Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Secret History

Title: The Secret History
Author: Donna Tartt
Gist: “The Secret History” is the story of six friends  (Richard, Camilla, Charles, Edmund, Francis and Henry) who attend a very posh university in rural New England. They have it all: beauty, wealth, sophistication, intelligence, exclusivity, mystery, and are connected by an unparalleled devotion to studying Ancient Greek.
Driven by the boredom of not having a care in the world, they begin to engage in a wide array of immoral activities that test their apparent limitlessness. Their demented devotion to extreme experiences eventually tear them apart and leads to their individual demises. 
Told though the first person narration of this groups latest inductee, Richard (who unlike the other five comes from a middle-class family and is most sensitive to the strange behaviors of the group), this is a tragic but extremely sophisticated coming-of-age mystery that starts with the death of one of group member and and ends with the death of another. The suspense surrounding the reason behind each death is worth the 576 page effort because it unveils the ugliness behind the impeccably beautiful introductory facade Camilla, Charles, Edmund, Francis and Henry put up when they first meet Richard. The five of them easily comprise the most attractive and captivating set of supporting characters I’ve encountered in all fiction I’ve read this year. Like some mysterious, beautiful yet dangerous creatures, they live their outlandish lives beautifully and meet their tragic ends just as beautifully.
Richard is the narrator, but in many ways he is no more involved in the story than the reader. Like us he is taken for a strange ride as a spectator, incapable of changing the course of events set in motion by the other five. It’s only his sense of undying devotion and curiosity about what is to unfold that keeps him and us astride for the whole ride. We are Richard and Richard is us from start to finish. 
"It's a very Greek idea, and a very profound one. Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely?...To be absolutely free!...To sing, to scream, to dance barefoot in the woods in the dead of night, with no more awareness of mortality than an animal! These are powerful mysteries...If we are strong enough in our souls we can rip away the veil and look that naked, terrible beauty right in the face; let God consume us, devour us, unstring our bones. Then spit us out reborn." 
  • Great supporting characters-Camilla, Charles, Edmund, Francis and Henry are like an unhealthy addiction. You hate them, but can’t tear your gaze away either. 
  • The gothically romantic and sometimes chilling mood Tartt is able to infuse into her writing (if you’re into that stuff, of course).
  • There is a feeling of pretentiousness about this book and its supposed complexity, which can be off-putting from time to time.
Target Audience: lit majors
More Like It: Brideshead Revisited 
Extra: Check out Fravorwire’s casting of “The Secret History” the the movie. 

Rating: A-

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - Christy

Graveminder by Melissa Marr

Expected publication: May 17th 2011
Publisher: William Morrow & Company

Summary (via Goodreads) Melissa Mar is known to young adult readers as the author of the popular faery series Wicked Lovely. Her debut leap into adult fiction lands her in the small community of Claysville, a town where the dead walk free unless there their graves are not properly tended. Into this eerie maelstrom, Rebekkah Barrow descends as she returns to a place that she once believed she knew. Kelley Armstrong justly described Graveminder as "a deliciously creepy tale that is as skillfully wrought as it is spellbindingly imagined." A new genre author to watch.

I've read and enjoyed Wicked Lovely by this author (though I haven't gotten around to reading past the first book). Graveminder looks interesting, and I love the cover (run-down house/barn in sepia tones never fails to be creepy). I have to wonder what kind of care these graves require... I will be checking it out when it's released in a couple weeks.

What are you waiting on this week?

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Summary (from Goodreads): In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender's two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

I recently finished reading "Ender's Shadow", which is a novel told in the same time-line as "Ender's Game", but from the point of view of the character Bean, following his journey into battle school instead of Ender's. I really enjoyed it, just as much as I enjoyed Ender’s Game, and now want everyone to at least read this first book.

Ender's Game was one of those sci-fi classics that I'd heard of, but didn't know much about. No movie yet (main characters are both very young and time-line spans a few too many years for casting to be easy). Then, one Christmas, I bought and started readed it, brought it home with me and told my dad about it. I didn’t see that book again until my dad was through reading it himself. He’d even read Ender’s Shadow by the time I left. (moral of the story: tell people about books you love only after you're done reading them yourself ;))

In Ender’s Game, you’ll find mock battles in zero g, kids playing at war, humanity scrambling to defend itself against an alien race that has twice invaded Earth. The heavy weight of an all-out war of worlds is put on these child geniuses. It’s games now, but ever-present is the knowledge that there is a real war going on out there. The buggers (the nickname for the alien race) might come back at any time. These kids are being trained to command armies in the war to come. Humanity is depending on them. No, humanity might just be depending on Ender alone, the boy who seems to take war strategy and leadership to a level no one else can compete with.

Okay, so maybe this book isn’t for everyone. It’s all war games and soldiers in training, and not a drop of romance and not much comedy, but the story and characters are great and the books are hard to put down. If you’re at all intrigued by this book, read it! Read it now.

Lit Snit Verdict: A+

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

WoW - Christy

11/22/63 by Stephen King
Pub Date: Nov 8, 2011

Summary (from Goodreads): On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed.

If you had the chance to change history, would you?
Would the consequences be worth it?

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

First, how awesome is the cover? JFK's assassination is a big what-if, and I know it's been discussed before, so I'm interested to see how King handles this. The book sounds like it has potential to be really cool, if done right.

What are you waiting on this week?

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution By Michelle Moran

Summary (from Goodreads): In this deft historical novel, Madame Tussaud (1761-1850) escapes the pages of trivia quizzes to become a real person far more arresting than even her waxwork sculptures. Who among us knew, for instance, that she moved freely through the royal court of Louis XVI, only to become a prisoner of the Reign of Terror? Her head was shaven for guillotining, but she escaped execution, though she was forced to make death masks for prominent victims. Novelist Michelle Moran covers this breathtaking period without losing the thread of its subject's singular story.

I've never read anything by Michelle Moran, but you can tell right away she really does her research on a time period (I see she has also has several other books that take place in ancient Egypt).

In Madame Tussaud, we see the French Revolution from the perspective of someone who is right in the middle of it all. Marie runs the Salon de Cire, and in order to fill her salon with wax figures of popular and interesting people (and thereby keep her income steady in these hard times of food shortages), Marie listens to the gossip, takes every opportunity to meet with prominent figures in society, even if she has to visit the local prison to do it.

When an opportunity arises to be the tutor to King Louis’s sister, pious and mild mannered Madame Elisabeth, Marie must take it (what an opportunity to find more faces for her wax museum!). But the public is hungry and unhappy with the lavish spending of the French royalty (though Marie could see Queen Marie Antoinette would be blamed no matter what she did). In Marie's salon, people like Robespierre and Marat meet and lash out against the monarchy.

This book was interesting because it straddles both sides of the argument. Marie and her family don’t really want to take sides, but in this political climate, and especially given their prominent role in the spreading of information (through wax figures, posters, and newsletters posted throughout their salon), not choosing sides is hardly an option. Refusing to wear the revolutionary’s cockade (symbol of loyalty to the cause) is not really an option, not when men will stop you on the street and demand to know why you are not supporting the revolution.

To stand against the king is treason, to stand against the revolution is just dangerous … but which side will win? What will that mean for Marie’s new friend in Madame Elisabeth? How long can Marie last?

