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Merry Christmas! Here are some half-butted book reviews

December 25, 2015

Where were we? Four stars of 2014, right.

Rainbow Rowell is great. Her book Attachments is also great. What is not great is that the characters are generally crap people in the beginning and that made it difficult for me to fall in love with it. I wanted to punch these twenty-somethings all the time. It was like Everything You Dislike About Millennials, but Actually True Stuff Not the BS on the Internet. But eventually they grew on me, or I liked it despite them. It’s probably my least favorite of her books, but that’s not saying much.

Richelle Mead put out her second book in the awkwardly-named Age of X series, The Immortal Crown. It was good! I’m not sure I liked it as much as the first book, but isn’t that often the way when you’re looking at a series? Age of X is sort of like futuristic American Gods, and is not a teen series like her Vampire Academy books, if it wasn’t otherwise clear. These are adults doing adult-y things.

E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars is a dark, broody tale of privilege, love, and loss. It’s definitely for that type of person who enjoys Lauren Oliver, which I sort of do but not as much as I want to. It’s a good back-to-back read with Oliver’s four-star book of the year, Rooms, although I don’t think Rooms is a YA book. Still, there are some interesting similarities, including tone. What kept Rooms from being a five-star book is Oliver’s tendency toward flowery language in the beginning of her work, which always drives me batcrazy. Once it settles down, it’s a great book.

Scott Westerfeld’s book Afterworlds is amazing. It tells the story of a young author getting her first book published, and alternates with the book she’s writing. The problem is that the first scene of the book-within-a-book is so intensely, heart-stoppingly good that nothing else could ever compare to it, so the book-within-a-book quickly becomes the least interesting part of the story. Both parts are interesting on their own; together, they may not be naturally stronger, but it’s a cool, unusual take on storywriting and the publishing business.

Sara Farizan’s second novel Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel highlights how far she’s come since her debut. Her writing flows better, although that could be because this book is set in America and she doesn’t have to walk the thin line between describing Iranian culture and telling a good story.  It’s about an Iranian-American girl who knows she’s attracted to other girls, but has kept it under the radar, until a new student dazzles her. Great book to rec to LGBTQA(etc) teens.

Jojo Moyes seems to be one of those writers from somewhere else that’s been big over there but has only now crossed over here. I could be wrong about that, but suddenly, I am seeing her everywhere. I decided to try out her book One Plus One, and I’m glad I did. It has a sort of Nick Hornby feel to it. A single mom has a kid who’s really good in math and…you know what? Whatever. It’s one of the most honestly subtle books about poverty that I’ve read. The simple desperation of single parenthood. And also it’s a great story. So there’s that as well. I’d like to read another book of hers, but finding the time has been tough. (Because of all the other books I have much closer to my fingertips.)

I read two four-star Christopher Pike books last year: Master of Murder and Tales of Terror, the latter of which includes a story with the main character from the former. M of M is a book I didn’t own as a kid, so it was fun to pick it up. I’m pretty sure I’ve read it before, but I didn’t practically memorize it like I have with so many Pike books, which made it a treat. Same with Tales, although it’s basically got three stars worth of content. As I said on Goodreads, “The 4th star is for the insight of his introductions. He calls himself a genius and says he never dated in high school.” Never change, Kevin.

Speaking of horror, Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes is a good book to use to explain why Stephen King is not as huge as he was when I was growing. The world has changed, Mr. King, and I often wonder if you are changing with it. The constant stream of racism from the villain’s inner monologues are tiresome and, frankly, come off like they were written by a teenager who gets off on the idea of shocking people. But racism isn’t shocking to a post-Obama world, Mr. King. Also, his jive-talking black sidekick and the women in the book are written incredibly awkwardly. Despite that, the book is entertaining, but not enough to immediately pick up the second book when it came out.

Sarah Waters’s book Tipping the Velvet is basically insane. Like, good insane. Great insane. It’s about a girl who spends her life shucking clams or something (oops, oysters) and then sees a stage act and immediately falls in love with either the actress, acting, or both. It’s raunchy Dickens; it’s Victorian soap opera. It’s amazing. I’m not quite sure why I gave it four stars. It also has a watered-down, means-well television that I would suggest you skip but hey, you can do what you want.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is about a kid who’s on the spectrum who’s annoying and trying to solve what he believes is a mystery. It’s a fascinating look into the way a neuroatypical mind works. Haddon, who also wrote the great A Spot of Bother (which I listened to on audiobook; love the reader), has this way of keeping you reading even if you want to throttle the characters.

Robot Uprisings is a compilation of short stories, many of them ranging from good to very good, edited by Daniel H. Wilson of Robopocalypse fame. I didn’t note which stories I liked best, but it’s rare for me to give a four-star rating to an anthology, so they must’ve mostly been good across the board.

Stephanie Perkins’s Anna and the French Kiss trilogy ends with Isla and the Happily Ever After. Except for the part where I couldn’t get the pronunciation of Isla right, it was a cute wrap-up with interesting characters and closure for the other ones. I really liked this series. I wish more series took place in other cultures. When did we stop being Francophiles? Or was that just me as a kid?

Four-star first issues from Image Comics: Tim Seeley’s Revival, Greg Rucka’s Lazarus, Ed Brubaker’s Velvet, and Kurtis J. Wiebe’s Rat Queens (which ended up being a five-star series, I believe).

Speaking of comics, I read Mark Millar’s Superior, and it’s an odd little story about a kid with MS and how he gets the ability to turn himself into a superhero. It gets trippy at the end, but it’s a solid read (especially if you like trippy).

Whew, okay, I’m almost tapped out here. No, never mind, I really am tapped out. And I have a family event to get to. Except more tomorrow or Sunday, since I want to get 2014 done by New Year’s Day.


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