Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan

I have wanted to read this book for quite some time, ever since Cheryl Klein (the editor) talked about it on her blog back in 2010. So when I friend happened to find a copy while clearing out her closet, I jumped at the chance to read it.

I started it a long time back, and only now got the chance to finish it. I think the significant gap between reading the first 85% and reading the end may have dampened my enjoyment of the story somewhat, but nevertheless, I did like it.

It isn't a typical YA book. The protagonist, Bronwen, is an eighteen-year-old senior for most of the story, which is usually a bit old for YA. Additionally, Bronwen is getting married. (Surprisingly, this is more common in YA overall than you might think. It's highly irregular for realistic fiction, though.)

Bronwen has spent her whole life wanting to be Someone Else. She even has an alter ego, Phoebe Lilywhite, because at times she is sure that she must have been switched at birth. Throughout the story, Bronwyn has to figure out what she wants out of her life, and how to be who she wants to be. It's really more of a character-driven book than plot-driven.

I found Erin McCahan's writing very true-to-life, and her character and setting developments were very well done. I can't wait to see what else she writes in the future!

Eighteen-year-old Bronwen Oliver has a secret: She's really Phoebe, the lost daughter of the loving Lilywhite family. That's the only way to explain her image-obsessed mother; a kind but distant stepfather; and a brother with a small personality complex. Bronwen knows she must have been switched at birth, and she can't wait to get away from her "family" for good.
Then she meets Jared Sondervan. He's sweet, funny, everything she wants — and he has the family Bronwen has always wanted too. She falls head over heels in love, and when he proposes marriage, she joyfully accepts. But is Jared truly what she needs? And if he's not, she has to ask: What would Phoebe Lilywhite do? (Summary from Goodreads.)

Erin McCahan's website is http://www.erinmccahan.com.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Guessing Isn't Always Fun

Recently I watched The Brothers Bloom with a bunch of friends. I'd never seen it before, but I really liked it, and would strongly encourage you to see it if you haven't already.

The brothers are con men, and have been since their childhood. Thus, The Brothers Bloom is a story about a con. As with most con stories, it features unreliable narrators, delightful twists, and tiny-but-important details. These aspects are among my favorite parts of a story. It's why I love Heist Society and White Cat; Chasing Vermeer and the 39 Clues.

When I was younger, I read a lot of mysteries. I devoured as many of the Boxcar Children books as I could find, and enjoyed Encyclopedia Brown as well. But somewhere along the line of my transition from middle-grade books to young adult, the supply of straight-up mysteries dwindled, and I had to turn to other genres to get my figure-it-out-before-the-end fix.

The thing is, though,  I don't enjoy figuring out the twist really far in advance. If I figure out the twist (Character X is really the princess!) long before the characters do, I get bored by the characters' obliviousness nine times out of ten. Alternatively, when I only come to the solution when it is revealed to the characters, I feel cheated. I complain that there weren't enough clues. (There's a quote in the most recent Doctor Who companion book-thing about River Song's true identity about twists only being fun if the consumer is able to figure it out beforehand, and even if they don't, the clues are there for them to go back and review.) The sweet spot for me, I've found, is when I figure out the last piece of the puzzle anywhere from a chapter to a page ahead of the characters. This way, I've figured out the clues the author has hidden along the way, but I also don't have an excessive amount of time to wait until the characters figure it out themselves.

I like books that challenge me as a reader. I want to analyze the text for hidden meaning, come up with wild (and plausible) theories, and try to predict the final outcome. By attempting to identify how clues and red herrings are placed (does the careful description of the gun matter for the plot, or to establish this character?) I like to think that I'm learning something valuable about the execution of good writing. That being said, I don't want a to-be-read-pile consisting solely of The DaVinci Code and its brethren. Sometimes I need something less challenging, and more straightforwardly entertaining.

What about you? Do you like guessing the twists ahead of time? Do you also over-analyze descriptions?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Transcendence by C.J. Omololu

 My thoughts in a sentence: I'm so glad I bought my own copy instead of ordering it at the library; I want the sequel soon!

 First of all, it must be said that C. J. Omololu has an awesome name. It's unique but not difficult to pronounce.

Transcendence gave me what I wanted: a capable and intelligent heroine, a realistically flawed but still attractive love interest, and twists that were totally believable that I didn't see coming. (The day before I read this, I was complaining to my sister about the dearth of books with realistic twists that I was unable to guess. The universe heard my plea!)

I will concede that the plot originally develops slowly, but it picks up rapidly.

The title really seems to fit it, as there are at least two references to music being transcendent. Also, I think a theme for this book could be "love transcends time" or "transcending past wrongs is essential to living a good life". Whoever came up with this title really nailed the heart of the story.

Cole (the heroine) is a cello prodigy, and since I've read quite a few books involving cellos recently, I'm feeling this urge to go pick up the cello again... I'm not sure whether that's a positive or a negative.

The way Transcendence is written would be like someone telling Sarah Rees Brennan to write a mashup of If I Stay and Incarnate. (Sidenote: I love all of those.)

Something that really makes Transcendence stand out is its incredible sense of place. I could definitely tell that C. J. had lived in the areas featured in the book. 

The cover is the real reason I bought this book. I first heard about C. J. through the blogs of Daisy Whitney and Nova Ren Suma, both of whom featured a giveaway of Transcendence earlier this month. On Nova's blog, C. J. talked about how the love interest, Griffon, is biracial, and he is also on the cover. This really caught my attention, as there are not nearly enough books about non-white people just living their lives, and often the ones that do exist have a white person on the cover. I am all for diversity on covers, so I decided right them to show Walker/Bloomsbury with my money that they need to keep publishing books like this with covers like this. Also, that boy on the cover is a lot more attractive than a lot of the other male models I've seen on YA books. 

Overall, I am super happy I bought my own copy, since I can tell I'll be rereading it more than a few times. I bought my copy from Barnes and Noble, where it was shelved in the "Paranormal Romance" section, which, okay, it might technically be, but it is unlike anything else I've read in that genre. (And that's a good thing.)

 When a visit to the Tower of London triggers an overwhelmingly real vision of a beheading that occurred centuries before, Cole Ryan fears she is losing her mind. A mysterious boy, Griffon Hall, comes to her aid, but the intensity of their immediate connection seems to open the floodgate of memories even wider.
As their feelings grow, Griffon reveals their common bond as members of the Akhet—an elite group of people who can remember past lives and use their collected wisdom for the good of the world. But not all Akhet are altruistic, and a rogue is after Cole to avenge their shared past. Now in extreme danger, Cole must piece together clues from many lifetimes. What she finds could ruin her chance at a future with Griffon, but risking his love may be the only way to save them both.
Full of danger, romance, and intrigue,
Transcendence breathes new life into a perpetually fascinating question: What would you do with another life to live? (Summary from Goodreads.)

C. J.'s website is http://www.cjomololu.com/

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I'm Ba-ack (For Real This Time)

*blows off cobwebs*

So, I was remiss in planning (story of my life) how to continue posting once school started last August, and I just kept putting it off, and off, and off... Of course, as you can see, I rarely got around to actually publishing much content.

But this time, I have a plan. (And boy, does having a solid plan help.) My plan is to have two posts a week. One will go up Tuesday or Wednesday (a little flexibility is good) and one on Saturday. I think they'll be a combination of reviews and other content, most of the time, but there may be some weeks when I put up two reviews. Who knows.

I really want to keep this blog going this time, and I'll do my best to see that through. For now, I'm glad to be back.