Thursday, March 16, 2017

CBR 9 #2 - Chasing Harry WInston by Lauren Weisberger

Having enjoyed Last Night at Chateau marmont and finding The Singles Game, ok, if a little meh, I decided to read another Weisberger book.  Well, not so much decided as saw that it was the next book in my unread books dropbox folder.  Did I regret my lazy choice?  Yes.  Yes I did.

Emmy, Leigh and Adriana have been best friends since college and have maintained the so-called BFF status even as they approach their 30s.  The girls are of course, so different from each other but are utter stereotypes.  And not pleasant ones either.  Emmy is the "desperate" one who is desperate to get married and have babies.  Leigh is the "cold" one who is unhappy despite a pretty much perfect life because she was not complete without the bad boy married novelist.  Adriana is the "slut", of course.  The Brazilian maneater, superficial and shallow.  

After Emmy's long time boyfriend broke up with after cheating numerous times and giving her STDs, the girls decide to make resolutions for the following year, to do a complete 180 on their tried and true moves.  Emmy was going to fuck numerous guys instead of rushing into yet another long term relationship.  Adriana was going to stick to one man, get engaged and married.  Leigh didn't have a particular resolution yet, but you bet your ass it had something to do with finding her true passionate love.  Who cares if she agreed to get engaged to a perfectly good, even great guy that she didn't love, because she was too spineless to say no?

I really did not like this book.  Seriously.  The characters are ridiculous cliches and so unlikeable to boot.  Emmy is the least worst, though she is whiny as hell.  Leigh is horrible and Adriana is the wooorsstt.  The plot was boring and so unbelievable at the same time.  The writing is so meh.  Adriana says 'querida' every other sentence.  Because she is Brazilian.  Get it??  There was a whole Aruba vacation that was both pointless and boring.

I think that the author was trying to be all girl power with this on in the sense that it wasn't ALL about the romance.  They supposedly learned something about themselves and and their happy ever after was not the fairy book romance happy ever after but a supposedly real-world happily ever after.  But to this, I call bullshit!  Ok, Emmy did get to have some casual sex but still got the perfect guy in the end, on the way to babies and marital bliss.  Leigh broke up with her perfect, sportscaster fiance to be with an asshole author.  But Adriana is what irked me the most.  Her thing was that her ex supermodel mom wanted her to get married to a rich guy before she became to old to snag one.  Never mind that she was already fabulously wealthy.  And how was that subverted?  She decided not to marry a rich guy but became an advice columnist on how to snag rich guys using hard-to-get tactics and basically luying.  I think this is an older book, but it feels really icky in the present climate.  

Oh my gosh, I did not realize that I felt so strongly about this book.  Final verdict:  Did not like, do not read.  Do you guys have any advice on which "chick lit"/ romance books are good and won't make my brain rot?  That won't invoke any feminist rage?  I haven't really read a lot of them but from what I've read, I liked marian Keyes the best.  

Monday, February 6, 2017

CBR 9 #1 - The Singles Game by Lauren Weisberger

I am notoriously (in my small circle of reading friends) averse to "chick lit" and romance.  But during the last quarter of 2015, I was having double vision (as a result of myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disease which affects muscles).  Then I got pregnant and was just basically sick a lot.  This led to me having a lot of trouble just reading (headaches) and concentrating while reading.  I had to forgo my more "serious" and long ass books.  Basically, I couldn't read anything that wasn't a page turner.  So I turned to thrillers and chick lit.  I read ALL the Liane moriarty and marian Keyes, which I loved.  I read Jojo moyes which was OK.  Then I read Last Night at Chateau marmont which was also Ok.  So that's the long story of why and how I started reading Lauren Weisberger and for this current pick.

