Today’s Friday Reads are all about class-assigned readings. I’ve built leisure time into my schedule each day, but thanks to doing nothing but reading for school, I’ve spent most of my leisure time racking up hours on that new No Man’s Sky update. (That update is … wow.) Interestingly enough, my readings — for African-American Literature, especially — really seem to line up with some relevance to current issues. But isn’t that always the way?
This week marked my first week of Fall term in my graduate program. From here on out, it’s likely that Friday Reads will deal almost entirely with assigned reading. I’m hoping I’ll get to sneak a few leisure reads into my schedule here and there, but between course assignments and that new No Man’s Sky update I still need to check out for myself, I may not get much leisure reading done before Christmas break.
I really wanted to enjoy this book. The blurb was amazing, and the guest post I read by the author on Chuck Wendig’s blog really pumped me up. It seemed like it was going to fling itself into my Top 10 YA books, which is hard to do (especially considering most of the list is filled with heavyweight trilogies).
This book was … disappointing. I do not enjoy writing bad reviews so I’ll keep this short and as painless as possible. I almost hope Brozek doesn’t read this.
Melissa Allen, a teenager in a small town in South Dakota, goes to sleep. She wakes up the next morning to find that everyone in the state has mysteriously died in their sleep, her sister and brother-in-law included. On top of all this, Melissa is on house arrest, she’s supposed to be at the doctor soon, and her meds are almost gone …. is it possible she’s to blame for her family’s deaths, and the rest of it is just all in her head?
Literally the only thing I liked about this book was the main character isn’t the picture of perfection; she’s on probation and suffers from mental and emotional disorders, but even that isn’t well-executed (not to mention, based on the cover art, she’s still a gorgeous blonde with perfect skin and a runway-ready body that I seriously doubt belongs to a 14-year-old). There’s a LOT of telling, not much showing, and I really hate that phrase so I’ll go into what I mean here. The main character (whose name I literally already forgot, she’s so flat) explains a couple times what happens to her during her episodes, which is interesting and seems well-researched. When she has to explain to someone else the need to go back for her lost meds, though, it seems like she’s reading from one of those old-school Pill Books that lists all the side effects and interactions of every pill. It felt like reading Wikipedia, not like listening to a 14-year-old explain something she finds obvious to someone who should know better.
The story never really touches on what caused her to develop these conditions, even though it’s implied that she wasn’t born with them. (Also, why the hell was she in juvie in the first place? Did I miss that part, or… ?) The one traumatic event in her life is explicitly stated to have exacerbated but not caused the problems. And the twist hinted at in the blurb (Is the apocalypse real? Or did she kill her guardians and hallucinate it all?) is only barely mentioned, certainly not mined to its full potential. It comes into play only in the last five pages or so, and is quickly hand-waved aside.
Finally, the horror reveal comes too early and is too obvious. By the time you ‘see’ the monster, you basically already know what it is, and honestly, it’s kind of stupid. It’s so implausible and what explanation we get is reaching and still comes up thin and unlikely.
I didn’t even bother purchasing the second two books.
How I found it: Guest post on an author blog
Genre: Young adult; sci-fi; horror
Does it pass the Bechdel test? No
Is it a standalone? No
So what worked? You can tell there’s a tiny morsel of a good idea buried in here, and I wanted so badly for the author to reach in and grab it and run with it, but she never did. This story has massive potential, none of it realized.
What didn’t work? The utterly flat main character (for several reasons), the unconvincing monsters, the thin veneer of resolution, the pacing, etc. etc.
Overall: I haven’t been quite so disappointed in a book in awhile. It’s also the first trilogy I’ve utterly given up on. I can’t with this book. The author makes an effort at the quick pacing of many popular writers but it seems to get away from her. The main character is not well developed and it seems she was only given a mental illness in an effort to perform diversity, but it comes across as pandering and patronizing. This one is a definite skip.
I’m ahead of the game! This has never happened before but I’m trying to keep it up. This review is actually for a novel I started before Christmas, so I’m three books past this already! Whew.
This is one of the first graphic novels I’ve read in a long time, and it was so fun. I love the mixture of prose and images and what it says about the novel. More about that later just to avoid any possible spoilers.
Chasing Shadows also fits into my No-SWCM Reading Challenge, and it made me realize I’m probably not doing this challenge right. Yeah, I’ve cut out all the SWCM authors from my reading list, but I’m still reading predominantly white authors, even if they are female. Avasthi, of course, is not white, but I realize now that I need to broaden my horizons even more. I’ve gotten some really great recommendations for works by PoC, but if you have one you’re dying to tell me about, preach its gospel in the comments!
Savitri, her boyfriend Corey, and his twin sister Holly are the closest friends can get. They do everything together. When they’re not in school, they’re cutting new paths along the rooftops of Chicago, taming the city and making it their own.
