Malin’s #CBR5 Review #109: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Taylor Markham is seventeen, and has lived at the boarding school by Jellicoe Road since she was abandoned by her mother when she was eleven. She’s just reluctantly accepted the post as leader for her house (boarding school dorm – think Harry Potter), which means caring for the well-being of the younger girls in the house, as well as masterminding the territory war between the town kids, the boarding school kids and the group of cadets who camp near the town for a number of weeks each year.

Hannah, the only grown-up that Taylor is really close to, just disappears one day, leaving behind the house she’s been slowly restoring over the years, and an unfinished manuscript, which tells the story of four teenagers who met on Jellicoe Road more than twenty years ago. No one wants to tell Taylor where she’s gone. Then she discovers that the leader for this year’s cadets is none other than Jonah Griggs, the boy who helped her run away years ago, but who also betrayed her by getting them found. Hannah’s disappearance and Jonah’s reappearance in Taylor’s life sparks a series of events that will finally lead to her discovering why she was abandoned by her mother, what really happened to her father, and what may be in store for her in the future.

This is one of my favourite books of the year so far – go to my blog to read my inadequate gushing as to why.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #108: Messy by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Green-haired alterna-girl Max MacCormack only goes to Colby Randall, a posh Hollywood prep school, because her mother is the principal. She’s full of scorn for the rich and spoiled around her, and especially loathes that her mother forces her to take part in extra curricular events like planning the spring carnival. Max needs to earn money, and her current after school job is not working out as well as she expected. When she is offered insane amounts of money to ghost write Brooke Berlin’s blog, she can’t afford to refuse. Now she just has to spend most of her free time with a girl she can’t stand, and convincingly channel her on the internet.

Brooke Berlin, Hollywood starlet and daughter of mega superstar Brick Berlin (think Arnie, Bruce Willis and Tom Cruise rolled into one) is convinced that she’s one step away from the stardom she deserves. A popular blog showing the world what an “It Girl” she is, will help launch her rising star, she just doesn’t have time to write it herself. So why not hire some creative writing nerd who will be grateful for any time she gets to spend with Brooke? Unfortunately, the only serious applicant to her ad is the spiky malcontent Max, Brooke’s half sister’s best friend. Can this girl be trusted to help jump start Brooke’s career?

To read the rest of my review of the second novel from the awesomely funny Go Fug Yourself writers, go to my blog. 

Malin’s #CBR5 Reviews #93-94: Charley Davidson book 4 and 5 by Darynda Jones

Rating: Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet – 4 stars
Fifth Grave Past the Light – 4.5 stars

At the beginning of Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet, a few months have passed since the end of book three, and Charley isn’t doing all that well. She’s not really left her apartment, which is now stuffed full of boxes full of random useless stuff she’s purchased from late night shopping channels. Her best friend/next door neighbour/overqualified personal assistant Cookie has cancelled all her credit cards, and insists on ganging up on her, along with her uncle Bob, and her sister Gemma. They claim that she’s suffering a mild case of PTSD (they’re right) and they insist that she leave the apartment, and start getting her life back in order. When a desperate young woman shows up on her doorstep claiming someone is trying to kill her, but everyone around her just thinks she’s insane, Charley decides that enough is enough, and promises to help. She’s decides that the best way out of her financial difficulties is serving Reyes with a hefty bill, since she technically performed the job he hired her to do. Now she just has to find him.

In Fifth Grave Past the Light, Cookie and Charley discover that they have a new neighbour, and it’s the drop dead gorgeous Reyes Farrow himself. Charley is hoping to prove to her uncle Bob that Reyes is not the arsonist who’s been burning down old buildings all over Albuquerque, but it does seem suspicious that all the same buildings are ones that Reyes at some point lived in, growing up. She’s made peace with her father, whose bar, previously mostly a cop hangout, is now a super popular lunching spot for women of all ages. Charley’s apartment is slowly filling up with young dead women, all of them blond and killed gruesomely, clearly by the same serial killer. Despite Charley’s Reaper powers, she’s unable to get any of them to communicate with her, they’re too traumatised, even after death. When it seems like Charley’s sister Gemma may be the serial killer’s next intended victim, it becomes crucial that she discover the killer’s identity as soon as possible.

