Monday, December 17, 2007

Catching Up--Mini-Reviews

I've never done a mini-review before. I've always given each book my time and attention. But December has been the busiest time of the month. I'm always eight to twelve books behind. And I'm trying to post in the order I'm reading them. So that by the time I post a review, I read it anywhere from one to two-and-a-half weeks ago. So that isn't helping me out any. I'm always more at a loss of words when it's been that long.

The next two books are books I've read for Cybils. None of them are "bad" necessarily. But on a few of them we just didn't click that well. Call it moody reading if you want.

First up, So Not The Drama by Paula Chase. I wanted to like this book. I really did want to like it. I won this book in a contest last February or March, I believe. I had it on my Spring Reading Thing Challenge list. I think it even followed me over to the Summer Reading Thing Challenge. But we just never managed to click. I was busy. There was always another book beckoning to me. I wasn't hooked by the prologue or first chapter, etc. When it was nominated for a Cybils, I knew I'd finally get a chance to sit down and read it. The book is about a group of friends. 2 guys, 2 girls. Three African-American, 1 white. The main narrator is Mina. Mina wants one thing, needs one thing: to be popular, to sit at the popular kids' table. She's captain of the junior cheerleading squad. She's popular among other freshman. But high school still takes some getting used to. She's not as popular, not as "it" as she used to be. Her rivals seem fiercer than ever. And her friends seem more distant. (Whether this is because they're drifting or because they're tired of Mina's one-note song is debatable.) Lizzie is Mina's best friend. Lizzie wants to land a role--a real role--in the drama, The Wiz. She wants to be brave enough and good enough to land the role of Dorothy. Lizzie and Mina just aren't getting along. Mina is all "Me, me, me" and Lizzie, well, Lizzie listens patiently as she can as she tries to tell Mina what's going on in her life. But Mina is NOT a good listener. And she's not such a good friend. Mina starts hanging out with some other girls and she doesn't know quite how to make it work. Does she include the girls as part of the original group. Does she try to make Lizzie part of the new bunch? Should she have everyone hang out together or separately? And what if the new doesn't mesh with the old? The parts of So Not The Drama that I enjoyed were the parts not narrated by Mina. That probably sounds harsh, doesn't it. I really liked Lizzie. I liked the chapters on her trying out for the play. I liked the chapters where she had a voice and stood up to Mina. And some of the other characters were okay, but Mina...Mina just annoyed me. She was self-absorbed and popularity-crazed. I just didn't like hanging out with her. The good news? Everyone is different as a reader. While I didn't like Mina as a personality, you may like Mina. You may even love Mina. You might be the kind of reader that loves books about girls striving and obsessing over popularity and finding the right clique and making a real name for yourself. I would so read another book by Paula Chase if Lizzie were the main focus, the main narrator. (Paula, if you're reading and lest you think you're alone. I also dislike the main narrator in Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You and I detest the main narrator, Jessica, in Megan McCafferty's series...Sloppy Firsts, Second Helpings, Charmed Thirds, etc. Which in many people's opinions would put Mina in first-class society as Someday is getting great buzz as one of the best books of the year and the Megan McCafferty series is hugely popular.)


You might be laughing at me calling these mini-reviews in the first paragraph. Like I could really keep something short and sweet. But with the third review for this post...I hope to be just that. Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List. This one is by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. I didn't like last years book that they coauthored. I found it too full of profanity and not redemptive enough in the end. I liked bits and pieces of it I did. But it was just too much for me. When the author feels the need to have twenty to thirty f-words in a two page spread...it's just too much. There are other words, people. Hello. We get the point that the kid likes saying that word. Now get on with the plot already. But I was alone in my opinion. I think it was relatively popular. I don't know that it could rival Stephenie Meyer's books in popularity. But it was a successful book. My expectations were low. I didn't know if I'd like it or hate it. But I doubted I would love, love, love it. I'd say I liked it less than the first but for different reasons. This book had less profanity in my opinion. But it didn't have that sparkling, charismatic romance. The book wasn't a proper romance. This wasn't a book where a girl and a boy or (a boy and a boy for that matter) sizzle it up. It lacked chemistry. It lacked sparkle. It tried to give us a bit of it I think. Naomi's boyfriend, Bruce, and Naomi's best gay-guy friend, Ely, share a forbidden kiss. It happened--so they say--quite by chance. Naomi wanted them to be friends so they could hang out altogether. But what happens one day while she's not there...is a secret, forbidden kiss that they both enjoyed a bit too much. Much is predictable in this book. Of course Naomi is in love with her gay best friend. Yes, she's hoping that he'll wake up one day and realize that he's not gay but straight and is madly in love with her. Yes, she's just having fill-in guys be her boyfriend and not getting emotionally involved with anyone because she's saving her heart and her body for a man who doesn't want it. So Naomi is crushed by Ely not Bruce when the truth comes out. I think the reason I didn't like this novel was because it was told from too many different perspectives. It wasn't just two or three or even four. There were strange narrators popping in and out all over the place. There was just too many characters, too many narrators, too many small stories going on, and lack of focus in general. It zoomed in and out and around and fluttered around all over the place--busy as a bee going from flower to flower--but in the end I didn't care for many of the characters or the stories they told. The one thing I loved about the first book was largely missing from the second.

4 comments:

Paula 3:24 PM  

LOL Becky, you're aces at making an author feel bad and yet not so awful, simultaneously. Bummer that you didn't like Mina, but glad you pointed out that some others may. I can live with that. Ummm...gonna have to. :-)

Reminds me of the Queen Latifah movie Last Holiday (I think is the title). I avoided watching it like the plague, it just seemed so "been there, done that." Then I ended up catching the last 45 minutes of it and found it predictably adorable. I felt bad for avoiding the movie for a year!

I guess we just never know what will tickle our fancy or just annoy the heck out of us.

Becky 3:34 PM  

Paula:

It's funny how characters can sometimes rub us the wrong way. But it's not personal at all. :) Perhaps Mina reminds me of someone I went to school with (???) there must be some psychological reason that trigger went off. But as I said, I loved Lizzie.

Becky

Anonymous,  3:54 PM  

And here I really loved the book.

Reviewer who isn't about to come out on this one for fear the B will retaliate

Paula 8:27 PM  

It's funny how characters can sometimes rub us the wrong way.

I know. The character Hannah in Jay Asher's book did that to me. And I felt so horrible for feeling that way due to the book's subject matter. Still, I couldn't help it. I enjoyed the book, just didn't like the MC.

LOL @ Anon 3:54. Hey, I'll take any fan of the book, even one who shall remain nameless.

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I'm always happy to hear from you! To help fight spam, comment moderation has been set up for posts older than two days. Feel free to ask me questions or ask for recommendations!

Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
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Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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