This book is about wholesome American sweetheart tennis player turned warrior princess turned just plain herself Charlie Silver.  After a serious injury sidelined her for a few months, Charlie decided that being seeded somewhere in the double digits was not enough.  She wanted her grandslam win and would do anything to get it.  Including hiring an asshole coach, revamping her image ang disappointing her Dad.  So Charlie started living the glamorous life of a top seeded tennis player after her rebranding as a Warrior Princess.  But that meant sacrificing some of her relationships and principles.

I was pleasantly surprised that the new asshole coach was NOT the love interest.  In fact, the love interest wasn't really the focus of the whole story.  Sure, there was the unhealthy recurring booty call turned PR relationship with the handsome top seeded guy tennis player, the one night fling with the famous actor and the obvious true love hitting partner.  But the book was really about Charlie trying to be true to herself and her ambitions amidst all the expectations the men (usually) of her life have for her.  There was a lot of hand wringing about sportsmanship and sluttiness.  Her father in particular, annoyed me to no end in his saintly judgement of her sleeping around and unsportmanship behaviour.  I may be a horrible person but I don't think she was doing anything particularly wrong except being carried away by the partying and her image.  

It was an ok way to pass a few hours, I guess. Not that exciting but not boring.  I feel like I took a nice peek into the tennis circuit which was interesting since I used to play a teeny tiny bit in high school and live right beside a tennis court.  Overall, pretty meh about this one.

Monday, March 24, 2014

CBR VI # 3 - Messenger by Lois Lowry

This book is a more direct continuation of Gathering Blue.  Matt, Kira’s friend from Gathering Blue lived in the ghetto of Kira’s Tribe.  His parents were NOT nice. At the end of Gathering Blue, Matt had went with Kira’s father to live with him in The Village.  The Village was founded by people who are not welcome in their own villages.  Some travelled far and wide, some, like Kira’s father and Matt, came from just beyond the Forest.  Now this Village, this is Utopian.  Jonas, from The Giver, is the present “Leader” and resident wise man of the Village.  The Village is extremely peaceful with each person having their designation or their “true name”.  This is an echo of the Community where everyone is given their assignments when they turn 12.  But in the Village, naming seems more organic and benevolent.

Matt is living a pretty good life there.  He is far from his former wild self and is seemingly content and happy with Kira’s father and is hoping that he will soon be named “The Messenger”.  This is a job that he is already doing, in any case.  He delivers message far and wide, even beyond the mysterious forest which actually kills other people who have been living in the Village for long and dare to venture its depths.

But Matt’s perfect world is slowly being changed for the worse.  There is a mysterious trademaster who seems to be able to give everything your heart desires, at the cost of chipping away at your humanity one trade at a time.  The forest is becoming more and more corrupt and dangerous.  And the once benevolent and open villagers are planning on closing the village to outsiders, people, who, like the villagers when they first arrived, have nowhere else to go.  Because of the planned closing of the village, Matt goes back to Kira to lead her to the Village.  The way is hard and Matt barely makes it to Kira alive.  And things are even worse on the way back.  Someone will have to make a sacrifice.

The series, as it progresses, has less and less sci-fi aspects and has become very fantasy oriented.  While I also love fantasy, this leaves me a bit disoriented.  In this book, the mysterious trademaster seems like evil personified, a monster.  And Jonas’ and Kira’s and Matt’s special abilities are more magical, as is the dark forest.  As the series progresses, I like the books less and less.  I found the story a bit clich├ęd and simplistic.  And the ending, which was supposed to be really touching, didn’t really do anything for me.  That is not to say that the book was bad.  It was good enough to keep me interested.  It is quite alright and might be good for a younger audience.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

