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review 2014-05-19 11:30
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

I’m Hazel, I’d say when they’d get to me. Sixteen. Thyroid originally but with an impressive and long-settled satellite colony in my lungs.

Hazel was, at the beginning of the story, a somewhat depressed character. She was terminally ill, her death prognosticated at her diagnosis. Her depression is, she says, not a side effect of cancer. It is a side effect of dying. Cancer is a side effect of dying. Everything is a side effect of dying.

 

Hazel's parents makes her attend a Support Group with a rotating cast of members (side effect of dying) , where she meets characters like Isaac (hilarious guy, especially when playing video games), Patrick (tells the same cancer survivor story every week) and she has her own healthy BFF, Kaitlyn, whose existence I kept forgetting.

 

Family relationships

 

Me: “I refuse to attend Support Group.”

Mom: “One of the symptoms of depression is disinterest in activities.”

Me: “Please just let me watch America’s Next Top Model. It’s an activity.”

Mom: “Television is a passivity.”

 

Hazel's mother is more fleshed out as a character than her father. The only thing I know about the poor man is that he works in an office and that he tries very hard not to cry, often with little success.

I went to Support Group for the same reason that I’d once allowed nurses with a mere eighteen months of graduate education to poison me with exotically named chemicals: I wanted to make my parents happy. There is only one thing in this world shittier than biting it from cancer when you’re sixteen, and that’s having a kid who bites it from cancer.

Cancer doesn't only affect the patient. It often affects the entire family - emotionally and financially. I've had a relative who died from cancer, but when she was alive, her siblings pooled their resources to finance the very expensive series of treatments where one needle shot costed thousands. They had to take time off to drive her around to places for treatments, to religious events, and to handle all the extra care she needed.

 

The Romance

 

The Hazel/Augustus love story takes up a significant portion of this book - more than I initially expected, but was quickly resigned to. They were introduced rather early on the story and then proceeded to fell in love with each other rather rapidly.

(Side effect of dying?)

(spoiler show)

 

Augustus is a pretty boy who, thankfully, seems to have some brain cells in his head, He says pretentious things like "my thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations." But then there are times when he sounded like a teenage FANGIRL. Example:

OH MY GOD DO THEY GET MARRIED OR NOT OH MY GOD WHAT IS THIS

(spoiler show)

 

There's this declaration of always/forever that fictional characters always make to each other - this promise of infinity that is a paradox in itself, because nothing lasts forever and everything ends, and they know this, especially characters in a story like this, who knows that forever is a beautiful lie, a promise that cannot be kept. They promise it anyway, and I don't get it, because Death will inevitably separate them even if nothing else does.

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-02-10 15:57
Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell

(There are some mild spoilers in here. Just chill - I said mild)

 

I was so disappointed with Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. Like, crushingly disappointed. It was the same kind of disppointment I feel when I make soft boiled eggs and I leave them in the pan moments too long so that when I crack them open I discover the yolk has set (I take breakfast very seriously)

 

I was expecting the same level of adorably, squishy, heart-felt loveliness to be found in Fangirl but instead Eleanor and Park fell flat for me with it's drawn out, awkward romance, squirmy instalove and eye-rollingly embarrassing stereotypes.

 

Eleanor and Park's relationship felt to me like two corks in a bathtub - two separate, stiff, dry objects bumping into each other occasionally when they are tossed together by nothing more than the waves of their environment. I felt no connection to them, no warmth for their growing love for each other. I felt like they were thrown together by mere circumstance. They spot each other across the aisle of the crowded school bus, the stench of vicious teens out for the blood of the New Girl, Eleanor hot in the air. Park catches sight of her head of flaming red hair, her pirate outfit, her strangeness. Does he ask himself "Who is this intriguing, bold, chaotic girl?" Does he vow to learn more about her, for her oddity makes her fascinating? Does he attempt to catch her eye, for he must know her, he must discover her secrets, hear her story? No:

 

""Sit down," he said. It came out angrily. The girl turned to him, like she couldn't tell wether he was another jerk or what. "Jesus-fuck," Park said softly, nodding to the space next to him, "just sit down,""

 