After an afternoon freerunning session, the twins become the target of a hooded gunman, who kills Corey and leaves Holly in a coma.
Savitri and Holly are left to pick up the pieces and deal with their loss—and their survivor’s guilt—in their own ways. But when Holly wakes from her coma, she’s not the same person, and she’s eager to get revenge on the gunman. Sav struggles with the loss of her boyfriend, the slow fade of her best friend, and whether it’s possible to hold on too tight—and for too long.
How I found it: Book Riot YA box #03
Genre: Young adult; contemporary realism; graphic novel
Does it pass the Bechdel test? Yes
Is it a standalone? Yes
So what worked? I like the complexity of the girls’ friendship. It isn’t just the tragedy that comes between them; the difference between their cultures cause issues that Holly seems to be blind to. I like the implications that has for their relationship, the subtle addressing of white privilege and how that can affect interracial friendships in sometimes surprising ways.
I loved the graphic portions of the novel and, as I mentioned before, their symbolism. The appearance of images coincides with and really signals Holly’s descent into madness as she struggles to parse this new reality without her twin.
And of course, I also like the pull-no-punches way the novel deals with violence and how it ripples out and affects so many people. It treats the grieving process and mental illness carefully but truthfully; people grieve in different ways and on different timelines, and none of them are wrong. And mental illness can manifest in startling and unexpected ways, but it’s important to try to recognize the signs in your loved ones and be sure they’re taking care of themselves. Sav thinks she’s helping by withdrawing when Holly pushes her away, when the reality is that Sav should have done anything but. Of course, every situation is not the same, every response is not the right one, and the novel does a great job of showing that.
What didn’t work? It seemed strange at times that the parents of any of the children were not more visible, more involved. Josh’s mom in particular seems either willfully or woefully ignorant of what’s going on with her son. Granted, the teens are all seniors in high school who can obviously drive themselves and (generally speaking) conduct themselves responsibly, and granted, this does touch on the book’s theme of dealing with grief. Many people, I’m sure, do withdraw from their families and their other children when facing the loss of a child. But all the parents were strangely absent for the majority of the story, and that struck me as slightly odd, especially for Savitri, who seems to have a strong relationship with her mom that really wasn’t displayed.
Overall: It’s a very emotionally dense read, so it took me longer to get through this than I anticipated. I occasionally had to take a step back from it, but that’s not a critique in the slightest. I loved the way it drew me in and then tore me apart. I got so invested in the characters I found myself taking things personally, even after I started disliking some of them and the way they handled things. I liked that it wasn’t some happy-go-lucky BS that wraps up with rainbows and flowers as if nothing bad ever happened. And of course, I’m a sucker for symbolism, especially when extended through a whole work like this, so the graphic element and what it meant for the story really amped up my enjoyment of it. Very, very effective.
This book is heavy. I’d assign it trigger warnings for violence and mental illness at the very least, because I want you to go into this book fully aware of what you’re getting into. But I want you to read this, because what this book has to say about life, love, and loss is utterly critical.
Synopsis: Between her family’s drunken antics and vicious verbal attacks from her so-called friends, Irina Sudenko Volkov is having the worst night ever. And that’s before she’s widowed.
Volatile, cheating, no-good Sergei’s death-by-assassin unleashes chaos in the werewolf criminal underground. Irina’s panicked Papa assigns Beta wolf Viktor Zhukovsky to Irina’s security detail until her husband’s killer is found. As Irina’s world crumbles around her, the perfect princess mask falls away and Viktor meets the sharp, passionate woman underneath. Their initial chemistry gives way to a deeper attraction when Irina begins to see the decency underneath Viktor’s gruff, tattooed exterior, despite his insistence that it doesn’t exist.
Their tendency to find themselves semi-nude and in enclosed spaces is a source of amusement to her sister, Galina, but each of them knows of the deadly consequences if their relationship is brought to light. Things get even more complicated when Papa Sudenko begins to match-make Irina and Andrey Lupesco, who also happens to be in a secret relationship with Galina. Family dinners are awkward. With danger closing in on all sides, Irina has to find her claws and learn to howl.
In the much-anticipated sequel to From Russia with Claws, readers get a new perspective of the lusty exploits of the untameable Sudenko family. Gia Corona and Jacey Conrad craft a delightful tale of the anything-but-average human Irina and the libidinous lycanthropes in her life.
And don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!
