Monday, July 21, 2014

Tuesday Tomorrow

Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Published by: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: July 22nd, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"We all have a secret buried under lock and key in the attic of our soul. This is mine."

When Fifteen-year-old Oscar Drai suddenly vanishes from his boarding school in Barcelona, no one knows his whereabouts for seven days and seven nights.

His story begins when he meets the strange Marina while he's exploring an old quarter of the city. She leads Oscar to a cemetery, where they watch a macabre ritual that occurs on the last Sunday of each month. At exactly ten o'clock in the morning, a woman shrouded in a black velvet cloak descends from her carriage to place a single rose on an unmarked grave.

When Oscar and Marina decide to follow her, they begin a journey that transports them to a forgotten postwar Barcelona--a world of aristocrats and actresses, inventors and tycoons--an reveals a dark secret that lies waiting in the mysterious labyrinth beneath the city streets.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon's haunting Marina has long been a cult classic in Spain and is now an international bestseller."

So, my book club recently read one of Carlos's books and we all thought that aside from some explicit scenes it felt like it could be for kids... well this one is. I am mildly intrigued, but also wondering why name a character who makes me think of where boats are stored...

Strange and Ever After by Susan Dennard
Published by: HarperTeen
Publication Date: July 22nd, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare's The Infernal Devices series, this is the epic conclusion to Susan Dennard's trilogy that started with Something Strange and Deadly and continued with A Darkness Strange and Lovely. With supernatural forces, epic romance, and a mysterious Egyptian city, Eleanor and her team are set for an adventure they will never forget.

It has been a tumultuous time for Eleanor Fitt since life as she knew it in Philadelphia came abruptly to an end. While the Spirit-Hunters—Joseph, Jie, and Daniel—have helped her survive her brother's violent death and an invasion of Hungry Dead, Eleanor has lost just about everything.

And now, Jie is missing—taken by the evil necromancer Marcus. Eleanor is determined not only to get her back but to finally end this nightmare. But to do so, she must navigate the hot desert streets of nineteenth-century Egypt amid the rising Dead, her unresolved feelings for Daniel, and her volatile relationships with Joseph and Oliver, her demon. And it won't be easy. Because Allison, her friend from Philadelphia, has tagged along, becoming strangely entangled in Eleanor's mission.

It will take all of Eleanor's powers of black magic, and all of Daniel's and Joseph's trust, to succeed. But there will be a price. People will have to suffer the consequences of what Marcus has done, and what Eleanor, Oliver, and the Spirit-Hunters will do to stop all this deadly chaos."

OK, yes, this is all about the cover lust...

Sixty-Eight Rooms: The Secret of the Key by Marianne Malone
Published by: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: July 22nd, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 256 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Filled with magic, mystery, miniatures, and adventure, the Sixty-Eight Rooms is the perfect series for fans of Chasing Vermeer, The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and The Dollpeople!

Chicago sixth graders Ruthie and Jack think they’ve learned everything about the magic of the Art Institute’s Thorne Rooms. But the magic starts to act strangely when Ruthie and Jack discover two rings that are out of place—and out of time—and a portal that shouldn’t be open but somehow is. Ruthie and Jack follow the clues to seventeenth-century England and the Brownlow house, where they meet the Brownlow’s governess, Rebecca. But Rebecca has a few secrets of her own—and she might even be in the wrong century! Can Ruthie and Jack discover the truth about Rebecca’s mysterious past, or will they end up stuck in the wrong century themselves? Their quest for answers takes them from 1930s New York City and San Francisco to turn-of-the-century China. The only one who can truly answer their questions may be the woman who started it all: the room’s creator, Narcissa Thorne. But to talk to Mrs. Thorne, they’ll have to go back in time and find her!

Unlock the magic . . . in the exciting conclusion to the Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventures!"

I wish they had these books when I was little. I was obsessed with the Thorne Miniature Rooms! Still am, as a matter of fact...

The Game and the Governess by Kate Noble
Published by: Pocket Books
Publication Date: July 22nd, 2014
Format: Paperback, 432 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Trading Places meets Pride and Prejudice in this sexy, saucy romance—first in a new series from the author of YouTube sensation The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

Three friends. One Wager. Winner takes all.