The guillotine doesn’t even show up until most of the way through this book, and I see now how much more there is to the French Revolution, so many subtleties and shifts in thinking. I only knew the basics before, that aristocracy were rich and arrogant. That common people were poor and starving. Heads were lost. The fictional Scarlet Pimpernel gallantly saved aristocrats from the guillotine when the revolution turned bloody.

I really enjoyed this book. I especially loved that, at the very end, there is a section with some bits of the author's research that didn't fit in the novel (mostly because it took place after the story was over). There was a picture of the very first person to ever be photographed—a random guy on the street who happened to stand still long enough to be caught by the extra-long expose time.

Lit Snit Verdict: A-

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spotlight on Non-Fiction

Most of what I read is fiction, of all sorts of genres. So, when I do go for non-fiction, I'm pretty choosy. I don’t want to be one of those people, though, who (for example) has only ever gone to one musical and then tries to convince theater-loving friends that one was the best thing ever. I don’t read a ton of non-fiction (I’ve only ever read one book about painting and it made the list), so if you take this list with a grain of salt, I won’t be offended! And if you have recommendations, feel free to share in the comments!

Here's some non-fiction I've enjoyed in the last year:

Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku. Complex science, explained in easy-to-understand terms, all springing from science fiction concepts. What's not to love? We see how far science has come in recreating the sort of stuff we see in the movies (yes, there are people out there today working on teleportation), and how science fiction has been the inspiration behind some of the research. Plus, we get a history of humanity's fascination with the Sci-Fi concept (force fields, time travel, invisibility). It does get pretty complicated, going into topics like string theory and Schrödinger’s cat, but even when I didn’t completely understand it (how can the cat be dead and not dead at the same time!?!), it was still fascinating.

Untended side effect of reading this book: I understood the characters of Big Bang Theory even more ... and I was already a little frightened of how much I related to them (Sheldon: "Windows 7 is much more user friendly. I don't like that." ha!)

Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman. I know Eat, Pray, Love has been in the news lately, with the Julia Roberts movie, but I really enjoyed the style of this travel memoir, and had heard from a friend that it was better (can’t compare myself as I haven’t read Eat, Pray, Love). A woman facing a huge life change (separating from her husband), decides to leave her world behind and immerse herself in the culture of another country … and another country after that … and then a few more. In each place, she lives as the local people live, leaving behind (as much as possible) her own Western viewpoints. The writing style was relatable, and the adventures compelling. I wish I had this author’s courage.

Color and Light by James Gurney. A painting book brought to you by the artist who did Dinotopia (warm fuzzies to Dinotopia). Some fascinating stuff about how colors interact, how light and shadows behave in various settings. Everything from scientific explanation of cones and rods in your eyes to easy ways to set up your palette for painting en plein air to tips on photography (that is, taking pics to be painted later or pics of your paintings). Some eye-opening stuff, and some cool artwork throughout.

The Most Human Human by Brian Christian. A look at what artificial intelligence means for humanity & how we view ourselves. A surprisingly wide array of topics (philosophy, science, history, technology) spring from this topic of how our author might convince the judges of his humanity and earn the "most human human" prize in the Turing test. (The Turing test is a challenge to programmers to fool at least 30% of human judges that computer software is a human in a text-based 5 minute conversation).

What non-fiction books do you enjoy?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - Christy

Leaving Van Gogh by Carol Wallace
Pub Date: April 19, 2011
Random House Digital, Inc.

Summary from Goodreads: In the summer of 1890, in the French town of Auvers-sur-Oise, Vincent van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a revolver. He died two days later, at the age of thirty-seven, largely unknown despite having completed over two thousand works of art that would go on to become some of the most important and valued in the world.

In this riveting novel, Carol Wallace brilliantly navigates the mysteries surrounding the master artist’s death, relying on meticulous research to paint an indelible portrait of Van Gogh’s final days—and the friendship that may or may not have destroyed him. Telling Van Gogh’s story from an utterly new perspective—that of his personal physician, Dr. Gachet, specialist in mental illness and great lover of the arts—Wallace allows us to view the legendary painter as we’ve never seen him before. In our narrator’s eyes, Van Gogh is an irresistible puzzle, a man whose mind, plagued by demons, poses the most potentially rewarding challenge of Gachet’s career.

Wallace’s narrative brims with suspense and rich psychological insight as it tackles haunting questions about Van Gogh’s fate. A masterly, gripping novel that explores the price of creativity, Leaving Van Gogh is a luminous story about what it means to live authentically, and the power and limits of friendship.

I love Vincent Van Gogh's art, and I've always found it sad that his fame only came after his death. (I will also admit to a bit of boost in interest in what he was really like after the Doctor Who episode that featured Van Gogh.) I'm not familiar with this author, but the description sounds interesting. I'm looking forward to checking it out!

What are you waiting on this week?

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Review - Trapped by Michael Northrop

Summary (from Goodreads): The day the blizzard started, no one knew that it was going to keep snowing for a week. That for those in its path, it would become not just a matter of keeping warm, but of staying alive....

Scotty and his friends Pete and Jason are among the last seven kids at their high school waiting to get picked up that day, and they soon realize that no one is coming for them. Still, it doesn't seem so bad to spend the night at school, especially when distractingly hot Krista and Julie are sleeping just down the hall. But then the power goes out, then the heat. The pipes freeze, and the roof shudders. As the days add up, the snow piles higher, and the empty halls grow colder and darker, the mounting pressure forces a devastating decision....

I chose to read this book because, well, I love survival stories. I have to admit, I’ve thought more than once about how long the contents of my pantry would last in a disaster. Also, my area had just got hit with a snow storm (hopefully the last of the season) that took us from muddy grass to a thick blanket of white overnight. It was kind of an awesome time to be curling up in the chilly basement, reading about surviving a giant nor’easter. It got to the point where I had to put the book down and turn on the TV just to convince myself that we hadn’t lost power like the characters in the book (even though at that point, I was reading under electric lights and drinking hot coffee and it had stopped snowing hours ago… clearly my situation was not dire).

A chilling story (sorry for the pun, not intended). Not so much action-packed but there is an underlying sense of urgency throughout the book. How long will the storm last? What will they do about heat, food, rescue… And does anyone even know they’re at the school?!?

I would have rated this book better if there had just been one more chapter. The ending was unnecessarily jarring and abrupt. It wasn't about finding out "what happened next". I can guess enough to be satisfied (mostly). It was that things happened quickly toward the end. There were even super-short chapters to quicken the pace, and then it was done. End of story. The book desperately needed one more chapter to unwind the tension the climax of the story had built up. As it was, I felt cheated out of an ending.

The whole story was told in a "let me tell you about" tone, very conversational. From the beginning we, the readers, got spoilers of things to come, from comments liked “we didn’t know it at the time but…”. It added an extra bit of creepy, especially when the narrator says things like “our numbers would only get smaller from here”. This also made the abrupt ending even more annoying… our narrator didn’t do anything to catch us up to his “now” even though we know he’s telling us this story after at least a little time had passed.

I enjoyed the group dynamic, how the characters change how they interact when suddenly their world is down to just seven kids: Les, the trouble-maker; Elijah, the weird goth kid; two girls: beautiful Krista and her friend Julie; our narrator, Scotty; and his two friends, Pete and Jason. Kids who normally wouldn’t have known much about each other are suddenly relying on each other for survival. Social hierarchy isn’t completely gone, though, just different. The little groups of friends still stick together mostly, and the presence of girls in the room get the guys tangled up in knots. But Jason’s knowledge of construction and home repairs is suddenly an asset. They learn Les’ has more of a problem with rules and adults than other kids. And the goth kid’s not really goth at all, just different, even funny.

