Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Year-End Book Review Post 2014: The Turkeys

So here we are again. Embarrassed confession: usually when I start these posts I go to My Books in Goodreads and count, with my finger, the number of books that I listed read in the given year. This year I got an email from Goodreads in early December telling me how many books I had already read last year and telling me that, for further details, I could check my stats page.

Stats page? I have a STATS PAGE?

I have a stats page. It's not even hidden or anything. And reading is, like WHAT I DO. So that was embarrassing. But good, because I felt like a dork counting with my finger.

161 books listed for this year, up from 111 last year and 144 the year before, partly because there was no Little League World series this past summer, partly because I read a bunch of Newbery Medal books (I'm still doing the series, really!). It does surprise me a little that the total is that much higher, since I did kind of feel like I was having trouble focusing enough to read as much as usual for a few months a while ago.

So here are the one-and-two stars. 22, which isn't an overwhelming percentage. Looking at this list, I would say I have to be more discriminating about ebooks from the library - just because you can
access it immediately doesn't always mean you should. But some just looked like they'd be better than they were - nothing's ever a sure thing in life, love and literature, right? Well, except Fred Vargas.

Photo by Markus Mayer

Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee. Goodreads synopsis: In the Labyrinth, we had a saying: keep silent, keep still, keep safe.
In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is supposed to possess magic, seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time. When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability comes from—or where she came from. All that matters is that she and Reev stay together, and maybe one day move out of the freight container they call home, away from the metal walls of the Labyrinth. Kai’s only friend is Avan, the shopkeeper’s son with the scandalous reputation that both frightens and intrigues her.
Then Reev disappears. When keeping silent and safe means losing him forever, Kai vows to do whatever it takes to find him. She will leave the only home she’s ever known and risk getting caught up in a revolution centuries in the making. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power.

Sounded so good. Was not so much. Decent worldbuilding, but the romance is incredibly frustrating and silly - there's no tension at all, it's obvious that Avan is open to a relationship with Kai, and she keeps finding silly reasons to thwart everything. And the blurb reads like this is fantasy and adventure with a romance subplot, which is what I prefer, but the banal romance overbalances everything else. 

How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti. Goodreads synopsis: Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction, and selected as aNew York Times Notable Book and Huffington Post Best Book. From the internationally acclaimed author of The Middle Stories andTicknor comes a bold interrogation into the possibility of a beautiful life.How Should a Person Be? is a novel of many identities: an autobiography of the mind, a postmodern self-help book, and a fictionalized portrait of the artist as a young woman — of two such artists, in fact.
For reasons multiple and mysterious, Sheila finds herself in a quandary of self-doubt, questioning how a person should be in the world. Inspired by her friend Margaux, a painter, and her seemingly untortured ability to live and create, Sheila casts Margaux as material, embarking on a series of recordings in which nothing is too personal, too ugly, or too banal to be turned into art. Along the way, Sheila confronts a cast of painters who are equally blocked in an age in which the blow job is the ultimate art form. She begins questioning her desire to be Important, her quest to be both a leader and a pupil, and her unwillingness to sacrifice herself.
Searching, uncompromising and yet mordantly funny, How Should a Person Be? is a brilliant portrait of art-making and friendship from the psychic underground of Canada's most fiercely original writer.

As we discussed this at book club, my friend Debbie (who put the book on the list) looked at me sort of wonderingly and said "wow, you really hated this, didn't you?" And I really did. I hated it so much I actually want to reread it so I can articulate fully and correctly why and how I hated it, but I don't really have the time or the inclination. It was... bad. It seemed petty, and lazy, and snarky without being funny, and shocking without being fresh or honest or provocative or anything that would justify the shockingness. I generally dislike when authors claim to be blurring the lines between author and narrator anyway, and this certainly did nothing to change my mind on that. It seemed to be the very essence of shallowness and immaturity and privilege. 

