Review Paper Towns by John Green

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life – dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge – he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues – and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer Q gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.

Genre: YA Fiction
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release Date: October 16, 2008
Page Count: 305
Source: My copy.
Rating: 3/5

There’s a few things I’ve learned about John Green’s books reading Paper Towns:


-I don’t agree with the common opinion that all Green’s characters are the same.
Quentin Jacobsen (anxiety) is very different from Will Grayson (typical) who is very different from Miles Halter (the great perhaps) who is extremely different from Augustus Waters (oblivion). However:

-I do think that Alaska Young and Margo Roth Spiegelman have a lot in common, or are, essentially, the same character.
And I don’t get it. Not that they are the same really – that’s fine, it happens – but I don’t get their appeal. As Miles is with Alaska, Quentin is absolutely enamored with Margo. And I understand she’s beautiful and popular and spontaneous and adventurous and all of these wonderful things that might lure in a teenage boy, but she’s also really self-absorbed. She’s careless about the ones who love her. She knows that Quentin is actually obsessed with her (and that’s what this book borders on, obsession) and she doesn’t care. She actually plans to hang out with him and blow him off in the same night. And maybe, maybe I can understand their appeal a little bit – on the outside these girls are these free, beautiful spirits, but that’s not enough if you’re just going to walk all over everyone to get what you want, while thinking you’re better than everyone else. The point is, while I may never understand because I’m obviously not a teenage boy, I think there are plenty of beautiful, eccentric, free girls out there that won’t stomp all over your heart the first chance they get. I guess I’m rooting for the underdog. And this is mainly where my rating comes from. Because I truly dislike Margo, and therefore dislike Quentin for stooping to her level.

-I read Green’s books in the wrong order.
Unfortunately, I only discovered John Green last year. The Fault in Our Stars, my favorite book, was the first book I ever read by John Green. Then Looking for Alaska, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and finally Paper Towns. I’m sure every author wants their next book to be better than their last, and such was the case. Except I read them backwards.

To conclude, I never really thought I’d rate a John Green book three stars. But as it turns out, Paper Towns is my least favorite. And that’s not saying it’s a bad book – there are plenty of books I rated three stars that I really liked – just not my favorite.


Review Clockwork Prince (The Infernal Devices, #2) by Cassandra Clare

In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.

With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.

Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will—the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?

As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.

Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release Date: December 6, 2011
Page Count: 502
Source: My copy.
Rating: 5/5
I mentioned in my updates that I am not tired of Clare’s books yet. That after seven books, you’d think I would get tired of Shadowhunters, but I’m so not. If anything, this book has renewed my love for Shadowhunters. You get a better sense of who they are and what they believe in in the prequel series to The Mortal Instruments and I found myself really understanding them. Family and strength and staying true to yourself is part of what makes them tick and I realized that they are truly amazing people.

I don’t get love triangles. I don’t. Kissing one boy in the drawing room and then kissing the other boy in the carriage the next day was not acceptable then and it isn’t now. (At least I don’t think so. When is hurting someone you supposedly love acceptable?) Tessa needs to make a choice. She has needed to make a choice for a while now, and I think what she is doing is wrong. And though she may think she has, I don’t think she has truly made that choice. And it is unfair. How long she has strung these boys along, it is unfair to them, and to herself. But I indulge the love triangles. Why? I don’t know. Why do I watch The Vampire Diaries? It’s unclear, but I think my interest in this story is the setting. The world they live in, not so much the characters (even though I love Will. And Magnus.). Which is weird for me. I have always said I can forgive plot, but never bad characters. And the characters aren’t bad, really, they’re just kind of there. I don’t feel overwhelming emotion for Tessa or for Jem or for Charlotte but I do love the magic. And the danger. And the badassery.

I said the characters didn’t wow me yet I still rated the book five stars. I really do love the world Clare has created, and don’t think I’ll ever get enough of it. I keep waiting for Clare to write a bad book, for me to open one of these books and scream WHAT IS THIS SHIT but I never do. She is an author who never leaves anything out while trusting us to read intelligently. She is wonderful and I will read her work for as long as she puts it out. No matter how many Shadowhunter books she writes.