The Earl—‘Lucky Ned’ Ashby. Pompous, preening, certain that he is beloved by everyone. The Miller—John Turner. Proud, forced to work as the Earl’s secretary, their relationship growing ever more strained.

The Doctor—Rhys Gray. Practical, peace-loving, but caught in the middle of two warring friends.

Their wager is simple: By trading places with John Turner and convincing someone to fall in love with him, Ned plans to prove it’s him the world adores, not his money. Turner plans to prove him wrong.

But no one planned on Phoebe Baker, the unassuming governess who would fall into their trap, and turn everything on its head…

Three best friends make a life-changing bet in the first book in a witty, sexy new Regency trilogy from acclaimed author Kate Noble, writer of the wildly popular Emmy award–winning web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries."

I don't usually go for traditional romances, but this is firstly, by the author of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and secondly they mentioned one of my favorite films in the blurb, and I'm not talking P and P, I'm talking Trading Places!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Book Review - Cassandra Clare's City of Ashes

City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments Book 2) by Cassandra Clare
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication Date: March 25th, 2008
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
Rating: ★
To Buy

Clary's mom is still in a coma. But her mother isn't her only family anymore. Clary not only has an evil father planning world domination under the guise of the greater good, but a brother in Jace, whom she was starting to fall for, luckily they found out about their shared genes in time, no matter how much they wish it wasn't true. Jace and Clary being the offspring of Valentine has caused quite a stir among the Shadowhunters. Because Clary is new to this "other" world she is basically ignored by the Clave, but Jace... Jace isn't getting off that easy. Until Jace can prove his past ignorance of his lineage and that all his motives where for the good of the Clave he is to be locked up by the Silent Brothers.

While he is detained awaiting his "trial" by the sacred Soul-Sword that will know if he is telling the truth, his father Valentine arrives at the Silent City and massacres the Brothers and steals the sword, the second of the Mortal Instruments. Even if Jace wasn't under suspicion because of his father and being at the scene of another crime, he'd want to get to the bottom of this because it's in his blood as a Shadowhunter to protect the world from the downworlders. Downworlders who are flocking to Valentine as he uses the sword to call them to his side. Can Jace, Clary, and the younger Shadowhunters work secretly for the good of all without being accused of ulterior motives?

I'm sure you've all experienced this phenomena. You're reading a book, it's good bordering on great and because of some reason you set it down. It could be work, it could be prior commitments, it could even be another book you've been dying to read and it has finally come out and you can't wait another minute to start it. But you set down your book and when you pick it back up the magic is gone. There's a part of you that's thinking, it's not the book, it's me, the common refrain of all breakups. You try to make it work, but no matter how hard you try you can't reconnect.

The book is now a chore to read and you're just pushing through, trying to finish, all the while wondering what happened. This happened with me and City of Ashes. In the beginning I was flying through it, surprised by how much I was enjoying it after the first book was, well, wasn't up to my high expectations. I was even able to forgive Clare's habit of unbelievable predictability. She's so heavy handed with the foreshadowing that it's laughable. She telegraphs every punch so that there is no surprise when the blow falls. But I was ok with all this and then I wasn't.

I am not sure if it was the superiority of writing and worldbuilding of the book I forsook City of Ashes for or just that City of Ashes had reached it's apex and was quickly declining, but we irrevocably had a falling out. Yes, it was my mistake to set down this book, because who knows if I would have grown to dislike it as much as I did. I have an inkling that I would, and that inkling is Jace. I hate Jace with the fury of ten thousand suns. He is an unlikable arrogant ass. What's the refrain all good writers should abide by, show don't tell. Having all the characters say that Jace isn't really all that bad doesn't counteract the douchebaggery he's perpetrating on every single page. He's not a misunderstood misanthrope, he's a dick. An unrepentant ass isn't ever going to be a good hero or even an antihero, they're just going to be always an ass. And in this case an ass surrounded by a whole lot of flat two dimensional characters.

