Tag Archives: Fiction

genericwhitegirl’s CBR book #31: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

If you’re into Twilight or other angsty teenage supernatural type books, then you’ll probably dig Beautiful Creatures. Now that I’ve mentioned Twilight, some of you die-hard fans (I am not one of them) might want to know which is better…honestly, I’m not sure. I think Twilight fans would still prefer the Twilight books to Beautiful Creatures, but with three books already in the series, Beautiful Creatures may be worth a deeper look.

Okay, now I’m talking to normal people. This book is along the lines of the Twilight series so…possibly an entertaining, brainless read with a cup of annoying and over dramatic mixed in.

Basically, Beautiful Creatures takes place in the small town of Gatlin, South Carolina, where the civil war is still the biggest news of the day. Ethan Wate, a sophomore in high school, has his friends and basketball team. But then Lena Duchannes comes to town. The niece of the town’s mysterious recluse, Lena’s welcome in Gatlin is anything but. Ethan, however, is strangely drawn to Lena. Haunted by a recurring dream, Lena seems to be the clue to Ethan understanding it. As their friendship develops, Ethan learns more and more about Lena’s family and all of its supernatural secrets.

I think this story focuses more on the relationship between Ethan and Lena (read: a love story) as opposed to really exploring and understanding Lena’s supernatural world. In that sense, I found the book lacking. I love being immersed in new worlds but the perspective is Ethan’s so you feel just as in the dark as he does about all the interesting things Lena is privy to. Of course, things are slowly revealed throughout the book, but I still had a lot of questions and wanted to know more. I suppose that’s the point of a series though, isn’t it? Perhaps I’ll read the second book to discover more. But I’m not sure the first book entranced me enough to go to the trouble.

Read The Blist for more reviews by genericwhitegirl.

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genericwhitegirl’s CBR book #30: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I’d seen the Disney cartoon, the Johnny Depp version, and a creepier version on TV back when I was younger…so I thought it appropriate to pick up the actual book and experience Lewis Carroll firsthand.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was written by Carroll (a pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) in 1865. Apparently Carroll was a man of many hats (author, poet, mathematician, logician…is that a word?). And this book showcases all of these hats, although with characters like the mad hatter wearing them, things get a bit…strange. Apparently, according to wikipedia, and I’m sure a host of other web sites, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is rife with literary allusions and symbolism. But it was all lost on me. I suppose this book would be more interesting studied and picked apart in an academic setting than just as a summer read. Because as the latter, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But I guess that’s the point, since Carroll specializes in the literary nonsense genre (didn’t make that up).

Alice’s story begins in her garden, where she finds a rabbit hole and falls down into a fantasy world. Each chapter is a new adventure in Wonderland, with new characters and silly situations. A lot of what happens in the book reminds me of a dream. Events are random, don’t make a whole lot of sense, and crazy seems to be the norm. I won’t go into details about the story itself…I think most of you are familiar with Alice in Wonderland in one way or another. I’ll just skip to my impressions. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I had hoped. In fact, it took me awhile to read – I’d pick it up between reading other books. As silly as the story is, I didn’t find myself that interested in it. I guess a lot of the humor and irony was over my head.

Would I recommend it? Not for a casual read. And definitely not as a children’s book. I think of all the versions I’ve seen, the one that I liked the most was the 1985 Alice in Wonderland movie which also included a sequel, Through the Looking Glass. I just remember they were creepy as all hell and Through the Looking Glass featured one of my favorite poems, Jabberwocky (also written by Carroll). Of course, I was only 6 when the first movie came out, so it’s probably cheesier than a can of whiz. But given the source material, I can’t really say it’s too far off base.

Read The Blist for more book reviews by genericwhitegirl.