Waiting on Wednesday (2)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature that exhibits titles I’m impatiently awaiting. WoW is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Publication date: August 13, 2013

I’m not much for adult mysteries/thrillers anymore due to the typicality of them (they are all I read when I first starting reading – hello Dean Koontz), but the Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell series is by far my favorite and I don’t think I could ever let it go. The sixth  book, Let Me Go, does not have a synopsis yet, but that won’t stop me from looking forward to it. I first fell for Archie’s damaged soul and Gretchen’s sadistic one by accident in the bookstore one day, and I have been hooked ever since. Chelsea Cain, for me, is one of those authors whose books you rush out to by the second they are available. Her novels are very character driven – which is hard to find in adult mystery – and I like that. I love all the characters in this series, including serial murderer Gretchen Lowell. Cain is just that good. I can’t wait.

What are you waiting on?


Review Insurgent (Divergent #2) by Veronica Roth

 

One choice can transform you–or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves–and herself–while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable–and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

“New York Times” bestselling author Veronica Roth’s much-anticipated second book of the dystopian “Divergent” series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.

Genre: YA Dystopian
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Page Count: 525
Source: My copy.
Rating: 4/5

My rating may surprise you, especially if you saw my Goodreads status updates. Stuff like “Tris, grow up” and “OMG Tris. Stop. Just stop.” And by page three-hundred-and-something I was completely prepared to give this book one star and start my review with “Fuck this book” (I’ve always wanted to start a review like that. I guess it’ll just have to wait.).

But the thing is, I love this book and I love the Divergent series. I have even marked this book as a favorite, a list that holds only 21 books. Despite my frustrations with this book as I was reading it, I really loved it. I think that Roth is a phenomenal writer. I think her world-building is imaginative but realistic, and frankly, I am in love with Four like I have never been in love with a character before. I think he is an amazing, strong person who puts those he truly loves in front of himself and feel like I can connect with him on so many levels. He’s one of those characters that you wish you had as a friend in real life. And this book is like that – it’s a fast-paced, badass thriller yes, and it’s a really dangerous and crazy world to live in yes, yet you find yourself wishing you were really a part of it. I want to meet all these characters and fight alongside them because having them to fight for would be totally worth it. And I’ve gotta say, it’s been a while since I’ve come across a story with such strong world-building and character development that it made me feel that way.

But Tris, she… well, I’m just gonna come out and say it. She pissed me off. Bad. She was too goddamned reckless. And you want to be reckless fine… your parents died, you feel like there’s nothing else – but there is something else. Someone else. And he is fucking counting on you to be the girl he loves. Not throw yourself into danger. All the things I described about Four before, it’s like Tris fails to see all that. And she is supposed to be the one who loves him! She thinks its okay to basically tear his heart out and stomp on it because she is grieving and because she doesn’t want to live. This is where I wanted her to grow up. This is where I got so fed up with her that I wanted to put the book down. She needed to look at her surroundings and realize the world was falling apart, and she needed to stop and really think about what she could do to fix it before running into situations without using her brain first. She was not being Tris at all through the course of this book – the Tris I fell in love with in Divergent – and it seriously pissed me off. And if it wasn’t enough to do one Stupid Thing and be lucky enough to live through it, she went and did another Stupid Thing. And, though it worked out in the end (sort of), I still don’t agree with how she went about it. I don’t agree with her going against the people who loved her instead of entrusting them to keep an open mind to see it her way.

So, maybe I should rate this book lower based on my experience (and my frustration) with it, but I just love the Divergent world so much, I don’t have it in me to do it. I would definitely recommend it, and can only hope, for the sake of my sanity, that Tris is not such a dumbass in the next book, and actually takes the time to realize that – though her world is in ruins – what she does have… is beautiful.


Review The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

A heartwarming debut novel, soon to be a major movie by David O. Russell.

“Aawww shucks!” NPR’s Nancy Pearl said. “I know that’s hardly a usual way to begin a book review, but it was my immediate response to finishing Matthew Quick’s heartwarming, humorous and soul-satisfying first novel . . . This book makes me smile.”

