Sunday, July 28, 2013

Book review: Moonglow (The Darkborn Legacy #1) by Michael Griffo

Something strange is going on with Dominy Robineau. All her friends in Weeping Water, Nebraska, have noticed—and it’s way beyond teenage blues. As weeks pass, Dom grows consumed by anger, aggression, and violence, and she seems powerless to stop it. Then she turns sixteen, and things get really dangerous.

When her best friend is murdered, Dominy’s father is compelled to reveal the truth behind the darkness that threatens to both overtake and empower her. Her boyfriend, Caleb, swears they’ll find a way to change her destiny. But others are hiding secrets too, and gifts that are far more terrifying than hers. And even as she struggles to control her new abilities, Dom must contend with an enemy who wants her to use the beast within to destroy all those she loves, before she destroys herself…

I had mixed feelings about Moonglow.  Of course there’s the usual reaction, that authors are just trying to cash-in on the werewolf phenomenon after Twilight brought them and vampires to the forefront of the supernatural mind, though I myself didn’t think about that.  In many ways this book is a pretty original take on a modern-day werewolf tale, and it does deserve a lot of credit.

I think most of the problem I had with it were two things: the details kind of sucked sometimes, and it was just way too overdramatic more than once.  For the first detail, there are such things as Jess’ obsession with Japan.  She names her dog Misutakiti or something like that, which is supposed to “translate” to Mr. Kitty but… is just Engrish.  There’s also the fact that Dom’s father’s story seems contrived, mostly because what man would let his heavily pregnant wife go on a hunting trip with him?  Let alone be right out there with him to the point where she hears a gunshot and automatically knows that her husband was shot rather than some animal he was aiming for?  And of course, Luba is often referred to as insane, and evil, but… yeah there’s not a lot there to prove she was anything but a grieving woman who believed she had the power to curse others and wanted to do something to make the boy who killed her husband suffer as she was bound to.

The second point, about it being overdramatic, is mostly in conversations.  Dom spends a lot of time exclaiming and shrieking, especially with Archie.  And then there’s the sequence where Caleb proclaims his undying love for her, which is after another rather dramatic sequence where he bursts in, having followed them to the Jaffe cabin thinking Dominy was there cheating on him with another boy.  Conveniently forgetting the fact that if he had followed them, he would have seen her father and realized she was there with him.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the base of the story is interesting and it’s worth a read, but it’s contrived in places and some of the details that were likely put in to try to make it seem more real and relatable just fell flat.  It could’ve been a lot worse, but it could’ve been better for what it was.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Book review: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Lennie plays second clarinet in the school orchestra and has always happily been second fiddle to her charismatic older sister, Bailey. Then Bailey dies suddenly, and Lennie is left at sea without her anchor. Overcome by emotion, Lennie soon finds herself torn between two boys: Bailey's boyfriend, Toby, and Joe, the charming and musically gifted new boy in town. While Toby can't see her without seeing Bailey and Joe sees her only for herself, each offers Lennie something she desperately needs. But ultimately, it's up to Lennie to find her own way toward what she really needs-without Bailey.

I’ve actually been actively seeking out books lately where the characters are dealing with grief; it gives me an idea about how others write and perceive it, which is helpful for Nowhere Fast.  The Sky is Everywhere wasn’t perfect, but I felt like it’s a good example of its genre.

The characters are layered and quirky in the right way, from the main character who leaves poems around town, to the handsome love interest who’s actually fairly awkward and shy, to the grandmother who drags all their worldly possessions out on the lawn to test them for bad luck.  Unfortunately, the characters are also where I felt this book had its biggest flaws.  Lennie continually hoops up with her sister’s boyfriend, Toby, for one.  While feeling out of control of your life is a common symptom of grief, it makes it out like they have no choice but to do those things, when it seems more of a matter of self-control.  The COULD stop themselves, she COULD tell him no.  They just don’t want to.  Toby even seems to do it on purpose at points because he wants Lennie for himself rather than see her with Joe.

There’s also how Joe acts when he sees them kissing.  An entire part of the book revolves around Lennie trying to get him to forgive her.  While it’s understandable he’d feel hurt at someone cheating on him, especially since it’s happened before, I found his reaction a little too dramatic, and like Lennie and Toby’s relationship, it seems to be justified when it shouldn’t be.  He was cheated on once before and suddenly it makes him distrust automatically the moment he thinks it’s happening again.  I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be with someone whose default trust level is so low, no matter how cute they are or how much they say they love me; it almost borders on an emotionally/mentally abusive relationship, making her worry if certain interactions with other boys will set him off.

Then again, I might just be thinking too hard about this.

Regardless, the writing is beautiful and shows well that the author is a poet first.  Despite the dramatics, the story arc is well laid-out, too, so I’d say this is a book worth reading if you can get past the stated shortcomings.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Book review: Out of Nowhere by Maria Padian

At Maquoit High School, Tom Bouchard has it made: captain and star of the soccer team, boyfriend to one of the prettiest, most popular girls, and third in his class, likely to have his pick of any college, if he ever bothers filling out his applications. But life in his idyllic small Maine town quickly gets turned upside down after the events of 9/11. 

Enniston has become a “secondary migration” location for Somali refugees, who are seeking a better life after their country was destroyed by war—they can no longer go home. Tom hasn’t thought much about his Somali classmates until four of them join the soccer team, including Saeed. He comes out of nowhere on the field to make impossible shots, and suddenly the team is winning, dominating even; but when Saeed’s eligibility is questioned and Tom screws up in a big way, he’s left to grapple with a culture he doesn’t understand and take responsibility for his actions. Saeed and his family came out of nowhere and vanish just as quickly. And Tom may find himself going nowhere, too, if he doesn’t start trying to get somewhere.

Out of Nowhere is one of those socially conscious books that was obviously written with a purpose, especially when you consider the ending.  It does get a bit heavy-handed at times, but I wouldn’t go anywhere near saying that it’s two-dimensional or unenjoyable just because it’s an ‘issues’ book.

Throughout the book, Tom is struggling with trying to figure out his stance on all the Somali refugees ending up in his town.  They’re what are known as “second-wave” because they had originally been put somewhere else, but had decided to move there after a while because the conditions were better.  If you’ve read previous reviews of mine, you’ll know that I hate plots that simply revolve in rehashing the same problem, to the point where it seems like the MC has amnesia for how many times they’ve had to learn the same lesson or make the same decision about something.  I didn’t feel like this happened with this, even though he does have to make decisions about things a lot.  And when he’s still feeling a bit like the Somali refugees are invading his town, it’s completely understandable; there are new kids there every week, ones who can barely speak English and have no idea how to do anything.  While he does feel bad for them, he’s frustrated, because it’s his home and they’re just coming in one after another.  The issue is treated well without being too preachy or trying to make Tom seem like the good guy when he still thinks the Somali refugees shouldn’t be there.  He’s human, is what I’m trying to say, and the book does well to go with that.

The book goes at a good pace, and the ending shows that not everything goes the way you hope it will, even if you try your best and realize the error of your ways.  Because of this, I’d say this is probably the best book Padian has put out so far.  Happy reading!