Monthly Archives: April 2014

12) Dangerous

By: Shannon Hale

Date Finished: 04.06.14

by Shannon Hale

My parents have to work really hard to be funny.  They’re scientists.

Humming the Star Wars theme to encourage myself, I wobbled onto my feet.  Sometimes a girl’s gotta provide her own trumpet-heavy soundtrack.

Falling in love and falling to your death feel about the same, I thought.  And I almost laughed.

Maisie Danger Brown really hasn’t faced much danger in her life.  She didn’t go looking for trouble either — she was just interested in space.  When she saw a sweepstakes for an youth astronaut training camp, well, what would be the harm in entering?  Unexpectedly, Maisie does win, but at the conclusion of the perfect three weeks, she becomes infected with a superpower and things take a turn for the dangerous.

I know, there’s a lot of Shannon Hale love on this blog already, but this one’s new and it’s sci fi, how could I resist?  In truth, the book doesn’t sound like her much at all.  Which is brilliant.  Dangerous is a completely different genre than her other books and deserves the unique voice and style.  And, as I hoped, Maisie Danger Brown is a delightful heroine who stole my heart and who I definitely want by my side if faced with an apocalypse.

This book truly has it all.  And I don’t mean anything trite or cliche by that statement — Hale did a stellar job of blending story elements that don’t always mesh together.  It’s sci fi, so there’s a lot of talk about science and technology.  It’s about a superhero, so there’s an origin story, nemeses (nemesi? maybe?), action sequences, and moral dilemmas.  But as science-oriented as these characters may be, they know poetry, Greek mythology, Shakespeare, music — that is, they have interests outside of that one THING THAT THEY DO.  (How many people are defined by a singular interest?  How many characters, especially secondary characters?)  Not only that, but Maisie’s family — a father AND a mother — are present for much of the book and help drive the plot.  Not only that, but there is romance an interesting and realistic romance woven through.  Oh, and did I mention it’s not futuristic?  The whole thing is more or less present day.

My sister said she read it twice in a row.  I understand the impulse and nearly succumbed to it myself.  The story is so delicious that it’s hard to let go, plus there’s so much detail underlying the main story that it’s impossible to catch everything on a first read (the mark of an excellent book).  The funny thing is, at 400 pages even, it’s kind of long for a YA, but I wanted more.  I didn’t need more, but I sure wanted to linger.  Even if that meant flipping back to the first page and starting over.

In an uncharacteristic move, I read another blogger’s review (posted here) before writing my own.  For the most part, she said what I was already thinking, but she did bring up something I hadn’t thought of — the book is broken into three sections that could have been a trilogy under other circumstances.  The first is the origin story: how Maisie became special and was called into action.  The second is the survival story: how Maisie stayed out of immediate danger and planned for the future.  The third is the final stand: how Maisie came out of hiding to save the world and/or die trying.  In this culture of trilogies, I appreciate the care Hale took to streamline the story into a single book.  Yes, a trilogy would have been quite good because it’s Shannon Hale and because it’s a strong story, but it wouldn’t have been Dangerous.  She covered loads of ground in one book — over a year’s worth of time — but it flows elegantly, moves at a thrilling pace, and makes you invest in the characters even more.

This is a true gem of a book which raises the bar of all literature.  The gauntlet is down all you subsequent books because this is what quality writing looks like.

At the end of the day: Really, really, really for me.

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11) The Madness Underneath

Book Two of The Shades of London

By: Maureen Johnson

Date Finished: 04.05.14

by Maureen Johnson

“I definitely do not think,” I said.  And that was the truest thing I’d said in a long time.

Life is always going to be a series of ouch-making moments, and the question was, was I going to go all fetal position, or was I going to woman up?  I went into the fetal position on the bed to think about this.