But what I despise about Jace is that he's basically the love interest. I was relieved when at the end of the first book that it turned out Jace and Clary are siblings because then Clare could drop this stupid budding love affair. Of course, I can see that they are somehow going to miraculously not be related just so they can get it on, and that is where the book tipped for me, when Jace was brought back as the taboo love of Clary. By having Jace, all be it temporarily, not the love interest I became interested in the book. Clare quickly cured me of all I liked, hence I think our breakup was inevitable.

So about this love. Let's say that Jace and Clary are related and there's no deus ex machina waiting in the wings to make their love acceptable, then we're in familiar literary trope territory, incest! Man, authors love incest, consensual, non consensual, startling revelation, secretive, scandalous, fabulously camp, it's out there from Flowers in the Attic to Game of Thrones to Veronica Mars to Arrested Development. And, it's just overdone already people. Using it as a shocking plot device over and over makes it lose it's shock value.

I could spend hours sitting here just listing all the books I've read or shows I've watched where this was supposed to be a big icky reveal and instead had me rolling my eyes going, oh please, not again. Donna Tartt, Diane Setterfield, Charlaine Harris, George R R Martin have all pulled this and have desensitized me to this trope once and for all. THE ONLY way this trope would have helped this book would have been to permanently part Jace and Clary on the romantic level, but that's not happening, so just, cut it out, ok, it's bad that I just got Dave Coulier from Full House in my head just then... but that's the level this trope has reached... bad and tacky 80s comedian level.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book Review - Cassandra Clare's City of Bones

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments Book 1) by Cassandra Clare
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication Date: March 27th, 2007
Format: Hardcover, 496 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Clary's life has been turned upside down. One night her and her best friend Simon are at a club when she sees something no one else can. There's apparently a shadow world in New York and for some reason Clary is starting to see it. After this shocking discovery Clary's mom Jocelyn is kidnapped and this new world of demons and angels and vampires and werewolves holds the key. There is a group of humans known as the Shadowhunters, and they protect the world from the demons from the downworlds. They keep all of humanity safe and ignorant. Clary has spent her life safe and ignorant, but only at her mother's behest. Jocelyn was once a Shadowhunter, part of the elite Circle lead by her husband Valentine to overthrow the Clave, the organizing body of the Shadowhunters. Jocelyn came to hate the purity of blood the Circle demanded and fled her husband and that world to raise her daughter as a mundane, safe from the dangers of this shadow world. But everyone's past comes back to haunt them. Valentine isn't as dead as everyone hoped and his ideals haven't changed in the fifteen years he has been in hiding. Can Clary, a girl just thrust into this other world, be able to help stop history repeating itself?

The concept of plagiarism is horrifying to me, yet in our society it is oddly pervasive and somewhat accepted. As a creative person who has artistic output the thought that someone would take my work, my blood, sweat, and tears, and claim it as their own, it makes my blood boil. I am so wary of the taint of plagiarism that I have this obsessive self-policing instinct that recoils at the thought that I would cut corners to get a faster or better end result even using just the bones of another person's idea. Plagiarism in any form is abhorrent to me. Yet there were many instances at school where students would get caught showing the work of others as their own. They would lift artwork straight off of deviantART and an observant student or teacher would call them out. Why you might be wondering am I ruminating on artistic copyrights? Well, even if you've only been half aware of the controversy, Cassandra Clare is an author who has, apparently, been rightly tarred as a plagiarist. She is an author who, while the taint has stuck, has also been accepted by the YA community and become very successful. An odd conundrum of our times where theft and unoriginality are king.

While the roots of the story start in fanfic, I want to make it clear that this is just one cast against one person and that fanfic is a thriving and interesting genre that uses pre-existing characters in new ways and isn't being denigrated by me. The bones (haha) of the case against Cassie is that in her fanfic trilogy devoted to Draco Malfoy she basically was ripping off not just witty dialogue from Buffy to Pratchett to Red Dwarf (classified by her as "an obscure British sitcom" and yes, in my mind she should go to hell for saying that) but full scenes and settings from other authors. She was called out, her work was categorized as plagiarized and was pulled from the site it was on. Yes, there was also a lot of name calling, Cyberbullying, and other horrid stuff you can read all about elsewhere, but the fact is she got a book deal from this. This alone disgusts me. But with the eyes of the world on her she wasn't able to rely on the witticisms of Joss Whedon anymore, she took her plot structure from her fanfic trilogy, stripped it down, rebuilt it, and what is left is boring. Even if you were unaware of all this controversy swirling around her you could not help but notice that this book lacks originality, it lacks that spark that's needed to make it more then just a mish-mash of other tropes and plot devices as old as the written word. Cassandra Clare, in my opinion, is a bad writer, not to mention morally corrupt and a bad human. She used the reflective glory of other "true" writers to give her work a shiny allure, that while tarnished, is still there.