Delightful. However, instead of telling him to, as we say here in Scotland get tae fuck Eleanor and he fall deeply and irrevocably in love in the time it takes me to blink. I genuinely thought I had missed something. One moment Park is ashamed to be seen just sitting near Eleanor, the next moment he's sharing comic books with her and drop kicking some dude outside the high school because he disrespected her. I hate instalove with a violent passion. It's lazy, it's nonsensical and it's basically missing a trick. The way people fall in love and get to know one another makes for a great story. Why do authors insist on sweeping over relationship origin stories, scrawling it on the page in thick felt tip, where it requires to be written delicately with a feathered quill. People are fascinating, complicated and intricate. But when instalove is rammed into a plot line all this depth of character and complexity is entirely obliterated. People rarely do things just becuz (unless they are following the ancient teachings of YOLO) so why authors attempt to write characters that behave this way and then expect us to believe in them is really beyond me.

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review 2013-11-14 19:17
For Your Eyes Only (aka How Many Freaking Plots Can We Fit Into One Story)
For Your Eyes Only - Sandra Antonelli

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

Sandra Antonelli’s blog title says it all: Quirky Romance Novels for Grown Ups…and Smart Asses.  This is exactly what her books are and in part, they are quite a bit of fun.

 

 

"Holy, holy shit.  I love that you didn't stop and ask for directions."

 

                                                         - Willa to John after having sex for the first time

 

Synopsis:

Willa and John meet by accident when she comes back to Los Alamos, NM to investigate a charge of possible espionage which  may involve her best friend, Dominic Brennan (H from A Basic Renovation).  She is FBI who years before, worked undercover as a quantum physicist in the Los Alamos National Laboratory with Dominic who was totally unaware of her ‘real’ job).  To say Dominic is mad is an understatement.  

In fact, he is so mad he later allows her to unwittingly drink a very strong alcoholic beverage, knowing she has a low tolerance for alcohol.  Needless to say, she gets really drunk and passes out in John’s powder room who doesn’t find her until the next morning.

 

For the record, I didn’t like Dominic in A Basic Renovation and I like him even less in this book.  His temper was way out of proportion for a good part of the first book which caused some huge rifts with the h, Lesley, and while I could understand his being mad about not being told about Willa’s real profession (she became an FBI agent AFTER they met at MIT and became friends, and hell yeah, I’d be mad too if my best friend was recruited to the FBI and she neglected to tell me), it was cruel and dangerous to allow her to drink as much as she did.  He also said some pretty unforgivable things to her which was very reminiscent of the first book.  In either case there was no grovel which is a huge pet peeve for me.

(spoiler show)

 

 

Right away, there is some serious chemistry between John and Willa and as a result some very funny bantering back and forth.  They are both older and both have had past serious relationships as both were married before and while John has been divorced for several years,

 

“He’d been married a long time ago in a galaxy known as the 90’s.”

 

Willa was widowed 18 months before the start of this story.  John especially, is ready to try again for a serious relationship and he’s decided Willa is the one to try with.  She is understandably reluctant as she has a job to do and can't be totally honest with him about it.  Let the Insta-Love ensue!

Within five days, they are madly, deeply, in love!

(spoiler show)

 

 

 

Along with all of this we have a bunch of other shit going on including Willa’s very conflictive relationship with her step-daughter, a sub plot with two other men (one, a fellow FBI agent and the other a Lab employee), both of whom also have a crush on Willa, an investigation into a possible murder, a meth lab bust, and enough 80’s pop culture references to choke a horse.

 

My Thoughts:

What we mainly have here is a book that didn't know if it wanted to be a romance, a police procedural, a murder mystery, or chick lit.

 

I could have come very close to loving this book and I wanted to sooooo bad cuz I think this author has a great voice and writes great banter BUT the non-stop info dumping, copious amount of secondary characters along with weirdly thorough descriptions of said secondary characters kept kicking me out of the story as I went along.

 

First, the good:

 

  • Protags are mature, likable, funny, and have great chemistry together from the get go.

 

  • Dialogue is snappy and fun and real and story is emotional and heartfelt.

 

  • A murder mystery that did actually have me guessing for most of the book.

