Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Supergirl Mixtapes

Author: Meagan Brothers

Source: Library

Summary: (goodreads) In Meagan Brothers's Supergirl Mixtapes, a music-obsessed girl travels to New York City to find herself. After years of boredom in her rural South Carolina town, Maria is thrilled when her father finally allows her to visit her estranged artist mother in New York City. She’s ready for adventure, and she soon finds herself immersed in a world of rock music and busy streets, where new people and ideas lie around every concrete corner. This is the freedom she’s always longed for—and she pushes for as much as she can get, skipping school to roam the streets, visit fancy museums, and flirt with the cute clerk at a downtown record store.
But just like her beloved New York City, Maria’s life has a darker side. Behind her mother’s carefree existence are shadowy secrets, and Maria must decide just where—and with whom—her loyalty lies.


Maria Costello lives with her perfectly boring dad in South Carolina while her estranged mother is an artist in New York. The stuffiness of the South and a few incidents make Maria force her father and grandmother to let her stay with her mom. Instead of blaming her mother for abandoning her, Maria thinks she understands why a vibrant artist like her mother could not thrive where they lived. But will Maria still see things this way when she makes the trip?

If you are into all sorts of musicians like The Ramones, Patty Smith or Nick Cave, then you may get a whole lot more out of this book than I did. It had the potential to go deep, to cut, to exude emotion, but the lightness of tone and Maria’s indifference made it hard to connect with the deeper issues explored in the novel. The lists of band names and artists were great for exploring new stuff, but I felt that they took up a lot of space. Maybe if I knew those bands and were a hardcore listener, then I would have understood Maria’s story much better. But alas, I regret to describe it as a record junkie’s paradise rather than an emotive story.

Still, I read it in less than twenty-four hours. It was well-written. Scenes had sufficient detail, but managed to allow the reader to build up a personalized version of the settings. The ambiance was of course bright and worldly and grand as I imagine New York City appears to those first entering it. Maria is mostly a positive role model and in many ways is mature for her age. It had a plot that did move forward and was entertaining to read.

As a reader though, I picked up cracks in Maria’s cool exterior. Her dysfunctional life was supposed to be the foundation of this novel, but I felt the author never explored it. I didn’t come close to feeling for Maria. There was just too much fun and glamour and not enough of the angst that should have contributed to Maria’s character growth. She might have learned a thing or two, but overall she was mostly unchanged by the end. This is where my problem with the novel lies. A potential never reached.

Rating: 1 2 3 3.5 4 5

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Color of Rain

Author: Cori McCarthy

Source: Publisher

Summary: (back of book) I have always looked to the stars for answers. The vast, endless, shimmer of space, full of hope and far from the ash and smoke of Earth City. Now my little brother needs a cure. And I will do whatever it takes to find one. Even if it means selling myself.

Johnny has bought my willingness with the promise of passage on his starship. And here the color of my bracelet marks me as much as my red hair.

But Johnny does not know that I am a survivor. And Johnny does not know that his day has come.

Review: Sparing none of the harsh details, The Color of Rain is a gruesomely spun tale of a future in which humanity is a trait largely extinct. But even so, the complex gray areas of right and wrong are explored and the villains are as contradictory, just as mankind tends to be.

The writing is vivid and evokes strong emotions. Descriptive language makes it easy to picture the dreary setting in which this story takes place. Hopelessness is the main emotion driving the beginning part of this action-packed novel, but it is only hope of something better that pushes the protagonist to attempt to escape the chaos of Earth.

Her mission to save her brother leads her to make questionable decisions. Decisions that may only be right when you have run out of any other options. This is where the grayness of life itself comes in. What would any of us risk for the slim chance that salvation could come from the other end of the universe? Rain makes the decision to practically sacrifice herself for her brother. Along the way, she may find a way to also save herself.

