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WIB: Nov 10-16 (NaBlo: Day 18)

November 18, 2013

Getting back to normal: I read four books in a week.  It’s nowhere near what I was reading before, when I was knocking out a dozen books a week, but hey.  Makes for less time spent at the computer blogging, I guess.

I began last week with Just One Year, Gayle Forman’s follow-up book to Just One Day.  Like her If I Stay/Where She Went books, we get a relationship from the girl’s side and the guy’s, with these books are written as somewhat chronologically parallel.  In the first book, we meet Allyson, who throws away her usual cares for a day in Paris with a cute guy, Willem, and how the choices she makes in that day change her over the course of her next year.  In the second book, we begin with Willem on the day after their “day” and the year that follows, and how he is changed by their encounter as well.  I don’t believe Willem is your usual dreamboat/perfect guy from a lot of YA.  He’s not the flip-side new favorite Damaged Child, either, although he’s got some issues.  He starts the book fairly self-destructive and moves forward, through countries and new friendships and bad relationships and awkward family encounters.  He becomes a person who is worthy of a relationship, and happiness, and actual contentment, as Allyson becomes a person who’s worthy of those things as well, far away from the pages of this book.  I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as the first one, but then again, it’s been so long.  I completely forgot what happened to Allyson after The Day, but you don’t need to remember because that’s not what this book is.  It may have helped though.  I suggest reading them together and see what you think.  I probably will do that in the future.

Next I read John Vornholt’s Masks, a Star Trek: The Next Generation book that is as awkward, stilted, and endearing as the early seasons of the show itself.  Picard, Worf, and Deanna take an Ambassador to a planet colonized by Earthlings two hundred years before but since ceased contact.  Their masks, which they wear every day, have been showing up in Ferengi black market trading, and the Federation wants to open trade with them as well.  Picard goes against Riker’s better judgment (not our CAPTAIN!), and the Ambassador, Lewis, immediately hates Riker and loves Picard.  He wants them to explore like his ancestor, of Lewis & Clark fame.  He says “Lewis & Picard” way too many times for comfort.  He also comes off to me like part Crocodile Dundee, part Indiana Jones, and all douchebag.  The away team immediately lose contact with the ship because of the same reason the settlers lost contact with the mother planet: volcanic ash pretty much gets into everything.  Riker IMMEDIATELY loses his shit and puts together an away team so fast HE FORGETS TO BRING MASKS, and magically manages to end up exactly in the right place to make the plot move along.

I hate that this book treats one part of the planet like the whole of the planet, and that Picard OF COURSE bangs a hot native like he goes to bed each night with the Captain Kirk Playbook, but otherwise, it’s very interesting.  The masks are part of a “theater tradition” and represent the hierarchy of the planet.  They’re also a good way to keep your face clear from the mask.

Oh wait, yeah, and because of the masks, the natives’ skin is very slow to age or mark, so the adult woman Picard bangs is described more than once as having a “child’s face.”  Ewwww.

But I loved this book when I was a kid, and remembered the “twist” about half-way through.  I also remembered the end of it completely wrong, and there were definitely some times that the author tries too hard–and is in luuurve with Troi (but weren’t we all?).  But it reads about as well as the early episodes, so I can’t fault it too much. It’s quite reflective of the source material.

Then I knocked out V.C. Andrews’s If There Be Thorns, the third book in the Dollanganger series of Flowers in the Attic fame.  I started it a few years ago as a reread during the book club’s Nostalgia Month, but I could not get into it.  For some reason, I had no problems slipping back into Bart and Jory’s heads and what I found there becomes more disturbing with each reread.  The book takes place when Bart is nine and Jory fourteen, and Bart is a weird little kid, anti-social and with a nerve problem that means that he can’t feel anything but the deepest physical pain.  (For some reason, this went over my head when I read it as a kid.  I thought it was a sign of his mental problems, but it’s actually a physical thing.)  Their parents have mostly isolated them from other children and neighbors so that their relationship won’t be discovered; their mother, Cathy, even goes by the original name on her dance studio as a way to hide her identity.  But Jory dances and they go to school.  Summer comes and they’re mostly alone, and a secretive, black-clad woman moves into the house next door with her creepy butler–or is it her husband?–and the two of them begin to tell Bart secrets and lies that will emotionally damage him for all his days.

Yeah.  Horrifying.

What’s worse is that it’s written in first person, alternating between the boys, so as Bart loses his mind, you’re right there with him.

I don’t know why I couldn’t get into the book a couple years ago.  I guess I thought Bart was a bad narrator, but upon re-reading I felt Andrews/Neiderman kept him consistent enough that if he’s not the best child narrator, at least he’s always Bart.  The book can be pretty awkward–really?  Jory never wrote Madame M about his family?–but mostly it’s just another terrifying ride into the mind of the most creepy family in all of literature.

Finally, I read the new Mira Grant, Parasite, the first in a series called Parasitology.  This is no Feed, unfortunately; it reads like a second draft.  The “twist” at the very end is laughable (although for a second, I was like BWUH? and thought maybe it wasn’t going to go that way, and then of course it did), and the characters can at times be wooden.  Once again, Grant proves to me that she’s one of the worst relationship writers in fiction; the main character and her boyfriend talk like roommates at best, and sometimes like exposition-dumping strangers.

But it’s still a fun ride.  I’m just more critical of it because I expected more from Grant.  The story is that everyone uses intestinal parasites as a way to deal with our increased weakening to allergens and the like because all we ever do is use Purell.  Then people start acting weird, and perhaps the parasites are involved?  The main character, whose parasite revived her from brain death after a car accident, becomes a pawn between the military and the medical company responsible for the parasites.

I saw on Goodreads that someone was like, “Oh yeah, like we’d put PARASITES in us.”  Um, hi, Botox calling?  Cocaine and poisons and radiation in makeup?  We’ll try whatever.  Don’t fool yourself.

So there you go: FOUR WHOLE BOOKS.  Next up: Old-school Gordon Korman, Flowers in the Attic in a kids’ book, and more! (I hope.)

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