Archive for the ‘Book Challenge’ Category

Bookathon: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

Book Eight
Starting Time: 1:15 am
Sleeping Time: 3:10 am – 10:45 am
Ending Time: 12:08 pm

Title: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Volume 1: The Pox Party
Author: M. T. Anderson
Genre: Historical fiction
Pages: 351
Summary: Octavian has been raised as a bizarre science experiment his entire life, but as the Revolutionary War explodes around him, he begins to question his place in the world – not as a specimen, but as a human being.
Thoughts: This is a brilliantly-written, deeply-disturbing book. Like, I went to bed in the middle of it and had to think really hard about ponies and sunshine in order to keep myself from having nightmares. It absolutely captures the style of late 18th-century American writings and delves deep into the horrible, hypocritical debates about slavery that cropped up during a war supposedly fought for liberty and equality. There’s not much plot and a whole lot more agonized philosophy, which isn’t really to my taste, but it is a very good book.

Four cupcakes

Bookathon: Graceling

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Book Five
Starting time: 8:55 PM
Ending time: 2:42 AM

Title: Graceling
Author: Kristin Cashore
Genre: High Fantasy
Pages: 471

Summary: Everyone fears Gracelings — and they fear Katsa most of all, for she’s Graced with the ability to kill. Her uncle, the King, uses her as a strong arm to bully his nobles, but Katsa hates being treated like a mad dog, and is determined to get out from under his thumb. Doing that, however, thrusts her into some international intrigue she never could have imagined…

Thoughts: Holy crap, did I love this book. It isn’t perfect, but it’s delightful and exciting and I love Katsa (and Po, and Bitterblue, and Raffin, and etc…). Really, it had me completely at this exchange:

Sighing, Helda carried the dress from the bathing room. “It would look stunning, My Lady,” she called, “with your dark hair and eyes.”

Katsa yanked at one of the more stubborn knots in her hair. She spoke to the bubbles gathered on the surface of the water. “If there’s anyone I wish to stun at dinner, I’ll hit him in the face.”

This book is totally worth a full review someday, and I will absolutely a) reread it, and b) pick up Cashore’s next book when it comes out. Five cupcakes.

Bookathon: Maggie, Diary 1

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Book Seven
Starting Time: 12:30 am
Ending Time: 1:07 am

Title: California Diaries: Maggie, Diary 1
Author: Ann M. Martin
Genre: Teen drama llama
Pages: 180
Summary: Maggie is torn between auditioning to sing in a garage band, and being the perfect little daughter her movie producer father wants her to be.
Thoughts: Not bad. I tend to relate to school perfectionist stories. The poetry was dreadful, but that’s to be expected.

Three and a half cupcakes

Bookathon: Alphas

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Book Six
Starting Time: 9:45 pm
Ending Time: 12:15 am

Title: Alphas
Author: Lisi Harrison
Genre: Teen drama llama
Pages: 271
Summary: Backstabbing and boy-craziness at an ultra-high tech school for talented teenage girls, run by a Machiavellian bitch-goddess.
Thoughts: I want to stick a spoon into my ear canal and scoop this book out of my brain. Uggggh. I hate the “catty rich girls” subgenre of girls’ media out there, and this is a prime example (the author has also created The Clique series). Everyone in this book is vile and the prose is so aggressively trendy it will be dated next week, not to mention nonsensical. “Skye launched into a perfect pique turn, arms wide, hands clasped, as if hugging Kevin Fat-erline. ‘You want to be solid and liquid at the same time, like an unopened juice box on a whirling merry-go-round.'” NONSENSE. There’s rampant fat-hate, a mostly-white and definitely pro-blonde cast, and the whole thing is just a training manual for a future generation of materialistic sociopaths who view all other girls as competition and all boys as fresh meat. Also, “LIP-KISSING” IS NOT A THING. STOP SAYING IT. NOW LOOK WHAT YOU’VE DONE, MY EYES ARE BLEEDING.

Zero cupcakes

Bookathon: Sunny, Diary 1

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Book Five
Starting Time: 8:35 pm
Ending Time: 9:32 pm

Title: California Diaries: Sunny, Diary 1
Author: Ann M. Martin
Genre: Teen drama llama
Pages: 180
Summary: Unable to deal with her mom dying of cancer, Sunny starts cutting school and hanging out at the beach, where she meets an older boy with the no-strings life she longs for.
Thoughts: I liked this one a lot better than the first one. Sunny says and does awful things, but unlike Dawn, she actually has good reason to be lashing out this woundedly. (I don’t think that’s a word.) Carson was kind of a skeevester and a tool (On the Road and Catcher in the Rye are your life, dude? Tooooooool.) until the end, when he actually turned out to be a fairly upstanding guy. In general Sunny’s voice just felt a lot more natural and relatable to me than Dawn’s wishy-washy self-righteousness. (She’s still a pain in the ass in this one. Sigh.)

Four cupcakes

Bookathon: Lust

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Book Four

Starting time: 5:30
Ending time: 8:36

Title: Lust
Author: Robin Wasserman
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 229

Summary: Let’s see if I got this: Adam and Beth are the golden couple; mean girl Harper wants Adam; rich new girl Kaia also wants Adam, sleezy Kane wants Beth; Harper’s BFF Miranda wants Kane. And there’s a “don’t stand so close to me” teacher. People scheme.