CBR VI # 2 - Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

I went into this book thinking that I would get an answer to the cliffhanger ending of The Giver. Was Jonas and Baby Gabriel safe? Or was it the final delusions of a dying kid? Well, I was sorely disappointed when the book opened to depict a society completely different from the Community. What was the connection? Well, I just decided to go ahead and enjoy the book on its merits and not as a sequel. Kira lives in a mainly hunter-gatherer society (with a little backyard agriculture) where survival of the fittest is paramount. It’s a tough world and physical weakness is not tolerated in fact, the weak and people with disabilities are left in a field to die. The story opens with Kira mourning for her mother in their dumpsite for the dead. Kira is lame in one leg and her mother, an influential person in their village, protected her when her defective leg should have meant certain death. Her dad is thought of to be dead from a hunting accident when she was still a baby so it was just her and her mother. Upon her mother’s death, her position in the tribe is threatened by the other stronger tribemates who wanted her land. Fortunately, she is saved by her talent in embroidering. The Council of Guardians appointed her to become the official embroiderer, meant to dedicate her life to repairing a cape which depicts the history of their people. Of humankind. In the surprisingly modern building (there’s running water!) where Kira is housed along with the official carver and the trainee singer, she learns more about history and the inner workings of her village. 

 I didn’t really see the connection between this book and The Giver until almost the end of the book. ****SPOILERS***** Kira’s friend, a poor (even for her village’s standards) boy named Matt ran away to find color blue thread for Kira’s embroidery. He end up in a village where it turns out took in all the handicapped and physically deformed people from their village who were left for dead. One of those people was Kira’s father who had become blind and was not, in fact dead. He came back for Kira and asked her to return with him to the Utopian village but Kira wanted to make things in her village better and declined. But anyway, Matt mentioned that the leader of the village was a young guy with pale eyes. Oh hello Jonas! But it was only in passing. ****END SPOILERS**** 

The structure of this book is quite like the Giver, in some way.  There is a society which you initially would not think to be the future.  In this case, however, the society is not initially presented as utopia but it is quite clear that times were bad and things had turned primitive.  Like, the Giver, there is a young person chosen for a special job, one in which they learn about the past and their eyes are opened to how bad the society they are living in is.  They also attempt to do something to try to make the world a better place.  Jonas by leaving, any Kira by staying.  Unfortunately, like The Giver, I also found Gathering Blue to be simplistic and kind of childish.  It also has the added disadvantage of the mythology, the society not being as interesting to me as in the Giver.  It was really just ok for me (I know, I'm starting to sound like Randy Jackson).

Sunday, February 2, 2014

CBR VI #1- The Giver by Lois Lowry

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I like how when you read the book, it doesn't really feel like the future. In fact, the setting seems positively retro with the bikes and the innocence, like the 50s or something. But its not. Jonas, he of pale eyes, lives in a Community where everything is regimented. Everything and everyone has its place and time. Your path is set from the moment you are born from your birthmother until the moment you are released from old age. Jonas is in the 11th year of his life and in the next ceremony, when he (and everybody born in the same year as him) will turn 12 and will be assigned their official jobs.  In the ceremony, Jonas is surprised when he is given a very special job.  He is to be the receiver of memory.  The job is a mystery to everybody, especially to Jonas, but it turns out that the job entails absorbing memories from the Giver, who was formerly the Receiver.  The memories are not just memories of a single person, but memories of their people.  Of a more colorful (literally) and chaotic past.  Hundreds of years of memories.  Jonas receives these memories, both the amazing and the horrifying.  It changes him (well that and the NO MEDICATION) and leads him into making a choice to either leave the safety and sameness of his Community or try his chances Elsewhere.

In reading sci-fi, fantasy, zombie or vampire books, I am always very interested in the world building.  I thought that the world, the Community was pretty plausible.  Feeling and emotion is erased I think chemically by drinking medicine everyday.  Everything is planned and organized meticulously.  I like how at first, the world seems utopian until Jonas digs deeper and well, you see the world as it really is.  There is peace, but what is peace without freedom?  The moment where it really hit me was when I realized that the Community had no colour!  I guess everything was in black and white?  That's my favourite thing about how the book is written, when you are slowly made to realize that this perfect world is anything but.

