The most disappointing thing this year was when the Jane Whitefield TV series was not picked up. So when I came across it during the Borders going out of business sale, I couldn’t wait to read it. There was a ten year gap between the last Jane Whitefield book and this one, and I never thought I would have another chance to revisit the characters.
Runner turns out to be just as exciting as I remember the series being. Jane Whitefield has spent much of her life helping people in danger vanish but she has given up that life in favor of living like a regular person. And for years, she has managed to live a quiet, uninterrupted life. But when a pregnant teen shows up at her work, begging for help, Jane can’t turn her away. And in a world where helping someone disappear is more difficult than ever, Jane has to keep from being recognized by those still hunting for her old clients, compensate for the new technology and loss of old business associates, and make sure not to get caught.
Runner is an impressive because it manages to have a female lead in an action story with a solid balance: the woman is not unrealistically strong (talks specifically about how to compensate for lack of size) but does not need to rely on being overly seductive like most action movies have.
My biggest complaint is that Perry built up the idea that the young girl had secrets she was keeping but they never really materialized. As such a young character it was also frustrating to watch her be stupid–as someone so young, she should have a better idea of how technology works but teens are stupid even when they know better, so it was still believable.
It was nice to see how Jane has grown and what her struggles in life are. I look forward to seeing another book soon.
As someone who watches the TV series Pretty Little Liars, I was somewhat hopeful for this book. Sure, the actresses are not very good and everything is over-dramatic, but there is something about this show that pulls you in and makes you want to keep watching. The number of people I know who have said this is their guilty pleasure show is ridiculous. But the book itself does not come off nearly as suspenseful as its small screen counterpart.
The show follows Aria, Spencer, Hannah, and Emily, four girls who would be losers at school if not for the fact that Allison, the most popular girl in school, has decided to be friends with them. Allison is the girl that everyone wants to be friends with but she is also the girl who knows all of their secrets. But when Allison disappears, the girls grow apart, only to be brought back together by mysterious text messages by someone named “A.” Because “A” knows all their secrets, just like Allison did and will stop at nothing to torment them with it.
Whereas a single episode of Pretty Little Liars feels jam-packed with excitement, the book felt like it didn’t cover enough ground. Maybe it is just that watching the show I know everyone’s secrets and so nothing is a surprise, but it felt like I was learning very little about each girl. And where the show makes the girls likable despite their secrets, the book makes them feel mostly shallow and dull. Aria is a teen looking for her identity and having an affair with her teacher, Hannah is thin and popular but at the expense of shoplifting and her health, Emily has a boyfriend and a crush on the new girl, and Spencer, ever-competing with her sister, starts sleeping with her older sister’s boyfriend.
I don’t often recommend this, but I would say skip the book version in favor of the TV show. It’s not that is it so terrible, it is just that with so many great young adult books out there, there are others worth reading first.
Fourteen-year-old Artemis discovers an unraveling time tunnel connecting demons with the earth. These imps have sworn revenge on humans generations ago, and their unpredictable appearances threaten to expose the entire fairy world (not to mention put the human world at risk as well). Artemis is called into service to help the fairies figure out when and where the demons will be and outsmart his latest nemesis. Worse, there is an evil demon overlord looking to take over the human and fairy worlds.
Book five in this series is such an excellent book, which is a major accomplishment for any author. By book five many authors are running out of new and exciting ideas but Colfer finds a way to keep things fresh and exciting. Best of all, he adds two new, promising characters–one of them a love interest for young Artemis. (We have seen Artemis mature, but for the first time we are seeing him grow up as well.)
The book ends with the best feel-good moment of the series yet, developing Artemis and Holly’s relationship further than ever before. Their story has come so far and continues to be as exciting as when we first started it.
I am normally bothered by major southern accents when reading a book. Even when they make sense for the story, they don’t help immerse me in the story but keep me from fully enjoying it. Usually, anyway. The Help has such a powerful story that for the first time in a long time, it didn’t bother me at all. It just felt right, as did so much of this book. The voices were so captivating and strong that it worked. Sure, I couldn’t help but imagine Emma Stone speaking whenever I read a line spoken by Skeeter, but as a fan of Emma Stone (I saw the movie first) this didn’t bother me.
The plot: There is no more complex and bizarre relationship than that of women in the south in the sixties, where black women raise white babies while working as the help in wealthy white homes and yet are treated as second class, disease-ridden citizens at the same time. Skeeter is an aspiring journalist and college grad who returns home to find that the black maid who raised her is gone without explanation. This helps set her on a dangerous journey, where she recruits Aibeleen, Minny, and other black maids to tell their stories as the invisible help in white homes.
