Tag Archives: Four Stars

Matched, Ally Condie

Cassia’s world is perfect. Everyone is assigned a job which suits their skills and interests, health care, entertainment, recreation and food are provided by The Society, and they live long, healthy lives. If they decide they want to be married, they are paired with their perfect match, selected from the many thousands of possible people looking for a relationship, and they live happily ever after together.

Just look at Cassia’s parents! Her mother was from the country, and her father was from the city- they never would have met without The Society introducing them to each other. And now, here they are, entirely happy together.

The story starts with Cassia on her way to attend her Match Banquet. To everyone’s surprise and joy, she is matched with someone in her own city, (no moving necessary!) Her best friend Xander will be who she makes her life with, which they are both delighted about. *^_^* (smily face of delight and shyness)

They already know each other so well there’s hardly a need for the data slip with the information about Xander, but since it’s protocol, they both take it, grinning, and then go home to their lives. Everything has worked out even better than they could have hoped for. It’s perfect!

Only, when Cassia goes to look at what The Society has to tell her about Xander, (heh heh heh,) another face flashes on the screen. And again, this is a boy that she knows. Ky, also one of her friends, who also lives on her street, who she also went to school with. She’s reassured that it was just a glitch in the system, which is great, but wait. There are glitches in the system?

The seed has been sown, and Cassia has started to question. She begins to question harder, with more anger, when her grandfather comes to the end of his long and productive life, and dies on his 80th birthday. (Everyone dies on their 80th Birthday.)

Okay, I want to tell you more about this story, but I’m going to stop now, because you deserve to see it unfold with all the well measured care that the author wrote it. I was very impressed with this story, the more so because the only full length review I had read of it said it was internally incoherent and spent too much time explaining the world building. Which I disagree with. ^_^

I thought the voice of the book, as narrated by Cassia, captured her emotional arc wonderfully. At first she’s parroting what she’s been told, (“Everything is perfect!”) and then she’s repeating it desperately, (“This is all good, right?”) and then she’s mocking it, (“Oh, yes, you have our best interests at heart, of COURSE!”) and then she’s just at sea as to what she does next. What do you do to escape in a world where they track your dreams every fourth night? I was particularly impressed because usually I do not notice things like voices of narrators. I’m all GET ME TO THE EXPLOSIONS. GRRR, WHY ARE THINGS NOT ON FIRE?

*cough*

Instead, this time I was able to very happily follow along with the more delicately agonizing realizations Cassia is coming to, and what that means to her. And while I’m talking about the voice, I have to mention that there were three times in the book where I just stopped, amazed at how poetically Ms. Condie managed to phrase the moments of wrenching revelation. And using simple words, too! I mean, the reading level for the book can’t be that high, in terms of vocabulary. It’s “narrated” by someone who lives in a world where art has been simplified down to 100 of everything. And working with simple words, I was still stopped in my reading tracks several times.

Any time a book effects me that much, I am impressed.

And also there were trains and a secret war and sorting things and a strong family which you give up things for. All stories that delight me. You should read this book.

I gave it four stars out of five. I’ll be looking for the sequel. Can I have it now, please?

How To Train Your Dragon, Cressidia Cowell

I’m gonna steal the description from Goodreads, because it’s said better than all the ones I was working on.

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III was a truly extraordinary Viking Hero. Warrior chieftain, awesome sword-fighter and amateur naturalist, he was known throughout Vikingdom as ‘The Dragon Whisperer’, on account of his amazing power over these terrifying beasts.

But it wasn’t always like that. In fact, in the beginning, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III was the most put upon Viking you’d ever seen. Not loud enough to make himself heard at dinner with his father, Stoick the Vast, not hard enough to beat his chief rival, Snotlout, at Bashyball, the number one school sport, and Certainly not stupid enough to go into a cave full of dragons to find a pet…

You see the sticker over there that says to read the book before you watch the movie? Yeah. It’s a good idea. Because if you expect the same story on either hand, you will NOT get it. For one thing, this book has no girls. (Contra to the movie, where the main characters are Toothless, Astrid, Hiccup and Stoick.) For another, Hiccup’s relationship with his schoolmates is severely different. Also, the dragon-Viking dynamic is almost entirely opposite to the movie. That’s not to say either one is bad, they’re just really not at all the same story.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way. 😀 In the book, dragons are working animals, and training one is an integral part of a young Viking Hero’s education. Only Hiccup is USELESS at training dragons. He tries to TALK to his dragon instead of shouting at it, (mainly because he can’t yell loud enough to do any good,) his dragon is the size of a teacup anyways, and said dragon has a bad attitude problem. If he can’t turn things around, he’s gonna end up banished. Hmmm, I said I was going to steal the GoodReads description, and then I wrote my own. Well done, me. ANYHOW.