But I can't ignore the fanfic roots of City of Bones mainly because this is so obviously Harry Potter from Draco's point of view. And even if I didn't know about the Draco Trilogy, once a flying motorcycle shows up, there's no doubt it's Harry Potter. This book is giving us front row seats to life with the Death Eaters, with a little more Nazism thrown in, sieg heil! In fact it's just too much of everything thrown in, too much borrowed and re-interpreted in a flat way. Here's some Harry Potter (a stele is so a wand no matter what Clare says), add some Rick Riordan, a little Piers Anthony/Bill Willingham (mundies, really, Fables much?), an aroma of Celtic mythology, a dash of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, just have at it. But never once does all this thisness convert into something it's own, something cohesive and original. All this translates into major worldbuilding issues. I'm ok with a magical world coexisting alongside a mundane world, as long as it makes sense. Whether it's willful ignorance on the part of the mundanes, or spells and wards keeping them away, something has to be explained as to how this ignorant coexistence works. Having carriages going over cars and slipping in and out of traffic with not an eyelid batted, please.

The laziness in the worldbuilding though is never so obvious as in the characters that inhabit this world. City of Bones has this feeling of one epically long night of party crashing, much like the aforementioned Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, a book and movie I detest. When you go to these parties you meet people, you get vague impressions, and then they're out of your life forever. That's how I felt about all the characters. They are flat two-dimensional people who will maybe have a defining characteristic, but overall, they are forgettable. After almost five hundred pages with Clary all I know about her is she's a short red-head who draws. Seriously, this is ALL I KNOW about the protagonist of this book? Um... major flaw here. While I know people will jump down my neck for this, but I actually think Bella Swan has more of a personality then Clary. There, I said it. I do think that this issue would have been fixable it there was some buildup before throwing us into the action of the book. How about a few days spent with Clary living her normal life? Some way for us to identify with her and the world she's about to lose. A way for the reader to forge a connection, because without this bond I have no conduit to help me in this book's world, and it makes me care about nothing. Valentine could kill them all for how much I care about them and perhaps I would help him, especially with Jace.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
Published by: Viking Adult
Publication Date: July 15th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 576 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

With more than one million copies sold in the United States and appearing in thirty-eight foreign editions, A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night have landed on all of the major bestseller lists and garnered rave reviews from countless publications. Eagerly awaited by Harkness’s legion of fans, The Book of Life brings this superbly written series to a deeply satisfying close."

Not very surprising to me that no other books are coming out this week. No one wants to compete with the juggernaut that is Deborah Harkness...

Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Published by: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: July 15th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Katie’s got it pretty good. She’s a talented young chef, she runs a successful restaurant, and she has big plans to open an even better one. Then, all at once, progress on the new location bogs down, her charming ex-boyfriend pops up, her fling with another chef goes sour, and her best waitress gets badly hurt. And just like that, Katie’s life goes from pretty good to not so much. What she needs is a second chance. Everybody deserves one, after all—but they don’t come easy. Luckily for Katie, a mysterious girl appears in the middle of the night with simple instructions for a do-it-yourself do-over:

1. Write your mistake
2. Ingest one mushroom
3. Go to sleep
4. Wake anew

And just like that, all the bad stuff never happened, and Katie is given another chance to get things right. She’s also got a dresser drawer full of magical mushrooms—and an irresistible urge to make her life not just good, but perfect. Too bad it’s against the rules. But Katie doesn’t care about the rules—and she’s about to discover the unintended consequences of the best intentions.

From the mind and pen behind the acclaimed Scott Pilgrim series comes a madcap new tale of existential angst, everyday obstacles, young love, and ancient spirits that’s sharp-witted and tenderhearted, whimsical and wise."