The thing that confused me a bit about the book was that I thought it was going to be pure science fiction but then there's Jonas with the special powers to see colour and to receive and feel memories.  I don't know, I guess it's not necessarily bad, just a bit disorienting.  I liked the book, but I was a bit disappointed that it was a bit simplistic, I guess.  Maybe because it's a children's book and it's supposed to be that way?  I just felt that the events leading to the ending were just.. that's it?  It gave me that sort of feeling.  But I actually liked the ending, in that Jonas was not able to magically fix or overturn the system.  The solution is smaller, more personal, but its effects still resound to the community and to the reader.

I live in a country where we didn't really have any public libraries and when I was a kid.  Our teachers didn't really assign us any books to read in grade school and brand new ones were pretty pricey for our family.  What I'm trying to say is, I think I would have liked this better if I had read this as the intended audience, when I was a kid.  As it is, I like it, but I wasn't really blown away.

PS.  Being a completist, my next three reviews will be the companion books.  The ending was sort of a cliff hanger so I was interested to know what really happened.

Monday, January 6, 2014

My 2013 In Books

I was 10 books short of completing the 52 book challenge.  But even had I finished reading 52 books, I had only reviewed 5 of them books so that counts as a FAIL in my book.  I am disappointed in myself. Maybe it was the new job.  My reading on the ipod has too many distractions.  There was a time there, where I, like many people, was addicted to Candy Crush.  It was just maybe 3 weeks, but still, that's a lot of wasted time doing nothing.  2014 will be better, I hope.  So here the books I read last year.  Highly recommended ones are bolded.

  1. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke - very long but very worth it.  "historical" fantasy.  alternate english history with MAGICIANS
  2. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory - historical(ly inaccurate) fiction.  not as bad as i thought it would be but too long and repetitive.
  3. Between A Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston - ralston is simulatneouly stupid (for not leaving a note) and so brave and smart.  it was excruciating to read the lengths he went through to survive.
  4. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - effed up psychological thriller
  5. will grayson, will grayson by David Levithan and John Green - YA.  i liked john green's will grayson better than levithan's
  6. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer - still didn't make me go vegetarian
  7. The Help by Kathryn Stockett - very book-of-the-month club
  8. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov - beautiful,funny, uncomfortable
  9. Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion - zombie purists will be pissed but i thought it was pretty funny.  i just didn't enjoy that it was too on-point with the love will change the world thing.
  10. Paper Towns by John Green - It's typical John Green and I love it
  11. The Final Solution by Michael Chabon - a Holmsian (as in Sherlock) novella
  12. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe - historical fantasy interspersed with present day (ok 90's) thriller. twas ok.
  13. Push by Sapphire - harrowing with a little ray of hope at the end
  14. Bossypants by  Tina Fey - funny lady
  15. Live From New York by Tom Shales - i haven't even watched a single episode of SNL.  I don't know why I read this.  But it was pretty interesting since most of the names are familiar
  16. Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher - another funny and kick ass lady
  17. Pacific Rims by Rafe Batholomew - foreigner explores our basketball crazy culture.  insightful and sometimes touching
  18. Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes - ugh
  19. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami - i am a huge murakami fan but i just didn't like this too much :( i'm sorry.  i thought it was repetitive and a bit pointless
  20. Inferno by Dan Brown - usual dan brown.  read it in a few hours and forgot about it in the same amount of hours
  21. World War Z by Max Brooks - this is a reread and it is still an AWESOME book.  nothing like the movie.
  22. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn - Weird but good.  Gross and strangely heartbreaking.
  23. Professional Idiot by Steve-O Glover - Huh.  He is a pretty cool guy.
  24. Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy - /wrists depressing.  amazing prose, fuck the no quotation marks
  25. Shift Omnibus by Hugh Howey - actually prequel to Wool Omnibus (no. 24).  good sci-fi
  26. Song of Kali by Dan Simmons - very atmospheric.  you can feel India, the humidity, the confusion.  very creepy and icky.
  27. The Witches by Roald Dahl - deliciously creepy and twisted kiddie book
  28. Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey - first book in the trilogy (2nd is the prequel, "shift" and third is the last book, "Dust")  really cool concept and world
  29. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley - female-centric retelling of Arthurian legend with Morgaine as the main character and focused on the superseding of christianity of Goddess worship.  Guinivere is annoying.
  30. Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin - interesting look at the 2008 US presidential campaign.  some surprising insights on clinton, obama, mccain, palin, edwards and other then contenders
  31. We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver - chilling.  A story of a high school shooting from the shooter's mother's perspective.  I am never able to make up my mind if Kevin was a sociopathic monster or he just had a horrible mother.  I'm leaning towards both.
  32. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith - this is a gentle Africa.  quaint and an easy read.
  33. The Absolutely True Story of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie - another really good YA book
  34. The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright - again, very informative since I wanted to learn more about the genesis of 9/11 and politics in that area of the world.  a thriller and a tragedy
  35. Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond - The how and why of the rise and decline of civilizations.  really made sense
  36. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - hmm, this is YA in the vein of John Green and I guess it also reminded me a little of Jerry Spinelli
  37. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - takes us into the world of fan fiction and the relationship of twins who just started college.  also pretty good
  38. Tweak by Nic Sheff - read his father's memoir, "beautiful boy" about nic sheff's addiction and it was the scariest thing i've ever read.  this one is from nic's point of view and it is just as scary
  39. Damned by Chuck Palahnuik - this one was pretty enjoyable and absurd.  not quite reaching the levels of his earlier books but loads better than snuff
  40. Dare Me by Megan Abbott - high school cheerleaders are pretty damn scary.  thought his would be lighter, but its a very dark and heavy book, in contrast to all the glitter in cheerleading
  41. Going Clear by Lawrence Wright - another informative book, this time about Scientology.  I know all religions are crazy but this one ups the crazy by 1000.
  42. Dust by Hugh Howey - a satisfying end to a thrilling and imaginatice sci-fi trilogy

