Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 47: How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

UnknownI can’t tell you how much I really didn’t want to read this book. When the book club said it was the November YA selection, and I read the blurb on Amazon, I was less than enthused.

“New to town, Beatrice is expecting her new best friend to be one of the girls she meets on the first day. But instead, the alphabet conspires to seat her next to Jonah, aka Ghost Boy, a quiet loner who hasn’t made a new friend since third grade. Something about him, though, gets to Bea, and soon they form an unexpected friendship. It’s not romance, exactly – but it’s definitely love. Still, Bea can’t quite dispel Jonah’s gloom and doom – and as she finds out his family history, she understands why. Can Bea help Jonah? Or is he destined to vanish?”

Really? Blah.

But then I opened it up, and by page 2, I was all in.

There’s way more to the story than two awkward outcasts finding each other. We have some family drama and trauma on both sides. We have a wacky group of tertiary characters (friends made by listening to a crazy late-night radio show), and the usual private high school crowd (popular, rich kids who have known each other for years).

Bea’s dad is a professor, and they move from college to college until they finally get to Johns Hopkins, and she’ll spend her senior year in Baltimore. Of course, being the new kid in school is hard, so Bea has started to shut herself off emotionally — and her mother feels she’s turning into a robot. Bea meets Jonah (Ghost Boy), another school outcast, and they become quick friends.

Bea is never quite sure if they are just best friends, or if there is something more to their relationship, but I was glad that a romance never developed between the two. Its nice to read a friendship between a boy and a girl that’s simply just a friendship.

I have to admit, I was frequently annoyed by Jonah’s dramatic behavior. However, I can’t even begin to imagine experiencing the emotional roller coaster ride he takes during the course of the story. And I could have done without Bea’s mom’s “quirks”. But other than that, it was a quick, enjoyable read.

Sorry that this is shorter than I might like. I’m way behind on reviews and really trying to finish up my 52 books before I get bogged down in holiday stuff!

You can read more of my reviews on my blog.

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Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 46: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Unknown-1I recently joined a new book club (having grown terribly disappointed with the choices made by my other, Twilight-loving club). So far, there are only two members in our group, but I’m loving it. We talk about books we’ve loved and books we’ve hated, and we’ve made huge lists of books that we’ve recommended to each other. Our October book was The Diviners, and to be honest, neither of us was all that fired up about reading it.

And we both ended up really enjoying it.

The Diviners is a ghost story that mostly takes place in pre-depression, New York City. Prohibition is in full swing, flappers are the new “it” girls, and on Broadway, Ziefield and his Follies are all the rage. Evie has just moved to the city to live with her uncle (her parents simply couldn’t handle her drinking and her lifestyle out in Ohio). Evie’s uncle is the curator and manager of New York’s premier museum of the supernatural (or as they call it in the book, the Creepy-Crawly Museum), and Evie JUST SO HAPPENS to have a touch of supernatural power. She can see details of a person’s life, simply by holding an object of theirs.

Of course, a crazed serial killer is terrorizing New York City, and Evie, Uncle Will, and his assistant Jericho (who has some crazy secrets of his own) band together to prove that this killer is no normal human, and that the entire human race is at risk. We also meet a few other New Yorkers who have supernatural powers — the lovely Theta, who is a stylish Ziefield Girl; a handsome young healer in Harlem named Memphis Campbell; a con artist named Sam who can literally disappear right in front of you; and Theta’s roommate Henry, who perhaps has some powers we haven’t quite figured out yet. As Evie and her team raced to stop the murders, the evil spirit “Naughty John” hurries along to bring forth hell on earth.

This book is considered to by YA, but I”m not sure why. The murders are as brutal as anything I’ve read before, and the religious fanaticism and aspects of racism were tough to swallow at times (not because of Bray, but simply because the information was unpleasant). I guess because Evie was only 17, the book gets the YA label slapped on.

The story was pretty fast-paced and hard to put down. Libba Bray is really a very good writer, and she clearly did her research. She grabs you and hooks you with her language and her description of the time and place. I felt as if I could clearly see, hear, and smell 1920′s New York City through her words.