I'm of two minds with regard to the new Bryan Lee O'Malley book (BTW, this is exempt from Harkness conflict, because they are so different). One mind is going, OMG, finally, something new since the final Scott Pilgrim, other mind, but his other standalone, Lost at Sea, sucked... see, two minds.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Book Review - Lauren DeStefano's Sever

Sever (The Chemical Garden Book 3) by Lauren DeStefano
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: February 12th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Rhine is now officially her father-in-law's medical experiment. Brought back to the family compound, her husband doesn't even know she's being "treated" in the basement, along with many other people who were supposedly long gone. Even when finally faced with the truth of his father's crimes, Linden can't quite cope and chooses to believe the lie he's lived his entire life. Yet he is savvy enough to try to protect his two remaining wives by hiding them at his uncle's house. After all that Rhine has been through she is surprised to see that two of her fellow captives are willing to help her find her brother and put right what went wrong.

Rhine's husband Linden and her sister wife Cecily help in the hunt for Rowan. Finding Rowan won't be as hard as Rhine thought. In the aftermath of her disappearance and supposed death in a medical experiment, Rowan might just have cracked, as his anti science rantings and bombing of medical centers would indicate. But maybe, just maybe, there's a giant conspiracy afoot which will make friends of enemies and hopefully end this death sentence hanging over all the world. Twenty is too young to die.

And then the series became a rip off of M. Night Shyamalan's The Villiage, which was a rip off of Running Out of Time... but with a bit more of a lean towards the Margaret Peterson Haddix book, and I threw my hands up in the air in exasperation. If it wasn't for that unexpected bloodbath at the end in which I took not just a little bit of joy, there would be nothing memorable about this book other then the faint melancholy I feel for what this series could have been. The unbelievability of the underlying reason for everything that happens means that everything in the book is on an unstable base and is therefore unbelievable as well.

Just because a book is set in a dystopian society doesn't mean that you get to ignore logic. The whole point of dystopian versus fantasy is that it is a possibility. Something could go wrong with our society, a virus, a massive power failure, a war, something that could go wrong does and we are plunged into a future nightmare. You can't just decide that I have this cool idea as to how society could became a certain way and force it on society. People have a hive mind mentality, they won't go against this hive mind, and what DeStefano suggests happens is so against the hive mind, it's unacceptable as what drives the plot.

So, now is the time if you haven't seen The Village to stop reading, because besides spoiling this book I plan to spoil the movie, neither of which are worth your time, so really, I'm doing you a favor. OK, so in the utterly predictable movie The Village, a group comes together and basically removes themselves from society. They have seen the horror that humanity has became and want to live a safe, insular life without any outside influence. The group makes this decision for their safety, their heath, and the safety and future of their children. Self exile for the continuation of the species. This is feasible on a small scale, because they are like-minded individuals who are brought together through grief and come to a similar conclusion.

With Sever we learn that the ENTIRE United States decides to eschew technology and anything outside the contiguous forty-eight states in exchange for perfect health and children with genes that will mean they live out their lives at the physical peak of humanity, which, of course, backfires on them. They even re-write history so that the outside world no longer exists. What country does DeStefano live in? The US going all "Village" and giving away it's love of gadgets and technology and access to the world for perfect health? Um no. We sadly live in a world where a person would kill someone for an iPhone, there's no chance in hell this would ever happen. To disconnect from the outside world, well maybe, but give up gadgets? No. The hive mind will prevail!

I can't believe in a virus that is caused by a situation that could never, ever, ever, happen. I'm sorry, I just can't buy into the world of this series anymore, which, by they way, it's title doesn't make any sense. "The Chemical Garden" um... yeah, not working. I thought it would be cool if maybe it was poisonous plants that did this, but using it as a pun on a hospital nursery, lame. Yet it is to do with what is in that nursery that the moral question the series is asking originates from. All this comes down to is the question of what would we do for our children? I'm not saying that the breeders could actually get everyone to agree to this world by playing the "children our our future" card, but I can see where they are coming from.