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Samantha’s CBRIII Review #41: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

On Goodreads, the comment that pops up most often with regard to this book is that it’s very similar (in concept, my caveat) to the X-Men. That’s fair, I suppose: it’s about a home designed for the education/protection of unusual people, after all. I think that’s largely where the similarity ends, however. What Mr. Riggs is trying to do with his novel is slightly more character-driven, if perhaps a bit sloppier in the final result.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is narrated by Jacob, a supremely “normal” young man who is thrown into turmoil after the somewhat mysterious death of his grandfather. Said grandfather, a Polish refugee and World War II veteran, used to tell young Jacob fantastical stories about the island home he was sent to as a teenager, and about the “monsters” he had to fight against. These stories are interpreted as metaphors for the horrors of the Nazi invasion and the war, but Jacob comes to learn of the truth behind them, as well as the truth behind his own seeming normalcy. Soon, he must make the decision to leave his mundane life behind, and continue his grandfather’s fight.

This book is very imaginatively and beautifully laid out. The backbone of the story is formed by real photographs of “freaks,” around whom the characters of Miss Peregrine’s charges are developed. Throw in the backdrop of a Welsh island and World War II, add some interesting ideas about time travel, stir in a pinch of pretty good monsters, and you’ve got a story. Despite all of that, the writing is where the novel fell down for me. Given that the narrator is a boy very much from the present day, the modern tone is appropriate, but somehow doesn’t entirely fit, and well, can I be honest? There is one instance of an improperly spelled idiom (learn your homonyms, people!), and some typos, which, I’m sorry, just makes me insane. Do people use editors anymore? Anyway, I know most people wouldn’t notice that stuff, but I do (professional hazard) and it drives me crazy. I mean, you never see that in older books. It’s not so much about those minor details as the fact that this is Mr. Riggs first novel, and I guess I feel like it shows a little bit. It’s a great, imaginative story, with good pacing. The characters are reasonably well-developed. The writing’s just a little clunky. Some of the stories’ pieces seemed really obvious to me but took the characters a long time to figure out, which is annoying. Taken singly, these flaws are forgivable, but then the ending is so incredibly abrupt, and not even really an ending (there’s a sequel in the works, of course) that one feels rather unsatisfied when finished. I think there must be a certain skill to finishing a book without finishing the story so that the reader doesn’t feel brought up short, and maybe Mr. Riggs just hasn’t learned it yet.

Clearly, I had a lot of nitpicky issues with this book, although I do think that the story itself is very interesting and engaging. I might even be interested enough to look into the sequel, if it doesn’t come out five years from now. High praise, indeed.

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Samantha’s CBRIII Review #40: Matilda, by Roald Dahl

Despite being a big fan of children’s books, I somehow managed to miss most of Roald Dahl’s ouvre, so I’m fixing that, slowly but surely. Dahl is fascinating in that he’s writing for children, but not really sugar-coating things. He deals with a lot of fantastical ideas, like witches or telepathy, but somehow presents them in a mainly realistic context. The most interesting thing about Roald Dahl, though, is that he’s writing for children, yet he often writes about things that are really, really unpleasant. Not necessarily scary or gory or horrific, but just … really bad. I think that in a society that so often tries to protect children from the bad things in the world, it’s refreshing and somehow respectful of him to have presented things to children, in their own terms, without trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

Matilda is an extraordinarily gifted little girl. She’s reading her way through Dickens and other classics at the age of four. When she shows up at school for the first time, she can already multiply large numbers in her head. She’s a prodigy. And yet, she is completely shunned at home. Her parents not only neglect and ignore her, they seem to flat-out despise her! Her father is a crooked used-car salesman, and her mother seems to spend most of her time playing bingo. They only eat TV dinners while glued to the set watching soap operas, when they’re not saying horribly mean things to their daughter. Matilda, being smarter than everyone else, gets her own back by playing clever tricks on her family. But the real trouble starts when she goes to school and finds herself caught up in circumstances surrounding the evil headmistress and her lovely and appreciative teacher.

