Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Characters I Just Didn't Click With

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Ten Characters I Just Didn't Click With.  Most of these are from books I ended up not clicking with... which shows how important it is to have relatable characters.

Ten Characters I Just Didn't Click With:

Angel from Neverland by Anna Katmore

Angel turned this retelling of a classic story into a giant *facepalm*.  She's dim enough to come across as much younger than her seventeen years, and yet she spends the last quarter of the book doing nothing but making out with Captain Hook... who's now a smoking-hot, nineteen-year-old kid with a hook tattoo and the exact same speech patterns as the heroine (except he uses lots of 21st-century swears).  You end up in a magical place where nobody ages, where people can fly, where fairies and mermaids exist... and all you want to do is play tonsil hockey with some guy you've just met?

Bella from Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

Bella was almost insufferably boring for the first three books in the "saga", but I really didn't get her in this one.  She's listened to Edward's moping for years about how it sucks to be a vampire (presumably because he hadn't had much luck in the last one hundred years in luring high school girls into his bed), and she's still going with the "Please turn me into a vampire!" crap.  And then we get to see her as a pregnant woman, going on and on about her little "nudger" and drinking blood like it's going out of style.  I don't know how any of that is supposed to be relatable for the target audience, but... whatever.

Bridget from Here Lies Bridget by Paige Harbison

I couldn't connect to Bridget because she was just so awful.  I mean, most of us have done stuff we're not proud of, or have treated people badly at some point.  Hopefully, we felt some remorse or regret for those actions.  Bridget, though?  I'm convinced she's got some sort of pathology going on.  Narcissistic personality disorder, or maybe sociopathy.  I'd hoped to find a nice mean-girl-learns-a-lesson type of story here, along the lines of what we got in Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall.  But Bridget never seemed to learn a thing... except maybe how to sort of make amends for her own benefit.

Cora from Basajaun by Rosemary Van Deuren

And I thought Bella was bad for wanting to be a vampire.  This kid wants to be a rabbit.  Never mind that they have incredibly short lives and she'll probably get eaten by a predator by the weekend.  She wanted to be a rabbit so she could mate with her rabbit buddy.  Oh, yeah... and she was twelve.  I guess Basajaun the bunny was a bit of a pedophile.

Hazel from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I didn't click with any of the characters in this book, but Hazel was the worst because she was the narrator.  I don't know of any teenagers who talk the way John Green's teenage characters talk.  It's like they're all middle-aged philosophers masquerading as kids.
Kaitlyn from Freak of Nature by Julia Crane

This cyborg just didn't make sense to me.  She supposedly had some emotions -- we're repeatedly told this -- but she comes across as so flat and emotionless most of the time... and yet when she does show emotions, they're just a little off.  Her thought processes also made no sense.  Her parents believed that she was murdered... and yet she decides that it's best that she never contacts them again, because it would be cruel for them to find out she's alive!  Yeah, Kaitlyn, I'm pretty sure your parents' reaction to your aliveness would not be, "How dare you?  We want to keep believing you're dead.  Go away."

Lily from Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Lily is the reason I couldn't finish this book.  I hated her.  Hated, hated, hated her.  Seriously... what teenage girl goes around shrieking at strangers who give them compliments?  Especially a teenage girl who's supposedly mature enough to roam New York City on her own.  Sounds like somebody needs a babysitter.
Scarlet from Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

This character was just so... blah.  As I was reading her sections of the book, I kept wishing they were over so we could go back to Cinder's chapters... and I'm not even the biggest fan of Cinder, so that's saying something.

Sophie from The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson

Sophie was another one of those characters whose emotional reactions made no sense.  She cries for no apparent reason, then apologizes to her friend for no apparent reason.  She goes to all the trouble of solving a mystery, and then withholds the information (even though it could save her friends from being lobotomized into man-serving drones) because one of the girls told her to.  She also comes across as about ten... but she's supposed to be fifteen.

Sunday from Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

I really disliked Sunday's character.  She was completely unlikable, and yet I think we were supposed to like her.  I disliked all of her sisters, too; the whole gimmick with their personalities going along with the poem was just silly.  (And I still don't get how their mother managed to time her births to the days of the week.  Maybe Sunday was actually born on a Wednesday; she certainly had the whole "woe is me" thing going at times...)


What are some characters that you didn't click with?


