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The Week/Month/Year in Books

November 30, 2014

I’m way behind in my half-assed reviews. (55 books reviewed of almost 200 read this year.)  I’ve gotta learn a way to do this a little better.  I tried “write on a certain day of the week,” but then that day got jammed with things and it didn’t work.  I’ve tried “once a week” but without having a day set aside I keep putting it off.

Buuuut it’s not like someone’s paying me for this, so I’m going to let the guilt go and do a little catch-up.

Reviews are often half-assed, as mentioned above, but rarely contain anything you can’t read on the inside flap of the book.

*

Insurgent, Allegiant, and Four by Veronica Roth

The rest of the Divergent trilogy takes us deep into the mysteries of the factions and the new-to-us/old-to-them history of the city of Chicago, as well as what happened to the rest of the United States.  Tris and her teacher-boyfriend, Four, find out how difficult it is to try to have a functional relationship during a revolution (hella difficult, especially if you’re not always on the same page, revolution-wise), and also how difficult it is to deal with hormones when you’re not only in the middle of a revolution, but one where almost no one gets a room to themselves (again, hella difficult).  As the series comes to a somewhat satisfying conclusion, the reader is left to wonder: what is the message?  It’s gotta be something between “adults like power” and “you can’t make an omelet without cracking some heads.”  Seriously, the whole series is a Russian nesting doll of adults power-tripping and everyone thinking they’re better than everyone else except a handful of teenagers.  Except, metaphorically speaking, you start with the smallest doll.

Four, on the other hand, is just a couple of “stories” where Four is the main character.  Roth tells us that she originally tried to write the book from Four’s perspective, so the book feels like a series of semi-rough drafts and rewritten scenes so that we can see from Four’s eyes.  A way to fulfill her book deal?  Maybe.  I don’t think Roth is like “I need more money” in this case, though.  She really likes Four, and fans don’t like to let go.  Here’s a nice compromise where she probably didn’t have to do a ton of work.  Good on her for making money off of it.

*

A lotta Stiefvater: Shiver; Sinner; The Scorpio Races; Blue Lily, Lily Blue

I’ve mentioned The Wolves of Mercy Falls series before, and can sum up as follows: atmospheric, sub-par plotting and pacing, good characterization, great romance.  Shiver is the first of the series, where we’re introduced to Grace and Sam.  Grace was attacked by werewolves as a child but never turned, and is super-sad about it; Sam IS a werewolf and hates it.  They fall in love, the wolves are threatened, things happen, people are introduced.  It’s a good book, it really is.  I enjoyed the heck out of it.  But taken with the other two in the series (Linger, Forever), Stiefvater’s writing flaws are pretty obvious.  Fortunately, she tosses them out with the companion book in the series, Sinner, where she writes about non-Sam and Grace characters and is like, “This is going to be all about the romance.”  As a result, the book shines–and darkens, and then shines again, because these are not well-adjusted people like Sam and Grace.  They are moody, and self-destructive, and actually destructive.  Stiefvater does a great job here of giving us leads who are utter assholes, and gets us to root for them.  Not everyone can pull that off.

The Scorpio Races is her first and perhaps best book.  I know so little about horses that I literally had to look up water horses to see if they were real.  I mean, I was only on the first couple pages, and I was very confused.  But it turns out that water horses are a myth and I was like, “Oh, magic stuff,” but Stiefvater does a great job getting you to care about man-killing horses, poor people with ill-defined accents on an island that I guess was made up too?, and a race that sounds like a bunch of idiots doing idiot things.  If you are not a horse person, you still may like this book.  I speak from experience.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue is the third but not final book in the Raven Boys series, about which I am saddened because it does seem like the series could’ve ended by now if her pacing had been tighter.  But then we wouldn’t have gotten all of the author’s usual self-indulgent sentences describing Ronan that make no actual sense when you say them aloud, stuff like “He was a slash on the sky” (not an exact quote).  OH OKAY.  Blue’s mom is…missing or something, and there’s some hillbilly character I really liked, and I know things happen but it barely felt like it because PACING.  It is forgettable unless you want to immerse yourself in the characters.  I, however, feel like the characters mostly exist in Stiefvater’s head and not on the page, so I have no desire to do that.  This is still a book that you can read and feel good about, but I can’t convince myself that she’s getting better at this series thing.  If anything, I feel like this book was a lot of filler.