About The Authors:
Jacey Conrad is a sushi-loving, pop culture nerd living in the South with her high school sweetheart. She delights in horribly made mutant shark movies and watching Sean Bean die in his various cinematic incarnations. To keep up with Jacey on twitter, go to twitter.com/JaceyConrad
Gia Corona loves boots, boys, and bourbon, not necessarily in that order. When she’s not actively stalking Michael Fassbender and his abdominals, she’s watching questionable television or reading comics. You can find her at twitter.com/Gia_writes
Gia and Jacey have very different ideas of what constitutes a good romantic movie, mostly because of Jacey’s tendency to see romance where there is none and ship ALL OF THE THINGS. So they sat down to list their top five “watch when you’re feeling sappy and need romance in your life” movies.
Sliding Doors – I’m assuming this is a romance, there’s a romance in it anyway. I adore this movie because of the one liners and because John Hannah is utterly, ridiculously cute in it. Also because of the line, “I’m a woman! We don’t tell you what we want! But we reserve the right to get pissed off if we don’t get it. It’s what makes us so fascinating. And not a little bit scary.” Truer words have never been spoken.
Beauty and the Beast (Disney) – Seriously, you have to ask? He gives her a LIBRARY. Every book nerd girl had their ovaries explode when the Beast did that. Don’t lie, you know it’s true.
The Quiet Man – Oh Maureen O’Hara. The vibe of this movie is just so perfect. It’s Ireland (which has a special place in my heart because I went there on my honeymoon) and the townspeople are terrifically zany. And the romance between O’Hara and John Wayne is lovely. Also that brawl at the end is epic.
Sense and Sensibility – Alan. Rickman. As Colonel Brandon. Dear God, that man. When he’s staggering across the hills with Kate Winslet in his arms and his absolutely wrecked reading of “Give me an occupation, Miss Dashwood, or I shall run mad”—SWOON! It just cemented my love of Alan Rickman that not even Love Actually could turn aside.
Pride and Prejudice (2005) – I will always love the Gold Standard Colin Firth version, but if you don’t have eight hours to devote to watching a move, this is an excellent second choice. The music is absolutely gorgeous. I like the “earthier” interpretation that actually allows for the fact that people were living without running water or paved roads, so occasionally got dirt on their cheeks and clothes. Matthew MacFayden is not as polished as Firth as Mr. Darcy, but he has an aggressive, grumbly charm that I find very approachable and sexy. And he and Keira Knightley have chemistry to spare. I love that you get a little glimpse into their post-married life and the movie ends on a very sweet note. (PS, I’m actually shocked as hell that we both had a Jane Austen movie on our lists.)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall – Maybe not the most TRADITIONAL choice in romance movies, but SO real in its depiction of a break-up and what happens when a relationship runs out of steam. To the point where it’s kind of uncomfortable. It was really refreshing to see a director/actor let a character be almost unlikeable in his wallowing and attempts to move on with his life (or not.) And when Peter (Jason Siegel) risks getting the crap beat out of him to take down the topless photo, without expecting any sort of “my hero” reward, you know that he’s grown as a person and a potential partner.
The Princess Bride – No list would be complete without it. It is an action movie. It’s an adventure. It’s a magical story. But all of those elements are rooted in the belief that true love is worth fighting for, no matter what form it takes. And reading Cary Elwes’ memoir about making the film, AS YOU WISH, makes me want to watch it over and over to see the things that I missed.
Moonstruck – “SNAP OUT OF IT!” Being married to someone whose personality is very different from my own, I always love seeing how Loretta’s pragmatic, sensible soul clashes but ultimately melds and merges with Ronnie’s intense but misguided passion. He helps shake off her grumpy old widow persona and her enjoy life’s pleasures. She helps him become less of a drama queen and connect with real life. They change each other for the better and the people around them are better for it.
Ever After – It’s nice to see a fairy tale rooted in the tiniest bit of plausible reality. Danielle is spunky and smart, making the best of the hand she’s given. Henry is a prince not-yet-charming, but he’s willing to learn with guidance from the people around him. Yes, magical mice and glass shoes are wonderful, but seeing Leonardo DaVinci stepping in as fairy godmother was a unique take I really enjoyed, plus the costumes are gorgeous. Angela Huston is delicious as the evil Baroness. And the happily ever after features a self-rescuing princess, which is something I loved sharing with my daughter.
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And here’s From Russia With Claws: http://amzn.to/1PQ5Hea
Buy it from Barnes and Noble! http://bit.ly/1NFMIhH
Add it to your TBR: http://bit.ly/GRFANGS
This week features one of the two books from the third Book Riot YA subscription box. I haven’t yet started reading the second book from that selection, mainly because after two horror novels back to back, I need a break.
The Devil and Winnie Flynn looked interesting from the start, and the neat temp tattoos that came in the box just piqued my interest that much more. The cover gives credit to a brother-sister duo; Micol wrote the novel while her brother David created the illustrations.
I was pretty stoked to read it, especially with the cover blurb boasting that it will haunt me long after I finish reading (sweet!).
But first, the spoiler-free summary.