The world-building was excellent. If there were areas that I questioned, these were placed on the back-burner as the action took over. The storyline was constantly moving and although some of the romantic chemistry was lacking, the plot kept this book solidly together from beginning to end. Although it is a difficult novel to swallow for the cruelty of its villains and the sadness of those who are the most vulnerable, this was a wonderfully told story that will make readers think for a long time after reading the last sentence.

Rating: 1 2 3 4 5

Not a five because of the lack of chemistry in between characters and also the lack of characterization of secondary characters.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Lessons in French

Author: Hilary Reyl

Source: Library

Summary: (goodreadsIt’s 1989, the Berlin Wall is coming down, and Kate has just graduated from Yale, eager to pursue her dreams as a fledgling painter. When she receives a job offer to work as the assistant to Lydia Schell, a famous American photographer in Paris, she immediately accepts. It’s a chance not only to be at the center of it all, but also to return to France for the first time since she was a lonely nine-year-old girl, sent to the outskirts of Paris to live with cousins while her father was dying. Kate may speak fluent French, but she arrives at the Schell household in the fashionable Sixth Arrondissement both dazzled and wildly impressionable. She finds herself surrounded by a seductive cast of characters, including the bright, pretentious Schells, with whom she boards, and their assortment of famous friends; Kate’s own flamboyant cousin; a fellow Yalie who seems to have it all figured out; and a bande of independently wealthy young men with royal lineage. As Kate rediscovers Paris and her roots there, while trying to fit into Lydia’s glamorous and complicated family, she begins to question the kindness of the people to whom she is so drawn as well as her own motives for wanting them to love her.

In compelling and sympathetic prose, Hilary Reyl perfectly captures this portrait of a precocious, ambitious young woman struggling to define herself in a vibrant world that spirals out of her control. Lessons in French is at once a love letter to Paris and the story of a young woman finding herself, her moral compass, and, finally, her true family.(

Review: Kate is perhaps the most na├»ve character that I have ever come across. Her rendezvous in Paris is a wild tale that is positively difficult to imagine. How could someone as silly as Kate have such a high adventure and come out relatively unscathed? Kate reeks of bad decision-making skills and it makes her hard to sympathize with. From the beginning, she begins quite the fling with the household’s daughter’s boyfriend. And she somehow falls in love with him at first sight. Madly in love.

Her judgement is based on what she believes others want to hear. She is at the beck and call of a horrid boss and silly Kate feels honored to be in her position. She forms attachments and feels herself a part of the family when in reality she is nothing more than a servant. Her title is a complete euphemism.

Despite her vile character flaws, Kate isn’t the worst character in this Parisian setting. Her fling is an insipid opportunist with a mother complex. Her boss knows every weakness and also how to exploit everyone in her family. If you can call the Schell household a family. Which you probably won’t after reading this novel. The husband of the batty boss is a pathetic, sniveling fool. The children are unsurprisingly pitiful as well. If I had grown up a child of Lydia Schell, I would indeed need psychiatric help. And pills. Lots of pills. It is a crazy book. A crazy story.

Still, there are the characters that bring a sort of balance and sense of normalcy. Ettiene is Kate’s French cousin and fairly stable. Her new American friend Christie is also relatable. Kate’s mother is by far the most logical and grounded persona in this novel. Will Kate be able to take in some of those positive traits? Please read this to find out.

Despite my negativity toward the characters, I find that the urge to throw this book across the room is a sign of a compelling novel. Since I borrowed this from the library, I would never throw it. But I did have the urge to in a few instances. I think the progression of the novel is reasonably spaced and full of interesting events. By the end of the novel, there is a great sense of just barely having escaped something truly catastrophic. The writer built up the setting and added in many details pertinent to the time period. It felt as if I were a part of a global community.

This is quite an adventurous book full of contradictory characters. I bet that once you start, you will be hooked, wondering how our silly narrator will come out of Paris.

Rating: 1 2 3 4 5

Not a five because I didn’t see much chemistry between any of the romantically involved characters. Also, the secondary French characters were very abstract and had little personality. And Kate is a complete fool...