 

  • Location is unusual – Los Alamos, NM, home of the Manhattan Project (and my home state) with great detailed description of different locales. Antonelli also gives a shout out to one of my favorite historical authors and a NM resident herself, Laura Kinsale, naming an FBI agent after her, so you go Sandra. ;o)

 

 

And then the not so good:

 

  • Massive info dumping and tons of introspective chatter in almost every part of the book, sometimes about important things the reader should know about but ended up being dragged out for so long that I ended up not caring about why they were being discussed/thought about after a while or they were about such unimportant and/or trivial things that it never should have been mentioned anyway.

 

  • Several typos and one section of gobbledy-gook I couldn’t make heads or tails of.  Once again, I point out that this is Escape Publishing, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia, and I’m thinking we should be well past having this many of these types of errors.

 

There were also some truly WTFery moments which had me totally scratching my head:

 

  • I am deducting a whole star because nowhere did we see a couple of very important characters from the first book: Lesley’s grandfather, a Sicilian fireball who IMO, saved the first book with his hilarious, if over the top antics as well as Dominic’s son, Kyle, who was a very important character and who supposedly is Willa’s godson in this book.  Seeing as Dominic and Lesley play a pretty big part in the events here, I would think their kid should probably show up at some point.  Instead we get Lesley's brother, Sean, a nosy, blowhard dickweed, who judges everyone by the size of his/her bank account.  Even Dominic’s domineering and scary mother would have been welcome so that we could at least see what was going on in her little psychotic world. 

 

So this begs the question, why in the world would you not bring back some of the best things about this series?  Why drop in completely unnecessary and frankly, weird one-off characters that don’t do a damn thing to drive the story?  The author sacrificed these two great characters in order to add a huge cast of other characters who, while they may have had minor roles, didn't necessarily deserve the airtime ultimately given to them.

 

  • Extremely thorough (and not in a good way) characterizations and descriptions of said secondary characters.  Normally you might say this isn’t a bad thing but in this case, yes. Yes it was a bad thing cuz every, and I mean Every. Single. Character - and action - and reaction - and thought - were described to the nth degree in this book. Minor or major. Important or unimportant. Necessary or unnecessary.  This included extremely exaggerated accents and countless details about clothing, personality traits, habits, looks, etc.

 

  • Dominic’s and later, Lesley’s totally inappropriate and violent behavior toward Willa.

 

  • H’s laugh – yes, I said his laugh, or in this case, his sniff-sniff-sniffing.  This started in the previous book and apparently the author thought it would be a good idea to carry this endearing (not) trait over to this book – ad nauseam. Stupid Kobo apparently doesn’t have a search feature on their iPhone app or I would have counted, but take my word, in every fucking chapter, we are treated to John laughing, oops - I mean sniffing in hilarity.

 

  • Last but not least, towards the end of the book, John jumps to a major conclusion regarding Willa's and Dominic's relationship, says very hurtful things and ta-daaaaaa - no grovel.  
    He spends a good part of the book insisting that her having a male best friend is no biggie (and in fact, his best friend is Lesley who BTW, he was interested in romantically in the first book) but after Lesley punches Willa in the stomach, he assumes the worst!
    (spoiler show)
     WTF?

 

Sigh.

 

I predict a third book and I have a feeling I know who the main male protagonist will be.  I really, really want to know about his story but I just don’t know if I’ve got it in me to pony up what will probably be a very reasonable amount to find out.

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review 2013-10-31 00:42
One Wrong Move
One Wrong Move - Shannon McKenna

This is the ninth offering in McKenna's McCloud and Friends series and it pretty much lives up to the usual McKenna formula.

 

The beginning of the book finds Nina (h) being injected with a super-psi formula by an old acquaintance and she is taken to the hospital where she is almost killed by the bad guys.  She gets away then commits a TSTL move.  

She goes home to gather stuff and get out of town and decides to change, completely undressing, surely knowing the baddies are after her.  Now you would think she would assume they can and will find her address and be showing up before too long but apparently not.  She ends up almost dying at the hands of the Aaro's (H) cousin before Aaro finds her.

(spoiler show)

 Aaro rescues her and they go on the run.  