The Village was for the future and the children, and look what those parents did to give them a better world. Would we be willing to let our children suffer pain if it helped in the long run? Is Vaughn's evil experiments and dissection of his dead daughters-in-law excusable because it was for the greater good? It's kind of like trying to pardon a Nazis... medical advancement versus what is morally right. I'm sorry, but if I'm getting joy out of watching your characters die and comparing your book to a bad movie, there is no way that I'm really going to bother with these weighty issues. I'm just going to take your books to the used bookstore and get it off my shelves. I need the space for better books, not to dwell on philosophical conundrums.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Book Review - Lauren DeStefano's Fever

Fever (The Chemical Garden Book 2) by Lauren DeStefano
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: February 21st, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
Rating: ★
To Buy

Rhine is free of her husband, but there is more then one kind of prison as she is quick to learn as she and Gabriel are captured by a madame who runs a carnival inside a wickedly electrified fence. Rhine and Gabriel are trying to get to New York from Florida and have only made it as far as South Carolina before their luck starts to run out. Kept in a drugged state, the two of them perform for madame's customers, hoping that they can break free and find Rhine's brother Rowan. But once free of the carnival they face more horrors then they can imagine, all with Rhine's father-in-law quick on their heels. Stowing away on trucks, Angel Blood withdrawal, unexpected comrades, creepy men, snatchers, danger at every corner with no money and no food. Rhine is starting to realize just how naive she was in thinking that she just had to get away from her husband's house, because his reach is far. Can she ever escape the marriage she was forced into and go back to her old life?

Never in all my years of reading books has a series gone to the bad so fast and so irrevocably. I might point a figure at Mary Norton and her Borrowers, but that was more her tendency to drop plot points and start each book from scratch then writing a hot mess that is just shit. If this series had been just content to leave well enough alone ending with just the right amount of hope and ambiguity with Wither then I'd be all for DeStefano. As it stands, I'm having a hard time coming to terms with a series that started out so uniquely and so strongly and having it turn so unoriginal, disjointed, dark, and dare I say, predictable?

Was this really how the series was outlined? Because Wither clearly states it's book one in a trilogy... so, seriously, this was the plan? THIS? I am just baffled. Fever has no identity, no core of originality, it quite literally doesn't know what it wants to be so it tries to be everything and fails at it all... it just has so many random dystopian tropes thrown into it that my head wants to explode. The impossible love story, evil carnies, the dying hooker with the heart of gold, the sad little crippled girl who everyone underestimates... blurg. When the book eventually got to the "good" orphanage, I expected a medley from Annie to be sung. Just no.

Yet Rhine is the biggest shock of all. She came across as a unique and intelligent, if confused, girl in Wither. What the hell happened? Now she's all naivete and seriously stupid. It seems as if once Gabriel and Rhine left the house they lost their identities in the process and became bumbling idiots. Rhine grew up on the streets of New York. She had to have been street savvy and smart to avoid capture all these years. The only reason she got caught was because it was a fake job set-up, not because she was dumb enough to be pulled off the street our dragged out of her home. Heck, her and her brother killed the last man who invaded their house! Yet outside Linden's estate, oh gosh, let's steal this boat, oh dear, we don't have money, shucks, we've been captured by an evil madame who runs a carnival and is going to turn us into sex salves... say what!?!

Rhine had how many freakin' months planning this escape and she didn't think to, oh, I don't know, steal a whole heck of a lot of the jewelry Linden gave her and hide it under her clothes to fund their flight? And how about not stealing a boat that can only run on fuel, I thought Gabriel knew about boats, so get something with a sail as well as a motor idiots. Oh, and yes Rhine, Gabriel is in love with you and wants something more, so stop acting like it's a shock, you do know what goes on behind closed doors, or in tents... and of course Vaughn put a tracker in your leg, before the wedding he obviously examined you to see if you could bare children, it only makes sense that he would tag you as the cattle he views you are.

Fever seems to take, not just one step back from the progress it made on women's rights and personal liberties, but it seems to jump off a cliff. Wither smartly showed us a world of exploitation and horrors that was relatable and fascinating, but never stooped to sensationalism. Everything had it's reason, everything was there for a purpose, to show us how the three wives coped, to show us what captivity did to Rhine's state of mind, everything in it's perfect place giving us a compelling narrative. Yet here it seems that the book has shifted away from the exploration of these salient arguments and instead has embraced exploitation.