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke. Goodreads synopsis: You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…
Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town… until River West comes along. River rents the guest house behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. 
Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more?
Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery... who makes you want to kiss back. 
Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.
Blending faded decadence and the thrilling dread of gothic horror, April Genevieve Tucholke weaves a dreamy, twisting contemporary romance, as gorgeously told as it is terrifying—a debut to watch.

This was really disappointing, because it started out so promisingly - I loved the seaside-gothic setting and everything seemed to be leading up to something delicious. And then? I dunno, a silly mess, a silly heroine who suspected that the hot guy was evil but he was so hot she just couldn't really bring herself to care, and whenever things got dull the author would throw another brother into the mix. You stop fearing the devil when you're holding his hand? Really? If you figure out that you're holding hands with the devil, shouldn't you, like, stop drop and roll or something? Get your head out of your ass, woman!

Night Film by Marisha Pessl. Goodreads synopsis: Everybody has a Cordova story. Cult horror director Stanislas Cordova hasn't been seen in public since 1977. To his fans he is an engima. To journalist Scott McGrath he is the enemy. To Ashley he was a father.
On a damp October night the body of young, beautiful Ashley Cordova is found in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Her suicide appears to be the latest tragedy to hit a severely cursed dynasty.
For McGrath, another death connected to the legendary director seems more than a coincidence. Driven by revenge, curiosity and a need for the truth, he finds himself pulled into a hypnotic, disorientating world, where almost everyone seems afraid.
The last time McGrath got close to exposing Cordova, he lost his marriage and his career. This time he could lose his grip on reality.

Overall, this was a hot mess. I had a bit of trouble articulating what I liked and what I didn't. I found the premise intriguing, but I think the bottom line is that there was too much build-up for ANY explanation to be enough of a shock or a fulfillment. The characters were almost engaging but not quite - Nora was sort of a collection of endearing quirks without ever cohering as a sympathetic figure, and Scott was very nearly a compelling protagonist but fell just short. And the whole thing was just too effing long without any justification for the overwriting. It took me so long because it was an ebook from the library that expired and I had to wait until it was available again, but I don't really think that's responsible for my underwhelmedness. Oh, and I forgot until a friend on Goodreads reminded me - there were all these randomly italicized words, as if to make everything seem more urgent, but it just seemed melodramatic and irritating. I liked her last book, which had the same sprawling, barely-tamed story, but it worked better. For her next book she needs to tell her editor to be stricter with her. 

A Lovely Way to Burn by Louise Welsh. Goodreads synopsis: It doesn't look like murder in a city full of death. A pandemic called 'The Sweats' is sweeping the globe. London is a city in crisis. Hospitals begin to fill with the dead and dying, but Stevie Flint is convinced that the sudden death of her boyfriend Dr Simon Sharkey was not from natural causes. As roads out of London become gridlocked with people fleeing infection, Stevie's search for Simon's killers takes her in the opposite direction, into the depths of the dying city and a race with death. A Lovely Way to Burn is the first outbreak in the Plague Times trilogy. Chilling, tense and completely compelling, it's Louise Welsh writing at the height of her powers.

I hope she's not writing at the height of her powers. It makes it sound intriguing that 'it doesn't look like murder in a city full of death', and it sounds like an intriguing story could be written about investigating one suspicious death among hundreds or thousands of plague deaths. This is not that story. The way that the main character ignores the growing panic of the pandemic makes her seem clueless rather than persistent. Several reviewers made the observation that this is written more like an action movie screenplay than a novel, and I tend to agree. The characters are hard to sympathize with because they're not given much depth.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Goodreads synopsis: A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth. 
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

Reads like it was written BY a shallow, privileged, self-absorbed seventeen-year-old, instead of just about one.

