Wednesday, April 27, 2016

De Drácula a Madero: Viaje todo incluido a la Decena Trágica by M.B. Brozon

My rating:

Una noche de 2010, tres amigos se reúnen para invocar al espíritu del célebre creador de Drácula. Con velas encendidas y cierto escepticismo, aquello que parecía un ridículo ritual pronto se convierte en una experiencia insólita: dos de ellos son arrojados del presente para aterrizar en el año 1913, en el preámbulo de uno de los episodios más tristes y sanguinarios de la historia de México: la Decena Trágica. En medio de una ciudad en guerra, los protagonistas buscarán la forma de volver a su tiempo mientras se cruzan con los personajes que definieron el futuro del país. ¿Qué los llevó allá y qué los podrá regresar?, ¿hasta dónde sus acciones pueden alterar el curso de la historia? Estas sin algunas preguntas a las que se enfrentarán Juan Pablo y Marisol en esta sorprendente novela donde se conjugan el humor, la intriga, la historia y la ciencia ficción. (Goodreads).

Leí esta novela en muy poco tiempo, pero me impresionó mucho. Brozon mezcla la historia mexicana con la ciencia ficción y, yo diría, la fantasía también. Aunque el libro se trata de un viaje en el tiempo, Brozon no pasa demasiado tiempo con la explicación técnica de este fenómeno. En la ciencia ficción dura sí quiero todos los detalles científicos pero en este caso creo que lo interesante son los personajes y los hechos históricos.

Cuando Juan Pablo y Marisol se encuentran en el año 1913, tienen la ventaja de poder comunicarse con su amigo Gonzálo, quien todavía está en 2010. A través de la máquina de escribir que los tres usaron en la sesión espiritista, Gonzálo les envía información sobre los sucesos de la Decena Trágica para ayudarlos a sobrevivir mientras buscan una manera de regresar a su tiempo. Además Juan Pablo y Marisol enfrentan el problema de tener toda esta información del futuro sin poder compartirla incluso para salvar vidas. Brozon trata la historia y la moralidad sin escribir algo demasiado pesado para los adolescentes. De Drácula a Madero es una novela divertida que recomiendo mucho. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Modern Romance - by Aziz Ansari

My rating: 

For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita. They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humor book we’ve seen before.
In Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of our new romantic world. (Goodreads)

This book was really enjoyable and the audio was great because it's read by Aziz Ansari. The only downside to the audio was not being able to look at the charts of data from the research. In this book, Ansari does a great job of combining his unique humor with actual research, both from studies conducted specifically for this book and from historical studies used to provide context.

Modern Romance, as I expected, focuses heavily on how technology influences dating practices in the modern day. The statistics shared in this book were actually very enlightening and the anecdotal stories were perfectly chosen. Ansari shares stories from his own life but also chose some great gems to share from focus groups. If you want something that will make you laugh and educate you at the same time, I would highly recommend this book!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Talon - by Julie Kagawa

My rating: 

Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they're positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser.
Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George. (Goodreads)

 The premise of this book is really interesting. Dragons can take human form and are using this skill to infiltrate human society. Unfortunately the plot is only mildly interesting and this book somehow managed to make dragons boring. It seems impossible, but I swear it's true.

The main character, Ember Hill is a stereotypical teenage girl. This is ironic because she's actually a dragon who is constantly complaining that she doesn't understand humans. Ember is rebellious and doesn't want to go to the training organized by Talon, the international dragon organization. Instead she would rather spend her summer hanging out at the beach with her friends. This book also starts setting up some romance which quickly evolves into a full blown love triangle.

Don't get me wrong, this book wasn't terrible. It also helped that I listened to the audio mostly while driving or doing dishes, so I didn't feel like I was missing out on an opportunity to read something better. There are some interesting plot points but overall the characters are pretty uninteresting and personally I'm not a fan of the love triangle cliche.

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - by Holly Black

My rating: 

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown's gates, you can never leave.
One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black. (Goodreads)

I love vampire books and admittedly my expectations aren't that high, but I really do think Holly Black wrote a great and fairly original vampire story here. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown takes place in the modern day in a world where vampirism has become an epidemic and so the infected are quarantined in Coldtowns. The vampires themselves aren't quite as groundbreaking, but I'm totally happy with classic vampires and I appreciate that Black pays homage to previous vampire stories in this book. I think what really sells this novel, though, is the great writing and the characters.

I've heard plenty of complaints about the characters in this book, but I loved them. Tana, our protagonist, is very well written as a normal, teenage girl. Sure, it's frustrating when she mak es stupid decisions but at the same time these decisions seem very believable for a hungover teenager who has just woken up surrounded by dead bodies. Her ex, Aiden, is even more stupid and admittedly obnoxious but again he comes across as a realistic teenage guy. We also have a brother / sister duo of goth Youtubers who are going to document their trip to Coldtown to become vampires. Again, horribly annoying but so well written. The only main character that didn't come across as extremely believable was Gavriel, Tana's vampire love interest. On the other hand, there's totally an Anne Rice-ish Louis/Lestat vibe around him so I was willing to ignore any shortcomings.

