21 April 2016

Review: Sleeping Giants

Sleeping Giants Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had read about this book ages ago, and then when I got an opportunity to read it, I was pretty hyped up about it. Even with high expectations, this book, with an unconventional narrative structure and a cool premise, more than delivered.

The situation is fairly simple - the United States is finding pieces of... something. They're coming up from the earth, wreaking havoc, but they seem to be parts of a giant. A big hand, a leg segment, and so on. What starts as a collection quickly becomes a construction, and the more we learn from the construction the more strange everything seems, both from the perspective of what the weird giant machine is for and for the motives of those involved.

It's such a simple premise, done almost documentary-style in a fly-on-the-wall sort of way. The characters are simple but almost secondary to the overall concept behind the story, and it's a real page turner as a result. The beauty of the book is in its simplicity - we see the plans put into motion, the results, and slowly, more mysteries are revealed.

It's a simple read, popcornish in a sense, but it's exactly what I was looking for in a book like this. Absolutely recommended, especially for a sci-fi palate cleanser.

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13 April 2016

Review: OCDaniel

OCDaniel OCDaniel by Wesley King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Is it possible for something to try to be the OCD Stargirl?

Maybe so, as OCDaniel is about a boy who is the backup punter on his school football team. He struggles to keep his situation in line, having a lot of small OCD episodes, and meets a girl who intrigues him with a mystery and might be a good distraction for him.

There's a lot that's endearing about this book, but a lot that's kind of wrong about it. The girl, who signs a note "Fellow Star Child," feels like an attempt to subvert the whole Manic Pixie trope and just kind of falls flat, and Daniel's OCD is almost too stereotypical at times and the idea of him not having a clue as to what's going on until this point in his life defies believability. Especially when you have what is basically the seminal YA work on OCD in Kissing Doorknobs, a book like this doesn't necessarily have to surpass it, but it does have to go a little further in order to succeed, and this just didn't pull it off.

Ultimately, not really a recommendation except if you're seeking something specific from it. Closer to a 2.5.

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Review: Dreamology

Dreamology Dreamology by Lucy Keating
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'll always at least give a nod to books that try something a little different. Dreamology takes a basic teen romance trope and turns it on its head a bit, and, while it doesn't always work, it's a unique enough tale to take a look at.

Alice goes to her new school and sees a boy there, Max. Max happens to be a guy Alice has dreamed about for seemingly her whole life, and now he's just there at the same school. To make matters worse, it appears that the dreams that they have been sharing are starting to bleed into their real world, and this is causing obvious problems across the board. So now, Alice and Max need to figure out what's going on before it's perhaps too late.

In a way, this book is a little too unbelievable in some regards, and the way it gets sorted feels strange. The entire thing is a little mind-bendy, but I've never been fully into the "world of dreams" the way a lot of people, including those who are likely to be drawn to this, would be. It does try to use some sort of future-science scenarios to explain what's happening, but there doesn't feel like there's a ton of urgency or anything going on, which is arguably the biggest flaw.

If the concept appeals to you, you might love this. If you're a little more critical, though....

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12 April 2016

Review: Going Red: The Two Million Voters Who Will Elect the Next President--and How Conservatives Can Win Them

Going Red: The Two Million Voters Who Will Elect the Next President--and How Conservatives Can Win Them Going Red: The Two Million Voters Who Will Elect the Next President--and How Conservatives Can Win Them by Ed Morrissey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Closer to a 4.5.

Ed Morrissey is best known for his work on Hot Air, the conservative news site, but this book ended up being a surprisingly great, well-researched primer on the upcoming election.

Why does this work? It's more like a basic electoral roadmap about some of the most important areas for Republicans and how they can win. It's so well put together that it will work well as a historical document in a few cycles, and gives enough tips and information to work for years beyond as well.

The downside? In a year with Donald Trump making such great inroads, we'll never really get to see the extent of the value of this work.

Honestly, there's not a ton to say about this. The appeal is for conservative election wonks and movement types who are looking for in-depth information about Republican electoral options. Beyond that, it might not be much, but, for myself, I really found a lot to enjoy and digest in this. A pleasant, wonderful surprise.

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05 April 2016

Review: Queen of Likes

Queen of Likes Queen of Likes by Hillary Homzie
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Mmmm, anti-technology cautionary tales.

We have a girl names Karma who is obsessed with an Instagram-style clone. Her parents don't like her social media fame, she breaks a rule and loses access to the phone. She quickly Learns Her Lesson through volunteering and that there's more to life than just getting approval on social media. Everyone's happy.

Argh, this book. Yes, there's more to life than technology and social media. No, that doesn't mean that we must treat our phones like cancer. No, this doesn't mean that we need to be Luddites about everything. No, this especially doesn't mean we need to treat local historical societies as the last standard-bearers of a more innocent and humane time in which technology wasn't perverting everything.

This book just irritated me. Everything about it felt insincere and melodramatic, from the cover to the cardboard caricatures within the book. It's almost too preachy and on the nose, and sends just a terrible message. There's a way to write a book about our relationship with technology (especially in a teen/school setting) that does not require us to look at technology in such a negative way. It's just as unhealthy to treat cell phones, social media, and the like as negative tools as it is to be chained to our devices, and this book misses that completely.

Avoid this like the plague. It's just not a good read or a good message. Closer to a 1.5, but I'm not feeling generous.

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Review: When We Collided

When We Collided When We Collided by Emery Lord
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Closer to a 3.5.

The Start of Me and You is one of my favorite books ever, balancing fun teen romance with a great message about coping mechanisms and moving forward in times of crisis. When We Collided comes along with a similar point of view but with a different angle, and there are parts that work and parts that don't.

The story is about two teenagers, Vivi and Jonah. Jonah has essentially become the head of his household following the death of his father, especially given that her mother isn't coping well. Vivi is in town for the summer, and her flighty spontaneity quickly evolves into a whirlwind relationship where the two of them get to spread their wings a bit, learn about each other, and learn to cope with each other and each other's problems and failings.

It's definitely a good story, and I feel like Emery Lord is starting to find a nice niche for herself here. The issue with this story is more that I feel like the weight of the story isn't quite there. Jonah resists help, Vivi perhaps too stereotypical, and the choices being made are all a little strange. I can't quite pinpoint what didn't work, and maybe it was just my expectations being too high.

Still, a book I think will matter to kids who have to grow up too fast, teens who are depressed, and those prone to the type of fast-falling that summer relationships often provide. Growing up too fast is hard, and maybe this is a book that might slow it down for the right readers.

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