Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta

Good Reads Summary

Melina Marchetta's brilliant, heart-wrenching new novel takes up the story of the group of friends from her best-selling, much-loved bookSaving Francesca - only this time it's five years later and Thomas Mackee is the one who needs saving.

Thomas Mackee wants oblivion. Wants to forget parents who leave and friends he used to care about and a string of one-night stands, and favourite uncles being blown to smithereens on their way to work on the other side of the world.

But when his flatmates turn him out of the house, Tom moves in with his single, pregnant aunt, Georgie. And starts working at the Union pub with his former friends. And winds up living with his grieving father again. And remembers how he abandoned Tara Finke two years ago, after his uncle's death.

And in a year when everything's broken, Tom realises that his family and friends need him to help put the pieces back together as much as he needs them

My Thoughts

I haven’t read Saving Francesca yet… but from reading reviews of it, it seemed Tom MacKee was quite the guy. So to say that I was excited to get started on his story might be an understatement.

I love Melina Marchetta; she and John Green are probably two of my favorite YA contemporary writers. Now, to categorize The Piper's Son as just YA would be doing it a slight disservice because it is so much more than that! It’s about friendship and all the stuff attached to that. It’s about family and all the complications that come out of that. But it all boils down to being connected.

Tom and Georgie, his dad’s twin sister. Georgie and her twin brother. Tom and the memory of his uncle Joe, Georgie and Joe's little brother. Georgie and Sam. Georgie and her friends. Tom and Francesca. Tom and Tara. etc...See? Connections.

I have not cried so much over a book in a long time… yes, a tear or two for a couple of books over the last couple of weeks… but I was bawling like a baby because of Tom. So one point I’m crying then the next moment I’m laughing. Melina Marchetta is amazing. I get her writing. I get her characters. The plot should not work. Everything is so sad. Everyone is so broken but it works. It just does. And that’s why I am in awe of Melina Marchetta. She takes these ordinary people. She writes of the circumstances they find themselves in ~ circumstances that are ordinary and sad, then she works it out so there’s hope.

Add the fact that I really felt like I knew where both Tom and Georgie were coming from. I’d go, “That’s me” or “I do that sometimes.” In other words, I could be a total asshole just like they acted sometimes. But that's not all they were, they'd be sweet, affectionate, loud, loving, and laughing from one moment to another. In a word? Real.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Feed (Newsflesh #1) by Mira Grant

Good Reads Summary

In 2014, two experimental viruses—a genetically engineered flu strain designed by Dr. Alexander Kellis, intended to act as a cure for the common cold, and a cancer-killing strain of Marburg, known as "Marburg Amberlee"—escaped the lab and combined to form a single airborne pathogen that swept around the world in a matter of days. It cured cancer. It stopped a thousand cold and flu viruses in their tracks.

It raised the dead.

Millions died in the chaos that followed. The summer of 2014 was dubbed "The Rising," and only the lessons learned from a thousand zombie movies allowed mankind to survive. Even then, the world was changed forever. The mainstream media fell, Internet news acquired an undeniable new legitimacy, and the CDC rose to a new level of power.

Set twenty years after the Rising, the Newsflesh trilogy follows a team of bloggers, led by Georgia and Shaun Mason, as they search for the brutal truths behind the infection. Danger, deceit, and betrayal lurk around every corner, as does the hardest question of them all:

When will you rise?

My Thoughts

Despite it being early in the year, I am going to say that Feed is one of the best books I have read this year. Well, hands down, the best zombie book this year. What’s to love?

1. A character named Buffy. (So I love Buffy. That this book has a character essentially named for her is just a teeny tiny bonus. Feed has so much more to offer.)
2. Another character with a sense of humor and a suicidal streak. (Shaun is probably one of my favorite characters this year. Suicidal. Yes. Good brother. Yes. Skewed sense of humor. Heck yeah.
3. A world where George Romero is a considered a hero.

If there were only one positive thing I could say about this book it’s this: put together. (And to be honest I could probably come up with a truck load of positive modifiers in reference to this book.)