Meet Pat Peoples. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure him a happy ending—the return of his estranged wife, Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent several years in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat’s now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he’s being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he’s being haunted by Kenny G!

David O. Russell, the Oscar-nominated director of The Fighter, is helming his own adaptation of The Silver Linings Playbook. Due in theaters this Thanksgiving, the movie features Bradley Cooper (Peoplemagazine’s Sexiest Man Alive) in the role of Pat, alongside Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Julia Stiles, Chris Tucker, and Jacki Weaver. As the award-winning novelist Justin Cronin put it: “Tender, soulful, hilarious, and true, The Silver Linings Playbook is a wonderful debut.”

Genre: Realistic Fiction
Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books
Release Date: October 16, 2012
Page Count: 289
Source: My copy.
Rating: 3/5
I’ve got to stop reading the book just because I want to see the movie. That’s not to say this book is bad, but the movie looked really funny and cute and I love Bradley Cooper and I like Jennifer Lawrence and I didn’t even know there was a book until I saw the movie cover at the bookstore and, well, I think I would have really just enjoyed the movie. And now I don’t think I will. As much.

Like I said, the movie looked really funny and cute and the book is well… it’s not really funny or cute. At all. It’s sad and depressing and kind of twisted. Pat’s thirty-five year old mind has been reverted to a really immature teenager’s mind due to a traumatic experience. And no one in the book – not even his psychiatrist – really says he is acting that naive, but really. I mean, he actually refers to things as “apart time” and thinks his life is a movie. It’s really sad. And it’s painfully obvious to the reader that he is just so wrong about everything, but you just have to ride it out with him.

I did end up rating this book higher than I thought I would, due to the somewhat satisfying ending (albeit a bit rushed), but mostly didn’t enjoy it because I thought I would be getting something other than what I got. If you go into this book expecting a quirky, funny, light read, I think you’ll be disappointed like I was. It is quirky, kind of, but not very funny, in my opinion. I mean, I laughed a few times, but mostly this book tackles the seriousness of mental illness, and the things people do when they are learning to cope with it. And Pat copes with it by working out (way too much I think – he is quite obsessive about it) and watching football. I mean, really. If you’re like Tiffany and you hate football, you probably don’t want to read this book.

I did enjoy Pat and some of the relationships in this book – especially his mother and his brother, Jake – but the love story was kind of botched for me. I didn’t agree with the way the author pushed the romance on these characters. I think the interpretation that fucked up people can only be with fucked up people (and I’m not saying the mentally ill are “fucked up”, but “fucked up” is exactly how Pat and Tiffany are portrayed and treated) is bullshit. I didn’t necessarily have a problem with Pat and Tiffany as the people that they were (except for Tiffany’s grave mistakes), but I think that two people should be together because they want to, not because they should or because they are settling for one another. And that’s kind of what it seemed like to me. Maybe I’m being naive myself or maybe I’m just super lucky to have found someone I truly love, but the whole thing just seemed forced.

I “liked it” (Goodreads rating) because of the characters. I wasn’t necessarily a fan of Pat and Tiffany’s relationship or the football or the working out or even the somewhat strange dancing competition, but I really liked Pat and his mom and Jake and Dr. Patel. I thought they were all great people that I could really connect with.

Unfortunately, this novel spoils several books that I wanted to read, including The Bell Jar and Catcher in the Rye. In his story, Pat actually reads these books and tells us the ending of every one (there is like five books total). So, if you want to avoid a serious spoiler alert for a bunch of classics, you probably want to be careful with this one.


Review The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

When her widower father drowns at sea, Gemma Hardy is taken from her native Iceland to Scotland to live with her kind uncle and his family. But the death of her doting guardian leaves Gemma under the care of her resentful aunt, and it soon becomes clear that she is nothing more than an unwelcome guest at Yew House. When she receives a scholarship to a private school, ten-year-old Gemma believes she’s found the perfect solution and eagerly sets out again to a new home. However, at Claypoole she finds herself treated as an unpaid servant.
To Gemma’s delight, the school goes bankrupt, and she takes a job as an au pair on the Orkney Islands. The remote Blackbird Hall belongs to Mr. Sinclair, a London businessman; his eight-year-old niece is Gemma’s charge. Even before their first meeting, Gemma is, like everyone on the island, intrigued by Mr. Sinclair. Rich (by Gemma’s standards), single, flying in from London when he pleases, Hugh Sinclair fills the house with life. An unlikely couple, the two are drawn to each other, but Gemma’s biggest trial is about to begin: a journey of passion and betrayal, redemption and discovery, that will lead her to a life of which she’s never dreamed.
 