My only complaint: going into it, I had no idea that this was the first in a trilogy. I kept waiting and waiting for the end of the story, and then BOOM. It just ended with perhaps more mysteries than it began with. But really, why am I surprised? I think it might be a federal law that all books for clever young adults must come in groups of three.

Three and a half stars.

You can read more of my reviews on my blog.

Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 45: The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Unknown-1In the past two years, I’ve read pretty much everything Sarah Dessen has ever written. And I can’t really say that I’ve done that because I’m a huge fan of her writing or her stories. I think what makes me keep going back to her books is the little universe she’s created for her books. Like Stephen King (seriously, I just compared Sarah Dessen to Stephen King), these books take place in a very specific world — usually at the beach in North Carolina — and the same characters and places show up over and over again, like little book “easter eggs”. I kind of enjoy seeing how it all ties together.

I also like knowing that her heroines are real girls with real problems. Not everyone is beautiful and rich. In this book, just because you are smart enough to get into the college of your dreams doesn’t mean you can go there. These girls have to figure things out and realize early on that sometimes life isn’t 100% fair (and I mean this in a good way).

But there’s also a lot that I don’t really like about Dessen’s world. Very few of her strong female characters have much of a relationship with their parents (mostly, the dad is at fault). In this book, the adoptive father was great, but the birth dad? Moron. I couldn’t buy what Dessen was selling with that character.

In a nutshell, this one is about a recent high school graduate named Emaline who lives in the beach town that Dessen loves so much with her mom, stepdad, and two step sisters. They all work at a real estate firm that rents out beach houses to those who are much more wealthy than they are. Emaline has a lovely boyfriend named Luke, who she has been with since the start of high school. And she has minimal contact with her birth father and his family in Connecticut.

And so, in this last summer at home, Emaline has to deal with college choices, her real dad, and boyfriend troubles. She meets a new guy — Theo, a filmmaker from New York who is in town making a documentary about a local artist — who seems to be everything Emaline has always wanted in a boyfriend. But is he?

Look, this book isn’t going to win the Pulitzer or any other prize, but you could do worse. Dessen has a breezy writing style that makes the book go by quickly. I enjoy the tertiary characters that she comes up with, and I have to say, the ending of this one surprised me a bit (in a good way). I’ll keep reading them if she keeps writing them.

 You can read more of my reviews on my blog.

Joemyjoe’s #CBR5 Review 4: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

imagesMy dad just read The Hobbit to us, and I really liked it.

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who lives in The Shire, a nice green part of Middle Earth. He likes to eat,  smoke his pipe, read his books, and relax. And then one day, a wizard named Gandalf comes to his house and invites him to go on an adventure. Bilbo says NO, because he likes his life and isn’t interested in changing it. Later, 13 dwarves come to his house, thinking Bilbo is going on this adventure with them. They eat a LOT. Bilbo tells them NO, but the next morning changes his mind and runs after them.

The adventure is that the dwarves are trying to find their old home, the city under the mountains (Dale), and the treasure that is there. The city was destroyed 60 years ago by Smaug, the ferocious dragon.

The hobbit, wizard, and dwarves set out and meet good people (Elrond and his elves, and shapeshifters) and bad (goblins, orcs, and wargs). They get attacked by goblins and giant spiders. Bilbo finds a magical ring (and a weird creature named Gollum) that makes him invisible when he wears it.

They are a brave bunch with a lot of courage. When Smaug is finally dead, they find their way into the mountain to get the gold and treasure.

My favorite part was the scenes with Bilbo and Gollum talking in riddles about his “precious” ring.

Bilbo, who started out as a quiet little hobbit, became a brave hero. He brought some of the treasure back home to the Shire (only about 2 small chests of treasure, not 1/14th of the gold as he originally said he would take)! He lived a long and happy life, and eventually told his nephew Frodo all about his adventures.

We watched the first movie this weekend, but I liked the book better.

You can read more of Joemyjoe’s reviews on his mom’s blog.

Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 44: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

UnknownI apologize in advance for this mess of a non-review.

You guys, I read this a few weeks ago (really, less than a month ago), and already I can’t remember what I want to say about it. I remember that I thought it was OK. Anything else?