*

Alias: Volumes 1-3 by Brian Michael Bendis

JESSICA JONES JESSICA JONES JESSICA JONES

I did a reread to hold myself over until this show gets its butt on the air.  Does it stand the test of time? Why yes is does.  Am I even more bitter that I have to wait and wait and wait before I can see Jessica on any screen?  Yes yes yes.  Also bitter that volume 4 hasn’t popped up at the Book Barn yet.  If you haven’t read the story of the super who isn’t hero, that’s on you.  But I can see you waiting for the show at this point.  I GUESS.

*

Starman: Volumes 1-6 by James Robinson et al

Now that we are in a magical time where superheroes reign on television, I grow increasingly saddened that Starman has not been picked up by pretty much anyone.  Supergirl?  Sure.  Constan-freakin’-tine?  Yup!  An off-shoot of the MCU based on that one guy that made everyone laugh in Iron Man and cry in Avengers?  Let’s do this thing!  Even Sandman and all the other Vertigo titles are getting a looksie (except maybe Fables because Once Upon a Time?).  I am even getting Jessica Jones, like God intended. BUT NOT MY STARMAN.  AND I ASK YOU, WHY NOT?

My husband thinks that the writing isn’t great.  In fact, he thinks the writing is trying way too hard to be great (read: Gaiman on Sandman).  I agree with him there are times where it’s a bit obvious, but the concept, the characters, the stories: I still love them all, and they need to get on TV.  Starman is Gotham before Gotham: the city is a character, beloved of its heroes, protected by even the most suspect of its inhabitants.  And anything with childlike-Grundy is nice (and heartbreaking).  But the library, for some reason, only has the first six volumes.  Sigh.

Mostly it made me angry that The Mist on The Flash is Kyle.

*

The Magicians, The Magician King, and The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

I found a copy of The Magicians in one of those Little Free Library boxes that’s really just a take-a-book/leave-a-book in a pleasing shape, not really what I think of as a “library” at all.  I vaguely remembered maybe someone I like reading it, so I thought I’d get to it eventually.  Then another friend (not the one I remembered) was like, “I have the second one to lend you when you’re done with the first!” so, okay.

It’s, in essence, Harry Potter if Harry Potter dealt more about hormones than just pages and pages of makeouts in book four, and if Harry Potter were more like Draco Malfoy.  And if it didn’t take years and years for incredibly horrible things to happen.  And if you smoosh in some Narnia.  And if Harry Potter never shut the hell up about boobs.

Boy, don’t I make it sound great?  But it IS great, I promise you.  It’s dark and creepy and feels much more real than Harry Potter ever did.  But it’s definitely not PG.  Quentin is the asshole Potter/Malfoy hybrid in question; he’s really smart and magic turns out to be his thing.  He’s whisked away to a school that keeps magic almost as boring as the beginning of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and then this horrible thing happens and then more horrible things happen and then there’s a lot of discovering sex for the first time, and then there are two more books that follow this asshole until maybe he’s not the worst, most self-obsessed person in the world anymore.  Meanwhile, other horrible things happen to other people who are probably a hell of a lot better than Quentin, and we read about those too, and then the end is really satisfying.

I don’t want to give away too much, but it’s a great series, if you can put up with Quentin and how dark the whole thing gets.  And then, when you’re done, you can nod your head along with this article, which you shouldn’t hover over beforehand because even the title has spoilers.

But if reading about a privileged jerk pisses you off before you even open the book, you may want to skip this series.

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