Eleanor & Park Book Review

 When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.

-Book summary

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

So I was thinking to myself, wow, I’m doing so well keeping up-to-date. But then I checked my blog and whoops. Well, kids, I tried. Anyways so here’s this sweet book about these two kids, Eleanor and Park. You know how hard it is for me to spell that name? Eleanor? I constantly just want it to be Elenor. Or Elanor. But no. It has to have both.

Okay, so what happens here. Eleanor and Park is about how these two kids meet on the bus and fall in love, slowly. It’s cute. Pretty cute. But there’s also surprising depth, a result of Eleanor and Park being a lot farther from vanilla than almost any teen romance I’ve read. Maybe I need to broaden my authors or something, but I feel like I always end up with some variation of John Green characters– lonely white boys with nothing to do, and odd little girls that help them find their way. There are a few exceptions, but not as many as you’d like. It’s hard to find characters that are battling with insecurities other than size (a pretty common way for authors to make their protagonists “different” but not too different) or boy leads that aren’t pale.

So that’s actually one of this book’s huge strengths. Park is a Korean-American and, because the book gentle slides between both perspectives (third person), he gets a chance to voice some of his insecurities– the fact that you hardly see Asian American men in Hollywood portrayed as handsome leads, and the negative impact that has on him as a smaller, more slender boy. Park’s still middle class, though, and his family has good standing in this town where everybody seems to know each other, so at least he’s fine in terms of social standing. But for Eleanor, this is a huge problem. She’s poor, she’s got an abusive step-dad, and her mom is in a relationship she can’t leave for the sake of the other kids. It’s a heavy load for a young kid, but it’s excellently written and enriches the character, and plot. And it gives Eleanor’s own insecurities a base– she’s curvy, and it’s not that her clothes just aren’t cool; she’s literally too poor to afford anything else. It’s a refreshing, I guess, to see a girl who sometimes hates herself (haven’t well all, growing up?) for reasons other than being the “ugly” girl, who’s actually really pretty and just can’t see it. Like, that doesn’t even count.

Park and Eleanor are really like-able. Not because you’re swooning over them, but probably because you could very possibly be them. I’m pretty sure I’ve met these people before. Like ninety percent sure I have. Rowell’s development is so real, and so in touch with the teenage psyche. I loved it. I devoured this book. I loved the pacing, which slowly built to an actual climax that was something other than a bold misunderstanding which causes the couple to break up. I liked the ending, and how it didn’t say it out right, but you knew. I really liked that it didn’t romanticize Eleanor’s home problems, and that all the adults in the story weren’t total crap. I liked that Eleanor and Park were two people who were into stuff and weren’t afraid to show it. I liked that the characters actually were developed, and I especially liked how this book blended a romance into a greater story about the character’s lives. There was some substance there.

As far as the actual writing, Rowell has talent. I like how she words. I checked out her other stuff and I think she might be my new romance writer. It reminded me of a better version of the old school Sarah Dessen books, with interesting people falling in love.

I can see that this is going to be a shorter review, but there’s only so much you can say here before you get repetitive. I’m going to leave you with this: I bought this book. On my nook. But if I were to be honest, I almost wish I hadn’t. Because I can’t lend it to other people, and I really, really want to.

Ri’s Rating:

3.5/5


0. Couldn’t get past chapter one for fear of wanting to kill myself. Book induced suicide…

1: Yuck. Ew. Below Average. Probably didn’t even read the middle and skipped to the end.

2. Ok. Would’ve been better if I’d written the ending and everything else.

3. Not bad at all. Very enjoyable. Quite nice. Recommendable.

4. My kind of book. Near ideal, but something was a little off (annoying names, bad ending, that sort of thing).

5. WOW. Makes me wonder why people watch T.V when this is out there. Really liked it. Don’t expect to see this often.

6 and above. What I want my book to be.

Paper Valentine Book Review

The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

-Cover Flap

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

If you’ve been following me for a while, you may have noticed that Ms. Yovanoff has a bit of a streak here for writing books that endlessly delight me and she’s done it again. Paper Valentine is the story of a sleepy town (can’t count the number of times I’ve used that in book summaries, yeesh) in the grips of the hottest summer on record. Our leading lady, Hannah, lost her best friend Lillian, and Lillian, being a good friend, has decided to stick around. It’s sorta nice having your best pal around even if she’s dead, but mostly Hannah wants her life to go back to normal.  But with a string of murders marking the days, this summer is anything but.

