Saturday, May 24, 2014

Parallel by Lauren Miller

"Abby Barnes had a plan. The Plan. She'd go to Northwestern, major in journalism, and land a job at a national newspaper, all before she turned twenty-two. But one tiny choice—taking a drama class her senior year of high school—changed all that. Now, on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, Abby is stuck on a Hollywood movie set, miles from where she wants to be, wishing she could rewind her life. The next morning, she's in a dorm room at Yale, with no memory of how she got there. Overnight, it's as if her past has been rewritten.

With the help of Caitlin, her science-savvy BFF, Abby discovers that this new reality is the result of a cosmic collision of parallel universes that has Abby living an alternate version of her life. And not only that: Abby's life changes every time her parallel self makes a new choice. Meanwhile, her parallel is living out Abby's senior year of high school and falling for someone Abby's never even met.

As she struggles to navigate her ever-shifting existence, forced to live out the consequences of a path she didn't choose, Abby must let go of the Plan and learn to focus on the present, without losing sight of who she is, the boy who might just be her soul mate, and the destiny that's finally within reach."

I think I could give this one a pretty favorable review. I wasn't completely sure about it at some bits, but overall I can give props to the author for using a different type of concept. That was what actually hooked me in--the diverging options. The concept seemed a little half-baked to me in execution at first, but as I started to think more about what was happening and wrap my head around it, it got more complex. Overall, I think the premise was done well, and would benefit from a second reading. 
As for the characters and the plot, it was a bit of a mix but generally good feedback. It was kind of interesting to explore the diverging possibilities, but the challenges the characters face are purely high school drama-type stuff--friend fights, mean girls, complicated love triangles, etc. That may have cheapened it a teeny bit for me, going for the well-used situations, but I think the way the author wrote it could have been a lot worse; she managed to get me to mostly enjoy what was going on, with only slight wincing  at the teen drama. Overall I think it was an enjoyable book and maybe worth a re-read someday. Four stars. There's a copy at Kettleson (or at least there will be once I turn it in).

Friday, May 16, 2014

Gentlehands by M.E. Kerr

"Buddy Boyle lives year-round with his family in unfashionable Seaville, New York, in a cramped little house on the bay. Skye Pennington spends the summers nearby on lavish estate complete with ocean view and a butler named Peacock.But Skye and Buddy fall in love anyway. And every once in a while they visit Buddy's estranged grandfather, who makes them forget they're from opposite sides of town. Then a reporter appears, searching for a man known as Gentlehands, a man with a horrifying past. Who is Gentlehands? And what is his connection to Buddy's handsome, aristocratic grandfather? The mystery threatens to shatter Buddy and Skye's relationship, and change their lives forever."

Well... so... eh. This was assigned reading for a class, and I hate to admit, I doubt I would have finished it if I'd picked it up on my own. I doubt I'd have gotten past page fifteen. It just wasn't, for all its purported literary merits, enjoyable to read. I really don't think there were any sympathetic characters. And this might be a realistic track to take, but it doesn't make for much investment on the behalf of the characters. Buddy is infatuated with Skye and her glittering lifestyle and routinely drops everything to run to her when she has a whim. He ignores his little brother and generally acts awful and dismissive to his family. If anything, his grandfather the former Nazi (sorry to spoil the big plot twist, but you can easily figure it out from the blurb and the first fifteen pages) was the most likable character. And yes, the point of the book was essentially the thematic elements--the questions of human nature and loyalty and things like that, with an ambiguous ending--but I think the execution thereof wasn't done well or interestingly at all. I didn't care for it. I feel like it dragged out the vapid romance too long and left things maddeningly unresolved. Yes, there are a million ways you could analyze the book, but there wasn't much that made me want to keep reading. I'd give maybe three stars. There are copies at Mt. Edgecumbe, Blatchley, and Sitka High if you want to decide for yourself.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Wish List by Eoin Colfer

"Meg Finn is in trouble-unearthly trouble. Cast out of her home by her stepfather after her mother's death, Meg is a wanderer, a troublemaker. But after her latest stunt, finding a place to sleep is the least of her worries. Belch, her partner in crime, has gotten her involved in the attempted robbery of an elderly man, Lowrie McCall. And things go horribly wrong. After an accidental explosion, Meg's spirit is flung into limbo, and a race begins between the demonic and the divine to win her soul. Irreverent, hilarious, and touchingly hopeful, The Wish List takes readers on a journey of second chances, where joy is found in the most unexpected places."

Ah, yes, the happy trotting-out of every single heaven/hell trope. Ever. But no, seriously, I wouldn't exactly call this great literature--but then again, I really doubt it was meant to be. It's wholeheartedly simple, easy, read-in-a-day-or-two, fluff. Not to say that it's super light material, but the writing is very straightforward and the text is medium sized and it's insanely easy to finish quickly. But that may even be a bonus point for it, managing to hook me in and get me to plow right through it. Anyway, Meg was mostly likable and Lowrie was... well, you warm up to him. There are bits that managed a faint flutter at the heartstrings, and even though they could have been done a bit more subtly and powerfully, they mostly did their job of making me connect with the characters. As for the heaven/hell stuff I mentioned earlier, yes, total suspension of disbelief is required. There are some semi-groan-worthy plot devices, like magical stones that are given at the beginning and subsequently ignored until they become crucial on the second-to-last page, and the whole "tunnel of light" thing. But overall, just looking at the parts of the whole, it's a fairly enjoyable book to go through. The difficulty level is definitely middle school/low high school, but from that vantage point I think it would be pretty funny, interesting, and suspenseful. All depends on your outlook. So yeah, recommended for people mid-high school down. I honestly think you'd enjoy this if you picked it up, give it a spin. There's a copy at Kettleson and Mt. Edgecumbe.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley

"Scott Pilgrim's life is totally sweet. He's 23 years old, he's in a rockband, he's "between jobs," and he's dating a cute high school girl. Nothing could possibly go wrong, unless a seriously mind-blowing, dangerously fashionable, rollerblading delivery girl named Ramona Flowers starts cruising through his dreams and sailing by him at parties. Will Scott's awesome life getturned upside-down? Will he have to face Ramona's seven evil ex-boyfriends inbattle? The short answer is yes. The long answer is Scott Pilgrim, Volume 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life."

Soo... I haven't actually seen the movie for this, but I shelved it the other day and it got me wondering. This book actually surprised me; I wasn't expecting that much, but it went above some of my expectations. The dialogue was the main standout bit--it had this perfect kind of dry, unapologetic humor that I kind of liked. And yes, Scott was sweet and generally pathetic but managed to mostly clear the endearing bar. The self-deprecating element was part of the humor, too. So yeah, not a bad half hour spent. It was pretty unconventional and the tongue-in-cheek element helped. I'd give it a fine four stars. I think I might get the next ones, too. Go pick this one up at Kettleson or Sitka High.
(Up next week: an actual book, hopefully. Sorry this one was short; school plus testing plus recital has been systematically massacring me, and there's not much end in sight).