Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Brokenhearted by Amelia Kahaney

"The world doesn't need another broken-hearted girl..."

Every superhero has their origin story. That's what The Brokenhearted is, an origin story. In the beginning, Anthem is an ordinary girl. She is focused on school and ballet lessons. Then she goes to the party, meets the boy from the wrong side of the tracks, falls in love. Everything seems perfect, but it doesn't last.

Anthem's boyfriend is kidnapped. She meets the kidnappers, but they kill him anyways. Anthem leaves, slips, falls in the icy cold river. And she dies. However, the story doesn't end there. That is where it begins.

After her untimely death, Anthem is given a new bionic heart. This heart allows her to run faster, jump higher, and become the hero that Bedlam City has been looking for.

The Brokenhearted was pretty good. I liked the concept, and once the action starts, it's very satisfying. The downside is that it takes a while for the action to start. Anthem spends the majority of the book moping and feeling sorry for herself. I'm willing to give that a pass, seeing as how this was the first book and she had just had her heart broken and died and stuff. Hopefully, she will get right to the booty-kicking in the next installment.

I received my copy of The Brokenhearted from Edelweiss, courtesy of HarperTeen. It's available for purchase now.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

"I feel like I'm broken- like I don't fit together anymore. Like there's no more room for me in the world or something. Like I've overstayed my welcome here on Earth, and everyone's trying to give me hints about that constantly. Like I should just check out..."
Recently, I borrowed this book from work. It sounded like a difficult, interesting read. One night, one of my coworkers mentioned the book. I was about to tell her how I planned to read it, then she surprised me. She mentioned that she tried to read it, but she didn't like the subject matter. The main character plans to bring a gun to school and kill a classmate and himself. She was horrified that such things were written about, and she expected me to agree.

I was dumbfounded. Reading the description, even the beginning of a book doesn't tell you how it will end. I admit that school shootings and murder-suicides are controversial subjects. But, the coworker thought that writing about these things might further mess up troubled teenagers. I think that ignoring these things can mess them up more. I think that maybe a teenager might recognize that the narrator is troubled in some way, maybe in the same way as them. That could help a lot more.

On to the business of reviewing: today is Leonard Peacock's 18th birthday. He has a plan. He will deliver gifts to his four friends, kill his former best friend, and then shoot himself.

It's easy to see that Leonard isn't having an easy time in life. His mother is busy with work and her boyfriend. She doesn't even remember his birthday. He has a lot of issues and hurt feelings caused by his ex friend. It's also difficult for Leonard to see things getting better as her gets older. Sometimes, he dresses up in a suit and tie and pretends he is going off to work. Sitting in the train station, he observed countless adults going off to jobs that they hate, day after day.

Do anything! Something! Because you start a revolution one decision at a time, with each breath you take. Just don't go back to that miserable place you go every day. Show me it's possible to be an adult and also be happy...

His teacher advised him to write letters from himself in the future, telling him how great everything is. These letters are featured every few chapters, from future Leonard, his wife, and daughter. Their future features an apocalyptic wasteland, but Leonard is alive and happy.

The biggest question of Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is whether Leonard goes through with his plan or not. There are no opening paragraphs that give glimpses to a happier future. I really think that was a good choice. The reader can't see how it will end until the end arrives.

This ended up being a really good book. It's pretty heavy and there is quite a bit of swearing. I ended up in tears more than once. Overall, it's really well-written and the characters are all great. It's not always the easiest book to read, but I am very glad I read it.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

"I know better, better than anyone else, that there are no heroes coming to save us. There are no good Epics. None of them protect us. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We live with them. We try to exist despite them..."

I was soooooooooooo excited for Steelheart. Everything about it sounded super fantastically amazing. It actually was amazing, though not always as much so as I had hoped. The first chapter just blew my mind. Seriously, just bits of brain matter flying everywhere from all that action. It slows down some once we get into the actual book.

Steelheart is about a world where a meteor gave powers to a select few, known as Epics. Where our superheroes use their powers to serve and protect humankind, Epics use their powers to enslave humans and destroy any who fight against them. The worst, most powerful epic is Steelheart. He ruthlessly rules over the city, and he has no known weaknesses.

David is an ordinary young man. When he was young, he saw Steelheart murder his father. He also saw something extraordinary: his father injured Steelheart. As the great movie Predator once said, "If it bleeds, then we can kill it." As David said:

"I've seen Steelheart bleed. And I will see him bleed again."

David spent his time researching Epics, figuring out their powers and weaknesses. He formed a plan to get rid of the most powerful Epics surrounding Steelheart in order to get at Steelheart himself. David takes this plan to the Reckoners, a group of humans who regularly assassinate Epics. At first they don't want anything to do with him, but they eventually let him in because he knows too much, both about Epics and their group.

I think my biggest complaint was that I thought David would be more competent. He constantly put the Reckoners into danger, almost getting them killed multiple times. They actually only let him in the group so he wouldn't get them killed. He seemed okay, but I thought that if he dedicated his life to vengeance, he might be better at it. 

