Random Review: Every Day

I am surprised I did not like this book more.

Every Day by David Levithan3207401

A is a person without a body, awaking each day as someone new and supplanting that individual’s consciousness. It has been that way as long as A can remember, and A expects it to continue that way forever. A just tries to make as little impact as possible, until the day the mistreated girlfriend of the body A’s inhabiting piques interest. Suddenly A is desperate to hold on, after a lifetime of letting go.

On the surface, this seemed like a book I would love. I’ve really enjoyed the other Levithan projects I’ve read (Every You, Every Me and will grayson, will grayson.) I am the type of person who watched every episode of Quantum Leap, binge-watched Sense8 (twice), and tries to imagine the lives of other people driving down the highway with me. Where they are going, what they worry about, who they love and who loves them.

Every Day is well-written. It is an interesting story that has emotional resonance and high stakes, and yet it was just a three-star read for me. I am not sure why. Maybe because the idea that everyone has problems and worries and great loves is not an earth-shaker for me. Maybe because A falls in love with a thin, blue-eyed, blonde doormat and that is just painfully typical.

I think that’s it. The whole story centers around the growing connection between A and Rhiannon, and the impossibility of making it work, and I just didn’t like Rhiannon much. It was clear why she appealed to A: they are both intuitive, compassionate dreamers yearning for deep connection. The narrative explored just about every type of relationship and attraction through A’s body-hopping, which was a lot more gripping than the relationship on which A focused. I just felt like rolling my eyes at the desperation to get back to this blah girl who lets her boyfriend treat her like crap because he’s cute and has a sob story.

I wanted to like this so much more than I did, but I think a teenager who hasn’t read or seen much along these lines might be blown away by it. I suppose I will pass it on to my students and find out!

Chair Rating:

Looked more special than it felt.

Looked more special than it felt.

Random Review: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

All the charm of a guy standing, arms folded, at a magic show and loudly explaining how he figured out all the tricks.

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory DoctorowDownandout

In a future, deathless, society people with computers in their brains try to run Disney World.

That’s really all I can muster as far as a synopsis. I really did not like this book. I didn’t dislike it as much as Ready Player One, but it was close.

This book was so narratively uneven, I’m just going to analyze it using a list:

The Major:

  • The main character is horrible. Pompous, condescending, narrow-minded, and limited in both emotional range and depth of feeling. He verges on sociopathic, valuing people primarily for the benefits the offer in his life. The character acknowledges some of these flaws from time to time, but makes no effort to change or compensate for them. He just expects everyone to recognize his inherent rightness and fall in line.
  • I love Disneyland and Disney World, even hearing about the technical development and detailed work so many brilliant creative minds put into it. Somehow Doctorow makes the behind-the-scenes stuff dry as an overcooked pork-chop. He often comes off as smug, describing the nuts and bolts of the attractions, even as his author-insertion main character berates other characters for the same.
  • The resolution feels somehow both too obvious and a like bit of a cheat in the narrative.
  • There are frequent contradictions in the world-building. There is a currency of inter-personal esteem, and somehow a person with none at all can’t get an elevator door to open for him but can get into Disney World. The story loops back on itself several times in whiplash fashion, undoing what has just seemed accomplished in the previous chapter.

The Minor: 

  • The main character has a girlfriend with a Bella Swan/Edward Cullen-level age disparity. This could be an interesting comment on connection in a society where apparent age has become irrelevant, even deceiving. Instead, it is depicted in a way that makes the main character appear immature at best, creepily perverted at worst. Like when, upon meeting, his teenage girlfriend’s youthful innocence and hygiene makes him want to pinch “either set” of her cheeks.

alAx0zM

  • There is limited invented slang in the novel, but “Whuffie” and “Bitchun Society” seemed like juvenile place-holders that should have been replaced in editing.
  • All of the relationships are paper-thin.
  • It is awfully hard to get invested in a murder-mystery when the person is replaced with a clone with a near-identical memory mere days after it happens. Particularly when the character just spent some time talking about how death is merely an inconvenience. His sudden outrage became comical, “it’s okay when other people die, NOT ME!” The entire story hinges on this self-important jerk imagining that nothing can possibly go right unless he is there to manage it personally. A more skilled writer probably could have gotten me to buy-in, but that was not the case.
  • All of the relationships were paper-thin. Familial, “best” friendships, collegial, adversarial. All the characters were paper-thin. Placeholders for the interesting people who might have been. “Love” was meaningless, people who had wronged one-another basically made a sad face and kept right on doing wrong. That might have been intentional, again to show the superficiality of what a world without scarcity had become, but you still need a skilled writer to find a way for the reader to invest and engage.

This novel brought out all my worst anxieties as a person who sometimes writes things: that I might assemble a novel that is a string of interesting ideas poorly joined, that I might write unrelatable characters, that I might frequently contradict myself within the lines of my own world and premise.