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Review - Plain Kate

Plain Kate
by Erin Bow
Date: 2010
Publisher: Scholastic
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 314
Format: e-book
Source: Kobo

A debut novel that's as sharp as a knife's point. Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver's daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden charms are so fine that some even call her "witch-blade" -- a dangerous nickname in a town where witches are hunted and burned in the square.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book has been sitting in my TBR pile for years.  I finally got around to picking it up... and do I ever wish I had done it sooner!  I've been torturing myself with bad books when I could have been reading this?

Please, dear author, I want some more...

This book is such a refreshing change from most of the YA I've read recently.  The main reason is that it has no romance.  I've grown so accustomed to seeing romance in YA novels that every time a male between the ages of 15 and 30 came on the page, I would wonder if he was going to be the love interest!  But, no.  There's no romance in this book at all... but there is love.  Love is a major theme that runs throughout the story.  Love between family.  Love between friends.  Love for art.  That theme twines itself around every character and event in the story, making a complex and highly readable tale.

The interesting characters really drive this story along.  Katerina (aka Plain Kate) is plain but not ordinary.  She is unique in appearance and she's a highly skilled wood carver.  She knows she's good, but she neither brags incessantly nor annoys the reader with false modesty.  Because of her skill, the people of her town thinks she must be a witch... an impression that isn't helped when she sells her shadow to an actual witch and acquires a talking cat.  Now, about that cat...  I really love Taggle as a character.  Talking animal characters, especially when they're combined with humans (as opposed to a world where all the animals just talk to each other and it's a normal thing), are not my favourite.  They can come across as silly if they're not done right.  But Taggle is done right.  He's very obviously a cat, from his mannerisms to his turns of phrase.  He's probably my favourite character in the whole book... and since I'm not a cat person at all, that's saying something.

The Russian-like setting and incorporation of magic remind me a little of Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone... but after reading both, I feel that Plain Kate is by far the better book.  The villain is much more nuanced and complex, with understandable motivations, and I found myself not knowing whether to hate him or feel sorry for him.

It's all a matter of taste...

There's really not much I disliked about this book... except for the synopsis.  It barely tells us anything about what the book is really about.  Had I known it was such a good story with such unforgettable characters, I wouldn't have put it off for so long.  I hate to think that people might have passed this book by simply because of the less-than-engaging synopsis.

Let's get technical...

Aside from a few tiny grammatical mistakes (some of which might have been merely typos), this was a very well-written book.  I don't have many complaints.

The verdict...

I wish I had read this book back when I purchased it.  It's one of the best books I've read so far this year.  I highly recommend it!

Quotable moment:

He smiled at her. "Do you know what happens to witches, Plain Kate? Have you seen the fires?"

The sour smell from the smokehouse suddenly seemed stronger. "Over a few fish?" Plain Kate tried a laugh; it came out tight.

"Well," said Linay with a bow, "there might be more."

"Go away. Or I'll set my cat on you."

And he went away. But not very far.

Premise: 4/5
Plot: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Pace: 5/5
Writing: 4/5
Editing: 4/5
Originality: 4/5
Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5 ladybugs


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books That Would Be On My Syllabus If I Taught X 101

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Top Ten Books That Would Be On My Syllabus If I Taught X 101.  For X, I'm going to go with Canadian-set stories.  Living next door to the U.S.A., we often get overshadowed and overlooked... and we end up reading all these stories set just across the border.  So it's awesome to find a book that's actually set in Canada.  Even better still is finding one that's set in a place you're familiar with (which, let's face it, isn't always guaranteed; Canada is a big country)!  So here are some of the awesome books with Canadian settings that I've read over the years.

Top Ten Books That Would Be On My Syllabus If I Taught Canadian-Set Stories 101:

Awake and Dreaming
by Kit Pearson

This author's books appear on this list twice.  This one in particular takes place in my part of the country (and includes ferry travel), so it was quite fun to read.  (It also incorporates some fantasy elements, unlike some of the other books on this list which are historical fiction.)

Free as a Bird
by Gina McMurchy-Barber

This book also has a local Canadian setting (in New Westminster, British Columbia), and though it takes place in the past, it's not so far in the past that it's completely unfamiliar.  Just thinking about the main character getting lost and ending up in certain parts of the city makes me shudder!

The Hidden World
by Alison Baird

I read this book before I read one of my all-time favourite YA trilogies, Willowmere Chronicles (which is by the same author).  I really enjoyed it.  Finding books set in Newfoundland that aren't historical novels seems to be a tricky thing to do... so this fantasy was a pleasant find!