The characters fit really well into the plot Black sets up and I think the novel moves along at a great pace without sacrificing any character backstories or development. Holly Black is a great writer and I really love her take on the classic vampire novel. I would definitely recommend this book to vampire fans!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Honor Girl - by Maggie Thrash

My rating: 

Maggie Thrash has spent basically every summer of her fifteen-year-old life at the one-hundred-year-old Camp Bellflower for Girls, set deep in the heart of Appalachia. She’s from Atlanta, she’s never kissed a guy, she’s into Backstreet Boys in a really deep way, and her long summer days are full of a pleasant, peaceful nothing . . . until one confounding moment. A split-second of innocent physical contact pulls Maggie into a gut-twisting love for an older, wiser, and most surprising of all (at least to Maggie), female counselor named Erin. But Camp Bellflower is an impossible place for a girl to fall in love with another girl, and Maggie’s savant-like proficiency at the camp’s rifle range is the only thing keeping her heart from exploding. When it seems as if Erin maybe feels the same way about Maggie, it’s too much for both Maggie and Camp Bellflower to handle, let alone to understand. (Goodreads).

Honor Girl  is a fantastic graphic memoir that I feel really captures all the various difficulties that teen girls go through. The characters and their interactions at summer camp seem spot on and really easy to identify with. This makes sense since Honor Girl  is a memoir of Thrash's life, but I'm still impressed by how well she captures her past experiences. Aside from the excellent portrayal of a girl's summer camp, this book also shares the author's struggle as she attempts to come to terms with her sexuality as a lesbian. Even though this can be a pretty scary thing to think about, especially when Thrash isn't sure what others will think, it's great to see the support she gets from some of her friends.

I'll admit that I wasn't crazy about the artwork, but that's just a personal preference and Honor Girl is still a beautifully told memoir. This is also a quick read and I would recommend it to anyone, whether you identify as LGBT or not.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Shadow Queen - by C.J. Redwine

My rating: 

Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.
In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart. (Goodreads).
I was so excited to get an eARC of this book because I absolutely love fairy tale retellings, but The Shadow Queen just didn't live up to my expectations. This was actually kind of surprising because on the surface this novel has a lot of things going for it. There's a strong, female protagonist, betrayal, romance, magic, dragons, and nonstop action. I'll admit that I did enjoy the dragons and it gave a unique twist to the original Snow White story. In The Shadow Queen, the huntsman isn't just a dangerous hunter, he is the prince of a kingdom where everyone has two hearts - a human heart and a dragon heart. When they give control over to their dragon nature, they actually shapeshift into dragons. For the most part, though, I think Redwine tried to pack too much into one book.

Even though the dragons are awesome and the magic seemed interesting, we just don't get enough worldbuilding. There's not much information about the different races or the kingdoms so all these fantastical elements end up seeming like cheap additions to make this telling of Snow White seem special. If this book were several hundred pages longer I might have liked it better. As it is, I just couldn't get interested in an underdeveloped fantasy world.

The plot and characters felt pretty mediocre, which didn't help my enjoyment of the book. Kol was the only character who showed any growth at all. That is unless you want to count Lorelai going from totally lacking in self-confidence one minute to realizing she can do anything she wants the next. And while the plot has plenty of action, it feels like there's no suspense or point to it. All through the magical battles, earth-shattering magic (literally!), telekinesis, fires, and explosions, I was just kind of reading to get through the book. The romance and ending as a whole were totally predictable, so even when I did manage to finish the book it wasn't that exciting.

The Snow Queen certainly isn't a bad book, but it could have been so much better. I'd say it's still worth a look, though, if you like fairy tales and want a quick and easy read.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Carry On - by Rainbow Rowell

My rating:

Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen. That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right. Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.
Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters. (Goodreads)
Rainbow Rowell is a fantastic writer, and that's definitely clear in Carry On. Despite her talent, I still had mixed feelings about this book, but I think the writing is what really saved it for me. Carry On really does read as Harry Potter fan fiction, especially through the first half. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but combined with the slow pacing starting out, I struggled to stay interested until later on in the story.

My main complaint about the fan fiction style of this book is that none of the characters felt very original at first. They all had, at least in my mind, clear counterparts from the Harry Potter series. Carry On also jumps in at would be the last book in an initially fictional series and I feel like it draws too much on the reader's knowledge of Harry Potter to make up for the fact that we haven't gotten any back story. The plot of these "missing" books didn't seem so important to me as the character development. Simon has presumably been growing from all his adventures in previous books, but we don't get to see any of that like we do with Harry Potter. The reliance on Harry Potter also means that there's very minimal world building. I can only imagine that if you read Carry On without being familiar with Harry Potter it would be extremely frustrating.

Luckily the second half or so of the book took a turn for the best. The plot picks up and the characters finally begin to take shape as original creations. I felt like one minute I was questioning if I could finish this book and the next it was two in the morning and I was sad there wasn't more to read. I'll admit I still didn't think the plot was great, but Rowell's writing strength really shows in the interactions between characters. And since everyone seems to have something to say about it, I'd like to add that I am 110% on board with the Simon and Baz romance, which is absolutely adorable.

I am hesitant to recommend Carry On to people because of how much I struggled to get into it at first. On the other hand, if you're okay with Harry Potter fanfic or a fan of Rainbow Rowell's writing style, it's definitely worth the read.