Overall, this was a really frustrating read. Not good or bad enough to enjoy. I would say it was a waste of interesting ideas, if M.T. Anderson hadn’t written a book with essentially all the same ideas which I love: Feed.

Seriously, read Feed. Take the time to get acclimated to the slang, and read it.

Chair Rating:

Flat, uncomfortable, and essentially broken.

Flat, uncomfortable, and essentially broken.

Random Review: Joyland

Formulaic, in the best possible sense.

Joyland, by Stephen KingJoyland-Cover

Devin Jones is a heartbroken college student working at a South Carolina amusement park over the summer between his junior and senior years. He makes some friends, pines, works his tail off, and stumbles across a murder mystery in the process.

If you have read a pulp novel, you have read this story.

If you have read a handful of Stephen King novels, you have read this story.

And that is what’s great about it. Every year, I go to the State Fair and get a corn dog and a big fresh-squeezed lemonade. I know just how they will taste, and I love them just as much every time.

Joyland deftly combines some of King’s most familiar themes and quirks (coming-of-age, the power of childhood friendships, everyday evil, leaving no breast un-described) with the formula of cheapie paperback mysteries from the 70s. Two great tastes that taste great together. There is even a cheeky wink at the format, in the form of tossed-off comment about Joyland’s mascot resembling Scooby-Doo.

I can’t recommend Joyland enough if you enjoy stories with a little horror, a lot of humanity, and a little magic. Short enough to be fun and long enough to be satisfying. It had me nostalgic for a rather terrible job at a summer camp I had around the time I was the main character’s age.

Random thoughts:

  • I love carnivals and amusement parks in real life and as a novel setting. I think I may explore that in a future Character Study.
  • “When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction.”
  • Very little gross-out gore in this, especially for a King novel.
  • I bought this in pocket-size paperback, as King hoped it would be read. I miss those novels, easily stashed in a purse or glove-box for unexpected downtime.
  • Going with a painted illustration over a photograph or a hyper-modern graphic for the cover was a great choice, as an object this book is the total package. A piece of nostalgia through-and-through.

Chair Rating: 

bumper car

A guaranteed good time!

2016 in Review: To All the Books I Might’ve Read

2016 (2)

An annual tradition started by The Perpetual Page-Turner.

2015 reading stats (4)

Number Of Books You Read: Eighteen-ish, not counting unfinished.
Number of Re-Reads: 3
Genre You Read The Most From: YA (Contemporary, Fantasy, and Sci-Fi)

Best in Books

1. Best Book You Read In 2015?

Re-read: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

New to me: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

Released in 2015: The Anatomy of Curiosity by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Every Day by David Levithan. I liked it, but it wasn’t the revelation I expected from the way others talk about it. It was my least favorite work by David Levithan. I really enjoy that he is is very experimental and high-concept with a lot of his writing, though.Screenshot_2014-04-23-13-54-05-1

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. I don’t usually read romance, and I was expecting a featherweight YA, but this had a lot of heart and genuine family relationships. Very sweet, but not dopey or ridiculous. I’ll be reading the sequel.

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

Tie between Unwind by Neil Shusterman, and Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson. I gave both to students, and the student who read Unwind went on to read Unwholly.

 5. Best series you started in 2015? Best Sequel of 2015?

Best Series Started: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenni Han

Best Sequel: The Anatomy of Curiosity by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?

Jenni Han, Leigh Bardugo

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, translated by Cathy Hirano

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

 9. Book You Read In 2015 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

The Last Unicorn or The Scorpio Races

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?51H8x07Fd7L._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It’s just a lovely object that gives a feeling of tidiness and serenity. It’s small and square, with charcoal gray end-papers and an abstract, green watercolor cover. The title is all in lower-case, orange-red, in a traditional serif typeface. Just lovely, and reinforces the drive for both simplicity and beauty in the book.

11. Most memorable character of 2015?

Tik Tok, the gender-fluid medicine man. Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?

Tie: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle and The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2015?

Unwind by Neal Shusterman. The ideas were absolutely killer, even if the writing itself is not mind-blowing. He really thought about his premise from all angles.

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read? 

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. I loved it so much, and the sample had just been sitting neglected in my Nook for two years!

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2015?b629d9bad0f4440d14262b871bbf6240

“…but to the unicorn’s eyes Molly was becoming a softer country, full of pools and caves, where old flowers came burning out of the ground. Under the dirt and indifference, she appeared only thirty-seven or thirty-eight years old – no older than Schmendrick, surely, despite the magician’s birthdayless face. Her rough hair bloomed, her skin quickened, and her voice was nearly as gentle to all things as it was when she spoke to the unicorn. The eyes would never be joyous, any more than they could ever turn green or blue, but they too had wakened in the earth. She walked eagerly into King Haggard’s realm on bare, blistered feet, and she sang often.
And far away on the other side of the unicorn, Schmendrick the Magician stalked in silence. His black cloak was sprouting holes, coming undone, and so was he. The rain that renewed Molly did not fall on him, and he seemed ever more parched and deserted, like the land itself. The unicorn could not heal him. A touch of her horn could have brought him back from death, but over despair she had no power, nor over magic that had come and gone.”
Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2015?