Pushed by her ghostly amiga, and maybe a little bit by the mysterious Finny Boon too, Hannah begins an investigation into the murders. Like the town, the pace is sleepy, and Hannah takes her time meandering between the endless crises that beset young teenage girls and piecing together the mystery of the Valentine Killer.

I don’t mind the pace at all, and I think it’s what Yovanoff does best. The slow bits of her stories are always the most engaging, sort of like how slowly eating a chocolate-walnut torte is enjoyable. And if you’re thinking, hey now aren’t murder mysteries supposed to be fast paced, I’d say that you’re absolutely right and that the murder/mystery is the least interesting part of this book.

Not to say that it’s bad, but that I think Yovanoff just does characters so much better. I like their depth, and the way they linger and move so slowly like we’ve got all the time in the world to get to know them and their dark inners. The plot just seems like a convenient background rather than the reason you read the story. In this case, the murders are just setting, really. The push of interest comes from Hannah and her relationship with Lillian and, eventually, Finny.

(And I’ll take a moment here to state that I love the boys Yovanoff writes. They’re always so fascinating, sometimes because they’re broken creatures, and sometimes because they’re changelings. Finny’s just a human, but I like that he’s got a back story and I like how his romance with Hannah is obvious, but understated, and I like how it takes its time.)

The exploration of characters here isn’t, like, mind-blowingly deep, but it’s interesting, probably because of its simplicity. It’s the sort of thing I feel like a lot of youths (and adults) can relate to, and if one considers the way youths (and adults) like to stare at people on the street—a blend of curiosity and reflection— you can understand the drive to finish this book.

I really enjoyed it. I admit the end, where the mystery must be solved, is a tad confusing and a little flustered. This is sort of a trend in her books, from what I’ve noticed. All this slow, delicious build up, and then a climatic cacophony. It’s particularly bad in this one just because, as I said, the killer is more background than plot, and when suddenly comes to the forefront, you sort of just don’t care. It’s like stuffing that torte into your mouth all at once. But, hey, there’s coffee to help it go down: the end wraps things up nicely and the taste that’s left is satisfied.

This isn’t my favorite book by Yovanoff, but it’s still a good one. I adore the gothic icing she adds, and the writing is wonderful. I find this a particularly apt story considering the time of year (Halloween) and highly suggest it as an alternative to trick-or-treating if you suddenly find yourself too old for the kid stuff but not old enough to die and perform some exquisite hauntings of your own.

Ri’s Rating:

3.5/5


0. Couldn’t get past chapter one for fear of wanting to kill myself. Book induced suicide…

1: Yuck. Ew. Below Average. Probably didn’t even read the middle and skipped to the end.

2. Ok. Would’ve been better if I’d written the ending and everything else.

3. Not bad at all. Very enjoyable. Quite nice. Recommendable.

4. My kind of book. Near ideal, but something was a little off (annoying names, bad ending, that sort of thing).

5. WOW. Makes me wonder why people watch T.V when this is out there. Really liked it. Don’t expect to see this often.

6 and above. What I want my book to be.

Far Far Away Book Review

In a small town, where nothing ever happens, everything is about to change

-cover

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

Sup kids. It’s only been three months since I last updated. Ya know. We’re into taking it slow here. Anyways, y’all are in for a treat because this book was rad.

So we’re in the town of Never Better where Jeremy, our hero, is haunted by his own personal ghost, the spirit of Jacob Grimm. Yes, half of the famous brothers hangs around our young protagonist, acting as a sort of father and guardian angel. Because not all spirits are evil, okay? Jacob and Jeremy are pretty tight as far as things go, mostly because their arrangement has been going for so long that they’re both kind of used to it. But Jacob, while he enjoys Jeremy’s company, is looking for a way out. He doesn’t want to be in this world forever. He also knows that something bad is coming, specifically the Finder of Occasions, and he’s hoping that by being around to protect Jeremy from it, his good deed will send him into the Otherworld.

And what is this wicked thing that is coming to Never Better? Well, nobody quite knows yet. Except for a few missing kids, the town is mostly stagnant. And life for Jeremy is pretty boring until Ginger, the lady who stole his heart, takes a bite of an enchanted cake and falls in love with him. After that, things start to get a little more interesting.

I am doing a crap job of selling this story, but if you were perusing your local Barnes and Nobles or what have you, and you happened upon this book, I would definitely recommend reading the teaser on the inside flap, because it’s adorable and fascinating and it sucked me in to the story before I had even started it.