Though Skeeter is the mode through which their stories are able to be told, Aibeleen and Minny stand on their own as main characters with inspirational journeys. Some may think Skeeter’s role diminishes Aibeleen and Minny’s accomplishments and daring (because a white woman played a major role in helping them do it and have the courage), but I think she simply showed them that it is possible for a white woman to think differently and therefore trying to reveal the truth might be worth it. Basically, I think she gave them perspective. To say that this is Skeeter’s story would be a mistake. It is Minny’s story and Aibeleen’s story as much as Skeeter’s and the book shows them all evenly.
The movie itself is pretty fantastic, but what it couldn’t capture the way the book did, was the intense isolation experienced by Skeeter as she went through her journey. Whether or not you see the movie, I recommend you read this book. I have mostly been reading Young Adult books lately, but this book was well worth the deviation.
Tally has gone from Ugly to Pretty to dreaded Special. Now she is specially enhanced to help keep the people of her city in line–the pretties stupid and the uglies ready for their operations.
Once again we have the all too long passage of isolation where Tally is forced to reconsider her life while out in nature alone. I get that it is a theme, that being out in nature changes you. At the same time, it gets slow and tedious and a bit repetitive. (I say that despite enjoying the book.)
It is hard to get in touch with Tally and the other main characters because their personality change from one moment to the next. Tally is the sort of character who tends to get forced into situations and only takes action as a last resort. As a result, she is not my favorite character (of the many books I have read), but the fight itself–the bigger struggle against the city and the operations–is still interesting.
[SPOILER:] I am not sure how I felt about the resolution of the love triangle, it felt like an easy out. Tally never truly had to choose and technically she got them both in the end yet there was never the sense that her feelings for David ever resurfaced exactly. It is powerful to see her reaction to Zane once she finally sees him. It really highlights the ideas of being obsessed with beauty, being controlled by the government and brainwashing in a way that nothing else could.
Though not my favorite dystopian series, Westerfeld has a way with words that makes even the slower sequences enough to keep you turn pages.
Book two picks up right where Game of Thrones left off–Arya is on the run with the Night’s Watch, Sansa is held captive by child king Joffrey, Robb leads an army against the Lannisters, Bran holds down the fort at home, Jon has gone beyond the wall, Theon has returned home to take his rightful place as heir, Stannis and Renley are gathering their respective armies in order to claim the throne of the Seven Kingdoms for themselves, and Danny prepares her Dothraki forces. The book is as complicated as it sounds. Not that it is a bad thing. Part of the draw for this book is the utterly complex political situation set in the backdrop of a fantastical world where magic exists but is not in abundance (a rarity in fantasy).
One of the things that Martin does best with his characters and stories is the complexity of the story. Right and wrong is not nearly as obvious as other books tend to make it. Sure the Lannisters (minus Tyrion) are pretty awful, but for the most part, everyone has understandable if not honorable motives. In book one we saw Ned Stark struggle with honor and by remaining so rigid he end up losing his life and putting his children in trouble. Was that the right idea or should he have bent, at least a little, until he could better plan? Similar issues are grappled with in this book: Should Robb bend to the Lannisters to save his sisters? Should Theon be more loyal to the Starks who raised him despite being held essentially captive or should he attempt to reclaim his place with his true family? Should you stay aligned to a lord or a family member when you don’t believe in the methods they employ?
Arya is still one of my favorites, for her strength and ingenuity. Even Sansa is growing on me, though despite all that’s going on she somehow clings to her romantic ideals which gets a little frustrating. It felt like we could have gone deeper into Theon’s internal struggle, which is more complex than perhaps any other character’s in the book. The one character I really cared nothing for was Davos who seemed like a random character used more for plot device than because we were supposed to connect or care about him in any way.
Though it felt like some of the plot was rushed (dealing with Renly in particular seemed to come and go so quickly it was hardly worth having him involved in the first place), it was generally full of well-paced action. Not quite as many shocks as book one, but still an enjoyable read.
The brilliant thing about the book before this is that at the point where Artemis was becoming less criminal mastermind and more all around nice guy, Colfer built in a sort of reset button, which in turn impacts the events of this book.
Opal Koboi is back with a bigger, more dangerous plan. But most importantly, she wants revenge on all the people responsible for her former downfall. Artemis is out of the picture thanks to his mind-wipe (he doesn’t remember his time with faeries and all the changes he has undergone have been lost as a result). When Opal frames Holly–turning the LEPrecon captain into a fugitive–who can she turn to for help?
The story is perhaps the most complex of the series thus far, with complicated breakouts, new information about fairy creatures, more insight into the underworld we have been coming to know, and hi-tech machinery. Though I might have hoped for slightly less craziness (it seems surprisingly easy to break out of fairy prisons considering how much more advances they are technologically), but the story remains true to the heart and emotion we have come to love.
