Reviews

Book Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

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Hadley missed her flight. The flight to London to attend her father’s wedding with a woman she’s never met. It should be one of the worst days of her life. But then she meets Oliver: tall, hot, British, and willing to help her through the claustrophobic hell that is flying. But upon reaching London, they lose track of each other. Will fate bring them together again or will life get the best of them? Can chance encounters really shape the rest of your life? (more…)

Book Review: The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love

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Graham is in love with his best friend, writing partner, and next-door-neighbor, Roxy. And a trip to New York Comic-Con is the perfect place to tell her. Or, at least, it would be if things didn’t keep going wrong for him. As reality continues to get in the way of his perfectly-planned-out fiction, Graham has to face the fact that life is never quite as perfect as we want it to be. (more…)

Book Review: How to Make Out

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How to Make Out is the story of Renley, a sixteen-year-old math geek with an incredibly hot, womanizing best friend, some serious daddy issues, a crush on some hot senior, and a need for thousands of dollars to go with the math club to New York City. So, she starts a blog to make the money, and typical YA emotions ensue.

Spoilers. (more…)

Book Review: Lincoln in the Bardo

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George Saunders’s critically-acclaimed first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, is the story Abraham Lincoln’s recently deceased son, Willie, and the events that preceded and followed his death. Set primarily in the graveyard in which Willie is buried, this novel is told from the perspective of multiple other people, some real and some fictional, some alive and some dead, with very few pages of Willie’s own perspective. It is the story of a grieving man, a loyal son, and some hopelessly obstinate ghosts.

Slight spoilers ahead. (more…)

Book Review: A Hidden Fire

Elizabeth Hunter‘s first book in the Elemental Mysteries series, A Hidden Fire, is a paranormal new adult romance about Italian vampire politics. It’s like Twilight left its awkward junior high years and entered college: it still makes some mistakes, but you don’t cringe quite as much while watching it make those mistakes.

I found A Hidden Fire on Amazon as a free kindle book, which, to be honest, is the only reason I have it. I started reading it while crashing on a friend’s couch; she had gone to bed, so a paper book wasn’t an option, and this was the first book on my kindle. I scoffed at first. Even a very well done paranormal romance is still a paranormal romance. It’s an absurd concept. There aren’t many good ways to leap over the idea that an immortal mythical creature is in love with a human and she’s just totally okay with getting sucked into his world. It takes a lot of suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader, and that suspension took me a few chapters for this book. But, after getting past that turning point, I read it for the next five hours, going to bed at four in the morning, and only then because I knew I had to meet a friend the next morning, a friend I didn’t really feel like losing because I was cranky from no sleep. So I finished it the next day.

What first interested me in this story was Hunter’s vampires. While I am, sadly, not yet well acquainted with the all the old vampire tales and the descriptions and characteristics therein, I believe Hunter provided a new spin to the vampire mythos. They are, of course, immortal and excessively strong with heightened senses and an aversion to sunlight, as per usual, but each vampire in her world (the real world, for all intents and purposes) is affiliated with a certain element: water, earth, air, fire. Fire vampires are the rarest (so of course that’s our hero) and each, depending on age and strength, can manipulate his element for his benefit. It made for some interesting battle scenes. And, best of all, I didn’t see any obvious plot holes, so yay world building!

B, the protagonist, is fairly average as far as these types of books go. She’s sort of pretty, very bookish, and is a snarky loner with missing parents. Boring. She gets a little more interesting in the second book when she starts taking martial arts, but she still fits a mold. Giovanni, the hero/vampire/sexy bad boy, is also fairly average for his character type, but, with hundreds of years of life behind him, has a much more interesting backstory than most. He’s a rare book collector/conman/artist, so Hunter’s really got all her bases covered on “perfect man.” He is, of course, also tall, dark, and handsome with an accent.

I imagine him looking something like this.

The other characters are less predictable: Caspar was an enjoyable addition and Carwyn and his wolfhound were probably my favorite part of this book. Doyle, the cat, is also a pretty great addition. Lorenzo is not what I was expecting. Childish and strategic is a fascinating combination, one Hunter actually manages to pull off. Even if many of her characters are fairly average, Hunter does definitely have a leg up in naming characters. Giovanni, Carwyn, Caspar, Tenzin, Lorenzo, Gavin, Niccolo, Livia… Beautiful.