I remember wanting to like it more than I did. Everyone else seemed to. I remember not really caring about any of the main characters all that much, and wishing that I did. I remember wanting to know more about the mystery and the secret society, and less about Google and the Clay & Kat (the fact that I just had to use Google to remind myself of the characters’ names seems a bit ironic, I suppose). I wanted more about Neel and how he made his fortune, and more about the fantasy series of books that Neel and Clay loved growing up.

For those who haven’t yet read it, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is a mysterious place, unlike other bookstores. Young Clay, recently laid off from his graphic designer job, goes to work there as a clerk, and finds that the store is the facade for an entirely different world. Clay and his friends try to unravel the mystery behind the store’s existence, and we learn a whole lot about book making, fonts, and Google.

Does Google really have special meals filled with specific vitamins for its staff? I can’t imagine that it does, but I thought I’d ask.

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever written such a disjointed and wandering review before, but I can barely remember anything about this book. Sorry.

You can read more of my reviews (of books that I can actually remember) on my blog.

Bunnybean’s #CBR5 Review 10: Chrissa by Mary Casanova

Unknown-3I read Chrissa, a book based on the 2009 American Girl doll of the year. It is about a girl named Chrissa and how she stood up to a group of mean bullies at her new school.

She’s the new girl, first of all, which must be so hard. Some mean girls named Tara (the head of the group), Jadyn (who follows along with everything and is sassy), and Sonali (who hates to be mean or hurt anyone but she is Tara’s best friend) gang up on Chrissa for no reason. Chrissa hates her new school. The only good thing she likes about it is that she made a new friend, Gwen, who Tara says is also a loser and they could both create their own little goofy club.

To make matters worse, Tara CUTS Gwen’s hair when Gwen closes her eyes. Then she lied that Chrissa was the one who gave such a terrible trim to Gwen’s bangs. Gwen didn’t even talk to Chrissa anymore, she was so angry! Until Chrissa finally told her parents everything, and her parents talk to the principal and teachers at the school, getting the mean girls in a bit of trouble. Sonali even quits being friends with the “mean bees”, and became friends with Chrissa and Gwen!

I liked Sonali, because she did what her heart told her to, Gwen because she was a good friend, and Chrissa because was strong and was a great main character. I watched the movie and I’m going to read the second book soon.

You can read more of Bunnybean’s reviews on her mom’s blog.

Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 43: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

UnknownThis book has a glittery gold cover with hot pink font. And the insides are just as fabulous.

Is Crazy Rich Asians a great piece of literature? Good god, no. But I had a terrific time reading it and have been gleefully recommending it to friends. And I felt super-cool when I saw that one of my best friends from High School was thanked in the acknowledgements section — like I was just one degree of separation away from all of this madness.

Crazy Rich Asians is the single most batshit crazy book I’ve ever come across. Its about the uber-wealthy, .1% Southeast Asian population — in this case, mostly based in Singapore. Its a world of private jets, couture wardrobes, overseas educations, and $40 million weddings. Oh, and also backstabbing snobs who love to gossip. Awesome.

Nick Young (born in Singapore) and Rachel Chu (ABC – American Born Chinese) have been dating for two years in New York. They are both professors at NYU and are so alike in so many ways. Rachel’s family loves Nick, but Nick’s family doesn’t even know that Rachel exists. Until…Nick brings Rachel home to Singapore for the “wedding of the year”. Nick is the best man for his friend Colin, a billionaire playboy, who is marrying the most famous, most glamourous Asian supermodel ever. Rachel has no idea what she’s in for.

The descriptions of sheer excess are absolutely insane. The shopping excursions, real estate portfolios, and bachelor/bachelorette parties made me laugh out loud, because I really didn’t know how else to react. But underneath the ridiculousness, there was an interesting commentary on wealth, excess, and prejudice particularly in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

This isn’t Shakespeare, but Kevin Kwan can write. Its been dubbed as “the ultimate beach read”. Well, Summer is over, but I still enjoyed the hell out of it. I haven’t been this entertained by a book in quite a while. I’ll keep an eye out for Kwan’s future works, for sure.