Fancypants42’s #CBRV Review #29: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

15745753Stuff like this is the problem with something like CBR. I get a lot of recommendations from the other CBRers and thus end up with redundant reviews. I am pretty sure I got the rec for Eleanor and Park from this site. Wouldn’t swear to it, too lazy to research that, but either way I ended up with a copy of this book. I read it right after my latest John Green indulgence so was skeptical anything could top that. (Of course I didn’t notice the John Green blurb on the back of the book til I was almost finished.)

I started this book last night in the bath. I finished it this afternoon in bed because I couldn’t put it down. I couldn’t get up and do productive Sunday things. I just couldn’t. The fate of Eleanor, and her relationship with Park, was far too important for real life to happen today.

The book switches back and forth between the two 16 year old’s perspectives. One minute you’re in Eleanor’s head, the next in Park’s. Which is so fantastic when the two subjects are insecure teenagers falling in love for the first time. Because it is seemingly a very different experience for everyone right? But both had their own insecurities, their own hopes, and their own fears. It was glorious.

No spoilers but man, this was a good book. I loved the voice/style, I loved the plot and I hated/loved the ending. My romantic little heart could’ve used something a little more specific but the imagineer in me loved that it was open to my interpretation.

It’s rare that a love story about teenagers can be so moving and so real. Because love at that age is both real and unreal. It’s pure but unfounded. It’s youth. This book managed to transcend that idea. Nothing is more real than the feelings between Eleanor and Park.

Fancypants42’s #CBRV Review #28: Paper Towns by John Green

ImagePaper Towns is my second John Green book. The Fault in Our Stars was my first (my everything). I love this man’s writing style. I recently learned through the internet that this author is only 3 years older than me, and that makes me feel either very, very old or very, very young and I’m not sure which. He seems like an old soul. Also quite a bit more accomplished than I am if he’s only 3 years older. He’s been spending his days having an absolute blast on the movie set of TFIOS.

But I digress. Paper Towns. This came before TFIOS I believe. I was completely sucked in. Q and Margo are exceptional characters, although Q himself might argue that he’s nothing next to Margo’s everything. But in the end it’s a story about real people. No matter how much we imagine a person to be one thing or another, no matter what faces they may put on to perpetuate these assumptions – we never really understand the true person underneath. The one they don’t want us to see, won’t let us see.

I was very truly inspired by this idea, as an introvert in a world of extroverts. I always feel that perceptions are so often wrong. And this book was about exactly that. Q idolized Margo. He had this concrete notion of who she was after both one night and a lifetime together. But who Margo Roth Spiegelman really was turned out to be an absolute mystery…and one without a true ending.

The romantic in me wanted this to go differently. The John Green fan in me realized there was no other way it should end.

Fancypants42’s #CBRV Review #27: The Search by Nora Roberts

The-search-cover1So yes, I read Nora Roberts. She is the only romance author I treat myself to since Judith McNaught stopped publishing books. (I miss you Judith!) My main loves are sci-fi, fantasy, horror and so many others, but I allow myself this one guilty pleasure. Because it is an escape. It’s a fun little romp in a land where people fall in love hard and not always by choice, the sex is always good, and even when an evil murderer is after you, your strength will get you through anything. What’s not to like?

She does have a pattern, I’m not going to lie. Every book she writes (and she writes A LOT of books) follows the Nora pattern. But it’s ok. I’m not reading these books for any major revelations and I’m fine with that. The Search follows Fiona, an imperfect looking fiery redhead who survived an ordeal in the past only to find that she faces a similar situation again. Enter Simon – the out of towner who accidentally/unreluctantly sweeps her off her feet.

I actually really enjoyed Simon and Fiona. They aren’t perfect, but they’re likable and they make sense together. Sometimes the love stories are a little too convenient and one side or the other protests just the right amount before succumbing to the situation, but these two were alright. Fiona was a dog trainer too which was interesting. I have crazy dogs and it was fun to read about how she trained and I wondered how much of that was based on real research. The setting was also lush – the San Juan islands of Washington state. I’ve actually been wanting to go there and didn’t realize it was the book’s setting when I started it.

All in all, this was a Nora Roberts book. I enjoyed it. But then I usually do.