The sex carnival seems to be not there for a discussion on the personal liberties of brides versus whores, but to my mind, there just for sensation, to make us shocked. Therefore all the good the first book has done is ripped down with shock for shocks sake with no insight, no deeper meaning. The sex and drugs that Rhine was previously exposed to were a creepy background threat lurking in the shadows, here the sex and drugs come forefront and are exploitative, and not in any way that is good or open for discussion. Seriously, a prostitution carnival? Just, no.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Tuesday Tomorrow

Wars of the Roses: Stormbird by Conn Iggulden
Published by: Putnam Adult
Publication Date: July 8th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 496 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In 1437, the Lancaster king Henry VI ascends the throne of England after years of semi-peaceful regency. Named “The Lamb,” Henry is famed more for his gentle and pious nature than his father’s famous battlefield exploits; already, his dependence on his closest men has stirred whispers of weakness at court.

A secret truce negotiated with France to trade British territories for a royal bride—Margaret of Anjou—sparks revolts across English territory. The rival royal line, the House of York, sees the chaos brought on by Henry’s weakness and with it not only opportunity in the monarch, but also their patriotic duty in ousting an ineffectual king. As storm clouds gather over England, King Henry and his supporters find themselves besieged abroad and at home. Who or what can save the kingdom before it is too late?"

Ok, after devouring all of The White Queen, I'm kind of now on a War of the Roses kick...

The White Magic Five and Dime by Steve Hockensmith with Lisa Falco
Published by: MIDNIGHT INK
Publication Date: July 8th, 2014
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A murdered mother leaves a shop full of secrets.

Much to Alanis McLachlan’s surprise, her con-woman mother, Barbra, has left her an inheritance—The White Magic Five & Dime, a new-age shop in tiny Berdache, Arizona. Reluctantly traveling to Berdache to claim her new property, Alanis decides to stay and pick up her estranged mother’s tarot reading business in an attempt to find out who killed her. With help from a hunky cop and her mother’s live-in teenage apprentice, Alanis begins faking her way through bogus tarot readings in order to win the confidence of her mother’s clients. But much to her surprise, the more she uses the tarot deck, the more Alanis begins to find real meaning in the cards."

And speaking of magic (ie, The White Queen), this looks like a fun new series about magic!

The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai
Published by: Viking Adult
Publication Date: July 8th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Meet the Devohrs: Zee, a Marxist literary scholar who detests her parents’ wealth but nevertheless finds herself living in their carriage house; Gracie, her mother, who claims she can tell your lot in life by looking at your teeth; and Bruce, her step-father, stockpiling supplies for the Y2K apocalypse and perpetually late for his tee time. Then there’s Violet Devohr, Zee’s great-grandmother, who they say took her own life somewhere in the vast house, and whose massive oil portrait still hangs in the dining room.

Violet’s portrait was known to terrify the artists who resided at the house from the 1920s to the 1950s, when it served as the Laurelfield Arts Colony—and this is exactly the period Zee’s husband, Doug, is interested in. An out-of-work academic whose only hope of a future position is securing a book deal, Doug is stalled on his biography of the poet Edwin Parfitt, once in residence at the colony. All he needs to get the book back on track—besides some motivation and self-esteem—is access to the colony records, rotting away in the attic for decades. But when Doug begins to poke around where he shouldn’t, he finds Gracie guards the files with a strange ferocity, raising questions about what she might be hiding. The secrets of the hundred-year house would turn everything Doug and Zee think they know about her family on its head—that is, if they were to ever uncover them.

In this brilliantly conceived, ambitious, and deeply rewarding novel, Rebecca Makkai unfolds a generational saga in reverse, leading the reader back in time on a literary scavenger hunt as we seek to uncover the truth about these strange people and this mysterious house. With intelligence and humor, a daring narrative approach, and a lovingly satirical voice, Rebecca Makkai has crafted an unforgettable novel about family, fate and the incredible surprises life can offer."