Full review on my blog. 

The Scruffy Rube’s #CBR5 Review #11: The Marriage Plot

For other thoughts on this book, the Monkees and how it all relates to Giacommo Puccini, read my independent blog: The Scruffy Rube.

More and more writers want to have a little something to satisfy everyone.

Jeffrey Eugenides (on the other hand) makes a meal out of not satisfying everyone. Satisfaction, after all, is entirely within the perception of the individual. Happiness, true rapturous happiness, is something reserved for the “happily ever after” endings of fairy tales and romance novels. And therein lies the focus of his most recent work: The Marriage Plot.

Take those peppy, cheery, “and everyone got married and had a wonderful life” stories from the late 18th century and plop it down on top of 1980s American uncertainty. Would Lizzie Bennett really want to find her way into Mr. Darcy’s arms, if employment were a viable option for a young woman? Would Heathcliffe wander the moors–woefully disconsolate–when he could just as easily go to a singles bar?

Eugenides knows the answer (I suspect that 98% of anyone reading this review does too), but he still drags us along through 406 pages of characters discovering what the Monkees once sang and we have all long suspected: “Love was only true in fairy tales”. That’s where Madeleine Hanna, directionless post-grad, wants to live: amid the fairy tale romances of the Brontes, Austens and Eliots of the literary canon. She makes a convenient female protagonist and even has to choose between two distinctive suitors: the Heathcliffian tortured soul (now rightly diagnosed as manic-depressive) Leonard Bankhead, and the aloof, Edmund Bertram (the beloved man of Mansfield Park) stand-in: Mitchell Grammaticus. In the end, Madeleine must decide whether to perpetuate this mash-up of archaic literary living, or to step out into the brave new world of empowered-women and independent living.

I appreciate the mash-up, I do. I appreciate the analysis, the brutal frankness, the irredeemable humanity of our three main characters. But I’m an Austen fan. I’m a romance/true love fan. Heck, I’m a Monkees fan. And though Eugendies presents a solid story to support his argument (one that fans of his writing or cynics of romance will undoubtedly enjoy), I want characters to find satisfaction both in themselves and in true love! I want them to see a face…and become believers.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #62: Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead

Book summary from Goodreads, cause I’m lazy, and because it covers all the pertinent points:

In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists, Justin March lives in exile after failing in his job as an investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims. But Justin is given a second chance when Mae Koskinen comes to bring him back to the Republic of United North America (RUNA). Raised in an aristocratic caste, Mae is now a member of the military’s most elite and terrifying tier, a soldier with enhanced reflexes and skills. 

When Justin and Mae are assigned to work together to solve a string of ritualistic murders, they soon realize that their discoveries have exposed them to terrible danger. As their investigation races forward, unknown enemies and powers greater than they can imagine are gathering in the shadows, ready to reclaim the world in which humans are merely game pieces on their board.

Full review on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #61: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Expected publication: September 10th, 2013

Cather and Wren are twins (their mother hadn’t planned on twins but always wanted to name a girl Catherine – so just split the name). Their whole life has been spent together, sharing a room, sharing interests, especially their love of Simon Snow (think basically Harry Potter, if Draco was his room mate, and also a vampire). Cath and Wren write fan fic read by tens of thousands of fans, while everyone awaits the release of the eight and final Simon Snow book. Cath doesn’t really think much will change when they go off to college, but then  Wren declares that she wants to live in a different dorm from Cath, and spends most of her time having the crazy party girl freshman experience, leaving Cath anxious and adrift in a new and confusing place.

Cath isn’t even sure she wants to be at college. She’s worried about their father, who manages fine most of the time, when his girls remind him to eat, and do the dishes, and the laundry. His mental health really isn’t as stable as it ought to be, and Cath doesn’t think he should be by himself. For the first couple of weeks, she barely even leaves her dorm room, just holes up and eats energy bars, goes to lectures and continues her fan fiction grand opus.

