What is everyone reading? (2 reviews and a request for suggestions)

Christmas is here, and with it, my “real-job” (the one that actually pays me) is giving me two weeks off and among the holiday parties and responsibilities of adulthood, I plan to read and write as much as humanely possible.

I just finished Mark of Athena, which I recently reviewed. Finishing the book didn’t not do much to change my opinion. The plot line is a bit trite. Only so many times can one of the band of hero’s be kidnapped the rescued, only to have a cliffhanger that slightly progresses the plot without exploring any of the more interesting side-line, character building plots. The only shining spot may have been Dionysus who added a lovely bit of humor to an overall humorless plot.

I have now moved on to Death of a Neighborhood Witch ( I know I’m out of season) by Laura Levine. This is my favorite fluff series.  And before you shake your head, you know you all have a favorite fluff series (that series that literary might not be the best but by god it’s entertaining.)

The mystery series follows a struggling writer,  and pleasantly plump Janie Austen (I know amazingly ploy there) and her cat Prozec, who chase boys and unwillingly stumble upon an intriguing murder.  The plot is never really anything that inventive and about half the time, you will be able to figure out the murderer before the end, but it is a fun read that keeps you engage and in the end it’s more about entertaining you and identifying with the character than it is solving a murder.

Once I’m finished with this, which should happen in the next couple day, I will be looking for a new book to read. I’m really open to anything. Anyone have any good suggestions?

Boxcar children meet Lord of the Flies.

In  what  I hope to be a bi-weekly series,  today, I’m going to talk about the book or series I’m reading and share thoughts on if you too should pick it or skip it.

This week:

Gone (series) by Michael Grant

Verdict:  Pick it.

If you don’t want some of the plot reveal now, just stop reading and go buy the book. You won’t regret it. I swear. 

The Gone series follows a group of  Perdido beach (Cali surfers)  kids who are wasting another day in school when everyone 15 or older disappears. Simultaneously, walls appear, trapping the now adult-less kids in their hometown.

Shenanigans ensure.

Puppy love.

Adventures.

Everyone rising to the occasion and caring for themselves.

Or they might, if this had been handled by another writer.

Left alone, the now “adults” 11-14 year-olds handle the burden about as well as you think children would handle it, piss poorly. Grant apparently feels that unlike many a happy children left of their own adventure story, little children would not be able to keep up with the complex infrastructure they were accustomed to. Most freak out about caring for their younger children. They squabbled. They engorge on candy while a few try to figure out the chaos.

Add in  mutant powers (and the societal unrest it brings to the normal children)  and an evil nuclear space monster (it’s more plausible than you think) and you have the perfect setting for a distopian novel.

The slow descent of many of the character into adult vices, drugs and alcohol abuse, depression, bigotry and even cannibalism is what makes this novel so interesting and yet at times so difficult to read. Take the tale  of Mary, the young woman who ends up caring for the children.  An all around likable character, and beloved by the town, by the third novel she is unrecognizable.  The constant stress of caring for the young  drives her back to former demons (anorexia and bulimia). To cope with her eating disorder, she start popping pills like a pro. This descends her into madness culminating with her plan to save the children, by committing mass suicide. Though the plan is thwarted, Mary takes the leap and disappears.

Extremely disturbing to the reader at times, the complex nature of this, loss of childhood innocence coupled with the rises of the human spirit make this gloom and doom series hard to put down.  In fact, I just ordered the fourth book off of Amazon today.

This book series isn’t for everyone. It isn’t a light and breezy feel-good book. The characters aren’t black and white but rather tragically human, trying just to survive though knowing they probably won’t and often times giving into the weight of that knowledge.

There are a few issues in this book with pacing. Long drawn out passages and frequent perspective switching are at time distracting, though nothing unforgivable.

If you liked Hunger Games or the Divergent series, give this series a try. You won’t be sorry.