Fancypants42’s #CBRV Review #26: Doctor Who The Nemonite Invasion and Doctor Who Feast of the Drowned

Nemonite_InvasionDoctor Who: The Nemonite Invasion by David Roden is another of the episodic audiobooks read by Catherine Tate. As the Doctor and Donna crash land into the English Channel in pursuit of an alien craft, they realize that they’re smack dab in the midst of World War 2 and the Dover tunnels are full of the busy war effort. The alien craft also crashes and unleashes itself on the unsuspecting British soldiers. Dissension in the ranks complicates the alien invasion even further as a grief-stricken soldier slowly loses his mind.

I liked this story a lot. The Nemonites were an interesting combination of body snatcher/parasite type things. The Doctor understands that if they aren’t stopped, they’ll take over the entire planet. The stakes are (as usual) pretty high. I liked the fact that the majority of the story took place in the Dover tunnels. I’ve actually been there and it’s a really fascinating place. So much history, and this was actually history in the making, leading up to one of the major turning points in the war effort.

Donna develops an easy affection for one of the soldiers, a proper gentleman who fancies her right back. His heroism ultimately saves the day for Donna, the Doctor and the world. It’s bittersweet of course. Nothing for Donna is ever easy or ends happily it seems. She’s always that one step away from finding someone. The Doctor can’t save everyone though. Not everyone. By the end, Donna’s heart is a little heavier and the burden on her shoulders a little larger, but she’s Donna. She keeps her head up and they live to fight another day, she and the Doctor.

1846070627.01.LZZZZZZZDoctor Who: The Feast of the Drowned by Stephen Cole was read by David Tennant. I started these in the wrong order, so had to go back and find the beginning. This is the first of the episodic series, and features Rose and Mickey. I thought David’s imitation/impression/reading of Donna was awesome, but his Mickey is downright hilarious. And amazing. And spot on. Loved it. But anyway, the plot revolves around water, ghosts and sunken ships. Drowned people are making contact with their loved ones to lure them to the Thames, where the loved ones join the drowned and then themselves lure even more people to the water. It’s a morbid version of a pyramid scheme, helmed by aliens (of course). Ancient creatures who want to cover the earth with their plague.

Mickey helps the Doctor and Rose solve the mystery and take down the alien invasion. One of the things that stands out to me with these books, especially this one, is how in character all the characters are. I mean these are stories written by people who don’t write for the show, read by one actor doing all of the voices for the different characters, and yet the characters are all just REAL. Mickey is Mickey in both dialogue and action. The things he says, the way he says them. Same for Rose. Same for the Doctor. I’m so impressed by the level of continuity that is happening in these audio versions. I’m honestly flummoxed as to how they pulled it off. It really is like watching an episode in every way.

I liked this story as it stood on sort of a grand level. The Doctor taking on the Thames again (not like the time he drained it) in a way, saving London’s populace from potential drowning, saving Rose, saving the day. The one complaint I have so far on these audiobooks is that this is the third (of 4) time that we’ve encountered military. Twice British military and once on another planet. I’m ready to branch out from the military for a bit. Next up is Doctor Who: The Resurrection Casket, which I’ve already started and features STAR PIRATES!

Fancypants42’s #CBRV Review #25: Doctor Who Pest Control and Doctor Who The Forever Trap