I did like this book quite a lot. And I especially liked the things in that I was not expecting. You see, I saw that this was an adventure book and that the MC was a bit of a nerd, and I said to myself “oh right, he’s going to be hated by everyone.” But no! He has a friend. Or a partner in being hated, but they have each other’s backs. And I thought that his dad was going to be a lolstupid oaf who NEVER UNDERSTANDS HIS KIDS. And while he didn’t understand, that wasn’t because he was stupid or uncaring, which is a a pre-conception I had about this sort of “prove yourself” book. Instead, it was because he was so well-meaning that things went pear-shaped.

Oh, also I CHORTLED over “This isn’t a democracy! What do you think this is, the Republic of ROME? We’re Vikings!”

And I gave it four stars out of five. A lot of fun. 😀

Unnatural Death, Dorothy L. Sayers

“Ohmigod. Damn. Double rainbow. So intense.”

I presume you’ve seen the video. You know, the guy who’s crying over the rainbow? That is just about the emotional reaction I had to this book. It’s so beautiful… What does it mean?

Ahem.

I used to read mysteries with obsessive, almost irrational hunger. Then I moved into reading Fantasy and writing SF, but that’s another story. What I am talking about is Mysteries.

I’ve read a lot of them.

Until the read-a-thon, I had never read a Lord Peter Whimsey mystery.

This is a criminaloversight. Which I will fix as soon as possible. (Hint: Christmas is coming. The goose getting fat. Please to put a book in the ageless woman’s hat.)

So yes, the book.

It is the third in the series, but I read it with minimal confusion as to who was who. You just dive right into post-war London and environs. Where Lord Peter, who quotes EVERYTHING, is wandering around looking useless and being a genius, his butler is being AWESOME, (seriously, I think the man only had one scene, but I had to do my delighted dance and read it aloud,) the police are being SRYS BYSNS, and the spinster writer who he employs to spy for him, whose name I have forgotten because I thought of her as Maureen Johnson, is off being Catholic and hardcore. (Seriously, it was like a Maureen Johnson cameo. Only written 80 years before mj became the darling of Twitter. TIME TRAVEL?) And there were Lawyers, being delighted and fascinated by words in laws. I like words, so this pleased me. Also, there are a lot of LADIES doing THINGS in this book. Being one myself, I approve of them becoming more than Damsels in Distress or Moral Compasses in stories. And here they were, being Evil, and Stupid, and Clever, and Moral, and Rebellious, and Good, and all sorts of lovely things. (Hint: Christmas is coming.)

The actual murder was delightfully clever, to start. You see, they weren’t actually sure that it WAS a murder until the end of the book. It was only a terribly convenient death, with some suspicious circumstances. But when they started investigating, other people started dying mysteriously too. By the end of the book, the murderer was getting quite sloppy. But we still weren’t sure HOW people were dying until the end.

So yes. I want marry Lord Peter. I gave it four stars out of five. No big deal.

CLICK, CLACK, MOO: Cows That Type. Story by Doreen Cronin, pictures by Betsey Lewis

Farmer Brown never thought much of of the old typewriter in the barn, until the day the cows found it.

Now there’s a strike going on, demands are being made on both sides, and the ducks are serving as neutral arbitration.

The farmer hasn’t had milk or eggs in days.

WHERE WILL IT END?

Okay, so this cautionary tale about the perils of education* was quietly hilarious. I mean, I expected it to be funny, it’s that type, (you can tell by the illustrations,) I just didn’t expect it to be quite THAT funny. I laughed out loud when I got to the end, and I’ll CERTAINLY be buying it.

I gave it four stars out of five.


*Not really. I just wanted to say that. 😀

The Princess Bride, William Goldman

“What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles.”

I am tempted to leave my description of the plot there, as whoever wrote the jacket copy of this edition was really good at his/her job.  😀 Plus, most people have seen the movie already, so they know what happens! Yeah, I’ll leave the plot description there.

I’d seen the movie before I read the book, and I was rather surprised on reading the book to get the narrator’s long ruminations on how love was basically impossible. One of the big points in the book is that Buttercup and Westley are in love, true love, which is something almost as rare as Buttercup’s beauty.

This annoyed me.

I have witnessed many long marriages that are happy, loving, and even cringe-ingly passionate. (Okay, if it was your parents, you wouldn’t want to know either. That’s all I’m saying.) The whole clever OH AREN”T WE SO CYNICAL thing vexed me mightily.

