Thursday, July 10, 2014

Review of Elisa Ludwig's "The Coin Heist"

     When it takes me longer than two days to post reviews, that's a sign I'm bored to death trying to get through whichever book I am currently reading. Time between reviews, 5 days. I have been inconsistent with how fast I read books, but consistent in how I read the books I enjoy in two days, and the ones I dislike in nearly a week. It is throwing off my schedule, and it is difficult to account for whether or not I'll like a book. By the time I start reading the first chapter, I have already set myself in stone, because it is just as important to read books I detest, as it is to read the ones that make my week. That way, I know what works well, and what falls flat.

    If you're going to have four main characters, make them all uniquely distinguishable. Not just different appearances in backstories, because if they all speak like the same person, it is easy to mix them up. Ludwig was able to shove all the characters into the standard high school cliques, nerd, burnout, popular overachiever, and jock. Then it took the breakfast club, and mixed it with a watered down Ocean's Eleven. Then it took the easy route, setting the main characters attracted to each other.
    If I could add something that this book sorely needed, it would be a villain with a face. The villain in this book was that the characters made a mistake in their plan, or maybe hormones. Otherwise, the threat was nullified because there was nobody throwing himself/herself in the way. The motives were also lacking, because these characters were all doing it for money, but most of them did not justify why they would risk imprisonment for money. One character seemed to only do it because she could hack into the Coin Mint's system. Another did it because he lost his football scholarship to an academics based college prep high school with a poor football team.
    This school was already throwing its money down the drain drafting football players, before it got robbed by the dean. This school has millions of dollars in funding, and somehow entrusted all of that to the dean, rather than a treasurer. And the guy manages to blow $50 million dollars without the school noticing.
    I found the logic in this book so flawed, and the story arc so predictable, I had no drive to see what would happen next. If this ever winds up on my shelf, I hope someone stages an elaborate heist to steal and take it far away.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Review of Blake Nelson's "The Prince of Venice Beach"

    This book I primarily read by loitering inside a Barnes and Noble, which is fitting for this book. I remember going to the setting of this book, Venice Beach once, and my friend said he wished he could be one of the people who just live on the beach so he could get to know all of the interesting folk. I thought, why would you ever want to do something like that:

    This book felt surreal, because it was about homelessness and teens with mental problems, but it was so down to earth. Somehow, the subject matter only bred hope and you almost never pity these characters. Nelson was never trying to make readers feel guilty, and did not try to shove any values down readers' throats. It blended realism and the mundane into a subject that would be abstract to most people.
    I appreciate the effort in keeping this story grounded. It is difficult to wrap one's head around the mind set of some of these characters, but that does not lessen how endearing they are. Cali, shines with optimism and great morals throughout. Jojo just sounds like the best guy you'll ever meet who wears Spongebob sneakers and sleeps on the beach. Other characters play their roles and most are brief, they feel like they exist their in this world, not just plot devices.
    I did have a few issues. The first person narration lead to Cali making generalizations about characters before we got to meet them which tampers with their images. I would prefer if he did not fill my head with the preassembled description that I have for "nerdy girl" and just let a character breathe a bit. I get that we want to see how he perceives her, but that will tamper with how I view her if he makes this statement before he meets her. I also felt like the evil twins showed up too often, too at random. They seemed like they were shoehorned in wherever the plot needed them.
    Otherwise, one of my favorite books of the Super Summer. That's 10 down, 15(+) to go! And shelf.

bad things:
-first person and Cali
-the random twins
-Cali explaining people

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Review of John Green's "An Abundance of Katherines"

    I normally try to space out my reading of high-profile authors, but chose to follow up Suzanne Collins with John Green for 2 reasons: 1) I have wanted to read a John Green book for a while now, because he is such a huge author currently in the YA field 2) After reading Mockingjay, I wanted to read something lighter, and so I compromised with my first stipulation by reading a light John Green book. I had wanted to read The Fault in our Stars, but after seeing the movie first, I new it would be heavy. With this review, I've decided to go more in-depth. My review of Mockingjay brief, because had I let myself go, I would have dissected like an alien life form:

    One thing that struck me immediately with this book, was that it was told in the third person. Many popular YA novels thick with quirky narrators and teenage angst opt for the first person view. I appreciated the extra effort. What I did not like so much towards the beginning, was all of the "telling" mostly used to describe character's habits. It felt like my hand was being held too much. The first third had some other troubles such as the narrator giving an opinion out of nowhere, clich├ęd dialogue and Colin being overly judgmental. Then the last third of the book seemed to get lazy with description, and throw in adverbs. The one thing that annoyed me that isn't a common issue, was the use of the word "fug," and more so its overuse. Until it was explained, the word seemed like a childish way to get around using cuss words. Dialogue does not need cussing to make it impactful, but this turned out to be more of a homage. Now that I have covered my issues, on to the story.
    What carried most of this book was Colin's personality, and just listening to him. Otherwise, not much else had me craving to see what would happen next. One of the strongest problems was the large cast of characters, that are all given limited time and limited personalities so that they seem like filler between Colin's breakthroughs. Most of the other dynamic elements seemed to just fall in place, and Colin merely coexisted with them. His relationship with Hasan and their bickering was also a highlight of the book, but their language made every other character seem too bland. I loved hearing from them so much, and following Colin's train of thought, that it seemed every other aspect was just a nuisance of Green to write.
    I had to admire John Green for the work he put into writing this, such as the cliffnote on remembering the number sequence of pi. He put a lot of love into the little details, that made this book seem real, but almost so real that they seem like they were outright conceived outside of the novel. I think the main issue of this book was spending too much effort on certain aspects that most of the story could not match that level of passion. It was an uneven trip.
    I do not think it was the strongest John Green book to have started off with, but with the few characters he played with, I could see all of the passion and precision he puts into his work. It is hard not to love a book where you can see the author put so much work into. Shelf.