A house, multiple generations... the family, a little Royal Tenenbaum-esque, I'm sold.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Book Review - Lauren DeStefano's Wither

Wither (The Chemical Garden Book 1) by Lauren DeStefano
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: March 22nd, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Rhine is one of three. There were more girls, lots more. All snatched off the streets and locked in a van and driven for inspection by their future husband. The ones that weren't chosen had a fate that still haunts Rhine as she remembers the gunshots in her nightmares. The world is dying. Aside from the first generation who are gracefully aging, all females die at twenty and all males at twenty-five. Rhine has four years left to live and she doesn't intend to be trapped in a cage for the pleasure of her husband while her old life and her twin brother are out there, waiting for her return.

But Rhine and her sister wives, Jenna and Cecily, are kept under lock and key in their palatial rooms taken out just for special occasions, and never, ever, allowed to leave the property. They wait on their husband's whims while their fear of their father-in-law, Housemaster Vaughn, grows daily with rumors of his medical experiments in the basement. While Jenna and Cecily have accepted their new lives, Rhine can't, Rhine won't. She will gain her husband's trust and then make her move. With the help of a servant, Gabriel, she hopes to escape, no matter what her conflicted feelings about her husband, Linden, are whispering to her heart.

If Shirley Jackson was writing YA today, this is what her book would be like. There's just such a compellingly creepy vibe within this dystopian world that's part Logan's Run part Mormon nightmare that harks back to classics such as The Turn of the Screw and The Haunting of Hill House but written for the sensibility of today's teens who were raised on a steady diet of reality shows. There is a scary believability to the story that makes it that much more terrifying. The isolation of this small group of women as sister wives might seem to some preposterous, but I say, look to the past and you can see terrifying echoes of what was and what could be again.

As recently as the Victorian era women were literally property. Their husbands owned them and could do what they liked with these all too human possessions, from turning them into baby factories, using them as accessories, to locking them up in an asylum if they got out of hand. DeStefano has just taken what was and amplified it ever so much to pile on the creep factor. By taking away all choice in marriage (again, something that was rare anyway), by cranking down the ages of the brides, by allowing marriages to have more then one wife, and by adding medical experimentation, she has created a heightened reality that scares me yet I could totally see it happening, even today in some hidden compound in the woods.

Wither varies from other dystopian books in that while this virus that has somehow become a ticking time bomb in the genetic code making women die at twenty and men die at twenty-five is front and center, it isn't, in my mind, what the book is about. World plagues are common fare for post apocalyptic books and this does give Wither the every moment is precious and each moment left in captivity is one less moment of freedom vibe. Yet looking deeper, this isn't about the plague, or a downtrodden society, or a lack of creature comforts, which the characters actually have far more of in captivity then in freedom, it's about the encroachment of human rights and what all these things that have happened to society mean to woman, and a select few women in a large house in Florida, and four wives in particular.

While I mentioned earlier the Victorian mentality that is revived here, it also pays to just look at the world around us as it is. Women's reproductive rights seem to be a fine topic of discussion in the government where men who know nothing feel they have every right to say what happens to my body. Vaughn is just a totem of these people's views with his experiments and his liberties with his daughters-in-law's bodies. A plague killing us young, yeah, could happen eventually, but our rights to our own bodies, that could happen sooner rather then later and that really scares me.

Yet the acceptance of this world and this life would be the scariest of all. By having three wives we are able to see how three different people react to a similar situation. Jenna views it as a comfy prison to live out her remaining years, Cecily views it as her dream come true, while Rhine... Rhine is where it gets interesting. While Rhine never gives up on her plans to escape captivity, by having her as the book's narrator we get more insight into how she feels. While it is obvious that the wives come together with their traumatic bonding, a situation like this can not help but bring up Stockholm Syndrome.

Rhine has lived in a society where it was highly likely that at some point she was going to be snatched off the street and forced into some kind of bondage, either prostitution or marriage. So she already has an expectation of capture. Therefore, once captured, her expectations and reality will clash, and the question becomes, will she submit to her fate or fight? She does maintain a fight deep down, but also she is able to sympathize more and more with, not only her fellow wives, but with her husband. She grows to care for Linden. It is not known if Linden knows the full horror of what has happened to Rhine and how her life was destroyed by becoming his wife, so Linden could either be a co-conspirator or a victim like Rhine, but either way, Rhine does come to "love" Linden... her small acceptance of this life is the scariest, yet also sadly understandable, aspect of Wither.

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