 

Let the instalove/lust commence!  Of course they sleep together almost immediately.  One thing the reader most definitely gets plenty of, is sex which I think McKenna does well, if formulaically.  Couples in all the McCloud books pretty much fall in instalove which in this case, seemed to work as this was definitely a life or death situation.  

Nina and Aaro are both injected with a formula that enhances/causes psychic abilities but they must receive a second injection to prevent death within 3-5 days.

(spoiler show)

 

I mostly liked Aaro and Nina though their characterizations were shallow and not very finely drawn.  As is common in this series, there were lots of generalizations and not a ton of background on these two.  As this is the case with most all of McKenna’s couples, it was pretty much expected and not a huge disappointment but I wouldn't mind being surprised once in a while.  That's actually only happened once with Ultimate Weapon, which I loved.  What we did get was plenty of playful banter that made me smile and an uber-possessive self-made millionaire H who wanted to kill any other man who dared look at his woman and I was good with that also.

 

What I didn't like:

 

I got more information than I ever wanted about Miles (H in next book) and unfortunately, readers were in his head waaaaay too much!  And let me tell you, it's not pretty.  

 

Another drawback was that the immense cast of characters, both bad guys and good guys, was almost more than my poor brain could keep up with.  Note to author:  It is not necessary to mention every fucking character, past, present, and future ever written into one of you books.  I just don’t care.

 

All in all, I enjoyed this one but will not keep and probably won’t reread.

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review 2013-06-11 22:12
REVIEW: Invisibility by Andrea Cremer & David Levithan
Invisibility - Andrea Cremer,David Levithan
MY THOUGHTS: This was one of those books that I picked up, put back, and hemmed and hawed over because I wasn't completely sure if I wanted to buy it, or borrow from the library. In May I attended the Rochester Teen Book Fest and was able to sit in on a panel that was comprised of Andrea Cremer & David Levithan. They spoke about the book that they had decided to co-author, and Invisibility was my first experience of both authors (Even though I own book #1 of Cremer's Nightshade series).
After hearing Cremer & Lethivan answer questions pertaining to writingInvisibility, and listening in as they read from chapter 5 (Cremer reading as Elizabeth while Levithan gave voice to the invisible Stephen). I am so glad that I got to see these 2 authors together, because they have such an incredible connection, such life to them and a great sense of reality and kindness that I HAD to buy a copy of Invisibility then and there - and get it signed by both of them.
 
Invisibility didn't disappoint. While I didn't completely fall in love with either Elizabeth or Stephen's characters, I did adore Elizabeth's brother, Laurie. I will say that each character was a breath of fresh air, in that I cannot think of any other characters in previously read books that I'd compare them to. While I do have issues with the insta-love, I will say it was forgivable in this story, considering one part of the couple is invisible. You don't run into that everyday!
 
The story started out a bit slow, giving the characters time to tell us their stories before dumping them into a new situation with brand new challenges. I wasn't sure how paranormal the plot would get, other than the invisibility aspect. I was pleasantly surprised, though with how cursecasters, spellcasters, and spellseekers were introduced into the tale. Both well executed and entertaining, I loved reading about the history of the magic users and meeting Millie and Saul.
 
I don't love or hate how the book ended, and while there could very well be room for a sequel or spin off (which I'd quickly purchase without all of the indecisive inner debating) both author's seemed pretty content at leaving the story where it ended and not revisiting. Of course that can always change - so I'd welcome more chapters about these characters and story line. There are definitely ties left loose that would be interesting to see where they would continue/go with it.
 
It was also very interesting to see the theme of invisibility - whether physical or mental/emotional - engulf each of the characters in different ways. From past pains to future anticipations; I love the way both Cremer & Levithan write and tell their story (from what I recall, Levithan wrote odd chapters narrated from Stephen's POV starting at #1 while Cremer picks up the evens, Elizabeth's POV beginning with #2). When I mentioned the connection they had in person earlier on in my review, that tether continues to keep them paired up while alternating chapters, working separately and only communicating to ensure they both had the same end goal in mind.
 
I would freely recommend this book to any of Cremer's or Levithan's fans (old & new), or anyone who loves a good love story with the typical trials and tribulations trying to keep them apart; or even if you are looking to step slowly into the paranormal genre, this would be a great book for you.
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