I wasn’t as impacted by a specific character’s demise as I would have liked to be. We didn’t know quite as much as we might have about the character (whose name shall not be mentioned here) and therefore I didn’t feel as connected to that person as I could have. Perhaps if we had had a bit more time and information, but as it stands, it wasn’t as affecting as it might have been. That said, Colfer handles the aftermath of that death realistically and skillfully. Even though I couldn’t feel sad the way I was when say Dumbledore died, I did believe that the characters were sad, which was enough.
Maybe not the best book in the entire series, but still fun and enjoyable and definitely worth the read.
In the follow up to Uglies, Tally has become a pretty. We all know why, but Tally doesn’t remember much about her last few days as an ugly or why she ended up pretty. There are a lot of things she isn’t sure of, thanks to a procedure that affects the brain. But events conspire to help Tally remember why she became pretty and how she can regain the clarity and understanding that was taken away from her in the operation.
The story remains imaginative and interesting. Westerfeld has delved into his world and let us see the inner workings of pretty town (which were as mysterious to us as to the uglies in book one). Seeing this helps fill in the details that were missing before.
Like in the first book, there are long stretches of time where Tally is alone or stuck in her head. Sometimes it gets a little slow because of this, but it does help portray just how different the operation makes a person.
Shay’s storyline is a bit shocking and I am not sure I truly believe her character would take the turn she does. I won’t go into detail because I don’t want to ruin it. (Perhaps if the change was a bit more gradual it would be a bit more believable, but it seems fairly sudden and very extreme considering who she was before.) In a way, it almost feels like it was done for shock value over anything else. It was a good twist, but not the most realistic one.
One of the more interesting elements of the book was the love triangle involved. Since Tally does not remember David much, it makes sense that she would fall for someone else in New Pretty Town. This is one storyline that I would have liked to see more of and it felt like when the issue could finally be confronted, so many other things were happening and we didn’t get a chance to really go into it. If I could change one thing about book two, it would have been that. Even one more day would have been nice.
The series remains exciting and I can’t wait to see where book three takes it. (As interesting as it would be on screen, it would probably be a nightmare to shoot with all the surgeries and physical changes each character must undergo. I suppose a really good makeup team might suffice.)
My friend and I were fascinated by Bethany Hamilton’s story when we were in high school. She even had a poster of Bethany on her wall. So naturally, when we heard about the movie coming out and realized she had written a book we had to see and read them immediately.
For those who don’t know it, Bethany Hamilton was a thirteen year old surfer from Hawaii who was attacked by a shark and lost her arm. Most people would have given up surfing at this point because having only one arm to paddle with is a major disadvantage in competition. But with a supportive family, community, and even world and her strong faith, she came back strong and is now a top ranking pro-surfer. Since the movie, the book has been updated to include her time on the movie set which is a fun addition if you watched the movie.
The book was written when she was only fourteen, a year after the attack. Her youth shows as the book does not really go in depth into the emotions and struggles she experienced. Much of the hard stuff–like how she adjusted to things like preparing food with one hand and competing with one arm–was glossed over. (The movie shows this poignantly.) Despite this obvious lack, the story is still inspirational. Her strength and resiliency (whether you care about faith and religion or not) is impressive and you cannot help but be touched by her story.
One thing I was slightly disappointed to note was that the cover (a shot taken from the movie) does not show her surfing with one arm. I am not surprised with this decision, but at the same time, it is as though they feel the need to hide it for fear that showing someone with only one arm will scare off consumers. What makes Bethany inspirational is that she doesn’t hide her injury (she doesn’t wear a prosthetic and she has never let one arm hold her back) and it seems like the publishers should have highlighted rather than hidden this on the cover.
School is almost over and Rachel Berry is not willing to spend all summer letting her talents rot away. Instead, she had a star powered summer planned. But Mr. Schuester has other plans. He wants the Glee club to become counselors for a Youth Musical Camp. When Rachel hits her head, she gets a taste of what the stardom is all about. She returns to McKinley High for a performance and finds that nothing is the same.
For me, this was the weakest story of the three so far. Although there is character development, it is caused by what is clearly a dream (and a very unrealistic dream at that). On top of that, there is no goal or driving force to the story. Rachel has nothing specific she’s working for (sure there’s the general non-specific plan to become a famous Broadway star, but that isn’t really an immediately attainable goal, at least the way this is presented).
It would have been nice for them to make it clear when this story is meant to take place in the Glee world a little earlier. It isn’t until a few chapters in when they mention things that help you place it in the larger story. Yet even those details contradict with events on the show (such as various relationships and who is together when). The characters themselves seemed a bit more caricature than the true personalities we have come to know.
Much as I love Rachel, I would have liked to know more about the other characters (the other books usually spend a bit more time on everyone else but everyone’s issues were resolved within minutes).
Considering that dream stories are general the bane of an editor’s existence, I am surprised this story didn’t get stopped before it was written. Overall, this book doesn’t fit in with the fun reading of the other books. It lacks the substance and true character.