Bottom line: It's an entertaining survival story with an annoyingly abrupt ending.

Lit Snit Verdict: C (but would have been a B+ if only there had been an ending)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Review - Waiting For Columbus by Thomas Trofimuk

Summary (from Goodreads): On a beautiful April morning, a man is brought to an insane asylum in contemporary Spain, claiming to be the legendary navigator Christopher Columbus. Found in the treacherous Straight of Gibraltar, he is clearly delusional and has suffered a trauma so severe that he has turned away from reality. As he spins the tall tales of adventure and romance of someone who existed in the late fifteenth century, the lonely Nurse Consuela can’t help but be enchanted by his spirit. Who is Columbus? Where did he come from? This dazzling story about one man’s painstaking search for truth and loyalty will haunt the reader long after the final page.

Modern-day Spain is beautifully blended with the 1400s Spain, as the man who calls himself Christopher Columbus tells nurse Consuela his stories. A chapter might start with a scene in the institution (playing chess or talking to another inmate who believes herself to be the pope), and in the next scene, we’re in Spain in era of the Inquisition and the push for finding a new route to Marco Polo’s Indies, hearing about the lovers Columbus had, the attempts to convince Spain’s royalty to back his explorations.

Nurse Consuela is intrigued by Columbus… Who wouldn’t be? A masterful storyteller reminiscing on the days (in recent past, according to him) of struggling against the perception that the world is flat (though Columbus is quick to call anyone who still thinks that an idiot). Still, it is a challenging feat to get the queen and king of Spain to buy into Columbus’s obsession with learning what would happen if you sail West. The question is not whether or not the world is flat, but how big the world is. Could a ship can survive long enough to make it to the other side?

My one gripe with the story (and it’s a small one) is that the book switches point of views a lot. The three main perspectives were Consuela, Columbus and Emile (an Interpol investigator looking for a missing person). Even in Columbus’s stories to Consuela, though, we might find ourselves switching--mid-scene--to seeing the story from inside the head of Queen Isabella, perhaps, or his friend Benito. While each of these perspectives were interesting, I found myself needing to pay more careful attention than I was used to, rereading passages when I missed a POV switch.

There is a love for the written word in this tale. The characters have discussions of philosophy, religion and poetry. This is not a plot-heavy story. Most of it is told through the flashbacks (as Columbus is telling Consuela). Peeking through the story of Christopher Columbus is perhaps a real man hidden behind the historical figure. He wears a wedding band. His stories contain elements that don’t belong in the 1400s. He wants to call the queen on the telephone. How much of his stories are real? Why does this man think he is Christopher Columbus?

This was memorable story with a satisfying conclusion.

Lit Snit Verdict: A-

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Review - The Birth of the Dread Remora

Summary (via Nathaniel Demming is a midshipman aboard the HMES Remora, the very first ship to go beyond their world's waters and out into the ether. He and the rest of the crew are ready for adventure, eager to explore the unknown and chart a new course for the rest of their world to follow. But what they find out there will change their lives, and their perspective, forever. The ether is not empty at all, but teeming with life--including vicious marauders waiting to prey upon the hapless Remora. Can Demming help his friends and fellow officers through the crises that await? Can they survive the dangers all around them? And can he convince them to transform their ship and themselves into the antithesis of everything they trained for, while still holding true to everything they believe in?

Birth of the Dread Remora is the first tale of the epic Scattered Earth saga, and the first in a series of swashbuckling adventures about the space-pirate ship the Dread Remora!

This book has a really unique premise. In a future era of the human race, people live underwater. Knowledge of the universe has been lost since our time, but the people here know that above the water is air, and above the air is ether, but what's in the ether? When a strange, new light appears to be coming from beyond the air, a mission is formed to learn more. The story begins on the maiden voyage of Remora, the first ship to travel into the ether.

The ether is nothing like they expected. The main conflict in this book centers not on the mysterious light (which is forgotten fairly quickly) but rather around tension between the ranks and encounters with aliens who lurk in the ether and attack the Remora. The officers must find a way to protect themselves from dangers they weren’t prepared for.

This is book one of the Scattered Earth series, which I was interested to learn is / will be written by three separate authors. While this book followed Demming and his crew, the Scattered Earth series promises three worlds, three storylines, all ultimately connected.

There were several times throughout the book where I had a "wait, what??" moment, reading something that I wished had been explained better. Like, the underwater galley being stocked with soup and crackers, a girl sheened in sweat after a workout (still underwater), aliens who speak English. And at one point they mentioned seeing a burning globe like the sun, but much larger--what was that supposed to be? Unless I got their travel-time/speed wrong, the whole story took place within the solar system. Maybe there are good explanations for these things, but the idea of an aquatic race eating soup & crackers still puzzles me.

I liked the characters in this book. Our main character, Demming, is so eager to be a part of this mission. In his hopes to make the cut, Demming takes stock of each of the character's strengths and weaknesses as a leader, and it is from this perspective that we meet the rest of the crew.

Despite the "what, what?" moments, I did enjoy this story. It was an interesting premise (really, how often do you get to take a ship filled to the brim with water and explore outer-space & meet aquatic characters who are neither mermaids nor clown fish?), and I'm curious to see where the next installments of the series takes the story.

* This book was supplied by the publisher for review.

Lit Snit Rating: C+

Monday, February 28, 2011

Review — Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins

Summary (via Goodreads): Sophie Mercer thought she was a witch.

That was the whole reason she was sent to Hex Hall, a reform school for delinquent Prodigium (aka witches, shapeshifters, and fairies). But that was before she discovered the family secret, and that her hot crush, Archer Cross, is an agent for The Eye, a group bent on wiping Prodigium off the face of the earth.

Turns out, Sophie’s a demon, one of only two in the world—the other being her father. What’s worse, she has powers that threaten the lives of everyone she loves. Which is precisely why Sophie decides she must go to London for the Removal, a dangerous procedure that will destroy her powers.

But once Sophie arrives she makes a shocking discovery. Her new friends? They’re demons too. Meaning someone is raising them in secret with creepy plans to use their powers, and probably not for good. Meanwhile, The Eye is set on hunting Sophie down, and they’re using Archer to do it. But it’s not like she has feelings for him anymore. Does she?

Review:  Oh, Sophie.  I'd forgotten how much I loved your snarky, sarcastic way.  I will admit when I heard that Sophie and company were spending a summer in London I thought, "ugh, an entire book of 'What I Did On My Summer Vacation?  Lame.  Hex Hall, I thought you were better than this."  Oh, how wrong I was.  Rachel Hawkins took something that could have easily been a fun series about supernatural creatures in reform school and completely pulled the rug out from under us, making the reader question everything they've come to learn about the Hex Hall world.

Before I get to all the craziness that had me practically yelling at my book to stop it and just go back to Hecate Hall where everything would go back to normal, let's address the love triangle.  I've gotten pretty sick of love triangles, but I have to say I'm just as torn as Sophie.  Throughout the first half of the book I'm completely "TEAM CAL!  Woohoo!" but then Archer shows up and is all sarcastic and there's a lot of sexy banter and I become more "Team Cal?  Right?  We're Team Cal here...I think..." (I, actually, am totally Team Cal, but I think it's more of Team Cal For Erin because he's impossibly cute and stoic and I may want to have his babies)  However, there is some crazy/good chemistry between Archer and Sophie that's just impossible to deny.  Though, I will say, I wanted to shake Sophie a few times.  Note for the future, Soph, do not tell your ex-crush/kissing buddy exactly where you are hiding out from his brethren that want you dead! 