Jane of Lantern Hill
by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Actually, any of L. M. Montgomery's books could be on this list.  Many are set on Prince Edward Island, which gives her books a unique setting and flavour that you don't really find anywhere else.  Jane of Lantern Hill is set in both Toronto, Ontario as well as on Prince Edward Island... so it's got a double dose of Canada!

The Lake and the Library
by S. M. Beiko

This is one of my more recent reads, and while it isn't the most well-written book of the bunch, it has a different setting (a small town in Manitoba) and it incorporates a unique fantasy element that will appeal to book lovers.

My Book of Life by Angel
by Martine Leavitt

This one is a historical verse novel about a fairly recent time.  It takes place in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver during the time when serial killer Robert Pickton was prowling the streets.  When the police swooped down on his pig farm in 2002, they found the remains of multiple missing women, many of whom were sex-trade workers.  This book is about a teenage prostitute who lived in the area where Pickton was finding his victims.  It's not a huge part of the story, but it still provides some creepy undertones and underscores the dangers that girls like Angel have to face.

The Sky is Falling
by Kit Pearson

This is actually the first of a trilogy about a sister and brother who are sent to Toronto, Canada from England during World War Two.  These are sort of coming-of-age stories, with Norah and Gavin growing up far from their parents.

That Scatterbrain Booky
by Bernice Thurman Hunter

This is the first book of another historical trilogy, also set in Toronto, but during the Great Depression years.  I read the books many years ago, but I remember the stories being charming and the characters likable.

White Fang
by Jack London

A few years back, I read a number of classics, including White Fang and The Call of the Wild by Jack London.  Both books portray the stereotypical idea of Canada as the "Great White North".  But they're still interesting, even for Canadian readers... most of whom are probably as unfamiliar with the setting of these books as non-Canadians!

Yarrow
by Charles de Lint

This book is set in Ottawa, Canada.  Not that I remember that in particular.  What I do remember is the wonderful fantasy world that de Lint created.  The author usually does a good job of combining myths and legends with our present-day world to create fascinating stories and unique characters.


What are some of your favourite stories set in your country?


Saturday, August 22, 2015

New to the TBR Pile (38)



Borrowed from the library:
A Monster Calls
by Patrick Ness
inspired by Siobhan Dowd

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming...

This monster, though, is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final story idea of Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.


What's new to your TBR pile this week?  Let me know in the comments!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Review - A Monster Calls (DNF)

A Monster Calls
by Patrick Ness
inspired by an idea by Siobhan Dowd
Date: 2011
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 224
Format: e-book
Source: library

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming....

This monster, though, is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final story idea of Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I don't get it.  I just don't get it.  I don't get all the adulation, the awards, and the gushing over Ness's writing.  It's confusing at times, it's inconsistent, it tries too hard, and some of it is not even correct.

When I read More Than This, I really didn't like it.  I thought the writing was weak and the story derivative.  I also noticed that even some hard-core Ness fans didn't like that book, so I assumed it wasn't a very good representation of his work.  Taking that into account, I decided to try A Monster Calls.  After the second instance of completely impossible dialogue tagging, I'd had enough.  No matter how hard you try, you can't shrug or frown your speech!  Every time I read a mistake like that (because those are mistakes; don't try to tell me it's a "stylistic choice", unless you're trying to style yourself as an ignoramus) I can almost feel my blood pressure rise.  Yes, I'm a stickler for good grammar and proper punctuation.  Is it really too much to ask that our writers value those same things?

This book is also annoying in that we've got a British author trying to cater to American readers but only going halfway.  So we have Conor sleeping on the "settee" but leaning on the "hood" of a car.  Pick a country and stick with it; if young readers can't figure out what the "bonnet" of a car is from the context, there's always Google.

So, in the final analysis, the reasons why I didn't finish A Monster Calls are as follows:
  • incorrect dialogue tags
  • confusion about the book's setting
  • boredom
  • I want to spend my time on something I'm actually enjoying

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review - The Time Keeper

The Time Keeper
by Mitch Albom
Date: 2012
Publisher: Hyperion
Reading level: A
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 224
Format: e-book
Source: library

In this fable, the first man on earth to count the hours becomes Father Time.