Set in Scotland and Iceland in the 1950s and ’60s, The Flight of Gemma Hardy–a captivating homage to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre–is a sweeping saga that resurrects the timeless themes of the original but is destined to become a classic all its own.
 
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: January 24, 2012
Page Count: 447
Source: My copy.
Rating: 4/5

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book so beautifully crafted as The Forgotten Garden or any of Kate Furnivall’s books. I know The Flight of Gemma Hardy isn’t exactly historical fiction, but it sure reads like one. Which is definitely not a bad thing.

I haven’t read Jane Eyre, so I don’t have a lot to go on when comparing this retelling. But I can tell you that its rawness and turmoil shines through Gemma’s young eyes, and it’s beautiful. It’s ugly. It’s ugly and it’s beautiful, like life so often is. But this is not a normal life. Young Gemma is treated horribly not only by her schoolmates and her teachers but by her own family. She’s never really been given a chance. And everyone seems to think that she thinks she is better than everyone else she’s around but that’s the thing… she is better. After being orphaned—even when she has family who is perfectly capable of taking care of her—worked to the bone, and never been given a chance, she refuses to stoop to their level of darkness and evil. Anyone would be damaged by this kind of treatment at such a young age but Gemma thrives and stays true to the good person she is, the good person her beloved uncle brought her up to be. I admired her. I’m not going to say that she didn’t frustrate me at times—she reminded me of The Language of Flowers’s Victoria Jones—but I believed in her. She was truly a good person. And sadly, a character like that has been hard to come by in literature lately.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy is one of those books you want to take your time with. Though I read it in a day, it’s not one of those books you just read. You have to take your time absorbing its elements and eventually it will swallow you whole. I read the first two hundred pages without looking up. It’s just written that beautifully. You can’t look away.

Despite this, I thought the romance (or romances) could have been better. I didn’t think there was much development to be found in Gemma and Hugh’s relationship and there was practically no build up. I liked him, but I felt that the author wanted us to fall head over heels for him but with the way he was portrayed I thought he was just a normal guy. I’m a romantic at heart—I pretty much need at least a little romance in every story I read—but I would have been happy without it here. Gemma was intriguing enough on her own.

Furthermore, I thought the ending was a bit off. It didn’t feel rushed but I felt like other relationships (friendships especially) could have been wrapped up better. Actually, I didn’t feel like some of them were wrapped up at all.

These are forgivable elements though, as the novel as a whole was so wonderfully crafted. Livesey has definitely worked some magic here. And, though it doesn’t matter to some people, the cover of this book is freaking PERFECT.

A new favorite, for sure.


Review On the Road by Jack Kerouac (DNF)

Essential Edition handsomely packaged with french flaps, rough fronts, high-quality paper, and a distinctive cover look

On the Road chronicles Jack Kerouac’s years traveling the North American continent with his friend Neal Cassady, “a sideburned hero of the snowy West.” As “Sal Paradise” and “Dean Moriarty,” the two roam the country in a quest for self-knowledge and experience. Kerouac’s love of America, his compassion for humanity, and his sense of language as jazz combine to make On the Road an inspirational work of lasting importance.

Kerouac’s classic novel of freedom and longing defined what it meant to be “Beat” and has inspired every generation since its initial publication more than forty years ago.

