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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Books of December 2014

I finally changed my last name in December and, as a result, I spent a fair amount of the month doing really boring things like filling out forms, waiting in lines, and googling... stuff. Yawn. I saw two (!) movies in the theater (Interstellar and The Hobbit pt. 3), which is something I haven't done in years. We also ran the Santa Race and I did a virtual race (more to come), but beyond that December focused on holiday prep and travel. I have to admit, December's been tough. I'm brain dead at work and at home. Our house is a mess, but I have faith it'll get better in the new year. On to the books!

Finished December 16, 2014
by Mark Z. Danielewski

Review: 5 / 5 
I'm finished! (I took a three month break.) I don't think you can give a work this complex anything less than 5 stars (unless you hated it, which I did not). Upon completion, I perused the official online message board and while some have interesting theories, they obviously don't know more than I do, so I'll keep to my own hypotheses. 

I would not recommend this book to many people. It is an undertaking for individuals who really enjoy reading and puzzles. I did a lot of flip-flopping from front to back as I read and I'd advise against that for a first time read-through. Just go in order. The *only* part I could see being worth reading out of order are the Whalestone Letters from Johnny's mother. 

I will have to read it again some day. Flipping through, a couple of the earlier passages caught my eye and they have so much more meaning after reading the entire thing. 

No spoilers here, so I'll just wrap up with my final thoughts: WHY isn't this a miniseries?! I don't think it would fit into a 2 hour movie mold and there wouldn't be enough for multiple seasons, but a short run show –maybe 13 episodes – would be amazing. C'mon!* 

*Oh, Mark Danielewski has refused to sell the rights. Maybe he'll change his mind someday.

Finished December 6, 2014
by Mac Barnett, Illustrated by Jon Klassen

Review: 4 / 5 
(Technically I finished this before House of Leaves, but that was my pièce de résistance of 2015.) I grabbed this at the library on a whim (I'm working on a few children's book illustrations). The illustrator is from Columbus and the author has my (old) last name, so why not? It's a cute story with a bit of a twist near the end, but it's still a children's picture book so there isn't too much to blow your mind. The art is simple, but well done. 

Sometimes I feel guilty including things like this in my list of books read, but - hey - it's a book, I read it, and I recommend it if you're in the market for a cute, slightly alternative children's book. 

Finished December 22, 2014
by James Dashner

Review: 3 / 5 
Seems three starts is the general consensus of my Goodreads friends and I agree. 

I started this on audiobook, but it expired so I got the real book. It wasn't bad, but the more I think about it, the more I wonder: why teens? I suppose it's kind of like Ender's Gamer where future generations are the only hope, but surely there are other more mature people in the world who do not have to be tested like this?

The setting was interesting, the premise somewhat intriguing, but I felt like it dragged on for a bit. I was also pretty annoyed at how many secrets Thomas kept throughout. I'm not sure how much more supportive Newt and Minho had to be for Thomas to "shuck" it all and just tell the truth! And isn't it interesting that in a male-narrated teen dystopian novel the focus is on the problem and NOT the potential love interest? 

Anyway, it was fine overall. I really wish this wasn't a series. (I didn't realize it was until I added it to Goodreads after I'd started Book 1. Bummer.) I may watch the movie, but I'm afraid the Grievers will look silly.

Finished December 28, 2014
by Libba Bray

Review: 2 / 5 
Good Lord this book was terrible. 

First, it's about 600 pages too long. Nothing happens until about 60% of the way through and when things start moving they felt rushed. 

Second, what's the point? I've felt this way during all three books. What's the point of the magical realm? What does it really have to do with the real world? How did these groups of people become the protectors? What's so special about Gemma? What was the deal with her mom? Why were Miss Moore and Miss McCleethy written in such a similar manner to be almost indistinguishable (maybe more of an issue in Book 2)? Why did it end the way it did? After all that, it was kind of anticlimactic. 

Third, what a waste of side characters. Kartik is probably a handsome dude, but I felt more chemistry between Gemma and Simon than Gemma and Kartik. Maybe Bray decided we didn't need chemistry as long as Kartik was hot, "exotic", and mildly dangerous? And what was the point of Pippa's power if her resolution was so speedy? Sloppy. 

Fourth, speaking of sloppy: Libba Bray is pretty good writer. This felt like reading her first draft. Plot points were half explained, characters would decide to do something without warning, and Gemma spent far too long figuring out what to do. Let's be real, if it weren't for the older women she would have been completely useless (and not just mostly useless). 

Finally, I really hate visions as a story-telling mechanic. C'mon. If some ghost is going to come back to provide clues, why on earth wouldn't they clearly state their purpose? "Hey Gemma, here's the thing you need. Save everyone."

The time period was the part I liked most about this series. Unfortunately, it felt like a crappy Lady Emily rip-off. 

Finished December 29, 2014
by Jacques Lob, Jean-Marc Rochette (Illustrations), Virginie Selavy (Translator)

Review: 3 / 5 
This wasn't too bad, but the changes they made for the movie were warranted. The plot isn't that similar: just the setting and the cars along the way. I may read Vol. 2 because it went so fast, but Alex did not enjoy this.

Finished December 31, 2014
by Tavi Gevinson (Editor)

Review: 5 / 5 
Like Yearbook One, Yearbook Two is full of really interesting articles that range from advice to interviews to general life stories. I skipped the fashion spreads, but read the rest cover to cover. Rookie is a great resource and I'm happy they've decided to release their content in book form. I don't want to read long-form articles online. 

I'll copy one part of my Yearbook One review word-for-word: "Everything is so honest and non-judgmental. They treat high brow/low brow and homo/hetero the same. It's amazing."

One of the best parts of this collection (if not these best) is the short story "The Year I Learned Everything" (also online). I was not prepared for this piece of fiction! So good.

- - - - - - - -

For the most part, these reviews were ripped from my Goodreads. 

What did you read in December? 
What are you reading now? 

What I'm looking forward to: I have no idea! I don't have a plan or challenge in mind for 2015. I should work on my to-read bookcase; it's insane how many books I have. Been thinking about taking on Popsugar's challenge. Seems like a good variety.  

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