In short, this is basically a modern day fairy tale, told from the perspective of Jacob. It’s wonderfully quirky and, though the ending perhaps could have been a bit shorter, it’s hard to complain about this book. Because I genuinely haven’t experienced a story this good in a very, very long time. You know how many novels I checked out from the library this summer? Like thirty. Do you know how many I could actually get through? Four! I kept trying to tell myself, no, read more, it’s better for you, but kids, life is too short for bad books. Seriously. And I wasn’t going to waste my time stumbling through Shadow and Bone, that Grisha trilogy book. People are going nuts over it and I just don’t get it.

But this book? Oh god, this book. It was such a breath of fresh air. The characters were wonderful, just sweetly-flawed little humans tucked into the pages. The story made no pretensions of being anything other than the fairy tale it was, which was nice because it means I got exactly what I expected from it. But you know what really made this book was the writing. Just, the words. They were so good. Not like me, not like this jumbled mess of a blog post. It was so good to read a book where the author could navigate his way around the English language without sounding like SAT practice. He maintained the simple and understated style that the original Grimm Brother’s had, while making it wholly modern and accessible and just a pure joy to read. This book makes reading fun. You know, it’s less often than you think that I get to say that.  But here it is.

If you enjoyed the Book Thief, or Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, then this one is sure to make you smile as well. Because basically, I want to dunk this book in a hot cup of tea and enjoy it every Sunday morning; it’s simply delicious.

And before I head out, I just want to thank all the wonderful people that have been leaving me comments and keeping in touch with me  despite the fact that I am the worst updater in the world. I do read everything you guys post on here and it makes my heart sing to know that you guys are still reading after all these years. And, fear not, I’ve got some really great things in store for us this fall as a reward. So I’ll see you guys later (hopefully next week). Cheers!

Ri’s Rating:

4/5


0. Couldn’t get past chapter one for fear of wanting to kill myself. Book induced suicide…

1: Yuck. Ew. Below Average. Probably didn’t even read the middle and skipped to the end.

2. Ok. Would’ve been better if I’d written the ending and everything else.

3. Not bad at all. Very enjoyable. Quite nice. Recommendable.

4. My kind of book. Near ideal, but something was a little off (annoying names, bad ending, that sort of thing).

5. WOW. Makes me wonder why people watch T.V when this is out there. Really liked it. Don’t expect to see this often.

6 and above. What I want my book to be.

Proxy Book Review

“Some debts cannot be repaid.”

-Book Cover

Proxy by Alex London

Okay so this was totally not the book review or even the writing I planned and making my comeback with; I’m pretty sure the only reason this is happening right now is the Russian Waltz I’m listening to and the fact that this is makeup-removal avoidance tactic number one. So I mean great for you guys (if there are any of you left?) and also great for me. Not great my my skin but whatever. It’s only like my largest organ.

Alright so I was searching for a picture of this book to use for my cover and I almost took one of me and the book because they were so scarce. But, crisis avoided: I found one. And while I was searching I noticed that this book had a solid 3.9 rating on goodreads and I nearly bust a lung laughing. Because seriously? Seriously?

I can see why ye average man might get overwhelmed and dizzy around this book. It has a really appealing concept: In the world of Proxy, life is so entwined with technology that living without it is completely inconceivable. However, the biotech required for even the most basic of lifestyles is astronomically expensive and unless you were born into extreme wealth– which of course a small percentage are– you must purchase your biotech on credit. This accumulates tons of debt that would ruin your life, though how is unclear. Because if you’re super poor and living in the slums and you have all this debt, and a debt collector comes what could they possible do other than kill you, which might happen anyways because you’re so poor? You are already at the bottom. The justice system in this book is very unclear. Anyways debt sucks unless you are lucky enough to have a wealthy patron purchase your debt.

(It is alluded that these debt purchases are bundled and sold a little like how our mortgages were pre-crisis so the financial system behind this is clearly not stable; yet there has been no mention of economic crashes past or future due to this, so I mean plot hole or Ri completely misinterpreting the book? You should read it and tell me. )

When a patron purchases your debt you become their child’s proxy. This means that for any crime that your child commits, no matter how big or small, the proxy will take the punishment, which is normally some kind of electric shock. For our leads Syd, the proxy, and Knox, the patron, the system has been working quite well. Knox never has to learn from his many mistakes and Syd is almost free of his debt and about to go on with his life. Then Knox accidentally kills a girl and in the most entertaining chapters of the book, we follow why this leads to Syd being sentenced to death.