Monday, March 25, 2013

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Before I even went online to find out who wrote which part, I already guessed that the first Will Grayson was by Green and the second will grayson was by Levithan.  Let me preface by saying that I love John Green.  I've only read one Levithan book and I like him, but I don't love him.  This book pretty much supports my initial opinions on both authors.  

Will Grayson is a typical nerdish teenager.  Just trying to keep his head down, trying to attract as little attention as possible and trying to feel as little as possible.  This is was getting pretty hard considering that his best friend was the most flamboyant, HUGEST gay ever.  Who is named Tiny.  And is a football player.  The aforementioned Tiny sets Will up with a cute girl and basically totally ignores Will's pledge to himself to FEEL NOTHING and ATTRACT NO ATTENTION.

But there is also another will grayson.  One who is the most depressed and dark teenager ever.  He likes nothing and no one, not even his only friend, a goth girl.  They only thing they have together is their misery.  The only thing he likes in the world is his online boyfriend (I forgot to mention that this Will is gay).  But ***SPOILERS*** it turns out that his boyfriend is just his goth friend (not a very good friend) pretending to be somebody else.

Will 2 finds all of this out on his trip to the city where he is is heartbroken when his date does not show up.  But it is there that he runs into Will 1 and events that change both their lives unfold.

I got to say that I like Will 1 much better that will 2.  Maybe it's because of my impatience for emo characters, which is not very empathetic of me, I know, but I can't help it.  I also like John Green's writing style more than Levithans'.  However, I did not like this story as much as I liked every other John Green book.  I think it has something to do with Tiny, the huge gay friend.  I found him annoying,  I know he was supposed to be this really amazing guy, but my grumpy self just could not get into his exuberance.  And the ending.  Was cheesy and improbable.  Americans, is Will Grayson really a common name?

Hmm, it would seem like I hated the book.  But I really don't.  It had its funny and touching moments but I just couldn't get that into it.  Personal preference.