Jess’s #CRB5 Review #4: Easy, Tammara Webber

Tammara Webber’s Easy is sort of a pillar in this weird “new adult” fiction genre that’s slowly blowing up. On one hand, it’s great that authors are filling the void between books about high school romance and full-on adult romance. On the other, these books can be just as dirty as proper adult romance novels (not that is entirely a complaint, though, if that’s your jam). Usually, the characters are college-aged (not necessarily in college); the female protagonist is either a good girl looking to live it up a little, or a former bad girl who wants to be good but can’t fight her innate attraction to trouble; the male protagonist almost always hits every possible “bad boy with a heart of gold” trope there is. Relationship drama that is more or less appropriate to someone 18 to 23 years old then ensues (and is usually much darker than typical YA fare).

So, Easy. Our story opens with Jacqueline as she’s leaving an awkward frat party (she’s just been dumped by the boy she followed to this state school instead of pursuing her talents at a proper music school) and gets sexually assaulted in the parking lot by a winner named Buck. She’s saved by a mystery hot/emo-looking fellow – who turns out to be all-around swell guy with a past, Lucas (He’s an artist! He’s smart! He rides a motorcyle!). Things proceed with the fall-out of Jacqueline’s attack, Buck raping another girl, and Lucas sorting out his crap.

All in all, the book is actually pretty okay for what it is. Webber made the right choices with how she developed Jacqueline and the process of dealing with her trauma (she and friend take self-defense classes, she steps up when the second girl is attacked, but is still full of self-doubt and guilt). Reading this is in the wake of the Steubenville  rape case probably elevated my emotions a little; however, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it along with other upper-YA lit that tackles the same subject.

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Jess’s #CRB5 Review #3: Legend by Marie Lu

Set in some undetermined future version the United States, the land west of the Rockies has formed its own country – the Republic. To the east is the Colonies.

As things go in dystopian societies, there is a major divide between the economic classes. June was been raised by a wealthy family and is a military prodigy. Day comes from a poor sector and, at 15 years old, has become one of Republic’s most wanted criminals (and he is, in a Robin Hood sort of way).

After a raid on a hospital for medical supplies, Day is accused of killing a soldier he thought he had only injured. That soldier is June’s beloved older brother. June makes it her mission to track down Day, but in the process learns that the Republic is willing to do just about anything to keep secrets from its people.

Marie Lu has created a fairly plausible future (though, I think we’re more likely to split North/South, rather than East/West. Also, are Biggie and 2Pac represented on the respective flags? Just wondering…). June and Day match well intellectually but they still make mistakes like any 15 year old. Aside from smarts, loyalty is a major defining  element of each character – June to the memory of her brother and (at first) her country; Day to Tess – his Little John – and his remaining family (only his older brother has a notion of what he’s up to).  Lu keeps things moving at a good clip, while introducing elements that should carry through the series. I’m all in on this one.

Jess’s #CRB5 Review #2: Austenland by Shannon Hale

Austenland (Austenland, #1)After discovering her love of Pride and Prejudice (especially the epic BBC movie with Colin Firth), Jane’s great-aunt leaves her an all-expenses paid trip to Penbrook Park. Penbrook is an English country manor, all dolled up in every Austen and stocked with actors doing their best to fill the Regency fantasies of their guests.

For the next three weeks, Jane will live and breathe the world of corsets, strolls in the garden, and trying not to make a mess of her embroidery project – on top of navigating a charming gardener willing to break a few rules (how very George Wickham of him) and Mr. Nobley, one of the actors who is giving his very best Austen hero face.

The plot is pretty simplistic and if you know your Austen, you can easily figure out how things are going to go (even not knowing your Austen, you’ll latch on fast). Luckily, Shannon Hale makes it easy enough to root for Jane to grow up (and out) of her Darcy/Firth obsession – she’s a sharp woman who happens to be in love with what a fictional character represents. Who hasn’t been there? And I think this may be a case where the up-coming movie could actually elevate the plot and characters. There’s great potential for some smart sight-gags and the cast is rather promising.

Jess’s #CBR5 Review #1: The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

In about 70, C.E., the Romans were stomping their way through Judea – burning Temples, slaughtering towns, and forcing Jews to take to the desert. A few hundred made their way to the mountain fortress, Masada, a great stronghold built a century before by King Herod. There, they are protected by a rebel group called the Sicarii. Among them are four incredible women – Jael, the daughter and sister of great warriors, and who is blamed by her father for her mother’s death; Revka, a baker’s widow, who is doing everything she can to care for her grandsons; Aziza, who was raised as a boy and trained to fight by one of the great Moab warriors; and Shirah, a woman raised on magic and mysticism. They all work in the dovecotes, caring for the birds who provide for the fortress in many ways.

The book is split into quarters, with each character telling her story as time passes. Jael takes us from her escape from Jerusalem through months surviving the desert to her arrival at Masada. Revka’s tale shows the beginning of the end and the women’s relationship with a captured Roman slave, as well as how she and the remaining members of her family came to the fortress. Aziza tells us how she was brought up to be a warrior and her daring choice to take her brother’s place among the Sicarii fighters. Shirah brings us to the final Roman siege and the decisions that led to only two women and four children surviving.

Based on the stories of Jewish historian, Josephus, author Alice Hoffman spent five years researching this book. She takes her usual themes of strong women and magic, and puts them on a grand stage. The book is dense and difficult in places, but a worthy read that will send you on a Wikipedia spiral afterwards.