This is vintage Dahl. It’s mostly a fun little read, but maybe I’m getting soft, because I found the parents’ treatment of their daughter amazingly sad. The headmistress, in the more starring villain role, was easier to stomach, but I guess it’s just that I’m a parent now myself. As I said, Dahl really knows how to present things to children in a way that they will understand. The notion of horrid parents who don’t appreciate their fantastic child is certainly something a kid will buy into, especially if they’re mad at their folks. For an adult reader, the lack of any sort of background to explain WHY the parents are that way is a little weird, but ultimately it doesn’t take much away from the story. The theme of knowledge and learning over a more passive and non-intellectual existence is a great message, I think, and I’ll be interested to see what my daughter makes of the story in a few years. Apparently, the story of Matilda is currently wowing audiences in the West End as a blockbuster musical, too, which means that Dahl’s stories really are timeless classics. Pick one up today!

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Samantha’s CBRIII Review #38: The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

I don’t normally love science fiction. I was always more of a fantasy girl, and having read all that sort of stuff for a large part of my life, I think I’ve outgrown it at this point. Still, I do love “classic” literature, and I enjoy Victorian works, so H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine seemed like a shoo-in. Wells is often called “the father of science fiction,” and after reading this short novel, it’s easy to see why.

The Time Machine tells the story of a gentleman inventor who purports to have built the titular device. The story is partially narrated by a peer of “the Time Traveller” (we never learn his name), who is understandably skeptical of his friend’s accomplishment, until he and other members of their circle encounter the Time Traveller in a state of difficulty, and with a remarkable tale to tell.

It is that tale which comprises the bulk of the story, and which shows off Wells’ imaginative creation of a future Earth.The Time Traveller describes a human society far in the future that is exemplified by a divided race: the Eloi are beautiful, gentle, and stupid; spending their days frolicking outdoors. The Morlocks are shriveled, ugly, and monstrous. They live underground and seem to keep things running by mysterious means. As the Time Traveller delves deeper into the mysteries of this new society, his impressions of the order and function of the different races alters several times until he realizes the horrible truth, and escapes back to his own time.

The amazing (and creepy) thing about good science fiction is how it manages to depict a future that is believable, and Wells is a very good writer. The Time Traveller’s theories about how human society has gotten to the point at which he encounters it is, sadly, a cautionary tale for our present day. Consider the division of American society: celebrities are beautiful and often inane, and seem to spend all their time at the beach, while the rest of us hunch over computer screens in order to eke out a living. It’s easy to see us moving toward Wells’ future in another few generations. Even more disturbing are the Time Traveller’s descriptions of a further future in which the human race has seemingly become extinct. Some of Wells’ images are still with me, even though I read the book a month or so ago. That’s good writing.

Truly, if you haven’t read this classic, you absolutely should. I know it’s “old,” but it’s reasonably short and much easier to read than some of Wells’ Victorian counterparts. Even if you’re not a big sci-fi person, The Time Traveller is worthwhile for its beautiful and imaginative descriptions of a possible “future.” And, you know, if you should choose to take Wells’ warning to heart as well, that might not be a bad thing.

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Mswas’ CBR-III Review #30-33 – the Chet and Bernie series by Spencer Quinn

Well I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t finish reviewing my full 52 this year. I was behind when I took on NaNoWriMo, and then I took on coordinating next year’s Cannonball Read. So reviews fell by the wayside.

However, this series I just had to sit down and write about because it was thoroughly delightful.

Check out my review of the first four mysteries in the Chet and Bernie series.

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effcubed’s CBR3 #44-48

Yikes, 25 hours left (here in the Central Time Zone), and 4 reviews left! Can I do it? I’ll sure try.

#44: A frightening tale of what could happen if the pro-lifers get their way: what’ really appropriate punishment?

#45: Have Opinions about Comic Sans and Helvetica? You probably should.

#46: Inspired by true events: youth boxing in 1930s Nazi Germany.

#47: I’m running out of books I read recently so I’m digging back a ways for literary fantasy with giant squids and the Apocalypse.

#48: Roald Dahl-esque fairy tale from Italy, newly translated.

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