Forgotten by Cat Patrick. Goodreads synopsis: Each night at precisely 4:33 am, while sixteen-year-old London Lane is asleep, her memory of that day is erased. In the morning, all she can "remember" are events from her future. London is used to relying on reminder notes and a trusted friend to get through the day, but things get complicated when a new boy at school enters the picture. Luke Henry is not someone you'd easily forget, yet try as she might, London can't find him in her memories of things to come. 
When London starts experiencing disturbing flashbacks, or flash-forwards, as the case may be, she realizes it's time to learn about the past she keeps forgetting-before it destroys her future.

I came REALLY close to not finishing this, once I realized that the whole only-remembering-her-future thing is not a science-fiction thing but is actually introduced as a possible neurological phenomenon that we're supposed to swallow with no explanation, plausible or not, at all. It's too easy to borrow ebooks on a whim while surfing around on Overdrive, but after the last couple I'm going to have to try to be more discerning. This was just silly. The idea that she could be in love with Luke despite having to be re-introduced to him every day is ridiculous, but I shouldn't even HAVE to argue that, because the entire premise is such that this book should not exist. I am outraged that someone published it without extensive revisions.

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing by P.D. Viner: Goodreads synopsis: A riveting psychological thriller in the tradition of Before I Go to Sleep and Memento that introduces P. D. Viner as a master of suspense.
Twenty years ago, college student Dani Lancing was kidnapped and brutally murdered. The killer was never found, and the case has long gone cold. Her parents, Patty and Jim, were utterly devastated, their marriage destroyed. While Jim fell apart, Patty was consumed by the unsolved case. She abandoned her journalism career and her marriage to spend every waking hour searching and plotting. She keeps contact with Tom, Dani's childhood sweetheart, who has become a detective intent on solving murders like Dani's. When he finds a lead that seems ironclad, he brings Patty in on it. After years of dead ends, her obsession is rekindled, and she will do anything for revenge, even become a killer herself-dragging her whole family into the nightmare once again, as lies and secrets are uncovered.

I don't know. It felt like it should have been more moving than it actually was. The way the parents each acted out their grief was interesting, and it was actually quite well-plotted, so maybe it was just me. 

Catch Your Death by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards.

No synopsis on Goodreads. It was a crappy medical thriller like, who's that guy I used to read when I was twelve? Robin Cook? Bad characters, bad writing, bad sex scenes, bad. Bad. 

Prodigal Blues by Gary A. Braunbeck. Goodreads synopsis: From award-winning author Gary A. Braunbeck comes Prodigal Blues, his first foray into non-supernatural horror.
After he finds himself stranded at a truck stop in Missouri, Mark Sieber gets one of the biggest shocks of his life when he recognizes the face of a little girl on a Missing poster as belonging to the same little girl he saw only a few minutes before. Looking around for some sign of her, he comes back to his table in the restaurant to find the little sitting there, waiting for him.
"I'm sorry, mister," is all she seems capable of saying.
As the police and media begin to converge on the truck stop, Mark retreats back to his hotel room to call his wife and let her know what's going on, only to be taken hostage by the same people who released the little girl. But his abductors are little more than children themselves.
Ranging in ages from 12 to 19, Mark's abductors are in the process of escaping from a sadistic pedophile known to them only as "Grendel" a man whose practices include torture and mutilation specifically, mutilation of the face.
Mark's abductors have all been mutilated by Grendel who may be very close behind them and need someone with a "normal face" to help them carry out their plan for justice and returning home.
For the next few days, Mark will come to understand not only the inhuman horror that these children have suffered, but how they eventually learned to fight back and how they discovered that Grendel and his practices are at the center of a very complex network catering to those who tastes run toward the molestation and mutilation of children.
Prodigal Blues is perhaps Braunbeck's most suspenseful and emotionally powerful work to date; a story of suffering, depravity, redemption, and in the end the individual's compassion for his or her fellow human beings that can lead some people to finding reserves of courage and determination they never thought they possessed.
Terrifying, suspenseful, sometimes surprisingly funny, and ultimately moving, Prodigal Blues is quintessential Braunbeck.