BUT, the overall story still amuses me. 😀 I like the old-school adventure, and I really really like the fact that we go more into depth with Miracle Max, Fezzik and Inigo Montoya, as they were my favourite characters in the movie.

It was certainly very engrossing, I was just vexed and stressed out by certain aspects of the story. And I gave it four stars out of five.

P.S. The torture scenes creeped me the ross out. GAH.

Devilish, Maureen Johnson

Jane is brilliant, sarcastic, loyal, and failing school because she can’t really be bothered to care about her standing. Why engage in class when it’s all politics and drama, and you can do the advanced school work in your 15 minutes before the bus arrives? She does care for the sake of her friend Ally, though, and if Ally wants to participate in traditions like Big Little day, where Freshmen (Littles) choose Senior mentors (Bigs), she’ll be damned if she’s gonna see Ally go without a Little.

She’s been best friends with Ally since forever. Which means she’s in a prime position to notice when her BFF, (after a really tragic public vomiting incident,) starts acting- differently. To the point of sudden knowledge of Latin, entire wardrobe and style change, and new personality to go with the hair.

Jane’s never really been one to take No for an answer, or acknowledge subtle hinting to back off, so it doesn’t take many self-igniting text books and freak hail storms before she’s figured out that Ally’s actually sold her soul to the devil, via a new girl at school. And now this middleman for Hell is willing to strike a deal with Jane for Ally’s freedom, just sign here please…

Maureen Johnson is a hilarious writer, and I really think this is the most fun I’ve had with any of her books I loled irl at least once a chapter, and was grinning like a maniac at the page for the rest of the time. Maybe I find demon possession hilarious. DON’T JUDGE ME OKAY?

But I both found it hilarious, and my religious sensibilities weren’t (really) freaked out by the treatment of demons. There was no falling in love with fallen angels, for example. I always find that one a little bit hard to buy into, given the whole trust component in falling in love. Instead this time, the love interest was SO CUTE I just want to RUFFLE HIS HAIR and grin at him. *cough*

So yes, I loved the characters, including her whole family and the teachers, I loved the dialogue, the plot was satisfying, and I generally enjoyed it. I gave it four stars out of five.

Restoring Harmony, Joelle Anthony

Molly McClure is a 16 year old farm girl, on her way to the big city for the first time. The local doctor diagnosed her mother’s pregnancy as high-risk just before he died in an accident, but now Mrs. McClure isn’t going to listen to ANYONE except a(nother) doctor about taking it easy. She’s too busy fretting about her Father, left alone in the city since his wife has just died. Without Molly’s grandmother to take care of him, he’ll soon be wearing clothes with no buttons, and starving to death when he runs out of food that doesn’t need to be prepared. He also happens to be a doctor.

Mr. McClure looks at his wife, in need of a doctor and fretting about her father the doctor, and then he looks at resourceful, stubborn, hardworking, never-say-die Molly.

So Molly is on the way to the big city for the first time, to fetch her grandfather and bring him back to their island. As soon as she leaves home she finds out that the trip isn’t going to be as smooth as everyone had thought- and once she finally arrives at her destination she finds out that getting there was the easy part. Soon she’s up to her eyebrows in making money, summer canning, the hazards of busking in areas with organized crime, a cute boy who might just be involved in that organized crime, orphan children, and transportation in a time when the train lines aren’t exactly reliable, and it might be faster to go by foot. Also, stubbornness seems to run in the family.

Oh, and it’s set in 2041. ^_________^

I loved this book. I loved the futuristic setting, I loved that the heroine was Canadian, I loved the organized crime element, I loved the romance, and I loved the political climate. Yes, the politics. Usually in SF books everything dissolves into anarchy after the Great Crash, but this one kept things in a recognizable setting- just twisted. I delighted in that. 😀 Oh, and the romance! I believed in this one! I could rant about it all, but I won’t. It’s just sweet, and redemptive, and lovely. *happy*

Okay, this is rapidly sliding into true incoherence, but I just had to mention one more thing that I liked. You know how when people are from the country in books, usually it’s a bad thing? They have to “get over it,” and learn to function in “real life.” Not in this book. Molly is a farm girl, thank you very much, and she can handle herself. Better than YOU can, probable. 🙂

AND THE MISSIONARY IS WIN OF ALL WIN. That’s all I’m gonna say there, cause you just have to meet, and see for yourself, the wonder and joy of those scenes.

I gave it four stars out of five. I will recommend it to any of my siblings who are able to handle a guy getting beaten.