Also, I know you're in love with him but don't just go on some portal-hopping adventure without a second thought.  I didn't totally understand Archer's motives with Sophie in terms of helping her investigate whoever's creating demons, but I found myself brushing past it as they distracted me with their snarky, sexy banter.

Besides my love for sweet, dependable Cal, I know I'm getting old because I found it pretty heartbreaking the way Sophie's dad was still hung up on Sophie's mom.  I think it would have even worked better if he didn't come out and say it later in the book because his quiet pining pretty much made me swoon when they interacted early in the story.

The love triangle smartly takes a backseat to all the craziness that's happening between The Eye and the Prodigium.  The war is escalating between the two and turning deadly.  I was surprised at the gravity that came with the second in this fun series.  While Sophie keeps her quick, biting wit, there's no denying that things are no longer carefree and fun.  Hawkins throws some surprising twists into the story that have completely turned Sophie's world upside-down for me.  Plus, as I found out, much to my dismay, Demonglass ends on a CRAZY DRAMATIC CLIFFHANGER.  I had an ARC copy and kept thinking I was missing pages at the end, but, no, Rachel Hawkins clearly wants us to suffer because we have to wait until Hex Hall #3 to get any sort of closure, which, in my mind, is evil.

Lit Snit Verdict: A

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mad About: Marian Keyes (Week #1--This Charming Man)

 One of the reasons I've become mad about Marian Keyes is that she has the ability to take the most serious of issues & turn it into a story infused with a great deal of humor and warmth, i.e. Rachel's Holiday & Anybody Out There (both of which I'll tackle this month!). I enjoy laughing (and, I'll admit, a sniffle here and there) during these tales yet still walking away from them with something to think about...

Not so much with <-- this one.

The first week of Marian's Madness doesn't exactly start off on a high note with This Charming Man--
  • Issue: Domestic Abuse
  • Main Character: From perspective from of four women--- 1) Lola--a stylist; 2)Grace-- a journalist; 3) Marnie-- Grace's alcoholic sister, 4) Alicia--the fiancee of Paddy de Courcy, the center of this story.
Hands down, this book is the darkest of all of Keyes' fiction works. She takes no steps to tread lightly and, while the humor can be found here and there, is isn't prevalent. The love interests here aren't the main issue. The issue is how these women are changed by their experience with domestic abuse.

It's not my favorite Marian Keyes' book. Not at all. Lola's language is short & choppy, also written in the style of text message; this goes for everyone with whom she interacts. It's a bit difficult and slightly annoying as the book focuses a great deal on Lola's point of view.  I believe it serves Keyes' purpose because it does make Lola seem a bit flighty, making her the perfect foil to Grace, who is an ambitious journalist interested in nothing more than getting her story.

Marnie's plight is somewhat frightening. Her experience with de Courcy has fueled her alcoholism and her addicition is scary, to the point of blacking out and waking up beaten up and injured. Her journey is a tough one to read. Oh, and Paddy de Courcy? UGLY. I don't think there's a better way to describe this man. His behavior towards each woman is slowly revealed by flashbacks at the beginning of each chapter and it's gruesome.

This book was much grittier than I expected and rightfully so. Domestic abuse isn't a light-hearted issue. Keyes' tackles it well, however, while still providing us with a silver lining. This book is not the story of victims; it's the story of women finding the strength within themselves to deal with what life has handed them & for that I say well done. While I did say it's not my favorite of Marian Keyes' book, it is the most thought-provoking and I did enjoy it.

LitSnit Grade: A

Next week: A vlog (eek!) on Keyes' Walsh Family Series...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review — Vesper by Jeff Sampson

 Okay, so here's the thing about this week's Villette-Read-a-Long:  I'm behind.  Like chapters behind (they're LONG this week).  I know, I know I'm terrible.  I promise I'll post my Week Three thoughts this weekend when I've caught up.  In the meantime, have a review!

Summary (via Goodreads):  Emily Webb is a geek. And she’s happy that way. Content hiding under hoodies and curling up to watch old horror flicks, she’s never been the kind of girl who sneaks out for midnight parties. And she’s definitely not the kind of girl who starts fights or flirts with other girls’ boyfriends. Until one night Emily finds herself doing exactly that . . . the same night one of her classmates—also named Emily—is found mysteriously murdered.

The thing is, Emily doesn’t know why she’s doing any of this. By day, she’s the same old boring Emily, but by night, she turns into a thrill seeker. With every nightfall, Emily gets wilder until it’s no longer just her personality that changes. Her body can do things it never could before: Emily is now strong, fast, and utterly fearless. 

And soon Emily realizes that she’s not just coming out of her shell . . . there’s something much bigger going on. Is she bewitched by the soul of the other, murdered Emily? Or is Emily Webb becoming something else entirely— something not human?

As Emily hunts for answers, she finds out that she’s not the only one this is happening to—some of her classmates are changing as well. Who is turning these teens into monsters—and how many people will they kill to get what they want?

Review: I feel like it's a rare YA book that keeps me guessing throughout the entire book, even more rare to not undermine the entire mystery with some cliched or obvious ending, so I was pleasantly surprised when Vesper managed an interesting mystery without making me roll my eyes when I got to the last page.

Vesper is hard to talk about because I'm wary of giving away any thing about the overall mystery.  Suffice it to say that just when I thought I knew what was going on, I was thrown in a completely new direction.  There were hints as to what was going on with Emily and the other kids in her town, but everything is so vague and clouded in mystery that I really couldn't take any one "explanation" as fact until the final reveal.  I will say that I thought Emily jumped to her suspicions about her "powers" a little to readily.  If I was suddenly acting like my sluttier evil twin come nightfall I don't know if I would jump to the conclusions she did.  In the end it made sense, but as she was in the library trying to figure out what was going on with her I found her choice of material a leap.  (See?  This is way hard to comment on without giving everything away!)

I really loved Emily in all of her sci-fi geeky-ness.  She'd totally be a girl I'd be best friends with in high school.  Heck, I think I was her in high school.  I could have dealt with about 40% less "I'm such a geek/have I told you that I'm a geek/really, I'm a HUGE geek, just look at all my Buffy paraphernalia."  I felt at a certain point like, okay I get it!  Stop beating a dead horse!  You're a geek.  Congrats. 

Interspersed with Emily trying to figure out just what the hell is happening to her are mini-chapters of her being questioned by a scientist what we assume is a few months in the future.  More than just creating a creepy Fringe vibe, these chapters really allow you to see how Emily evolves in future books.  She's pretty flippant and sarcastic and it only made me love her more for embracing her inner badass.  Even more, there's a logical explanation for why Emily's personality takes such a massive shift, when the other kids aren't suddenly making out with the local deputy and stealing cars.

My only big complaint, other than Emily's sudden logic jump about her condition, was the reveal of her love interest.  I felt like he wasn't established enough as a character to the point I went "who??" and had to go back to previous chapters to figure out who he was. The mystery might have been dragged out slightly too long because the action felt a little hurried and I would have liked to see more of Emily dealing with the revelation of what she is.