The plot kept my interest, which is really all I can ask of a plot. It wasn’t anything revolutionary or incredibly thought-provoking, but I didn’t get bored. It lived up to its genre. Mystery is a bit of a strong term for this book as I was never really intrigued or confused as to what was going on, but I appreciated that it had more than romance. Romance novels that focus only on the will they/won’t they drive me insane. At least there was something going on in this book; there was a good, old-fashioned villain and a fair amount of world building. The mentions of Italian renaissance men and events was an interesting plot element, however I don’t know how much of it was factual and how much was creative liberties. And it wasn’t in depth or interesting enough for me to care enough to look it up. Sad.

I don’t know if I’ll ever read this book again, but I don’t regret reading it the first time. The second book in this series let me down a little as it lost a lot of momentum and seemed like filler, but I still finished it in two days and didn’t get bored. I have hopes for the third and fourth books, which I’m still waiting for from the library.

On a side note, I was intrigued by the fact that Carwyn was a priest. I wish Hunter spent more time reconciling vampirism (often seen as demonic) with religion. I don’t doubt that it’s possible, in fact I love it, I just want more of it. I’d also like more about vampire biology and the “magic” of the world. Early on in the book, Giovanni tells B, “I’m not asking you to believe in magic, Beatrice. I’m asking you to believe that there are things in this world you don’t understand yet. Things that none of us do.” Then Hunter later mentions that one of the vampires was doing some research into vampire biology, but drops it. She hints at more world building, but doesn’t often go deeper into it. So fingers crossed parts of the third and fourth books are dedicated to that.

As someone with a soft spot for YA romance, I enjoyed this book. I’d recommend it to others, but with a warning that you’re not going to get more than you expect. It is, after all, a story about a vampire/human romance, so there’s that. Both the first and second books (but especially the second) could have used more fleshing out. It was a complete story as I was reading it, but, looking back, I want more about the world, about the people. I want a thicker story–a bowl of ice cream compared to the milkshake it is now. But it’s an easy read and an interesting story with likable, if not obsession-worthy, characters. If you like this sort of thing, definitely check it out. It doesn’t get better than free.

Catherine by April Lindner

Wuthering Heights is a classic novel that teenagers love to hate and certain fictional characters love to read every Christmas for some unknown reason.  If you don’t know the story, the plot centers around the undying and unhealthy love between Heathcliff and Catherine and the problems that it causes both in their generation and their children’s generation.  (That’s the extremely barebones overview, I know.)

In Catherine, Lindner attempts to take this classic story and bring it into a modern context.  Rather than the English moors, this tale is set in a New York City nightclub owned by Catherine’s father and is told from alternating points of view of a teenage Catherine and her teenage daughter, Chelsea.  Heathcliff is played by the young, angry musician, Hence.  “Like therefore,” he tells a dubious Catherine.  Their love story is played out between chapters of Chelsea encountering an older, angrier Hence in an attempt to find her mother.

Catherine is the best Wuthering Heights retelling I’ve found to date (there’s more of them than you might think) though the ending, which I won’t give away, veered pretty far from the original novel.  I liked this book both as a retelling and as a story in its own right, though I had a bit of a problem with Hence.  While he was surly and gruff and moody, he wasn’t enough like the original Heathcliff to be convincing.  He just seemed like an angry old man with a fairly large capacity for being nice.  If I had to type him, it seems like he would be the angry man who finds you sleeping on the couch and tucks you in.  Think Harrison Ford in the movie Morning Glory.  Overall it was well-written and interesting with your average YA novel characters.

Plot: 7/10  Interesting, accurate, and original twist on the original.

Writing: 8/10

Intensity: 4/10  This might have been higher if I weren’t familiar with the original.

Characters: 6/10  I miss Nelly.  Edgar was practically nonexistent.  And the characters could have been replaced with almost any YA character.  Overall I liked them, though.

Interest: 5/10  I read it as a retelling, but I’m not sure if I would have picked it up otherwise.

Overall: 6.5/10

I Don’t Throw Many Books Across the Room

Since I named my blog Coffee and Literary Rage, I figured it was about time for me to actually add some literary rage.  Last night I was browsing the online library (for those of you who don’t know what that is, see if your library has an e-media option–it’s wonderful) and I came across a book called Taking Chances by Molly McAdams.  I read the back, and it seemed innocuous enough.  Sheltered girl goes to college, boys fall in love with her, she falls in love back; new experiences, love triangle, teenage drama.  It sounded like just the light read I was looking for before bed.  Boy, was I wrong.