Genre: Classic Literature
Publisher: Penguin Books
Release Date: January 1, 1976
Page Count: 307
Source: My copy.
Rating: No rating (DNF)

The simple truth of my opinion of this book is this: On the Road is boring, and that’s why I didn’t finish it. I don’t know if I’m one of those people who shouldn’t read classics because they just don’t “get it”, or if it was legitimately not interesting. I’ll go for the latter as I picked up this book as a book club read and three other women who range in age and reading tastes could not get into it either. While I realize On the Road is not in the same league as some of the other classics I’ve read, I feel it important to mention that I loved To Kill a Mockingbird in high school; while I disliked the majority of the Jane Austen books I’ve read I loved Pride & Prejudice; and though I thought its politics were tiring and overdone, I thought Anna Karenina was okay. So even though I haven’t read Jane Eyre, any of Bukowski’s or Vonnegut’s work, Brave New WorldLes Mis, or A Clockwork Orange, I don’t view myself a total Classic Lit virgin. But On the Road was so boring.

I wasn’t too familiar with the Beat Generation when I went into this book, and hoped On the Road would spell it out for me. It didn’t. I got more information from Wikipedia. While I recognize the novel’s unique writing style and quotable language, it seemed to me that Sal’s interests were getting drunk and hitchhiking. Vonnegut once said of his relationship with Kerouac:

“I knew Kerouac only at the end of his life, which is to say there was no way for me to know him at all, since he had become a pinwheel. He had settled briefly on Cape Cod, and a mutual friend, the writer Robert Boles, brought him over to my house one night. I doubt that Kerouac knew anything about me or my work, or even where he was. He was crazy. He called Boles, who is black, “a blue-gummed n****r.” He said that Jews were the real Nazis, and that Allen Ginsberg had been told by the Communists to befriend Kerouac, in order that they might gain control of American young people, whose leader he was.”

I don’t know if Kerouac had acted this way because he drank himself insane, but I would guess that he did since he died at 47 from internal bleeding, a result of a lifetime abuse of alcohol.

My intent with this review is not to bash on Kerouac. Based on his fan base, he is practically a great American hero, and, frankly, I’m sure he is fascinating. My point is to give an insight to Sal who was, ultimately, Kerouac. And I’ve read books on traveling (backpacking, specifically), that encompassed the wonder of traveling with friends, meeting new people, and discovering oneself through the beauty of the outdoors. And I don’t think On the Road successfully does that. I think it encompasses Sal and his needs to see through the bottom of a bottle. And yes, I only read 80 pages of the book, but surely that is enough for something to happen? Yet it doesn’t. Sal travels across the country, completely obsessed with Dean and Carlo, who don’t really seem to give a shit about him – they often forget he’s even there – and Remi, who thinks the world owes him something. I don’t really know what one would want to do with these types of characters. Yet Sal wants nothing more.

I’ve wanted to read this book for some time, ever since a recommendation came from one of my favorite independent authors, and as I gazed over the book at the bookstore so many times. You readers will probably never forgive me for this, but I will sheepishly admit that when buzz came across about On the Road The Movie and Kristen Stewart mentioned in one of her interviews that On the Road was one of her favorite books as a teen, I went out and picked it up. The girl, Robert Pattinson cheater or not, intrigues me. (I also wanted to see the movie and for some reason CANNOT watch the movie without reading the book first. It’s a personality fault.) And I was really looking forward to reading it. I mean, beyond the boredom, there was one instance where Sal was out to prove the wonders and beauty of life to a girl by making love to her, but he failed at the making love part, making the sexual encounter a quickie, ultimately failing to prove to her that life was beautiful. She seemed disappointed. And I was disappointed. Maybe it’s realistic of Kerouac. But for me, it was the one part of the first third of the book that got me to sit up in my seat and pay attention – not because of the possible romance, but because of the evolution of Sal as a character, the evolution of anything in this book – and yet it ended up being worth nothing. And then it just went right back into the swing of things. Sal’s drinking and Remi’s bullshit. I didn’t get much farther until I picked up something else.

This book just fell horribly flat for me. It bored me, and unlike Anna Karenina (a book that was so very hard for me to finish), I didn’t particularly like any of the characters enough to force myself to read on. I know that there are so many people that adore Kerouac and this book. Unfortunately, it would seem that I’m not one of them. I don’t know, maybe I don’t get it. But if I have to suffer through the rest of this book to get it, I don’t really want to.


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