I hesitate to say anything else for fear of spoiling you guys, but, let me just say that I cannot freaking wait until the next Deviants book.  Jeff Sampson has a gift for keeping the reader guessing and has created a spooky, compelling series.  I'm excited to see what the deal is with some of the other kids in Emily's town.  There are hints of other powers going on and I'm eager to see what else is in store for these kids.

Lit Snit Verdict: B+

*I received an ARC of this book through Around the World ARC tours

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WoW - Some long waits

This Waiting on Wednesday* I'm dedicating to all a few titles we've been waiting on FOREVER for a conclusion, a few series with years since the last release.

Earth's Children Series

Book 1, The Clan of the Cavebear, was published in 1980, and it's been nine years since the second-to-last book was published in 2002. Earth's Children's final book will be released ... drumroll please ... on March 29, 2011

I haven't read any of the Earth's Children books (though I know people who have), so I was hestitant to read more than the summary of the first book. But I do know that it takes place in the ice age (how many books can you say that about?), and features a girl named Ayla who we meet in the first book. At five years old, she is orphaned by an earthquake and taken in by a tribe who call themselves the Clan of the Cavebear.

The Night World Series

Books 1 through 9 of this 10-book series were released within a span of a few years ('96-'98), each story featuring a new set of characters all leading up to a great battle between good and evil promised to the reader for the final book in the series.

The final book, Strange Fate, will be release on April 6 2010... July 6 2010... April 26 2011... July 26 2011... July 10 2012(???)

I read these books when they first came out and loved them. The rules of the Night World are clear: 1) Never allow humans to gain knowledge of the Night World's existence and, 2) Never fall in love with one of them. Of course, these stories were all about what happens when the rules get broken, when Night Worlders (vampires, witches and the occasional werewolf) start finding their soulmates in humans.

While the title and plot of the final book has been public knowledge for years, I'm begining to wonder if this last book will ever come out ... and if it does, if I'll still care. The over-arching plot of the series centered around the millennium, but the world survived Y2K unscathed and might now find a world-ending-in-2000 story unimpressive.

Hopefully Strange Fate will be published while there still interested readers left!

A Song of Ice and Fire Series (A Game of Thrones)

This is another series on my to-read list. It began with A Game of Thrones released in '96. Seven noble families fight for control of the mythical land of Westeros, a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime.

Now a show based on the series will start up in April. It's been 6 years since the last book came out, but fans will have to wait until December of next year for A Dance with Dragons to be released (unless maybe the popularity of the show bumps up the release date...?)

What about you? Which series have you waited the longest for its conclusion? What are you still waiting for?

*Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

Monday, February 21, 2011

Review — Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley

Summary (via Goodreads): Meet Corrinne. She's living every girl's dream in New York City—shopping sprees at Barneys, open access to the best clubs and parties, and her own horse at the country club. Her perfect life is perfectly on track. At least it was. . . .

When Corrinne's father is laid off, her world suddenly falls apart. Instead of heading to boarding school, she's stripped of her credit cards and shipped off to the boonies of Texas to live with her grandparents. On her own in a big public school and forced to take a job shoveling manure, Corrinne is determined to get back to the life she's supposed to be living. She doesn't care who she stomps on in the process. But when Corrinne makes an unlikely friend and discovers a total hottie at work, she begins to wonder if her life B.R.—before the recession—was as perfect as it seemed.

Review: While I live in New York City, I’ve always kind of thought of myself as a country girl (okay, country-ish girl.  I’ve worked on a farm, showed horses in the county fair, slept on a bale of hay, but will still freak out if I see any kind of bug) and happen to love those “fish out of water” stories where a city girl is thrown into country life, so I was pretty excited to hear about Where I Belong.  When I first read the synopsis I thought Gossip Girl meets Friday Night Lights.  Blair Waldorf meets Tim Riggins?  Yes, please!

I was a little nervous when the first page was a letter “from” Corrinne basically telling the reader to stick with the story even if you find her incredibly annoying and vapid (which I did).  When the main character’s telling you to just keep reading even if you hate her it makes you think twice about even turning the page, but Corrinne does grow on you.  Somewhere in the middle of the story I forgot that she was exactly the kind of self-entitled, Upper East Side rich girl that I want to smack on the subway when she takes up the last seat in the car for her tiny, quivering dog.  It’s a subtle transition and before you know it you’re actually kind of rooting for Corrinne and empathizing with her.

Broken Spoke, Texas is slightly stereotypical, but it encapsulated small town life pretty well.  The townsfolk’s names though?  No.  Just no.  I could deal with Jenny Jo, Corrinne’s mom’s name.  But Kitsy?  Bubby?  I just cannot take a guy seriously as a romantic possibility with the name Bubby.  I’m sorry.  I just felt like it was laying the “folksy charm” a bit too much.  And I liked Bubby, I did.  Kitsy, too.  They just had very unfortunate names for such down-to-earth characters. 

While I think Heasley created a great setting in Broken Spoke and succeeded in the difficult task of making a spoiled socialite likable, the dialogue was a little clunky.  Corrinne and her best friend both had strange sayings I’ve never heard any New Yorker actually utter, like “aren’t you a Forthcoming Frances/Overreacting Ophelia/Scaredy Cat Susie.”  It just felt out of character and weird.  Same with uses of words like “whack.”  I thought that word died in the 90s.  Maybe I just hoped it did…

Heasley could have also easily turned this into a straight romance YA, but she kept Corrinne’s relationship with Bubby on the back burner in favor of her relationship with her mother, Kitsy and her best friend from NYC (whose name is escaping me…).  It was much more about Corrinne’s journey than falling in love for the first time.  Things aren’t tied up neatly at the end, but it works.  Like I said, you care more than Corrinne has changed than you do about any kind of concrete resolution.  Though, maybe I’m just a terrible cynic, Kitsy’s dreams of moving to NYC and becoming a makeup artist made me a bit sad because, with all she has stacked up against her, I wondered if she wouldn’t end up as she predicted in a candid moment to Corrinne (married right out of high school with kids soon after) or, worse, like her mother.  Heasley barely touched on the socioeconomic struggles of small town life, but it did make you think.

Overall, Where I Belong isn’t exactly Friday Night Lights (but what is?), but it’s cute, fun and made me itch for a trip outside of the city.  More YA needs to be set in small country towns and, more importantly, do it well.  Heasley had right balance of realism and a bit of idealized nostalgia.

Lit Snit Verdit: B

*I received this book from Around the World ARC tours

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy Sunday! New Monthly (Weekend?) Feature!

See? I read, I read!
Ooh, hi guys! Long time, no post, right?

Oy. My apologies.

Back in November, I complained about struggling to find the time to read. You were all lovely enough to chime in on how you find the time to read, and these suggestions worked. I made the time...I took Meg's suggestion and started to read a bit before bed. I adapted to my LitSnit cohort Erin's technique and read while on the train. My lunch breaks became prime reading time when taken, per Aelia's advice.

Needless to say, I got a lot of reading done. I just never got a lot of writing or REVIEWING done.Arg.

So, as the weekend LitSnit poster, I've decided to start a monthly weekend series (catchy name to be announced) focusing on one particular author or series. Gives me a chance to cover the TONS of books I got to read, as well as learn more about the people I've grown to like! It will also, hopefully, give me the chance to learn about your likes and dislikes of them as well.

