Friday, April 25, 2014

Best Books of April

Here are the best books that I read this month. The summaries come from Goodreads; the reviews are mine.

The Spectacular Now – Tim Tharp

Sutter Keely. He’s the guy you want at your party. He’ll get everyone dancing. He’ll get everyone in your parents’ pool. Okay, so he’s not exactly a shining academic star. He has no plans for college and will probably end up folding men’s shirts for a living. But there are plenty of ladies in town, and with the help of Dean Martin and Seagram’s V.O., life’s pretty fabuloso, actually. 

Until the morning he wakes up on a random front lawn, and he meets Aimee. Aimee’s clueless. Aimee is a social disaster. Aimee needs help, and it’s up to the Sutterman to show Aimee a splendiferous time and then let her go forth and prosper. But Aimee’s not like other girls, and before long he’s in way over his head. For the first time in his life, he has the power to make a difference in someone else’s life—or ruin it forever.

Review: I have no idea how to review this book. I considered not doing it because I don't know what to say, but I'm going to give it a try.

This is one of the most honest and realistic books that I've read in a long time. I know that a lot of people hate the ending, but I thought that the book ended in the most realistic way that it could. I would have been disappointed if it had ended in a morality-tale kind of way. Alcoholics don't just stop being alcoholics.

The dialogue is amazing. Sutter is very funny, and he always knows what to say. I like that he's an unreliable narrator who is incapable of seeing himself clearly. I like the glimpses of him that we get through how the other characters react to him. I like that he truly cares about people and wants to protect them or make their lives better. He can save everybody but himself.

Even though I can see the good in Sutter, and his jokes are hilarious, I dislike him. He's an arrogant, self-centered, attention whore. I probably would have been one of the people yelling, "Sit down!" when he started singing at prom. I think it's irritating when someone needs to be the center of attention all the time. I spent the whole book going back and forth between hating him and feeling sorry for him. I think I mostly hated him for his attempt to "fix" Aimee. He decided that something was wrong with her and that he would be the one to fix it. Even if he did end up making her life better, his behavior seems very presumptuous. He probably could have gotten the same results if he'd just been a good, honest friend to her and treated her nicely. 

Usually, I try to be more objective about the books I read, but I guess this one hit too close to home for me. I know people like Sutter. Reading it made me uncomfortable. I liked the book a lot, but it was also like watching a slow-motion train wreck. My brain is still processing it. I think my brain will be processing it for a long time.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. 

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. 

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

Review: This is a peculiar book. I was intrigued by the combination of fiction and vintage photographs, but it didn't work as well as I'd hoped. The writing is beautiful, and the photographs are beautiful, but they went together a little awkwardly. Some of the photographs seem like they were forced into the story. The story includes a few pointless details to accommodate the photographs. The plot is slightly convoluted because it has to explain the pictures. However, this is a very unique idea, and I will happily read the sequel. It took an amazing imagination to write this book.

The best part of the book is the imagery. There are some awesome scenes. My favorites are the peculiar children raising the dead and Jacob and Emma visiting the shipwreck for the first time. The monsters are also vividly described and creepy. I got a good sense of the island, its history, and its people. I liked that a lot.

Some elements of the plot are predictable. As soon as Jacob saw his first monster, I knew where the story was going, but I liked the ending. The identity of the monster was a surprise to me. The loops could have used more explanation. I don't think I totally understand how or why they work.

Unlike the peculiar children, Jacob is forgettable. He's bland and ordinary, which was probably intentional, but I like narrators with a little more personality. I finished the book yesterday, and I've already forgotten pretty much everything about him. The only thing that I remember clearly is his creepy relationship with Emma. Emma is 80-something-years-old. Jacob is 16. Emma dated Jacob's grandfather. Jacob is in love with her. Yuck. Just, yuck. (By the way, I had this exact same yuck problem with Twilight.) Age is much more than just how you look.

Aside from the romance, this book is unique, mysterious, and captivating. If you're looking for an out-of-the-box YA book, I'd recommend this one.

Warm Bodies – Isaac Marion

'R' is a zombie. He has no name, no memories and no pulse, but he has dreams. He is a little different from his fellow Dead. 

Amongst the ruins of an abandoned city, R meets a girl. Her name is Julie and she is the opposite of everything he knows - warm and bright and very much alive, she is a blast of colour in a dreary grey landscape. For reasons he can't understand, R chooses to save Julie instead of eating her, and a tense yet strangely tender relationship begins. 

This has never happened before. It breaks the rules and defies logic, but R is no longer content with life in the grave. He wants to breathe again, he wants to live, and Julie wants to help him. But their grim, rotting world won't be changed without a fight...

Review: This is a retelling of R(omeo) and Julie(t) . . . with zombies. A zombie, R, falls in love with a human teenager, Julie, and they might have accidentally figured out a way to end the zombie apocalypse.

The beginning of this book was the best part. It's kind of funny, and zombie "culture" was interesting. The zombie marriage and the sudden appearance of children was amusing. I didn't love R, but he was entertaining enough to keep me reading. Julie kicked ass. She was a little angsty, but she was my favorite character because she was never a damsel in distress. She was calm, independent, and in control. I liked that. The love story in this book was both disgusting and sweet. I didn't know that was possible.

I didn't think that the rest of the book was as strong as the beginning. Some parts felt a little preachy. I didn't think that the Julie/Perry relationship was handled very well. Julie's current boyfriend, R, killed and ate her former boyfriend, Perry, and she didn't seem to mind. That bothered me a lot. Everyone forgave R way too easily. The excuses that were given were "R is a monster and couldn't help it," and "Perry didn't want to be alive, anyway." Julie was upset about the deaths of other people in her life. Why wasn't she upset about this? The value of Perry's life and his relationship with Julie were downplayed so that the reader didn't lose sympathy for R. That felt cheap to me. Even if R couldn't help being a monster, he should still have to deal with the consequences of his actions.

This book is a quick and entertaining read. It's not a typical zombie novel. I appreciate that it is different and unusual.

All The Things = 19 books.

I’m currently reading: Battle Royale by Koushun Takami 

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