Goddammit, I read ONE fantastic, shocking, devastating short story by this guy ONCE years ago, and I keep getting sucked into trying his novels and they are NOT GOOD. He seems to think he has to go to the most horrible, degrading, repulsive depths of human nature in order to then show its redeeming features, but it just turns out as a gross-out freakshow followed by some over-the-top schmaltz. If I reach for another one, somebody SLAP me. 

The Burning Girl by Holly Phillips. Goodreads synopsis: Evoking images as beautiful as they are disturbing, Phillips tells the story of Rye Coleman, a young woman with a past so mysterious that even she does not know it all. Caught between two worlds at war, Rye's only ally is Daniel Bardo, a troubled ex-cop whose past is nearly as mysterious, and as dark, as her own. Rye and Bardo are drawn into the cross-reality conflict, and the deeper they go, the more obvious it is that Rye is faced with questions that even Bardo cannot answer. 

Hmm. I think this is a first novel, so maybe Phillips will build up some plotting skills to go with her considerable talent for vivid imagery. As it was, I just found this to be an interesting premise and some nice writing with a story that didn't go very far or give much of a sense of progress or character growth.

Dark Father by James Cooper. Goodreads synopsis: What drives a violent husband and dysfunctional father to pursue his wife and son across a moonlit English landscape? 
What compels a troubled man to rebuild his broken family, constructing a fractured reality of hollow promises and false hope? 
What forces an old man suffering from a rare mental disorder to reconcile the terror of the past with the daily torment of being locked in a mental hospital where everyone he sees bears the face of his father? 
The answers lie in a disturbing journey of suffering and harrowing self-discovery. 

Evil has many fathers.

This was an interesting conceit, and having finished it I appreciate the structure, and the attempt to create something other than a linear sequence of frightening events. There is certainly ample horror to be mined from the subject of damaged and dangerous fathers. I just kept thinking that it would have benefited so much from a little more subtlety.

The Gifted by Gail Bowen. Goodreads synopsis: Joanne Kilbourn is as feisty as ever in the 14th book of the series that bears her name. This time, Jo and Zack's young daughter Taylor's precocious talent as a painter has drawn the attention of people who may not be at all what they seem . . . 
Jo and Zack are both proud and a little concerned when their youngest daughter Taylor -- whose birth mother was a brilliant but notoriously promiscuous artist -- has two paintings chosen for a high-level fund-raising auction. One they've seen; the other, a portrait of a young male artist's model, Taylor has carefully guarded in her studio. Their concern grows when it becomes clear (and quite public) that the young man is the lover of the older socialite who organized the fund-raiser -- and whose husband is Zack's old friend.
Soon, an ugly web of infidelity, addiction, and manipulation seems to be weaving itself around the Kilbourn-Shreve family. Jo and Zack are doing their best to keep everyone safe, but when one of the principal players in the drama is found murdered, events begin to spiral, Taylor seems to be drifting further away, and their very darkest fears seem about to be realized.
The Gifted reconfirms Gail Bowen's incomparable ability to interweave the domestic and the dramatic, and to explore the dark side of human nature while ensuring that the life-affirming pillars of family and friendship remain standing.

I used to love this series, but I'm in agreement with the other commenters who think that it's grown stale. Didn't we already see a storyline where a troubled adolescent boy was obsessed with the artist daughter? And hasn't the oldest daughter's turbulent love life also been run into the ground a little? And while I'm totally down with the second marriage, the way she neglects to specify right away that her children are from her first marriage or adopted seems weird - it's fine for Zack to be LIKE a father to them, but he's not actually their father. Then there's the fact that every single time she talks about Taylor or anyone else painting, she invariably uses the pretentious term 'making art'. Okay, I'm just nitpicking now. I usually love it when characters in a series grow and change, but this feels less like growth and more like stultification. Not to mention the everpresent danger of Jessica Fletcher syndrome when a character isn't a police officer or private detective - why exactly DO people keep dropping dead around this woman?