PestControlAudioDoctor Who: Pest Control by Peter Anghelides is an audio story narrated by David Tennant. I just discovered this treasure trove of Doctor Who audio on Audible and I must say I’m pretty darn excited. Tennant reads the narrative in his native Scottish, performs the Doctor’s dialogue as though it’s any regular episode, and does an amazing/hilarious impersonation of Donna Noble for her bits of dialogue. I was grinning to myself the entire time I was listening to this. It’s like a book, but an episode, but just so much fun. I could listen to Tennant read the phone book I think.
The story revolves around the TARDIS becoming trapped on an alien planet where humans and a race of centaurs are engaged in a war. The war is interrupted by the emergence of a parasitic insect species and the two sides have to band together to fight the common threat with the help of the Doctor and Donna. True to form, the Doctor isn’t pleased about the war situation and true to form, it’s the humans that started it. The book runs about 2 and a half hours and is very well written from a Whovian standpoint. I could see the Doctor running about in his usual outfit and Tennant’s performance was (of course) so spot on that I couldn’t help being completely engaged in the story. The continuity is impressive as far as keeping the characters of the Doctor and Donna accurate, which can’t be easy when you’re not a show writer…
Alien planet and giant sentient robot and people-sized bugs and centaurs and fighting humans and the 2nd Great and Bountiful Human Empire. It’s a fun ride and one I will likely listen to several more times (once I finish the rest of the Doctor Who audiobooks of course).
Doctor Who: The Forever Trap by Dan Abnett is another Doctor Who audio story, this time narrated by Catherine Tate (who plays Donna Noble on the show). Since this one also ran about 2 and a half hours, I figured together they make one decent-sized book and thereby together can count toward my CBRV. Catherine did a great job with the narration and her performance as Donna. She also did a great impression of the Doctor and while I prefer Tennant as a narrator, she was very much spot on and I could actually picture/hear him in her reading. (I think they’re friends and have performed together a great many times so that familiarity comes through when they’re asked to imitate each other seems like.)
This time the futuristic version of spam mail shows up on the TARDIS in the form of a man. He offers Donna the home of her dreams in the Edifice, a luxury development. While she turns him down, there is a trick to the system and she and the Doctor end up trapped in the Edifice, fighting for their lives and their freedom. There is a power controlling the Edifice and it has sent the spam man out into the universe to bring the willing and unwilling to live there together, creatures who should never have met become neighbors, and enemies. War breaks out but that’s not the worst part of what’s happening inside the Edifice. The Doctor and Donna have to find who is controlling things in order to save the lives of those who are left and in order to escape.
It was a fun/scary ride. I always know that they’ll get out of it, but it gets stressful just the same. This one was a little more suspenseful than Pest Control because the Doctor was in more immediate danger. Pest Control was more about him fixing a situation and this one was both that and him fighting for his life (and Donna’s). It was also really creepy, which added an interesting angle.
I’ll be plowing through more of these so the audio part of my CBRV will be mostly all the Doctor from here on out. It’s not my fault. It can’t be helped. But I’ll group them together to stay fair to the required minimum lengths.

Fancypants42’s #CBRV Review #24: The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams

357The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams is the sequel to Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. True to form, Adams keeps his end of the bargain with the intelligent silliness he’s so known for. This time, Dirk finds himself involved in a plot line that involves Norse gods—Odin, Thor, some creature named Toe Rag. A fighter jet gets turned into an eagle and an unsuspecting woman into a coke machine. Anything goes in this one.
I didn’t like it quite as much as I enjoyed the first book, though. But I guess that’s always a risk with sequels. I really liked it, mind you, just not AS much. That’s sort of like comparing the 3rd or 4th Hitchhiker books with the first two. Can’t be done. They taper off a little. I don’t think this one tapered off so much, though, as it just didn’t have as strong a story. It felt at times that there was just too much going on.
It’s interesting to note in the Dirk Gently books that Dirk is almost a supporting character. He’s never the lead story, nor the most important part. He really is there to just sort of bind it all together, which is actually a really interesting choice for Adams to make. He names a series after a character but he’s never the main character. I like that idea. I don’t know why—just because it’s different I suppose.
All in all, I enjoyed the time I spent with Dirk and have the requisite feelings of man, I should’ve read these years ago. They’ve been sitting in my book queue with 100 other books waiting to be read. The life of a compulsive book buyer who never has enough time. I only wish I had more Adams waiting in my queue, but I’m afraid this was the last of it. Maybe that’s why I put it off so long. I do miss his writing terribly. Nobody else nails that intellectual atheistic sarcastic whimsy like he does.

Fancypants42’s #CBRV Review #23: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

“Gordon Way’s astonishment at being suddenly shot dead was nothing compared to his astonishment at what happened next.”
Dirk_Gently_UK_front_coverDirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams is very much a Douglas Adams book. It’s been years since I first discovered the Hitchhiker’s Guide series and fell in love with a writing style that is both unique and timeless. I love the way his unabashed atheism consistently finds its way into his stories and he never holds back. I chuckled so many times as he poked fun at religion throughout the book. The plot is quite zany – time travel, electric monks who exist to believe in things so people don’t have to, two ghosts – one new, one 4 billion years old, a very unusual detective, etc and so on. I loved it. I had such fun experiencing this book. I don’t want to give too much away because it is at its core a mystery. But following Dirk as he slowly puts the whole thing together is something that I could do again and again. I kind of want to reread it just to see what I didn’t pick up on throughout the book the first time…
Douglas Adams is one of my favorite authors and there is no reason for me not to have read this before now. I’ve got a sequel up next – The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul. I can’t wait. I didn’t think Dirk would be able to hold a candle to Arthur and Ford, but he’s pretty much right up there for me with the best. I pictured him as a sort of British Columbo. There are so many quotes I could share from the book, but I’ll leave it to you to go discover them yourselves.