Marian Keyes
Our March (well, late February/March) author is none other than Marian Keyes. Now, I know she hasn't excatly had anything published recently (The Brightest Star in the Sky being her last new book, I believe) but last summer, I had the pleasure of reading Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married and loved it to the point of ordering several other books by her (both fiction and non-fiction), particularly falling in love with the Walsh sister I'm really excited.

Do you have any favorite Marian Keyes books? Also, do you have any authors you'd recommend? Let me know!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Villette Read-a-Long: Week Two

In case you've forgotten, I'm participating in the Villette-Read-a-Long hosted by Wallace over at Unputdownables.  This week we read chapters 6-11.  Here's the schedule for the next coming weeks if you want to join us/catch up (which you should!)


Week #/ dates :: Chapters to Read
Week One/ February 1st-7th :: ch. 1-5 (i.e. read chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5)
Week Two/ February 8th-14th :: ch. 6-11
Week Three/ February 15th-21st :: ch. 12-17
Week Four/ February 22nd-28th :: ch. 18-22
Week Five/ March 1st-March 7th :: ch. 23-27
Week Six/ March 8th-March 14th :: ch. 28-32
Week Seven/ March 15th-March 21st :: ch. 33-37
Week Eight/ March 22-March 28th :: ch. 38-42

Okay, for only six chapters a TON of stuff has happened to our pal Lucy Snowe.


So when we left Lucy she was in London, all alone and trying to figure out what to do next.  She decides to head off to Villette in France to find a job as a governess or teacher.  On the voyage over she meets Ginerva Fanshawe, possibly the most annoying girl ever, who tells her about a boarding school and mentions the headmistress, Madame Beck who's in need of a governess for her kids.

In France, Lucy's more alone than ever in a country where she doesn't speak the language.  She finds an inn but there are strange folk about and heads off the next day to Villette.  In Villette, Lucy discovers some idiot didn't bring her trunk, but, again, Elle ne parele pas francais (I hope that means "she doesn't speak French" because that's what the online translator gave me).  A handsome stranger comes to her rescue and, seriously, it's like a scene from my life.  Handsome strangers are always coming up asking, "do you need some assistance?" and I have to beat them off with a stick.  It's a curse.

Anyway, he points her to an inn and she's stalked by two mustachioed men and flees into a nearby house she thinks is the inn.  (Note to Lucy: Good instinct.  Never trust a mustachioed man.) Low and behold she ends up in front of Madame Beck's house and Beck says "you want a job even though I don't speak English and you don't speak French?  SURE!" So Lucy has a place to stay, though Beck is pretty paranoid and spies on everyone and goes through Lucy's clothes and personal things when she's asleep.  Maybe she wouldn't be so paranoid if she didn't just hire random people off the street who show up at her doorstep late and night and don't even have references, but that's just my opinion.

Lucy's settling in and things are going okay.  One day a teacher doesn't show up so Beck asks Lucy to fill in.  She's totally throwing her to the wolves because the girls pretty much start rioting the second Lucy shows her face.  But Lucy is a badass.  She pinpoints the school bully and shoves her in a closet.  Even Beck gives her the thumbs up.  The girls warm up to Lucy.  Even annoying Ginerva who goes to this school.  She and Lucy start hanging out a little bit, even though she finds the girl just as annoying as I do.  Ginerva tells her about some secret boyfriend who she treats like dirt and won't even call him by his real name instead calling him "Isidore."  Lucy pretty much frowns on the entire thing and tells her to break it off.  Obviously, Ginerva heeds this sage advice and lives happily ever after (/sarcasm)

Anyway, Lucy's still helping out with Beck's kids, two of whom seem okay despite having the Snow Queen as their mother, but one is a klepto and kind of a psychopath.  One of them gets sick and Dr. John is called.  Shocker!  Dr. John is the handsome stranger who helped Lucy find an inn (which I have to say, did he really "help" her?  He walked her across the park and then left her instead of walking her to the inn and she almost got attacked by those mustachioed men.  Would it kill you to walk a few more blocks, Dr. J?)  Of course everyone is totally in love with Dr. J.  Even the Snow Queen.  He, on the other hand, is writing love notes and hiding away in rooms with some chick named Rosine, who we know nothing about other than her name and I guess is she's cute and giggles a lot.

My Thoughts:

Where to even begin?  So much happened I feel like I need four posts just to cover it all.  Can I just say first of all that most of the guys in this book are kind of idiots?  You've got the boatman that tries and succeeds in swindling Lucy (she just gives him the money rather than argue with the jerk), the guy who loses her trunk, and Dr. John who's dumb enough not to fall for Lucy the second he meets her and then just kind of half-asses delivering her to the inn.  We better be getting some better male characters.  And soon.

I really think my admiration and love for Lucy grows with each chapter.  She feels real and has such contradictory emotions and actions, but it works.  She's brave, but cautious, hopeful but practical, confident but insecure.  She's more daring than she gives herself credit for.  I mean, moving to a foreign country without a job, a friend, or even the ability to speak the language?  Impressive.  I find myself relating to a lot of her inner monologues.  Even if she's *gasp* a Protestant.  I found the passage where girls weren't allowed to walk alone with her and chat when everyone found that out kind of amusing.

On the other hand, Ginerva?  I want to smack her.  I thought I couldn't like her any less than when we first meet her and she's giving Lucy these long monologues about how dumb she is, but then we see her at school and she's toying with some guy's heart and taking his gifts without a second thought.  If this mystery man turns out to be Dr. J I'm going to be pissed.  I don't know who this Rosine girl is, but John, if you're going after Ginerva as well, you're dead to me.

There was a passing reference to a "Charlotte" in one chapter (I've taken out my post it and forgotten the page).  I think it referred to her being "on the brink of romance" and I'm curious if this is a moment of self-reflection for Bronte.  Maybe I'm being too literal, but it made me think twice.  So many of Lucy's moments of isolation and loneliness you can tell are real emotions of Bronte's, having just lost her sisters.  It makes Lucy's plight and aloneness in the world all the more profound and unsettling.

Madame Beck is also an interesting character that I'm interested to see more of.  She seems to regard a lack of passion and emotion as positive qualities in herself and in Lucy, but Dr. John has got her practically giggling like a schoolgirl (well, as much as someone like her can).  Though, seriously, Madame B, let's maybe take a second look at our hiring/firing practices.  Going through the pockets of your newly hired employee AFTER you let them sleep in a room with your kids, might not end well one of these days.

There's so much other stuff to talk about, but I feel like I've rambled enough and only want to know one more thing:  When does crazy Polly show up in Villette? 

Oh, that, and I really need to pick up an edition that has translations for all the French because at first I was just thinking it was okay since I would just feel as lost as Lucy but now she's proficient and I'm still too lazy to open a French-English dictionary.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Review - Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors

Summary (via Goodreads): When you're the daughter of the bestselling Queen of Romance, life should be pretty good. But 16-year-old Alice Amorous has been living a lie ever since her mother was secretly hospitalized for mental illness. After putting on a brave front for months, time is running out. The next book is overdue, and the Queen can't write it. Alice needs a story for her mother—and she needs one fast.

That's when she meets Errol, a strange boy who claims to be Cupid, who insists that Alice write about the greatest love story in history: his tragic relationship with Psyche. As Alice begins to hear Errol's voice in her head and see things she can't explain, she must face the truth—that she's either inherited her mother's madness, or Errol is for real.