Astonishing X-Men Vol. 2: Dangerous, Joss Whedon and John Cassaday

CONTINUING THE SAGA OF EXCELLENT BOOKS THAT ARE EXCELLENT.

ALSO IT IS LATE AND I HAVE LOST THE ABILITY TO THINK OUTSIDE OF CAPSLOCK.

SO I AM GOING TO SHOUT THIS REVIEW AT YOU.

WHEDON, IMMA LET YOU FINISH, BUT DANGER DIDN’T HAVE ONE OF THE BEST RUNS OF ALL TIME. SHE WAS LOVELY IN THE FIRST FIGHT WE MET HER, AND THEN SHE WAS ALL “OH, I’M GOING TO GET A GIANT INSENT ROBOT TO KILL YOU FOR ME” AND IT WAS LESS COOL. ALSO, THE PROFESSOR WAS NOT AWE-INSPIRING, EVEN AS HE WAS KICK-ASS. I DID NOT APPROVE OF THAT.

UMMMMMMMMMMM, I LIKED IT IN GENERAL? I THINK THIS WAS THE LEAST MEMORABLE VOLUME. THERE WAS TOO MUCH ANGST. WHICH SOUNDS FUNNY, WHEN I SHOUT IT AT YOU.

LOLZ.

*DRINKS TEA*

I GAVE IT FOUR STARS OUT OF FIVE, BECAUSE IT STILL FILLED ME WITH DELIGHT, I JUST CAN’T EXACTLY REMEMBER WHY A MONTH AND A HALF LATER. SORRY, WHEDON/CASSADAY.

Astonishing X-Men Vol. 1: Gifted, Joss Whedon and John Cassaday

So a little while ago I got to talking about comics on the internet to my friends, as one does. I mentioned that I hadn’t actually read any.

Cue horror and staring from all corners of the internet.

But you see, I live in a small town, and I am not from a practicing nerd family, and my library believes in vampire books and contemporary romances. I had an excuse! I’M SORRY I’M SORRY FORGIVE ME WORLD!

Time passed, as it has a habit of doing. I went to visit some friends! And then, out of the blue, when I was at a shakespeare rehearsal, they presented me with a lovely sign, and the Whedon/Cassaday arc of Astonishing X-Men! I no longer had an excuse. I must bite the bullet and read comics.

And so I did.

And I was DELIGHTED. ^_^ They almost made the trip home enjoyable! Um, the plot. There are aliens, and a cure for mutation, and people coming back from the dead. But I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that the plot is not the MAIN reason people (like me- specifically me,) like comics. We (that is to say I) like it for the characters, and the dialogue, and something I didn’t even realize until reading this, which is the art. The art is SO AMAZING. I didn’t know you could do that, before!

I’m just gonna skip through my incoherent talking about art, because no one needs to see that. Or read it. Because it is incoherent. (Unlike this explanation, which is SO LOGICAL I could use it as a philosophy thesis.) I’m just gonna mention some parts in this volume which I REALLY liked. 😀

Anything with Emma Frost. Or Kitty Pryce. Oh, and any time Hank McCoy and Wolverine are talking. Oh, and I loved Cyclops whenever he was around too. ^_^ So that leaves out- Ord, and the researcher, and the nightmare girl- oh, and I loved Brand and Nick Fury too! The rest of it was just lovely, not DELIGHTFUL.

And yeah, I gave it four stars out of five.

Looking for Alaska, John Green

Oh my gosh, this book pissed me off so much. I had to stop right when I got to “after,” and I wandered around wal-mart like a maniac thing, idly poking myself with sharp things to see if I bled and staring at bread like I’d never seen it in bags before.

Now I give it four stars out of five, because it’s masterfully done. But when I see it I still want to break things and scream.

Oh. My. Gosh. So much anger. GAHHHHHHH.

Pudge goes to boarding school. There he meets a motley group of people, and a circle of immensely important ones. Most importantly within the circle is the Colonel, his roommate, and Alaska, from down the hall. They teach him how to smoke, and swear in rhyme, and pull pranks, and other things of dubious moral integrity, that undoubtedly have long philosophical and ethical shadows in his life.  I read this book in conjunction with a friend, and we’re not totally on board with the teen sex. I think the work used to describe it was “unnecessary.” Also “gratuitous.”

Pudge becomes part of a very tight, very intimate clan of friends. And then something happens. Screaming is probably the right response.

I still can’t believe that this was John Green’s first book. It’s insanely good.  It’s just- really, really well done. I’m not sure that you should read it, but if you like being emotionally abused by books, this one is REALLY GOOD at it.