The Rippermania surrounding London and Rory’s school in particular has died down, but Rory is still sequestered with her parents in Bristol.  There she is subjected to therapy sessions where she simply cannot disclose most of what happened even if she felt like pouring out her soul to a clinical stranger.  Then, without warning, her therapist recommends Rory return to her school in London and resume her previous life.  Her first night back, Rory learns she was brought back for a purpose as a new string of inexpiable murders have popped up.

I’m really not sure if I can talk rationally about this series even some weeks later.  Reading this book, I realized how much Rory and I have in common — not our personalities per-say, but our overactive imaginations definitely.  If my life went spiraling on some insane, possibly supernatural adventure, my narrator voice would sound similar to hers.  PLUS I have an irrational love for Stephen.  PLUS I do identify personality-wise with Jazza.  PLUS it’s full of that great Maureen Johnson sass, hi-jinks, and awkwardness spread among phenomenal characters.  How could I not swoon?

Now to say that she ended this on a cliffhanger is to define understatement.  It’s yet another reminder of why I don’t like to start a series until all the books are out, but it took me long enough to get my hands on a copy I simply refused to pass up the opportunity to read it.  This is a good book to read with a nighttime ambiance, but I finished in the middle of the day, incongruous to the atmosphere of the book (and my soul).  My immediate reaction was to wallow in sorrow on the couch, but there were birds singing outside my window, rudely interrupting my anguish with their cheerfulness.  Because of them, I sang Skeeter Davis’ “The End of the World” for the rest of the day.

Okay, okay, I complain about a broken heart, but in actuality, it was AWESOME.  It was a brilliant, perfect ending because SHE WENT THERE.  In an effort to be spoiler-free, let me just say that the rules of Johnson’s world are not as stringent as our own.  There is a very viable THING THAT CAN HAPPEN that cannot reasonably happen in most other books.  She opened the door in the first book — which was a gorgeous moment that I still fangirl over 14 months later — but she didn’t go through.  This time she did.  Honestly, I would have been disappointed if it hadn’t happened to someone.  Am I happy about who it happened to or how?  As a human, no.  As a reader, absolutely — it’s so much more devastating this way.

So, there you have it.  As calm and cohesive as I can manage.  If you haven’t read The Name of the Starjust pop on over to your local library and check it out.  I’ll be here when you come back.

At the end of the day: Really, really, really for me

10) Hollow City

Book Two of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children

By: Ransom Riggs

Date Finished: 03.26.14

by Ransom Riggs

“Do you ever find yourself climbing into an open grave during a bombing raid,” I said, “and just wish you’d stayed in bed?”

So it had come to this: everything depended on a pigeon.

The peculiar children are in danger and do everything they can to stay ahead of it.  (Seriously, I don’t know how to add any more detail without spoiling the first book entirely.)

Oh my gracious, what a difference a book makes!  Miss Peregrine’s is a good first novel, but this second book is much smoother.  On the whole, the pictures flow seamlessly with the narrative — more often than not, when I tried to guess what was in the upcoming photo, I was wrong.  Considering how contrived the pictures were in the first book, being wrong was a profound relief.

Plot-wise, it’s a travelling story with obstacles.  Lots and lots of obstacles.  There were times I wondered if it was going anywhere in particular, but it was interesting enough to see the children interact with the outside world, especially in the midst of World War Two in England.  Whenever someone decides that hanging out in the middle of a blitz is the safest option, you know I’m hooked.  The end has some nice surprises and provides a slick set up for the third book.  For me, the biggest hang up with this book is the excessive arguing.  With the large cast that Riggs does well to maintain, disagreements are only natural, but begin to drag down the story after a certain point.

Overall, I liked the shape of it, I liked the sequences, and I loved where it ended – cliffhanger notwithstanding.  I’m happy to see how much his writing has progressed and am definitely excited to keep following his books.

(This book will always have a special place in my heart because I attended my very first book signing for it.  I only found out about the event because I had a dream about the third book and in the morning looked up the release date of this one.  Hollow City hit stores three days before my dream and Riggs came into town the next day.  It was meant to be!)

At the end of the day: Really for me