Shortest: Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins

Longest: Under the Dome by Stephen King

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most7514925

(Because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.)

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson. Toward the end, the hits start coming and she doesn’t let up until the reader is gutted.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)

Puck Connolly and Sean Kendrick forever, duh. Peter Pan didn’t deserve Tiger Lily.

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Petra and Geraldine, Ladylike by Maggie Stiefvater, Anatomy of Curiosity

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2015 From An Author You’ve Read Previously26308619

Anatomy of Curiosity

21. Best Book You Read In 2015That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

Every Day by David Levithan

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?

Pine Sap, Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

23. Best 2015 debut you read?

N/A

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?2015-06-08-1433728699-2614985-rudecakes_600-thumb

Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2015?

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

Variations on Drowning by Brenna Yovanoff, Anatomy of Curiosity

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

Tiger Lily, in several ways.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2015?

The Anatomy of Curiosity

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking Ahead

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2015?

I was a very bad book blogger this year, what with getting my teaching credential and all. I don’t think I read any new book blogs. D:

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2015?

Easy, I only wrote one: Random Review – To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

Again, there was only one: Character Study – Dumbledore’s Cruel Intentions

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

Nada. So sad.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2015?

Completing this survey, and keeping Ink alive.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

A total lack of time. Finishing my credential and starting my first year of classroom teaching left me exhausted, with almost no time to indulge in reading for pleasure. I didn’t quite make my New Year’s Resolution of reading 25 books this year. Weak.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

The eternal champ: Character Study – Ginny Weasley vs. Cho Chang

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

Character Study: Dumbledore’s Cruel Intentions

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

I gave Audible a try, and was pleasantly surprised. Easy to use, and more enjoyable than I anticipated.

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

Nah. I missed my reading goal by seven books. :/

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2015 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2016?

Joyland by Stephen King

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2016 (non-debut)?PNOK Final Cover 101515.indd

Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff

3. 2016 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2016?

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2016?

Write in my blog more than twice? Read at least five classics and twenty-five books total. I have Plato’s Republic and Don Quixote on deck.

 

Character Study: Dumbledore’s Cruel Intentions

Dumbledore-Portrait-albus-dumbledore-2477491-593-582People have turned on Dumbledore, you guys. Since books six and seven of the Harry Potter series were released, articles and comments have gone from describing him as a lovable kook with serious skills, to an evil mastermind raising Harry for the slaughter like veal. I was recently reading the comments section on an article in which people were tearing apart every move he made, from sending Harry to the Dursleys to taking him horcrux hunting. These same commenters described Dumbledore as an irredeemable plotter even while calling him an author’s pet.

This got me thinking, what would Harry’s life have been like if Dumbledore had never become involved? I’m going to do a little inferring, and it’s bound to be riddled with spoilers. You have been warned.

Continue reading

Random Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

That’s right friends and readers, I’ve got my teaching credential on lock which means I’M BACK. Reading books for fun and reviewing them for your pleasure.

One of the sweetest, most naturally developing love stories I have seen in YA Fiction.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han51GdayQh-uL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Lara Jean Song is the dreamy, sartorially adventurous middle sister in a tight-knit trio. The Song girls lost their mother unexpectedly years before, and have worked together to make life easier on their dad ever since. When uber-organized older sister Margot sets off for college in Scotland, it’s Lara Jean’s turn to take the lead running the household. At the same time, five of Lara Jean’s love letters are accidentally mailed to each of the five boys she once loved…including the popular boyfriend of an ex-friend and her older sister’s long-term love.

This is a book I normally would have avoided, the jacket is all mauve and it seemed terribly predictable. I bought it because I picked up a copy of Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds and Amazon told me the same readers enjoyed both. That definitely piqued my curiosity.

There are a lot of YA Romance standards in this book: the boy-next-door, the popular guy, the mean girl, a bargain to save face and incite jealousy; but none of the plot points are handled in a campy or obvious way. The story unfolds very naturally from the inciting event, and the heroine takes just as many steps back as she does steps forward (like we all do when we are learning and growing). It is a very realistic love story. One of its strongest points is the relationship between the three Song sisters and their father, and those relationships are given just as much screen-time as the romantic stuff. Each of the girls has a strong, distinct personality and an investment in their family as a unit.

This book really handles all of its characters fairly, the “mean girl” can be pretty darn mean, but she does have her reasons. Lara Jean is not by any means flawless or a Mary Sue, nor did she become catnip to boys overnight. Every part of this story, every lesson learned, feels real and earned. There are romantic gestures, but they are on a scale that feels possible with high school boys and organic to the characters as written.

If you enjoy novels with a strong family dynamic, sweet romance, characters coming of age, and a steady dose of humor…this one could be for you.

Chair Rating:

Sweet, upbeat, a family affair.

Sweet, upbeat, a family affair.