More on my blog. 

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #60: Dare You To by Katie McGarry

4.5 stars

Dare You To is the sequel to Pushing the Limits, which I reviewed last year, but works fine on its own, and may even be better if you don’t have any preconceived impressions of Beth from that book.

To say that Elizabeth “Beth” Risk has a sucky home life, would be an understatement. Beth’s mum is an alcoholic and recreational drug user, with an abusive boyfriend. Yet Beth feels responsible for her father leaving them, years ago, and is willing to do whatever it takes to keep her mother out of jail, even if it means taking a beating now and again. Thanks to the help of her two best friends, Noah and Isaiah, she manages to stay mostly safe. Neither of the two boys think she should be protecting her mother the way she does. When Beth’s mum smashes up her boyfriend’s car, and Beth takes the blame for it, getting arrested so her mother doesn’t violate her parole, the two foster care boys are relieved when Beth’s uncle, Scott, arrives to bail her out of jail, and demands that she stay with him until she turns eighteen, even if it means they won’t get to see her much anymore.

Scott is her father’s younger brother, who knows exactly what sort of a dead beat Beth’s father was. He left to become a baseball pro while Beth was still a little girl, and has just moved back into town with his wife. Unless Beth agrees to stay with him until she turns eighteen, and follow his rules, he’ll make sure the police know all about Beth’s mother and the things he found in her flat when he came looking for Beth. Defeated, Beth agrees, even though Scott’s new wife is less than thrilled to have what she considers a severely messed up juvenile delinquent staying under her roof. More on my blog

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #55: Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson

Alison is sixteen, and currently residing in a mental institution. Ever since she was little, she’s know she’s not quite like everyone else. To her, words have distinct tastes and colours. Certain sounds can make her see things. She feels physically sick if she herself tries to lie, and can taste it in the back of her mouth if people are lying or not. Loud noises give her fits. She’s suspected of the murder of the most popular and perfect girl in her school, Tori Beaugrand, and only Alison knows why the authorities haven’t been able to find a body. Tori Beaugrand disintegrated in front of Alison’s eyes, after they had a terrible fight. How insane is that?

Alison doesn’t want to stay sectioned, and tries to appeal to be released. Yet her mother is afraid to keep her at home with her younger brother, and the doctors at the institution want her to take her anti-psychotic drugs so she can get better. The police want to know where Tori Beaugrand is, and why Alison came home, distraught, with bloody hands. As the weeks pass, Alison no longer knows what the truth is. Only the enigmatic young scientist Sebastian Faraday seems to believe that Alison is innocent.

More on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #51: Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn

16-year-old Tomasu lives in a secluded Japanese village in an alternate version of feudal Japan. Most of the people there are of the Hidden, a secret religion of peace and tranquillity. One day, when Tomasu is out on a ramble, he returns to see that the entire village has been slaughtered by the soldiers of warlord Iida Sadamu, who want to eradicate all of the Hidden. The boy runs, and just as he is about to be captured by the hostile soldiers, he is rescued by the powerful Lord Otori Shigeru, who has his own score to settle against Iida.

Lord Otori tells Tomasu to forget his old life, and never mention the teachings of the Hidden again. From now on, he will be Otori Takeo, and Shigeru will adopt him as his heir. Most of Shigeru’s loyal retainers think he’s gone mad, still grieving the death of his brother, but Shigeru will not be argued with. He makes sure Takeo is tutored as befits a young lordling, and taught deportment, and etiquette and fighting. As time passes, and he gets to know Lord Otori better, Takeo understands that he is to be an important game piece in Shigeru’s revenge.

Read the rest on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #50: Sandor slash Ida by Sara Kaderfors

From the blurb, as it sums up the first impression of the characters quite well: She’s pretty and popular. He’s a nobody. She lives in the middle of Stockholm. He lives in a hole outside Gothenburg. She spends hours in cafes with her friends, he devotes all his time to dance. She’s fed up with sex, he’s a virgin. She gets called bimbo, he gets called fag. She hates her life. He hates his life. Her name is Ida. His is Sandor.

Read my review on my blog.