Seeking out Knox’s help the two end up on the run from the police and Knox’s father, and end up inciting a revolution which is not where I thought this story was going. But more on that later.

First, the characters. The most remarkable thing about Syd is that he is gay and black. Or just colored. I mean honestly, his description is so vague which sucks because I can tell you exactly what Knox looks like. But of course the darker guy just various ethnic buzz words. I mean, the only reason I say black is from the cover art. But anyways he’s definitely gay because he gets bullied for it. And while representation is great, it sucks that Syd is poorly written. I feel like there is zero development of his character. He’s a sweet guy, a little romantic, and a little tough, a little slow, and mostly kind. But he’s also totally boring. I would not want to hang out with him. And this is most definitely attributed to the writing. Nothing unique in his dialogue (which is a horrible mush of text speak and bizarre slang) or mannerisms– it’s all very forgettable.

And Knox is definitely not better. He is a walking cliche and a poorly written one at that. He’s your typical rich kid and he has typical daddy issues because pops is too busy working to care. He gets in trouble a lot and is desensitized to watching Syd take his physical punishments, and has thus never learned to take responsibility for his actions. And at one point he decides to help Syd just because it will irritate his dad. Like, wow I’ve so never heard that thinly veiled excuse for plot before. You’d think this brotherly journey of helping Syd escape the police would be a great growth experiment for him, which is what I was expecting the story to be. An action packed bromance.

But  Knox instead moves awkwardly from one cliche to another, evolving into the kid who has finally seen the light, which culminates in an expected, albeit brave, sacrifice towards the end. The bromance is sparse until then. Like, bonding is basically having them in the same scene together. That’s it. It would’ve been okay for not having a bromance; it’s not like the author promised me one. But the problem is without it, it’s just watching Knox become less terrible of a human being and that’s just not very interesting.

And as for the action? The first few chapters are fine but the middle drags. I literally had to force myself to read this book. It was a chore. I barely made it out alive. I can attribute this to two things. First, clunky, robotic writing. The author tried, but where was his editor? There were sentences so bland a burnt potato sauteed in the ashes of my great great grandmother and seasoned with Satan would’ve been more appetizing.

And second, world building. This is really what kills this book. Like the I said earlier, the concept is interesting; but the execution, to put it bluntly, sucks. The science behind the biotech is so spotty, and as the plot progresses and the revolution that is lumped into the story, besides being necessary, is initiated with no real explanation of medical and logistical hows. Spoiler (not really): it’s a virus Syd is hosting which is supposed to shut down the biotech system and wipe everyone’s debts clean.  Will this collapse the economy? How does destroying this system solve any problems? Won’t it just lead to anarchy? Won’t the rich still be rich?  Erasing everyone’s debt won’t change the fact that the poor still won’t have money so how does this help them at all? Is the virus a computer virus? If so, how has Syd been hosting it in his body? All fantastic questions. If you read this (don’t) please tell me the answers.

This book isn’t the worst I’ve read. It’s just not great. And as a final note to a very hasty and poorly structured review (I apologize; it’s late), I want to say that if you have a younger sibling, maybe a ten year old or so, and you’re okay with them reading a little PG-13 violence, then you should recommend them this book. The writing is simple and I feel like they won’t get caught up in the messiness caused by a lack of plausibility. But if you’re older, or you know, a well versed ten year old, then you should probably hold out for one of the next books I’m reviewing. They’re so much better. I promise.

Ri’s Rating:

1.5/5


0. Couldn’t get past chapter one for fear of wanting to kill myself. Book induced suicide…

1: Yuck. Ew. Below Average. Probably didn’t even read the middle and skipped to the end.

2. Ok. Would’ve been better if I’d written the ending and everything else.

3. Not bad at all. Very enjoyable. Quite nice. Recommendable.

4. My kind of book. Near ideal, but something was a little off (annoying names, bad ending, that sort of thing).

5. WOW. Makes me wonder why people watch T.V when this is out there. Really liked it. Don’t expect to see this often.

6 and above. What I want my book to be.

The Treachery of Beautiful Things Book Review

The trees had swallowed Tom whole.

-pg 3

The Treachery of Beautiful Things by Ruth Frances Long 

It’s been a long time since I’ve reviewed a book, I know. But it’s been even longer since I last read one. I don’t know why but they’re a lot harder to come by in college. Also, I’m just waiting on a lot of books to be released?

