Not Your Typical Novel

8191574The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

To say Jenna Fox is different might be the understatement of the year. She has five times the brain capacity of every other human being on the planet; she can quote entire passages of Thoreau without even blinking an eyelash; and her limbs move a bit out of sync with reality. But like every other teenager known to man, all she wants to do is fit in and to live a normal life.

To say THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX isn’t your typical novel doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of where this novel actually takes the reader. It bounces back and forth between the present and the videotapes of the past, moving out of sync and not really linear; it doesn’t have chapters so much as it has sections or breaks; and it combines genres making classification a difficult task to say the least.

But I like different about as much as teenagers like fitting in, and I found this novel to be a surprisingly pleasurable read. The voice certainly enraptured me and managed to capture my attention from the get-go, as I started out of the gate at a trot and kept up the pace all the way to the end. As for the end, it wasn’t what I expected, and I certainly won’t spoil it for you here, but I will say it fit rather well with the rest of this adorable, enjoyable read.

No Middle Ground

11472297Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I like it when authors take chances. I’d rather see an author grab a surfboard, paddle out to the middle of the ocean, find the biggest wave, execute a wipe-out, and belly flop on the board. Tahereh Mafi certainly took chances with her debut novel, but she didn’t wipe-out or execute an unladylike belly flop. For a slew of reasons, I shouldn’t have enjoyed SHATTER ME—the recurrent strikethroughs, the sparse details about this science fiction/dystopian world, the not-yet-strong-but-not-completely-weak main character Juliette, the repeated words and phrases, a novel sprinkled with redundancies— and yet I did enjoy it.

The flowery language and overly descriptive nature of the main character didn’t toss me out of the story. Because in the end, I’ve met people (as I know you have) who use 20 words when two would do, tried to expand their vocabulary by tossing around words the way some folks might hand out Twinkies, and have trouble with basic human interaction. Mathematicians, scientists, and engineers come to mind, those folks who aren’t even on the same planet as the rest of us. So the fact that Juliette tossed digits around like she was tossing a salad didn’t affect me in the least. Like mathematicians, I like numbers and have a natural ability to memorize them, and so pages plastered with numerals added a level of enjoyment to my overall reading experience.

Sure, it’s easy to make the argument that this is romance disguised as dystopian or dystopian disguised as romance, and that this might even be dumbing down the dystopian genre, but if we live in a world without romance, I’d rather find a new universe, thank you very much. And the action was certainly a bit more internal than external, but this was first person, and for better or worse, we’re stuck inside Juliette’s head.

As for the arguments that Ms. Mafi has no talent or the book has no plot, that’s like saying a book isn’t popular just because you haven’t heard of it or read it. If the book has a storyline, the author has a definite plan, and the pages continue to build on one another to some definitive conclusion, then the story has a plot. To say otherwise is to say you read 338 pages of jumbled words and phrases. And if that’s the case, I’d wonder why you didn’t stop with page 2, I know I would have.

After reading several reviews, I’ve discovered you’ll pretty much either love this book or hate it. You’ll either applaud this author for what she did with SHATTER ME or you’ll want to throttle her. There is no middle ground.

Swift Kick To The Crotch

11713449Delirium by Lauren Oliver
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

I feel rather low in my current state of mind as I simply try to pass the time. Without it being said, I have this feeling of dread that I somehow showed up at the wrong address, received a swift kick to the crotch, and then someone stole my watch. Writing this review and offering up a few lines without the promise of a single dime might just be the only way to make my spirit chime. If I can provide a few rhymes, maybe it will afford me a comfort of sorts or at least I can purport the significance of the situation before it leads to my own constipation of words, as the well runs dry, and I bat an eye at the pages I’ve left behind.

While I hoped to involve myself in this story of sorts caught in the ever promising world of Maine that Stephen King managed to indulge with more than a bit of fame, I fell flat on my face, and scraped my brace on the asphalt before me, as my hope dwindled to bits on a sea of shit. When I closed my eyes I saw the prize of Magdalena Morgan Jones swift to rise above the clouds and offer up a second wind, even if I wasn’t particularly interested in what she had to offer. Sure, she could tempt me with her charms and offer up a song and dance and possibly even a little romance, but I’d make a swift dash in the other direction.

Alex showed a bit of promise before it quickly dwindled to bits, and he turned into somewhat of a twit who made a rather stupendous sacrifice, even if he didn’t have a major vice that I could ascertain with my butane lighter. No other character really stood out for me in this ultimate and tragic dichotomy. Sure, it’s easy to argue my view has been tainted, and that I’m currently out of the market for sainthood, but I’ll say it again to you, my friend, that I think the story could have been shorter. A good editor in a current state of DELIRIUM could have hacked away and chosen to play with a number of fewer words.

And as I search for the Cure you’ll forgive me I’m sure if I decide not to continue on with this series. For while the masses may have come I don’t think I’m the one this particular tale was intended for. Now it’s off to my bed—or maybe off with my head. But either way, I’m proud to say that I continued this rhyme in spirit or in practice even if I did manage to make an ass of myself before I pulled the plug on the whole enchilada.