Fancypants42’s #CBRV Review #22: Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde

soq_500x773Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde is the sequel to The Last Dragonslayer and part of what is now being called The Chronicles of Kazam. (It wasn’t called this when the first book came out. Maybe he hadn’t decided it’d be a series yet.) This is my second Fforde book this year and it’s always a delight. Almost always, I haven’t been able to finish the latest Thursday Next book yet. But I think that series is a little tired after so many books. The Chronicles of Kazam, though, is just getting started. Much like his Nursery Crime series, this one features his wit and whimsy front and center. The main character is Jennifer Strange, a foundling who grew up in an orphanage and was essentially sold to Kazam to run their magic business. She’s 16, tenacious and terribly smart. She’s a great female lead and I can’t wait to read more of her adventures as the series continues. (In the first book, she was the titular Last Dragonslayer.)
Magic is its own character in the book as evil forces try to steal control over all the magic in the land. Sorcerers already have to have a license, but if the King and his evil accomplice get their way, they’ll own all of it. Jennifer can’t let this happen, of course, and fights against all odds to prevent it. There’s a moose ghost, an unidentifiable being called the Magnificent X, quarkbeasts, bridge building, mystery, intrigue and trolls. It’s quite a lovely and delightful romp, an easy read and more of what I love from Jasper Fforde.

Fancypants42’s #CBRV Review #21: Mind the Gap by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon

mindgapbigMind the Gap by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon is my second outing with the pair this year. I first reviewed Chamber of Ten in January, and enjoyed this one just as much. It was an exciting romp through a hidden world in the midst of London that was somewhat unexpected. I really couldn’t figure out where it was going or what the main “thing” was going to turn out to be. All I knew (from the cover and for most of the book) was that Jazz was on the run after the murder of her mother, that men were after her and even she didn’t know why.

She befriends a new family underneath the city, refugees from life really. They take her in but she can’t hide forever. She isn’t supposed to trust anyone, but can’t get answers that way. She has to talk to SOMEONE or she’ll never find out what happened and why the men are after her.

There is a good deal of suspense and I found my eyeballs wanting to skip ahead a few times just to satisfy myself that it’d be alright in just a second. I didn’t, though. I was good. The two authors have a really easy-going writing style when they collaborate. I like Christopher Golden on his own just fine, but the partnership works well with these urban intrigue sort of tales. It’s part Brit, part Yank and all pleasure.

I have a few more of Golden’s books on my list but need to pick up the other entry into the Hidden Cities series, of which Mind the Gap was a part. I could easily devour the rest of Golden’s books, especially the ones he wrote with Lebbon.

Fancypants42’s #CBRV Review #20: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

ImageThe Ocean at the End of the Lane is not Neil Gaiman’s most epic novel. It’s not very long, in fact. I read most of it in one afternoon. I had the impression while reading it, however, that it was his truest. Not in the sense that it is nonfiction, but in a way I can hardly explain. It felt real. Everything that happened, no matter how fantastic, all of it felt one hundred percent real. Thus is the magic of his storytelling.

Neil’s writing has a poetry to it, an almost whimsical solemnity of words that dance so beautifully on the page together. I think he’s rather outdone even himself this time. This is the story of a little boy who finds himself in the most unbelievable of circumstances, fighting for his life, maybe even his soul. His new friend Lettie introduces him to magic and danger and a pond that’s really an ocean and so many things besides. I don’t want to spoil the plot for you, but you really must read this book. It doesn’t take long, I promise. But it does change things.

If you weren’t already a fan of Neil’s work, you will be after reading this. If you didn’t already believe in magic, you will do that too. Neil posted a link on his blog to his favorite review of the book that talked about not the plot, but how the critic felt while reading the book. I couldn’t understand really what that meant until I read it myself, until I felt the book myself.

This is not my favorite book that I’ve ever read. It didn’t destroy my soul or give me a sense of elation. I loved it though. I really did. In some small piece of my heart, I got to spend an afternoon in this other world where there are wonderful things and terrifying things all at once. It was an afternoon well spent and I’d love to visit it again. Just looking at the cover after I’ve finished it gives me a sense of belonging in some way. This book and I belong together, not in the way of true love or passion, but in the quiet way of best friends or soul mates who can never quite do without one another but are much more subtle about it.