aside from Day have a somewhat passing similarity to Valjean, I'm really not seeing it. Maybe I missed something along the way, but I know Les Miserables fairly well, it being the only musical I can tolerate relatively happily, and I'm just having a hard time drawing parallels here.
So the actual story goes that the United States is divided and at war, the west being ruled most un-democratically by the Republic, a cruel and unjust government who have divided their society into a caste system run by an elite few, oppressing the majority by subjecting them to eternal poverty and hardship in order to maintain control. June, from the Republic's richest district is the military's 15 year old prodigy; Day from the slums is the country's most wanted 15 year old criminal. The two are thrown together when June's older brother is murdered, with Day as the prime suspect. Lots of leaping around, staring into each other's eyes, and staggering around clutching gunshot wounds ensues as the Republic tighten their grip on the citizens and Day and June uncover secrets that reveal the extent of their governments cruelty and control.
"When the detonation came, the world was divided."
This book is a treat for anyone who thinks they might enjoy a stomach turning, horrifying, emotionally intense dream-like vision of the end of the world, in all it's devastating, heartbreaking glory!!
In the second instalment of this awesome trilogy, the gang are desperately attempting to bring down the evil Willux and free the damaged earth of his murderous intent and iron fisted rule. Partridge pledges to infiltrate the dome, working undercover to stop his father before he brings his latest gruesome plan into action. Pressia and company race against time to discover the meaning behind the cryptic clues left to Bradwell by his family before they died, in the hope of preventing yet more bloodshed upon their already torn and wrecked people.
When I was at high school I liked to spend time in the biology labs. I was fascinated, and still am by the complexities and diversity of life. Yeah, that sounds super pretentious and blerk, but it's true. I guess I have an almost morbid interest in how the human body works and what happens when things go wrong. And boy, is there a lot to go wrong. It's a miracle that we're all here as we are - breathing, functioning, intelligent and unique, because it only takes one chromosome to step out of line and the whole thing turns to shit. When the body is being created before we are born, there are hundreds of complex systems in place to ensure everything is where it should be and we don't grow an eye instead of a toe or something. But this is a fragile balance of cell division, hormones and instructions encoded into strands of DNA. And it's easy for mistakes to be made. Like, at school we had this one eyed kitten preserved in a jar. Cyclops kitty. A perfect example of what can happen if your instruction manual is missing a page. Now, c'mon guys - don't you want to know more? Isn't that kinda fascinating?
Meet the piece of shit that nearly broke up my marriage. It's been a very tense couple of days. We moved house, finally growing up and buying a place of our own. But it came at a price. We had to wait three days for the Wi-Fi to be installed. This was basically one of the biggest challenges of married life I have yet encountered - life without the internet. Both my hubby and I do a lot of business online as well staying in touch with friends and family (all our loved ones live across the pond, while we suffer exile here in the UK for the next five years due to work and school commitments) so without our precious broadband we were just trapped, pacing, scowling and snapping at each other as we pictured emails, bills and deadlines mounting. Blood pressure rose, my hands were shaking, I smoked endlessly.
So today was the day. The technician arrived. Our reflective jacket clad saviour appeared in our doorway, an angelic glow surrounding him as he installed our broadband and telephone connection. I could have hugged him. I excitedly awaited the grand switching on of the broadband router, thinking we should have had a minor local celebrity come and cut a ribbon or something. You know, celebrate this occasion. Well ..... I gave my hubby one job. He literally had one job - to collect the router from our old home and bring it here to our new apartment. So I turned to him. I said Where's the router hubs?! my face aglow with anticipation, eyes shining eagerly. He stared at me. The router? he queried. Yup. He'd forgotten to bring it. I took a deep breath, hands balled into fists and asked through gritted teeth if he'd be so kind as to drive over to our old apartment and pick it up. So he went. Somehow this took two hours. I awaited his return with baited breath. He held the router aloft triumphantly upon his return, plugged the thing into the wall socket with a flourish and ..... He'd forgotten to bring the power cable. Well this was the final straw for me. I'm not proud to admit it but I snapped. I had waited three goddam days for my sodding Wi-Fi and not only did the router get left behind, it somehow eventually made it here without a freaking power cable. So guess who had to walk all the way across the city to pick up the damn thing? Yup. Me. I think the moral of the story is never underestimate how long it takes to train a husband and never attempt to live life without the internet. It doesn't work.