I know, I know, “Put together,” is not the most convincing positive adjective out there. But I kid you not when I say it’s very well put together. It takes an element of media (of which I know next to nothing,) and an element of sci-fi (zombies) throws the two together to come up with a world where hope springs from a new generation not afraid of the truth; a generation a bit weary of the but expectant of being manipulated towards someone’s version of truth.

Ha! One word. Give me a break, I did say “If there were only one..” after all. Well, beyond that, (if that didn’t suffice,) it is fast paced. It starts with a zombie chase, but it wasn’t all fast. It let you breathe in between. It let you mull over how they got into the situation they found themselves in. It’s a thinking book despite it being a zombie book, (maybe because it is a zombie book?) It is honestly one of the best written novels I’ve encountered. Why? It doesn’t rely on “explosions and effects;” especially, if you take the time to go over their blog entries. (Three perspectives, three personalities but connected nonetheless.) Have I mentioned how awesome I find this book?


Monday, January 17, 2011

The Vespertine (The Vespertine # 1) by Saundra Mitchell

The Vespertine (The Vespertine, #1)

Good Reads Summary

It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.

When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

My Thoughts

Fair warning: if you’re anything like me, and are just not into historicals, the first half will likely make you want to quit it. Past a certain point (if you’re still reading) things do pick up and get interesting.

I’ll start with what I didn’t like. It was very difficult (for me) to get into it. Have you ever felt that you might not like something because it would be too deep, too historically correct, or that the language would be too accurate (given the temporal setting) for a novel to be grasped/enjoyed? This is exactly why I steer clear of historical novels. The bulk of what I read is set in the present. The few historical novels that I’ve dared read were read because of acquaintances’ hard sells. And of those, there is only a handful that I do not regret reading (Clockwork Angel, Outlander, and Leviathan among them. Notice that these not straight shooting historicals, perhaps historical are just not my thing.) As for The Vespertine, (despite it being set in the Victorian era,) I went ahead and read it because I had been hearing positive things about it. That it was a solid mix of historical and paranormal got me interested, but it was this particular line from a GR review that sold me on it,“Not quite a forbidden romance, but more like kindred spirits who are entwined with hopeful possibilities.” That is freaking convincing if you ask me. So off I went to find out for myself.

Well, that I finished the book should be evidence enough that The Vespertine was an OK read. But that would be selling the book short. To reiterate, getting started was hard work (believe me,) but the second half paid off. It was pretty good. At that point the paranormal that I had been craving flowed from the pages.

(Oh, and I experienced moments of the 16th moon… wait was it 17th or was it 18th moon? Whatever… If you get the reference, both books are incredibly descriptive. The difference is that in this book said description weighed the flow of the story down some.)


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Good Reads Summary

From the acclaimed author of The Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans, a moving new novel that subtly reimagines our world and time in a haunting story of friendship and love.

As a child, Kathy—now thirty-one years old—lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.

And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed--even comforted--by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham's nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood—and about their lives now.
A tale of deceptive simplicity, Never Let Me Go slowly reveals an extraordinary emotional depth and resonance-and takes its place among Kazuo Ishiguro's finest work

My Thoughts

All that’s left is a third book and my holy trinity of slow-and-steady-as they go (but very deep and meaningful) reads will be complete. A third, and I’ll be worshiping at their altar. To the left of my trinity is The Giver. Front and center: Never Let Me Go. And to the right, is I don’t know yet (I rub my hands in anticipation for the book hunt that is about to ensue… suggestions anyone!) Once done, I will relegate my copies of Chaos to the second rung of my shelf and elevate my Trinity to the top. There I shall worship and wipe the dust every so often from their digital pages (… I totally need copies of these books.)

Never Let Me Go is EXACTLY what’s been missing in some of the books I’ve been reading lately. It’s EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for. There’s Kathy H. reminiscing about her life in Hailsham, about her life with Tommy D and Ruth. The way everything is laid out; the way she tells their story: It’s as if one is expected to know what’s going on. It’s so matter of fact. And when one actually know what’s going there’s the inevitable shock.

It’s a slow build up but by the time you get to the end, you understand the rages that Tommy D. has/had because you want to join in and rage along with him.