Okay so anyways, in this book a girl named Jenny and her older brother Tom are walking by some woods while Tom coaxes some rad tunes out of his flute. His masterful playing attracts some wicked folk and, like the quote says, the woods gobble him up. Jenny goes home and tries to explain this to her mother. She is called crazy, of course, and several psychiatrists later, she is kinda starting to believe that this was all some weird dream. But then one day she hears Tom’s radical music snaking out from the same ol’ woods that swallowed him. Jenny (she’s a bright girl) decides to follow the music see if she can find Tom and bring him home. This plan, of course, does not go well.

So Jenny’s wandering through the woods gettin’ into all kinds of trouble when Jack, a guardian of the divide between the faerie world and the human world, finds her. Initially he wants to get her out of his woods but then he decides she’s kinda hot and also he strikes some deals with various forest kings and queens and he ends up accompanying Jenny on her hunt for Tom.

Jack and Jenny share narration of the story. Jenny is very average. I can’t really say that there was anything outstanding about her except that she can’t stand firm with her beliefs to save her life. The number of times she changed her mind about how she felt towards Jack was killer. And I don’t mean I love him/I don’t love him flip-flopping. But like, he’s good/he’s evil. Seriously, Jenny. He wasn’t that deep. Obviously he wasn’t a bad dude.

As for Jack, he is initially someone you want to hang out with because he’s got a cool job (guarding the edge). He reminded me a bit of Peter Pan. Immortal. Young. Probably hot. The author makes him especially dreamy by having him pine for his freedom by tying wishes, in the form of white strips of cloth, onto a tree.

Sigh.

Jenny falls for this. Their romance isn’t overly saccharine, but it is obvious. Even when the odds are stacked against them, it’s hardly a question of  will they be together but when. I’ll admit, though, I thought it was cute. Nothing special, but cute.

Okay got a little distracted there. Back to Jack’s character. He’s you’re typical immortal forest guardian, though as the story goes on he gets a little dreary. I’m not a fan of characters who agonize over decisions they’ve made (the Do I Help Jenny decision). I mean, I understand a little regret, and I suppose if the character was anal-retentive this would have made sense. But it did not line up with the personality that was already established. What made this particular trait more frustrating was that the story never really explained what the negative repercussions were for helping Jenny, or breaking one of his many allegiances, which begs the question, why agonize over them? Moreover, it never fully explained the roles of those people with whom he had those allegiances. Are you getting confused? Well, now you understand me while I was reading this book.

The rest of the story follows suit. It had some really cool mythology lingering on the sides and an interesting concept, but was bogged down by the romantic aspects, which tended to take center stage more than they should have, an unnecessarily twisty plot, and excessive description. I  remember there was this part towards the end, where Jenny was trying to save the day, and I honestly had no idea what was going on. There were lots of boxes? And hundreds of Jacks? I mean, my understanding was really a moot point anyways since I’d already guessed what was going to happen. I’m not saying this not as some cocky book-psychic. I don’t want to come off as elitist or all knowing (though I am both). (No I’m kidding; I’m not.) I’m just trying to make a point that there was some good source material here and that it did not live up to its full potential; instead it got confusing and predictable.

And the plot. It was doing leaps and tumbles and going places when I just wanted it to follow a path. There were quests and then quests within quests, which, lemme say, I am not a fan of. Like, calm down Mckayla Maroney; I’m not going to dock you points for a linear plot. Sometimes simple, especially when you have a strong setting and mythology to draw on, is better.

I just re-read this review and realized I never mentioned Tom, Jenny’s brother, again. I wish I could fix this but what to say? I have no idea what happened to him.

Basically, this book had me thinking it was going to be a wicked romp through some traditional (and maybe unexplored) mythology. It started off quite well– the writing purely in terms of words was good– but as the book wore on, reading it became more laborious and while I didn’t lose interest per se, I definitely lost patience. It became confusing and the end was so terribly predictable that I can’t even call it satisfying. It had such potential! And sometimes that’s a worse taste than something obviously mundane.

Ri’s Rating:

QQ.5/QQQQQ
2.5/5


0. Couldn’t get past chapter one for fear of wanting to kill myself. Book induced suicide…

1: Yuck. Ew. Below Average. Probably didn’t even read the middle and skipped to the end.

2. Ok. Would’ve been better if I’d written the ending and everything else.

3. Not bad at all. Very enjoyable. Quite nice. Recommendable.

4. My kind of book. Near ideal, but something was a little off (annoying names, bad ending, that sort of thing).

5. WOW. Makes me wonder why people watch T.V when this is out there. Really liked it. Don’t expect to see this often.

6 and above. What I want my book to be.

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