I must not have done more than skim the summary of this book, because when I picked it up from the library last week, the first thing I noticed was that the heart-spiral on the cover is filled with the phrase "I don't believe in Cupid" over and over, and I laughed and thought, "Is Cupid going to be in this story?"

Yes. Yes, he is. And Cupid wants his story told.

So, the fact that this is a Cupid story and today is Valentine's Day is pure coincidence, I swear.

Anyway, on to the review:

Alice, our main character, has enough going on in her life that this strange guy named Errol claiming to be Eros/Cupid/God-of-Love has trouble grabbing her attention. First, her mom's in a hospital for the mentally ill. That alone is enough to ruin a girl's summer, but Alice can't tell anyone outside of a small clan of trusted neighbors the truth, because her mom? She has a title of her own: Queen of Romance. The fans and publishing house can't know that their favorite romance author is sick. So Alice steps in, signing books, fending off questions about when the next book will be finished, telling everyone her mom is "overseas." When the hospital bills can't be paid, Alice puts her life on hold (even telling her crush it's too complicated right now) to step into her mother's shoes, trying to write her mom's "untitled work in progress."

This book deals with some tough issues, but the over-all tone of the book is light. Cupids start appearing everywhere in Alice's life, figurines, pictures, and Cupid himself. We even get to witness the knock-you-off-your-feet effects of Cupid's arrows.

There was a lot going on in this story. Alice's "family", her neighbors: Ms. Bobot, Ms. Bobot's granddaughter Realm, Reverend Ruttles, and Archibald, each had their own subplots, and Errol had his story of his one and only love, Psyche, to tell. This made some of the subplots seem rushed. I wanted to spend more time with the adult's stories. I wanted Errol's story fleshed out more (as it was, his tale of Psyche had barely more detail than the original myth). But what was there was good.

Overall, this was a fun read, and met my expectations (even though Cupid was a surprise... next time, I'll read the second paragraph of the description).

Lit Snit Verdict: B

Friday, February 11, 2011

Review - Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Summary (from Goodreads): Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -the deliria- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government’s demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love

I had mixed feelings about this book before I even started reading it. The good: It's by Lauren Oliver, the author of "Before I Fall." I love the depth she brings to her characters. The bad: It's another dystopia book. Normally, I love a good dystopia story, but after the last one I read I was wary of the entire genre (Ally Condie’s “Matched” just didn’t work for me).

The premise: Love has been identified as a disease, and now the cure is mandatory. The cure isn’t safe for under-eighteens, so society is not completely safe from "amor deliria nervosa". There are patrols and raids, looking for signs of resistance and uncured kids who might be infected. You better watch what you say, even to your best friend, because you don’t know if you’re being watched. You don't want to be thought of as a "sympathizer". Sympathizers are executed.

Seeing the world from Lena's perspective, I can understand why she feels comfort in the idea of the cure. With the cure, all the awkwardness and emotional rollercoasters of being a teenager are instantly wiped away, leaving behind a calmer, matured version of yourself, safe from the dangers of deliria, which can kill you and you won't even care.

But I felt like I was missing something in why the country had that violent switch-over to an oppressive 1984-esque government with a too-harsh penal system. Sure, they found deliria to be the cause of many diseases, but I just had trouble believing that the government would then force everyone to be cured, when really I would think only the most heart-broken/grief-stricken people would find the idea of curing love appealing. Maybe it will be explained more in the sequels.

In a lot of ways, the life of a teenager (pre-cure) is pretty familiar: School bullies and best friends, curfews, summer jobs, and even first loves. Yes, Lena catches deliria. She’s falling in love for the first time and, no, she doesn't even care if it'll kill her.

It's worth reading for the characters; I do love Lauren Oliver's writing style. If you can ignore the nagging question “but why would they want to cure love?” then it’s a good read. I liked the duel perspective we got with Lena’s best friend, Hana, who is the opposite of Lena in a lot of ways, and is the first to question the cure. It’s Hana who whispers to her, “You know you can’t be happy unless you’re unhappy sometimes, right?” and starts Lena down a path that will lead her to question her entire worldview.

Lit Snit Verdict: B-

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Villette Read-a-Long: Week One

I'm participating in the Villette Read-a-Long hosted by Wallace at Unputdownables.  We're reading Villette by Charlotte Bronte over the next 8 weeks.  Join us! (or don't ...whatever, I'm not your Mom...though would it kill you to clean up your room once in a while?)

Chapters: 1-5

Summary (via Wallace because I am lazy and today has been a crazy day and I just finished reading chapter five on the train this morning):

We meet Lucy Snowe as she is staying at her Mrs. Bretton, her godmother’s, house. While she is there, a child named Polly (short for Paulina) comes to stay after her mother dies. Polly is terribly homesick for her father and is only remedied from it by meeting Mrs. Bretton’s teenage son, John Graham Bretton (hereafter known as Graham). She becomes his pet, and, at six, she dotes on him and flourished under his big brotherly-like attentions completely. Once Polly’s father is settled with his relations outside of England he sends for his young daughter to join him. A few weeks later, Lucy travels back home, finds a place to live, and a job with a Miss Marchmont. After the death of her benevolent though sad mistress, Lucy must set out to look for a new place to live and another form of income. We leave Lucy, at the end of chatper 5,  alone and forlorn after she has just arrived in London after hearing of families who are looking for governesses.

My thoughts:
So from the other Villette posts I've read I've already deduced that I do not have the emotional maturity to take classics too seriously because my initial thoughts when Lucy's talking about Polly?  "Dude, does this kid have Benjamin Button disease?  'Cause she's like a thirty year old in a six year old's body." 

Seriously.  I know this is the 19th century and all, but, man, Polly is a weird kid.  Her devotion to her dad and then to Graham kind of freaked me out.  She was more like a wife to her father than a child, hanging all over him and gazing into his eyes and whatnot.  FREAKY.

I'm hoping she comes back into the story later because Lucy spends a lot of time delving into Polly's background and state of mind and her weird passive-aggressive relationship with Graham (Dear Polly, I know your six or whatever, but you really need to read He's Just Not That Into You before you hit puberty.  Just sayin').  I have a morbid curiosity to see what kind of nutjob she becomes as an adult.  The whole Marchmont thing was kind of surprising and quick.  It was literally, "hey, I have a job! my boss is dead..." 

Lucy's still kind of undefined in my mind other than being a lot like Jane Eyre in that horrible shit keeps happening to her and she just trucks along because, what are you going to do, you know?  She seems like a tough cookie though (man, I sound like my grandmother) with a good head on her shoulders, talking about "Common Sense" as if it were a dear friend taking care of her instead of an aspect of her personality.  Plus, she totally sees through Graham and tells Polly that boys kind of suck and you should get used to it now.  This girl totally needs a BFF stat.  She's all alone in the world and I just wanted to give her a big hug when she was trying to figure out what the heck she was going to do next after Marchmont kicked it.