Deleted Random Lines Of Code

19421846The Here and Now by Ann Brashares
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

I guess I just don’t have it in me to truly trash a novel. At least not in the manner currently undertaken by certain individuals. Should you wish to read a review where THE HERE AND NOW is dragged behind a pickup truck for 248 miles on the I-405, I’d direct your attention to a different public service announcement.

I bring up this particular calamity, because I read a review filled with wrath and vengeance that tainted my reading experience. Did I like the novel? No. Would I have liked THE HERE AND NOW had I not read this other review first? No. But after reading said review, I might have been slightly traumatized for a brief moment in my otherwise happy existence. When I finished the story, I realized it was an okay read, but might not have deserved the full-on shellacking it had received on a previous occasion…Sorry, getting back on track and on to the review.

The word repetitious comes to mind early and often in my description of this novel, to the point that I might have to repeat myself to further emphasize a few dramatic points. But that’s okay, as long as I wash my hands first. The dialogue felt more forced than natural, and it circumvented the point a bit too often instead of being more direct and hard hitting. It resembled Elmore Leonard if he had smoked too much weed and fried nearly half of his brain cells and couldn’t remember who he was for long periods of time and possibly had a metal plate in his head and his wife fired up the microwave a little too close to his presence.

Would I call this novel thrilling? I’m going to go with no here, Bob. The pace was too slow for most thrill seekers, and the characters were whitewashed and steam cleaned to the point of a starchy outer coating. Prenna James might have been interesting if she hadn’t been a tad too bland, and Ethan Jarves wasn’t doing a whole lot better for himself. Mr. Robert and Ben Kenobi and Mona Ghali and Andrew Baltos proved on about the same wavelength as our hero and heroine. The romantic relationship felt a bit lacking in the spark department. Maybe electricity doesn’t work as well in the future as it does right now.

Instead of recalling basic pieces of the novel as I write this, there are gaps in the logic and plot that just aren’t there for me. Almost like a hacker deleted random lines of code in the program, and now it’s just not working properly. If time travel were possible, this book doesn’t exactly endear me to that particular experience. Maybe you’ll feel differently, and that’s perfectly okay, but my enthusiasm died within the first few pages, and it never managed to regain its composure.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Lacked Cohesion And Passion

12643928 by
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Well, it could have been better, and it could have been worse, but I certainly found myself a bit out of sorts…as I reached the end of this tale, and I exclaimed “Oh my!” with my head pointed up toward the sky. Instead of a pause, INSURGENT jumped right in, and picked up right where DIVERGENT left off at the end. It lacked some of the cohesion and passion that held the first tale together, and still left us wondering what was ever outside of the fence. And that kept the peace at bay, even as the factions came out to play.

Tris and Four attempted to even the score with strong dedication to the task at hand, each voice ringing louder than the sound of a band. The tale sped by with ease, because there was plenty of white space in between…the pages. I flipped through my Kindle, even as I lacked a smile on my face, as I tried to keep myself abreast of this place. It may have been Chicago, or it might have been Indiana, or possibly even Alabama. With white smocks and tan and loud voices of the land carrying me higher to a place where the blood runs dry.

Veronica’s heart may not have been in it, or maybe this was her plan all along, since her debut novel did much better than a song, and it still rings true for the ages, even as tigers roar in their cages, and slurp back meat with a mere slip of the tongue, and I can merely hope that we include everyone. It could have been good, or it could have been all for naught, I just hope that I don’t end up caught…in this made-up land where evil comes with a gun.

Sure, it was easy to see why folks might have been on board with this one. But I hopped off the train somewhere along the way (before I reached the fence), and then another train came along and ran me over. So, yeah, it was a fun ride, this one, and I’ll certainly read the conclusion, to see how this dystopian world ends, but I’ve reached a stage of lesser enjoyment, when I had hoped the engineer could have found another gear.

Enjoy The After-Party

8684868 by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My wife told me I flew through this series. By most accounts, I wouldn’t consider myself a speed reader, but I can certainly dedicate the time to read a good book, or in this case, a great series. And after finishing The Hunger Games trilogy, I can honestly say this series has it all. The characters, the setting, action scenes galore, great dialogue, and we lived in Katniss’s head for the entire three-book ordeal. What a fresh, wonderful character who wouldn’t take crap from anyone. *BEGIN SPOILER* She stood her ground through two Hunger Games, and she walked away a stronger, better person, despite the obstacles the Head Gamemakers tossed in her path. *END SPOILER*

This was a great read. Did it live up to the precedent of the two tales before it? Probably not. But it’s hard to compare greatness. Can I see where readers may have been a bit disappointed after the first two mind-bending reads? Sure. But, again, greatness is a fleeting endeavor. It’s like popularity. One minute you have it, the next minute it’s moved on to someone else, as it develops a big grin and laughs in your face.