Don't Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout. Goodreads synopsis: Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all-popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend. 
Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it's one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took "mean girl" to a whole new level, and it's clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She's getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she's falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash. 
But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night isn't just buried deep inside of Sam's memory-someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?

I'm a sucker for a teen-age amnesia story, and who doesn't love a good old "protagonist loses her memory, discovers she was a complete and total bitchwad and gains a sweet new perspective" tale. And for what this is, it's perfectly adequate. The problem, for me at least, is that what it is is a cheesy formulaic teen romance with a smidge of amnesiac mystery thrown in. There is absolutely nothing quirky or off-beat about the romance - the love interest is nominally in a different socio-economic class, but he's drop-dead gorgeous, athletic and perfect in every way, and he's constantly there in a 'rescue' capacity, which is unbelievably dull and unchallenging to every stereotype ever. Bleah.

The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanigahara. Goodreads synopsis: In 1950, a young doctor called Norton Perina signs on with the anthropologist Paul Tallent for an expedition to the remote Micronesian island of Ivu'ivu in search of a rumored lost tribe. They succeed, finding not only that tribe but also a group of forest dwellers they dub "The Dreamers," who turn out to be fantastically long-lived but progressively more senile. Perina suspects the source of their longevity is a hard-to-find turtle; unable to resist the possibility of eternal life, he kills one and smuggles some meat back to the States. He scientifically proves his thesis, earning worldwide fame and the Nobel Prize, but he soon discovers that its miraculous property comes at a terrible price. As things quickly spiral out of his control, his own demons take hold, with devastating personal consequences.

Please note that the one-star rating denotes "I didn't like it", not "it wasn't good". In point of fact, I hated it, but I'm in the position of wondering whether the book caused my bad mood or my bad mood poisoned my reception of the book. I always maintain that I don't require a likable protagonist to admire a book, so I don't think that was it. Really, my gut reaction is "most boring book on possible immortality EVER". Everything seemed bloated, drawn out and devoid of any kind of freshness, from Norton's recollection of his parents to his recounting of his scientific discovery. I just didn't care about any of it; well, the part about Victor at the end did start to draw me in, but at that point it felt like too little too late

Wolf by Jim Ringel. Goodreads synopsis: Johnny Wolfe carries his dog Sindra in a vial that he keeps in his pocket. He carries her out of loyalty. He carries her out of guilt. He carries her because there are no more dogs in this world. And he carries her to connect to her feral nature, so that he might take her inside himself and feel her animal wildness. 
Johnny’s life is in shambles. His sales career at Bulldog Enterprises is on the blink. On his way to work one day he comes across a colleague who is killed by a dog. But with dogs now extinct, how is this possible? Going through his colleague’s dead body, Johnny discovers the colleague is carrying a rather sizeable sales order. Figuring “he’s dead, I’m not”, Johnny decides to place the order as his own. 
Except he can’t figure out what product the colleague is selling. As he gets closer to understanding the product, Johnny starts to realize it has more and more to do with why the dogs might be returning, and why they’re so angry. 
Then he starts to wonder if maybe the dogs know more about him and Sindra, and if maybe they’re angry with him.

I loved the plot description, but I couldn't connect with this book. It was almost uniformly bleak, off-putting and icky, with many references to bodily unpleasantness. The main character is a complete underdog, constantly victimized and mistreated and not doing anything to fight back. All of this could still work, and maybe it did for some people. I just found it all kind of nauseating. The plot thread of bringing the dogs back never really seemed to materialize in any way except metaphorically.