**SPOILERS**

It started out pretty good.  It wasn’t the best written (the online version was missing a plethora of commas; I hope the actual book isn’t like that), but it was interesting and kept my attention.  Sheltered girl with daddy issues goes to college and falls in love with two different boys.  Simple enough.  It took a turn for the weird when she decided to sleep with the one she wasn’t dating, and got pregnant.  I mean, I can’t say I didn’t see it coming.  He says, “oh, I don’t have a condom,” she says, “I don’t care,” and since there was a good two-thirds of the book still to go, obviously she would get pregnant.

So she makes her peace with that, breaks up with the guy she’s dating (who she hasn’t slept with), tells her “adoptive parents” (who also happened to be the parents of the baby daddy) who of course are super supportive, and eventually gets in a relationship with the baby daddy.  It’s all going beautifully.  But then he (the baby daddy) goes to a party, supposedly sleeps with another girl, gets in a fight with the pregnant main character, gets in a car wreck, and freaking DIES.

After that, I skipped to the end and then returned the book.  I couldn’t finish it.  There were so many problems with it.  We can start with the main problem: killing off the baby daddy was a cheap shot by the author.  It, in my opinion, was a lazy way to make the love triangle work out.  “Oh, she can’t have both of them, just kill one.”  That is not okay, especially outside of a fantasy world where people are dying left and right.  It’s one thing when George R.R. Martin kills off a favorite character–you expect it from him.  Westeros is a dangerous place.  It’s another when everybody is relatively happy in the real world, so to create drama, you wrap your main character around a semi-truck.  I’m also just mad that she killed my favorite character–the only one who showed any serious character development.  I know I didn’t finish the book, so I can’t say that that’s the only character development in the book; I’m sure they all developed a lot after he died.  HOWEVER, it was the only character development up to that point, other than the initial (and somewhat predictable) sheltered girl to party girl transformation.

Okay, now back into the world of the book.  I have a problem with the realistic-ness of the characters.  First, and smallest, there is a very small chance that a girl who has never owned make-up is suddenly able to do her own well enough for every guy she sees to swoon over her.  Second, it’s highly unlikely that so many guys would get so protective of her in such a short time.  I can understand just wanting to sleep with her or date her or whatever, but for friends to physically fight each other over her the first week they know her?  Not likely.  Third, and skipping way ahead here, the fight between the pregnant main character and her boyfriend was totally unfounded.  It’s rather contrary to her character, in my opinion.  Now I know she’s whiny and hormonal, so I get that they would fight.  But hear me out.  Since her father was a general (or something along those lines), she was basically raised by a bunch of Marines who all viewed her as a little sister and taught her how to take care of herself.  At her first party, her Marine best friend texted her warning her not to set her drink down or accept an open one.  If I remember correctly, she responded something along the lines of “I know, you guys taught me well.”  SO, when her boyfriend comes home claiming that he doesn’t remember anything about the night with the other girl and that he would never cheat, especially after the girl he supposedly spent the night with was known by the main character to be sketchy, she should have believed him.  I have never been to a party, and I knew he was drugged.  I mean, I know it’s a little different, since I’m just reading the story, but the main character knew him.  They had been together for months.  He was her roommate’s brother.  She should have known better than to just dismiss him.  And then he goes and dies.  That was the main thing that made me stop reading.  I could understand her actions and decisions up to that point.  I didn’t agree with them, and I thought she was kind of dumb, but I understood.  But when she just broke up with him without even listening to him, especially after having more street smarts than your average sheltered-turned-party girl, I couldn’t do it.  I quit.  I no longer liked her and didn’t really care what happened to her.  I was curious about the ending, of course, so I read it and knew how it all turned out (I’m happy she made up with her father), but I didn’t really care how any of the characters got there.

Okay, after ranting all of that, I suppose I should say something good about the book.  It held my interest, up to the halfway point when everything broke down, and I liked the characters.  I especially liked the one who died.  But even the ones I didn’t like, I liked how they were written.  The emotions were there, so kudos, Molly, on that.  Sorry I couldn’t finish it.  Although after figuratively throwing the book across the room (the computer version of that–closing the tab violently and immediately returning it), I looked up some reviews.  Apparently a significant number of other people quit in the same place I did.  It generally either got one star or five.  There were very few in between.  Although, fun fact, it made it to number one on a list of ‘books that piss you off.’  Appropriate.

But don’t even get me started on the Divergent trilogy.