To her credit, Suzanne Collins knows how to write a great novel, and to do it three times over is no small feat. Each book stood on its own, and each one was a slightly different type of story, but in the end, readers saw the complete Panem picture, and it’s a photo worthy of more than just a passing glance.

Maybe I missed the party, the band, the cake, the toasts, and the dancing, but I still feel like there’s music playing in the background. Why? Because as I write this, MOCKINGJAY occupies slot #7 of the Amazon Kindle eBooks Bestseller List. I don’t know about you, but I plan to enjoy the after-party, “and may the odds be ever in your favor.”

Rare Phenomenon

8423493 by
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

I can’t decide if I like THE HUNGER GAMES better than CATCHING FIRE or vice versa. For the movie industry, it’s rare when a sequel lives up to the hype of the original. But fortunately for readers, this is a lot more common in the book industry. Even still, it’s a rare phenomenon to have two different stories and two excellent books. Sure, the same characters are back, and sure, this is all part of the trilogy that Suzanne Collins had envisioned. But to tell two different stories takes a rare talent with a firm grasp on her genre and a firm direction for the story.

THE HUNGER GAMES certainly has more action inside the arena, and we only catch nuggets of information about the history of the games, along with the history of Panem. CATCHING FIRE fills in some of those missing details, and it has more action outside of the arena. A nice contrast, and if you enjoyed the first one, you certainly need to pick up the second one. Once again, Katniss Everdeen shines in all of her independent glory, but she’s a year older and a year wiser, and she manages to show the reader fine glimpses of her compassion as well. While we may not know everything about the secondary characters, since we’re only seeing Panem through her eyes, we don’t have to. And once again the suspense builds to a rip-roaring crescendo.

If you like dystopian fiction, and you enjoyed the characters and the storyline of the first read, then you’d better race to the bookstore to pick up Book Two.

Sucked Into The Kiddie Pool

7723926 by
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

While the party may have ended, the band has packed up their instruments and is boarding their bus back to Panem, the streamers have been torn down by the kiddos, and everything that could have been said about THE HUNGER GAMES has probably already been said, I still feel the need to review it. Why? Because I’ve never been very good at marching in step with the rest of the crowd. Plus, as I write this, THE HUNGER GAMES occupies #9 of the Amazon Kindle eBooks Bestseller List for only the 840th day.

So how did Suzanne Collins create this international party with a rabid group of followers? By writing a damn good novel, and despite catering to the YA crowd, she held nothing back with the violence, as she dropped it across the blood spattered pages. As for her main character Katniss Everdeen, she is the real hero of this story, and she’s the glue that holds this entire novel together. Without being inside of her head every second of this novel, the entire structure on which it is built would fall apart. You can claim that this should have been written in third person, and that it would have added suspense, as well as rounded out the other characters. But it would have changed the focus of the novel entirely, and it would have lacked immediacy. In order for first person to work successfully, a novel needs a strong, well-defined main character. Check and check.

She does a great job with world-building, and I was sucked right into the kiddie pool with the surroundings, circumstances, characters, districts, and everything else that she so expertly articulated. So what if the love triangle is overdone? Without it, the story would have lacked heart. Besides, if you really want to talk plot, there are only seven basic plots, according to Cristopher Booker. Sure, this number ends up being a bit arbitrary, but it’s not like authors have an unlimited number of plots to choose from. So what it really boils down to is execution. Over and over again this book proves its point with Katniss, the quick flip of the pages (or push of the button for us Kindle users), the action scenes, how far we get into Katniss’s head, and the world-building. If you haven’t already hopped on THE HUNGER GAMES phenomenon, you better board the bus now, or you’re liable to miss out on the after-party.

Impressed With The Concept

9717320Divergent by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I have to say I was rather impressed with the concept of DIVERGENT. It would have been easy for Veronica Roth to turn this novel into a HUNGER GAMES knockoff. I mean, why not? Suzanne Collins had plenty of success, and those dystopian aficionados are hungry for more. So just give them what they want and be done with it. But Ms. Roth took the dystopian world and made it her own. She created a world that I was totally sucked into, and I was left flipping pages like some movie junkie with a never-ending stream of red envelopes.

Aside from the world she created, though, the characters felt as real to me as peanut butter and chocolate at the top of an ice cream sundae. Tris was a character that every woman could root for, and Four proved just as interesting for the men as Tris did for the women. Their relationship didn’t feel forced, or out of place. It grew naturally from the two characters, and that’s another tribute to the author and her writing abilities.

Beyond the characters and this alternate reality, this novel tackles issues like tyranny, unjust rule, and the corruptness that comes with the selfish possession of power. In other words, it’s easy to grab the pages and consume them like cotton candy at the state fair, but it’s also possible to get more out of it than just a skim across the surface. If you let it, DIVERGENT forces you to think about themes important to the author well after the pages have been consumed.

So if you’re looking for another worthy book to add to your dystopian collection, you probably don’t need to look any further.