You Lost Me There by Rosecrans Baldwin. Goodreads synopsis: By turns funny, charming, and tragic, Rosecrans Baldwin's debut novel takes us inside the heart and mind of Dr. Victor Aaron, a leading Alzheimer's researcher at the Soborg Institute on Mount Desert Island in Maine. Victor spends his days alternating between long hours in the sterile lab and running through memories of his late wife, Sara. He has preserved their marriage as a sort of perfect, if tumultuous, duet between two opposite but precisely compatible souls. But one day, in the midst of organizing his already hyperorganized life, Victor discovers a series of index cards covered in Sara's handwriting. They chronicle the major "changes in direction" of their marriage, written as part of a brief fling with couples counseling. Sara's version of their great love story is markedly different from his own, which, for the eminent memory specialist, is a startling revelation. Victor is forced to reevaluate and relive each moment of their marriage, never knowing is the revisions will hurt or hearten. Meanwhile, as Victor's faith in memory itself unravels, so too does his precisely balanced support network, a group of strong women-from his lab assistant to Aunt Betsy, doddering doyenne of the island-that had, so far, allowed him to avoid grieving.

Borrowed this on a whim as a library ebook, chiefly because the author's name was cool, secondly because the synopsis sounded like it could be good, and I'm always interested in books that riff on the function and fallibility of memory. There were some touching moments, but mostly it was confusing, confused, and sort of pathetic, and all the female characters were either nondescript or caricatures. The musings on memory were good as a start, but that thread kept getting dropped, so it never went any further than some already well-trod ground.

The Children Who Time Lost by Marvin Amazon. Goodreads synopsis: What happened to the children?
The year is 2043, and humans have been mysteriously unable to reproduce for almost thirty years. To prevent panic and keep the population from dwindling to nothing, global authorities offer a Lotto, where a few winners each week can enter a time portal and bring back adopted children from the future. They’re never allowed to talk about what they saw.
The exception to this system is Los Angeles resident and reluctant celebrity Rachel Harris, the only woman of her generation to naturally give birth. Years of medical tests and treatments have been unable to explain or replicate her pregnancy, and the whole world grieved when Rachel’s daughter died in a tragic accident.
When Rachel wins the Lotto, she’s shocked, and then elated. She can be a mother again. But the baby she meets in 2108 carries a secret that will shatter Rachel’s reality and endanger everyone close to her. Now Rachel must race across time to save her life and her child, even as she discovers that nothing—and no one—are what they seem.

Another interesting premise. Unfortunately, a catchy premise was buried by clunky writing, repetitive action and tone-deaf dialogue. Case in point: the title is perfectly acceptable for a book title, but to have someone exclaim "It's the children! The children who time lost!" is cheesy and space-opera-ish. The description of the aliens is particularly unfortunate: there are "organisms" sticking out from their bodies, which are repeatedly referred to - "the organisms did this", "the organisms did that", "the organisms slithered towards us". After the initial few chapters, the whole thing devolves into Rachel and a couple of men running, driving, getting shot at, eating meals in hotel rooms and then repeating the whole sequence, with some "confusing" sexual tension (between Rachel and almost every other male character, even though she's supposedly still mourning her husband) thrown in. 

Eighth Grade Bites (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod #1) by Heather Brewer. Goodreads synopsis: Junior high really sucks for thirteen-year-old Vladimir Tod. Bullies harass him, the principal is dogging him, and the girl he likes prefers his best friend. Oh, and Vlad has a secret: his mother was human, but his father was a vampire. With no idea of the extent of his powers, Vlad struggles daily with his blood cravings and his enlarged fangs. When a substitute teacher begins to question him a little too closely, Vlad worries that his cover is about to be blown. But then he faces a much bigger problem: he's being hunted by a vampire killer.

It wasn't terrible, it was just much more middle-school than I had expected from reading about the series. Vladimir seems younger even than thirteen, and the action is more on the corny side of humorous than suspenseful. Possibly good for tweens who want vampire fiction without the scares.

The Twelve (The Passage #2) by Justin Cronin. Goodreads synopsis: At the end of The Passage, the great viral plague had left a small group of survivors clinging to life amidst a world transformed into a nightmare. In the second volume of this epic trilogy, this same group of survivors, led by the mysterious, charismatic Amy, go on the attack, leading an insurrection against the virals: the first offensives of the Second Viral War.
To do this, they must infiltrate a dozen hives, each presided over by one of the original Twelve. Their secret weapon: Alicia, transformed at the end of book one into a half human, half viral—but whose side, in the end, is she really on?