The inventor of the world's first clock is punished for trying to measure God's greatest gift. He is banished to a cave for centuries and forced to listen to the voices of all who come after him seeking more days, more years. Eventually, with his soul nearly broken, Father Time is granted his freedom, along with a magical hourglass and a mission: a chance to redeem himself by teaching two earthly people the true meaning of time.

He returns to our world - now dominated by the hour-counting he so innocently began - and commences a journey with two unlikely partners: one a teenage girl who is about to give up on life, the other a wealthy old businessman who wants to live forever. To save himself, he must save them both. And stop the world to do so.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I thought this book sounded like a quick, interesting read with a unique premise.  While I did enjoy some of the aspects of the story, I didn't like others.  Much of my opinion about this book is subjective, though; I'm sure some people will like it for the same reasons that I disliked it.

Please, dear author, I want some more...

I can honestly say that I've never read a book that features Father Time as a character.  So that piqued my interest in the first place.  I did enjoy the fable aspect -- even though it did make the story seem a little too simplistic at times -- and I do appreciate what Albom was trying to do here.  Unfortunately, the execution of the idea in this case means that some people will love the book and others might feel a bit alienated.

It's all a matter of taste...

I suppose it's my own fault for not realizing that this is, basically, Christian fiction.  I'm not a Christian, and most of the Christian fiction I've read has left me cold.  I can't really relate to where the author is coming from, and I get a little annoyed by the implication that a certain way of thinking is the only way.  This book is especially guilty of that.  From the punishment of Dor for simply being intellectually curious to the deterministic ideas about God's plan for each life to the judgmental attitudes about suicide, the story is steeped in certain religious ideas that can be fairly off-putting to someone who doesn't share the same faith.  I was especially annoyed with the whole discussion of suicide.  One character attempts it and it's implied that they really didn't have a reason because other people have it so much worse.  This sort of judgment really bothers me because it shows a lack of empathy and compassion; just because one person in a difficult situation can handle it doesn't mean that another person in a different difficult situation can.  Then we end up minimizing the problems of others.  So that really bothered me.

The other issue I have is with the plot itself.  I don't understand why Dor was "punished" (it's apparently not a punishment to lock someone in a cave by themselves for six thousand years and let them listen to people's anguished cries; it's a "blessing").  The book says Dor sought to control time.  As far as I can tell, he only sought to measure it.  Nobody human can control time, so punishing Dor for something that he wouldn't be able to do in the first place seems like a really cruel thing to do.  Also, why was he the only one punished?  Everyone who came after measured time, and they got away with it (this part of the story was also not explained very well; Dor was exiled away from civilization, so how he somehow taught the whole rest of the world how to count the hours is beyond me).  I mean, I'm all for fantasy and fables, but they have to make sense.

Let's get technical...

The story is written in simple language, and it seems relatively polished.  (Although, I may just be saying that because I've recently read quite a few self-published books that haven't been edited very well at all.)  However, Albom does phrase things in a confusing way sometimes.  There were a few points in the book where I just didn't understand a sentence at all!

The verdict...

If you enjoy reading Christian fiction, you might get some enjoyment out of this book.  However, if you don't, you might find some of the same things as problematic as I did.  With some of the plot holes fixed, this would have been a stronger book... but I'm still not sure if I would have liked it.  Christian fiction just doesn't seem to be my thing.

Quotable moment:

There are as many expressions with "time" as there are minutes in a day.

But once, there was no word for it at all. Because no one was counting.

Then Dor began.

And everything changed.

Premise: 3/5
Plot: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 3/5
Originality: 3/5
Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5 ladybugs


Saturday, August 15, 2015

New to the TBR Pile (37)



Borrowed from the library:
The Time Keeper
by Mitch Albom

In this fable, the first man on earth to count the hours becomes Father Time.

The inventor of the world's first clock is punished for trying to measure God's greatest gift. He is banished to a cave for centuries and forced to listen to the voices of all who come after him seeking more days, more years. Eventually, with his soul nearly broken, Father Time is granted his freedom, along with a magical hourglass and a mission: a chance to redeem himself by teaching two earthly people the true meaning of time.

He returns to our world - now dominated by the hour-counting he so innocently began - and commences a journey with two unlikely partners: one a teenage girl who is about to give up on life, the other a wealthy old businessman who wants to live forever. To save himself, he must save them both. And stop the world to do so.


What's new to your TBR pile this week?  Let me know in the comments!