Friday, December 31, 2010

Review: Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska
John Green
Pages: 221

Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (Francois Rabelais, poet) even more. He heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly stable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.

~description taken from book jacket

Well, most people reading this blog will have already read this one. For good reason- it's kind of amazing. I figure I'd review it anyway, if only to get the word out!

Last summer I read An Abundance of Katherines, one of John Green's other books. Looking for Alaska follows the same formula: Nerdy guy with a quirky interest decides he needs something new in his life, goes to a new location and meets an equally quirky girl who changes him. Generally, it annoys me when an author does the (almost) exact plot twice, but in this case I didn't really mind. This is because John Green is simply a really, really funny author. It takes a lot for me to laugh aloud when I'm sitting alone reading, but Green had me doing so several times throughout the course of Looking for Alaska. Also, the amount of obscure information he packs into his books is mind-boggling. He seems like one of those people who must have read every book ever printed. If I ever get the chance I want to hear him speak.

As a whole, Looking for Alaska is a bit of a heavy read, but not depressingly so. I think this is because you're meant to figure out what event separates the 'before' and 'after' of Miles' life, so it lessens the blow somewhat. The large doses of comedic dialogue also help with this. However, if you're looking just for a 'light' read I'd recommend An Abundance of Katherines. Actually, never mind that. Read both of them. John Green is excellent and I want to help spread the love.

4.5/5 Stars

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (4)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme held by Breaking the Spine. It's where bloggers can showcase the yet to be released books that they're most excited for!

The Vespertine
Saundra Mitchell
Release Date: 3/7/2011

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.

This sounds like a mix of my two favorite genres- historical fiction and paranormal romances. Definitely one to jot down on your release calendars!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Review: Forest Born

Forest Born (Books of Bayern #4)
Shannon Hale
Pages: 389

“Growing up in the Forest, Rin always turned to the trees when she needed peace or reassurance, even direction, until the day they seem to reject her. Rin is sure something is wrong with her, something that is keeping her from feeling at home in the Forest, keeping her from trusting herself with anyone at all.

When her brother Razo returns to the city after a visit home, Rin accompanies him to the palace in hopes of finding a new sense of herself. But a mysterious threat haunts Bayern, and Rin joins the magical girls she thinks of as the Fire Sisters –Isi, Enna, and Dasha- as they venture into the woods toward the kingdom of Kel... where someone wants them all dead.”

Description taken from book jacket

First off, I want to say that I adore Shannon Hale. She’s a fantastic writer, and follows what I think is the perfect philosophy with YA books- write what you think is a good story, not what’s easily marketable. As a result, she’s produced numerous solid novels that I’d recommend, which includes her previous Books of Bayern. However, all good things must end in order to remain good things and, unfortunately, the Books of Bayern have hit that point.

Forest Born, the fourth in the series, includes enough background information that you could come into the series a stranger and not be terribly confused. Although, it would be easiest to read them in order since the events happen sequentially. This installment follows Rin, who makes a delightfully insecure heroine. She is ‘forest born’, as the title points out, and you (re)discover the world of Bayern along with her as she heads out to work at the castle. There’s intrigue right from the start when Rin suspects a lady in waiting of wanting to kill Prince Tusken and suspicious fires start up at Bayern’s boundary with the neighboring country Kel.

While the characters and humor are great, like in all of Hale’s other books, Forest Born remains plagued by mediocre plot twists. One character pulls a Gandalf, but it isn’t done properly. Instead of having the shocked reaction you’re supposed to, you realize that Hale’s hit the bottom of the idea barrel for the series. As a result, the entire second half of the book has a very forced feel to it. Even though I got attached to Rin and wanted to hear more about her, the plot just wasn’t interesting anymore.

I still love Shannon Hale, but I hope Forest Born is the last in her Bayern series. While it’s a solid read, and much better than the work of other authors, I’m disappointed because it doesn’t measure up to her other books. Hale’s writing itself is absolutely magical- she just needs better storylines to work with.

4/5 Stars