Pointless, meandering, nonsensical, dull..... did I say pointless? 

After Eden by Helen Douglas. Goodreads synopsis: Eden Anfield loves puzzles, so when mysterious new boy Ryan Westland shows up at her school she's hooked. On the face of it, he's a typical American teenager. So why doesn't he recognise pizza? And how come he hasn't heard of Hitler? What puzzles Eden the most, however, is the interest he's taking in her. 
As Eden starts to fall in love with Ryan, she begins to unravel his secret. Her breakthrough comes one rainy afternoon when she stumbles across a book in Ryan's bedroom - a biography of her best friend - written over fifty years in the future. Confronting Ryan, she discovers that he is there with one unbelievably important purpose ... and she might just have destroyed his only chance of success.

After the last two YA books I read, I'm taking a break from YA if it's not by an author I've already read. I'm sick of love triangles and poorly-kept secrets (Boy: "I can't tell you why I'm here. If I tell you, it will get us both killed." Girl: "But I really REALLY want to know!" Boy: "Okay.") and teen angst, and the last two books didn't even have snappy dialogue and comic relief, which can often make up for the other elements. YA these days is turning out to be a lot like Science Fiction and Fantasy: the good is very very good - the bad is horrid.

Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock. Goodreads synopsis: Fans of Maggie Stiefvater and the hit television show True Blood will flock to this first book in the supernatural mystery series set in a town where werewolves live in plain sight.
Mackenzie Dobson's life has been turned upside down since she vowed to hunt her best friend Amy's killer: a white werewolf. Lupine syndrome—also known as the werewolf virus—is on the rise across the country, and bloodlust is not easy to control. But it soon becomes clear that dangerous secrets are lurking in the shadows of Hemlock, Mac's hometown—and she is thrown into a maelstrom of violence and betrayal that puts her in grave danger.
Kathleen Peacock's thrilling debut novel provides readers with a mystery that Kimberly Derting, author of The Body Finder, calls "clever and frightening," while Sophie Jordan, New York Times bestselling author ofFirelight, raves: "Forget every werewolf book you've ever read. This one breaks the mold."

Tried to while away a wide-awake insomniac night with this. The best I can say is, it killed some time. It certainly did not break any molds, and they should be smacked for comparing it to Maggie Stiefvater. 


Marilyn said...

I had to go to GoodReads to remind myself how I rated Night Film. I gave it three stars, though I think I was being kind. However, I really liked the beginning...and the possibility of the story, it just fell apart. And the italics! Oy. They killed me.

Steph Lovelady said...

Did you like the first book in the Justin Cronin series? I remember I did, but not much about it. Wondering if it would be worth reading the second one...

Nicole said...

I started Good Reads because I thought it was a great way to keep track of things - I think I started because you told me about it, actually. Anyway, I haven't been on Good Reads so long that I'm embarrassed now. Like, people have added me as a friend and I've never gone on to confirm it and...I AM TERRIBLE. But maybe I should start again, because when I read your summary posts I'm always noting things down on post-it notes, then I lose them, so really, it's not a great way to keep track.

Amy Boughner said...

You know, you're making some of us feel bad

Alison said...

Thank you for this! I was planning to read a couple of these (We Were Liars and Night Film) but I think we have similar enough taste that I will give them a miss.

Maggie said...

I have rushed to the comments to agree about reading YA. I've hit the wall on the "romance"/love triangle aspect of every YA novel. Perhaps I am misremembering, but it feels like when I was a teenager I could find plenty of YA type books that did not include some stupid, predictable love triangle BS. I would love so many books so much more if they just got rid of the stupid love triangle and told the story.

Unrelated: I just started We Were Liars and hoped the tone would get better. Seeing it will not, I may have to return it to the library unfinished. Bleh.