Thoughts: This isn’t the sort of book I usually pick up, but I like the author. But I think I’ll stick with Wasserman’s sf from her on out. The only mildly tolerable character in the novel was Beth, everyone else? Bleh. This is decidedly not my genre, so I think I’ll skip the other six books in the series.

One cupcake.

Bookathon: Ophelia

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Book Four
Starting Time: 5:35 pm
Ending Time: 8:32 pm

Title: Ophelia
Author: Lisa Klein
Genre: Shakespeare fanfiction. Well, it is.
Pages: 328
Summary: Hamlet and beyond, from Ophelia’s point of view.
Thoughts: Hamlet is one of my favorite Shakespeare’s, and I’ve always loved Ophelia and wished she was given more respect, so I was very happy to see this in the store (even though Becky pointed out that the very pretty model on the cover looks like a girl version of Michael Cera, and now I can’t unsee it; I call her Sara Michael). It’s a decent story and a decent pastiche, and though I think this tomboyish, authority-flouting Ophelia is very much a modern construction and not terribly well-rooted in the play, I like her. I especially liked that not only did Ophelia get her story told, but that Gertrude’s character was explored in far greater detail and redeemed somewhat, plus the book was crammed with various female characters, all distinct individuals and well outnumbering the men. My two quibbles were a) that the final third was really Jesus-y, which is fine but not really my style as a reader, and b) scenes from the actual play were glossed over, assuming a familiarity with the material that I doubt the target audience has. I certainly could have done with a refresher. Oh well, it was still good.

Three and a half cupcakes

Bookathon: Bite Me!

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Book Three
Starting Time: 4:00 pm
Ending Time: 5:25 pm

Title: Bite Me!
Author: Dylan Meconis
Genre: Humor/Horror/Graphic Novel
Pages: 168
Summary: A ragtag group of vampires attempt to rescue their coven during the height of the French Revolution.
Thoughts: I’ve read Bite Me! in its online form before, but I always prefer having a copy to hold in my hands, so I bought a copy at MoCCA. The story is hilarious; the art, drawn over several years starts out lively and fun and becomes lively and fun and fantastic as Meconis comes into her own. Good times.

Four cupcakes

Bookathon: Alex and the Ironic Gentleman

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Book Three
Starting time: 12:45 PM
Ending time: 4:13 PM

Title: Alex and the Ironic Gentleman
Author: Adrienne Kress
Genre: Humor
Pages: 308

Summary: Alex Morningside loves her sixth grade teacher, Mr. Underwood, so much that when he is kidnapped by the bloodthirsty crew of the pirate ship Ironic Gentleman, she sets off to rescue him. There are plenty of adventures on the way.

Thoughts: Basically, what Jess said when she reviewed it. An enjoyable read, and a bit reminiscent of Lewis Carroll, which I appreciated. I was glad when the whimsical narrative settled down a bit, and laid of the wacky asides and Significant Capitals, because those aren’t devices I’m especially fond of. And I’m baffled as to what time period the book takes place in, as it’s got modern bits (movies, cars, etc) but much of it reads like Ye Olde Fashioned pirate stories. (Though that’s not a very important detail to be concerned about.) The cast of the book was pretty fantastic, the little old ladies were truly menacing and creepy, the climax and resolution were great, and I will probably pick up the sequel when it’s out in paperback.

My favorite bit was the one with the Extremely Ginormous Octopus.

Four cupcakes.

Bookathon: Little Brother

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Book Two
Starting time: 9:57 PM
Ending time: 3:26 AM

Title: Little Brother
Author: Cory Doctorow
Genre: Contemporary, borderline Aliens Among Us
Pages: 380

Summary: Teen hacker Marcus is in the wrong place at the wrong time, gets accused of terrorism, and is dragged off to a secret facility. When he gets back, his home town is a virtual police state. After everything he’s been through, Marcus can’t handle that, and he declares war on the Department of Homeland Security.

Thoughts: My feelings about this book are certainly mixed. I liked the characters — a stunning success on the race, gender, progressive lefty scorecard — and the prose, though there was something mildly off with the pacing. This book was recced to me as both good and important, and it is both of those things. That said, I didn’t enjoy it very much. I had a visceral reaction to the terrorism at the beginning, but beyond that… Hm.

I read mostly for escapism; that’s why so much of what I read is sf/f. When I’m looking at things like race and gender, I’m much more comfortable with looking at story subtext and seeing how that reflects the culture. But there is nothing sub about this text, and while important and engaging, it’s also a bit lecture-y. I agree with it, and I’m glad it was written, but it was an obvious case of story built around an agenda, not agenda built craftily into the story. So while it’s a good book, and I will happily loan my copy out to anyone who is interested, I doubt I will read it again.

Final thought? My favorite bits were the asides on math and cryptography. Sort of Neal Stephenson for the YA crowds.

Four cupcakes.

And now, because it is 3:30 AM, I shall go to bed. I think tomorrow I shall start with something light-hearted and whimsical.