Eventually, the Reckoners come to like David. All of them except for Megan. She is usually cold towards him. This means that they kind of, sort of, maybe, like like each other. The group continues to execute David's plan, and lots of stuff happens. There's revelations and it leads to a majorly cool showdown that is just a couple smidges short of matching the opening chapter. Also, the revelations made me really anxious to get my hands on the second book. I want it soooo much!

Overall, Steelheart was an excellent story. I love the different angle on superheroes, and I was a big fan of the action. The revelations were pretty major, though very predictable. I knew it was coming, but I was still excited about what was revealed.

I received my copy of Steelheart from Edelweiss, courtesy of Delacorte Press. They also sent a copy to my bookstore, which I grabbed. It's available for purchase now.

The Paradox of Vertical Flight by Emil Ostrovski

"But look, Socrates- what I wanted to say, the reason why I brought it up is: here's why Troy is important. Forget the determinism stuff for a bit. Troy is important because everyone has a Helen, and everyone has a Troy, and everyone has a Trojan horse. It doesn't matter if your Helen is named Charles and your Troy is a bathroom in a gay dance club and your Trojan horse is some drunk guy named Sugar hammering on the door because he's about to shit himself. No matter what you do, the story will play out as if it has already been written, because it has already been written. You just haven't read the script. That's why three thousand or however many years later there's a Troy in probably every state in America, probably a Troy in every country in the whole goddamn world..."

That was a long quote. Sorry. It's also really good, so I recommend reading it. You're welcome. On to my review...

It's Jack's 18th birthday. He gets so many Facebook birthday messages that he gets depressed and decides to kill himself. Just before swallowing the pills, he gets a phone call. It's his ex-girlfriend, Jess. She is in the hospital. Giving birth. To his baby.

Jess wants Jack to see his son before she puts him up for adoption. At first I thought that she hadn't told Jack about being pregnant, but it turns out that she was really upfront with him. He was the one who stopped talking to her for nine whole months. This makes him sound like a jerk, and acting like that means he pretty much is a jerk. Otherwise, he is really very crazy and sweet.

The first time Jack meets his son, he takes him to an empty room. Then he takes him outside, and almost on accident, he drives away with the baby. Jack decides to take the baby, who he names Socrates, on a road trip to visit his grandmother. Grandma has Alzheimer's disease, but she was having a good day and actually called Jack for his birthday. There's no telling how grandma will react once he shows up, but Jack decides that this could be her only chance to meet her grandson. Jack's best friend Tommy and Jess join him, and together they evade the police, visit a giant meteor, and even take to the seas. It turns into an epic quest, akin to what Homer wrote about, all of those original stories.

One of the funniest parts of the book is how Jack would take Socrates aside and tell him about philosophy. He'd also debate him, and imagine entire conversations with a newborn baby. It sounds insane, but it's really sweet. Jack is trying to impart as much wisdom as he can before he has to give Socrates back.

The Paradox of Vertical Flight is incredibly funny and sweet. It made me laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. A lot of this book deals with serious matters: pregnancy, kidnapping, etc. Stuff does get quirky, but not terribly so. The opening chapter shows an older Jack meeting with a high school senior Socrates, and I really liked that. It made me happy that they stayed in touch, that Jack was still a part of his son's life. I also like revealing the happy ending at the beginning because I know I would have worried about it through the entire story.

I received my copy of The Paradox of Vertical Flight from Edelweiss, courtesy of Greenwillow Books. It's available for purchase now.

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

She was just trying to fix her light spell. Iolanthe was trying to earn money to take care of herself and her mentor, Master Haywood, an old man who was once powerful but now suffers a drug addiction. She finds a solution for her ruined spell, summons a bolt of lightning...then her world changes.

The lightning comes, along with the Inquisitor and guards from the Bane himself, the tyrant of the Realm. Thankfully, she is rescued by Prince Titus. Titus is pretty fascinating. He pretends to be superficial and stupid so that nobody suspects his true intentions. Before her death, his mother told him how he was tasked with teaching someone. This person would defeat and overthrow the Bane. So Titus waited and prepared. The lightning was his signal.

Titus made plans, but he didn't realize that the person he was protecting was a girl. He set up a complex spell wherein he created a boy named Archer Fairfax, who has been away from Eton College, in our world, recovering from an injury. Iolanthe has to play the part of Fairfax, fitting in with the other boys and learning about sports. Meanwhile, Titus helps her to strengthen her magic. She needs it because she is the one who will have to face the Bane and finally free the Realm.

This review is probably insufficient because it is very much fantasy, so there are always those details that are difficult to figure out whether to use them or not. It was a really entertaining story, kind of Harry Potter meets Twelfth Night. I really loved Titus the most because he was so good at magic and he was hilarious when he pretended to be a vain prince. Iolanthe was cool, and you have to admire her for fitting in with a bunch of boys and in a different world. Of course, they eventually start to become attracted to each other and it's pretty sweet.

There's lots of action and magical and fantastic stuff, plus good amounts of drama. Seriously, Titus' story about his kitty and the bitchy Inquisitor made me cry. That lady was the worst since Dolores Umbridge. Unfortunately, I have to wait to see what happens until the second book comes out, which is definitely my biggest complaint about The Burning Sky.

I received my copy of The Burning Sky from Edelweiss, courtesy of Balzer + Bray. It's available for purchase now.