Anyway, I'm a bit hyper today if that's not completely apparent, but if you're reading Villette, I'm interested to see what you guys think.  And if you want a much more mature look at the first five chapters, check out Unputdownables where others are posting their thoughts.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Villette Read-a-Long

I have been remiss in announcing I'm participating in a read-a-long hosted by Wallace over at Unputdownables.  We're reading Villette by Charlotte Bronte.  I adored Jane Eyre and don't read nearly enough classics so I was excited by the prospect of a little more Bronte in my life.  To give you a quick background, here's a synopsis:

Arguably Brontë's most refined and deeply felt work, Villette draws on her profound loneliness following the deaths of her three siblings. Lucy Snowe, the narrator of Villette, flees from an unhappy past in England to begin a new life as a teacher at a French boarding school in the great cosmopolitan capital of Villette. Soon Lucy's struggle for independence is overshadowed by both her friendship with a worldly English doctor and her feelings for an autocratic schoolmaster. Brontë's strikingly modern heroine must decide if there is any man in her society with whom she can live and still be free.

I love the modern notion of looking for love while still remaining independent and can't wait to get further in this story.  I'll be blogging about my progress over the next two month and urge you guys to read along with me. (Sorry, I've given you such little notice, but don't worry there's plenty of time to catch up!)

Here's the reading schedule:

Week #/ dates :: Chapters to Read
Week One/ February 1st-7th :: ch. 1-5 (i.e. read chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5)
Week Two/ February 8th-14th :: ch. 6-11
Week Three/ February 15th-21st :: ch. 12-17
Week Four/ February 22nd-28th :: ch. 18-22
Week Five/ March 1st-March 7th :: ch. 23-27
Week Six/ March 8th-March 14th :: ch. 28-32
Week Seven/ March 15th-March 21st :: ch. 33-37
Week Eight/ March 22-March 28th :: ch. 38-42

There are lots of other blogs participating so be sure to check out Unputdownables to see everyone else's progress.

Waiting on Wednesday — Erin

Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
Pub date: June 21, 2011

Katarina Bishop has worn a lot of labels in her short life. Friend. Niece. Daughter. Thief. But for the last two months she’s simply been known as the girl who ran the crew that robbed the greatest museum in the world. That’s why Kat isn’t surprised when she’s asked to steal the infamous Cleopatra Emerald so it can be returned to its rightful owners.

There are only three problems. First, the gem hasn’t been seen in public in thirty years. Second, since the fall of the Egyptian empire and the suicide of Cleopatra, no one who holds the emerald keeps it for long, and in Kat’s world, history almost always repeats itself. But it’s the third problem that makes Kat’s crew the most nervous and that is simply… the emerald is cursed.

Kat might be in way over her head, but she’s not going down without a fight. After all she has her best friend—the gorgeous Hale—and the rest of her crew with her as they chase the Cleopatra around the globe, dodging curses, realizing that the same tricks and cons her family has used for centuries are useless this time.

Which means, this time, Katarina Bishop is making up her own rules.

When I saw the cover reveal last week for Ally Carter's second Heist Society book I immediately knew what my WoW pick would be.  I adored Heist Society.  I mean, come on, Ocean's 11 for teens?  Yes please!  While I am a fan of her Gallagher Girls series, I'm completely in love with the characters she's created in this series.  The dialogue is so snappy and witty and has such great energy.  It really feels like a heist film come to life.  I absolutely can't wait to get my hands on this one.

What are you waiting on this week?

*Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

Monday, February 7, 2011

Review — A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Jennifer Egan’s spellbinding new work circles Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Bennie and Sasha never discover each other’s pasts, but the reader does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other people whose paths intersect with theirs in the San Francisco 1970s music scene, the demimonde of Naples, New York at many points along the way from the pre-Internet nineties to a postwar future, and on a catastrophic safari into the heart of Africa. We meet Lou, Bennie’s charismatic, careless mentor; Scotty, the young musician who slipped off the grid; the uncle facing a failed marriage who goes in search of seventeen-year-old Sasha when she disappears into Italy; and the therapist on whose couch she dissects darker compulsions.

A Visit from the Goon Squad is a book about time, survival, and the electrifying sparks ignited at the seams of our lives by colliding destinies. Sly, surprising, exhilarating work from one of our boldest writers.

Review:  “Time is a goon.”  That’s the saying, isn’t it?  Maybe not, but it doesn’t mean it’s not true however you interpret it.  Egan’s novel is more a narrative web than any kind of linear story.  The web extends from Bennie Salazar and through him we meet a whole host of other characters, some directly related to him, some that aren’t.  Each chapter jumps in time in what I want to call “past, present, and future” but, really, they are all the present. 

At first A Visit From the Good Squad reminded me of Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists, but where I found Rachman’s book to be a little depressing, I was strangely inspired by Egan’s use of multiple points of view and non-linear storytelling. We have a wide array of narrators, but I never felt pulled in different directions or confused. I realize now that while it’s not linear storytelling, it is an emotionally linear story.

Each chapter feels like it could be an entirely different book, but they all work together incredibly well.  There’s a chapter that’s told entirely in graphs and charts and I think that might have been the most emotionally affecting chapter in the entire book.

Not every chapter works perfectly.  The chapter staring “LaDoll” felt a bit out of place in the greater picture, though it was engrossing in it’s own right.  Ted’s chapter wasn’t my favorite, though I did like the chance to see Sasha as a teenager.  Egan uses a variety of devices throughout the book, from the charts, like I mentioned, to an omniscient narrator who sees characters future’s while we’re in their present, and she even uses the dreaded second person.  And it actually works.  That kind of literary device could take you out of the narrative, but I didn’t even realize I was reading in the second person until a few pages into the chapter.

As I finished Goon Squad, I felt the need to sit back and have a few minutes of reflection, something that doesn’t happen often, sadly. I feel like I’m still trying to work this one out, sort out all my thoughts and feelings. Egan makes you think about time, family, friends, music, regrets, and so much more in such an emotional, visceral way.  A Visit From the Goon Squad is one I know I will definitely visit again and again, each time taking away something different.  There’s something sad, hopeful, and beautiful about this novel and I really can’t recommend it enough. 

Lit Snit Verdict: A

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Review - Shift by Jennifer Bradbury

Synopsis (from book cover): Imagine you and your best friend head out West on a cross-country bike trek. Imagine that the two of you get into a fight—and stop riding together. Imagine you reach Seattle, go back home, start college. Imagine you think your former best friend does too. Imagine he doesn’t. Imagine your world shifting… Shift is a tour de force—a literary debut that’ll knock the wind out of you as it explores the depths of loyalty, the depths of friendship, and the unknowable depths of another person.

Two friends go on a cross-country bike trek together after high school graduation. They get separated. Only one of them goes back home. Now, an FBI agent is asking questions.

We know this much in the first chapter, meeting Chris, who is starting his first year of college without having heard from his supposed friend, Win, in weeks. Win’s powerful and disapproving father wants to know what happened to Win, if Chris has heard from Win, if maybe Chris had something to do with his disappearance. Chris starts to wonder how much Win was hiding from him.

Then, we're taken back to the beginning, before graduation, when the bike trip was first conceived. The story splits into two time-lines, flip-flopping between Chris’s first year of college and the summer before, fleshing out the story of Chris and Win’s journey from West Virginia to the west coast.

We get to know Chris and Win, best friends since sixth grade, so close they practically shared a brain. The cross-country trip is a life-changing one, and not just because of the way it ended. More important are the people they meet along the way, the stories they share, the things they learn about themselves and each other.

With simple but elegant prose, this is one of those stories where the characters and the relationships between them can outshine even the best plots. It felt real, and had a lot of heart.

Lit Snit Verdict: A