Book Review: Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Book Review: Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Broken Monsters

by Lauren Beukes

Broken Monsters

Original Publication Date: September 16, 2014
Length: 448 pages
Publisher: Mullholland books

Obtained Via: Borrowed from the library
Standalone
View at the Traffic light:

red-24178_150

the story morning glory

Detective Gabriella Versado has seen a lot of bodies, but this one is unique even by Detroit’s standards: half-boy, half-deer, somehow fused. The cops nickname him “Bambi,” but as stranger and more disturbing bodies are discovered, how can the city hold on to a reality that is already tearing at its seams?

If you’re Detective Versado’s over-achieving teenage daughter, Layla, you commence a dangerous flirtation with a potential predator online. If you are the disgraced journalist, Jonno, you do whatever it takes to investigate what may become the most heinous crime story in memory. If you’re Thomas Keen, you’ll do what you can to keep clean, keep your head down, and try to help the broken and possibly visionary artist obsessed with setting loose The Dream, tearing reality, assembling the city anew.

If Lauren Beukes’s internationally best-selling The Shining Girls was a time-jumping thrill ride through the past, her Broken Monsters is the genre-redefining thriller about the horror of our city’s future.

howwasit

Broken Monsters deals with a gruesome serial killer who fuses his victims with the parts of animals and turns corpses into sculptures. The book follows a handful of people in Detroit, including the killer himself, a journalist eager to get the first scoop on the story, a Detroit police officer, her daughter, and a homeless man who’s created a community for himself in the city. Each of these people interact with the news of the murder and find their way into the strange story being told.
Broken Monsters is a thriller, but it’s not much of a mystery. The killer’s identity is never kept hidden from the reader, so what unfolds is not a who-done-it type story but a “why-and-how” type instead. There’s a sense of foreboding that permeates the book, but there’s never much urgency. While I tend to enjoy these types of books over cut-and-dried mysteries, I think a little more mystery and intrigue would have gone along way in Broken Monsters. While the story was interesting, I never found trouble putting the book down for awhile.
That being said, I did find myself drawn into the story. I enjoyed some points of view more than others. I didn’t feel the inclusion of TK’s character added much, and his POV suffered the most. While it certainly rounded out the slice of Detroit being presented, I found the story told from his perspective mostly forgettable. I paid the most attention to the detective and her daughter’s points of view–there was something about them that really drew me into their story, particularly Layla, the detective’s daughter. I think it was probably the juxtaposition between the gruesome murders and Layla’s own foray into toying with a predator and becoming almost vigilante in the pursuit of justice.

Jonno, the journalist, was not my favorite perspective but I did love the inclusion of the media in this book. While most of the story was told in a normal narrative format, occasionally there would be snippets of internet comments, forums, etc. Broken Monsters played with the idea of reality in more than one way, including the thin line between news, entertainment, the media, and our consumption of it.

Broken Monsters was a quick read with some interesting parts. I didn’t think it was particularly well-paced, but it was an easy thriller read. I didn’t end the book having much to think about or say with this one, but I enjoyed reading it at the time.

finalimpression2

Broken Monsters was an interesting thriller read that played with genre and reality. There were some perspectives I could have done without, but for the most part I found the story interesting. 4/5 cupcakes.

4cupcakes

yellowaddit3

newsignature

Top Ten YA Books I’d Recommend to a Book Club {Top Ten Tuesday}

Top Ten YA Books I’d Recommend to a Book Club {Top Ten Tuesday}

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, which features (you guessed it!) top ten lists on a given topic each week. This week’s topic is. . . .Top Ten YA Books I’d Recommend to a Book Club. I’m actually tweaking this a bit since I didn’t want to talk about books I’d *personally* want to read so much as books I would recommend to a YA book club.

1. Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Last Night I Sang to the Monster

Really any of Saenz’s YA novels would be a good book club pick, but I feature Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe almost weekly on here so I thought I would change it up. Last Night I Sang to the Monster follows Zach, an 18-year-old alcoholic in rehab. It’s beautifully written and powerful, dark but also hopeful.

2. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I'll Give you the Sun

I just really love this book and think it’s one of those books everyone should at least try. Plus, I can see it being a good book club book because Nelson weaves a lot of rich layers into the story.

3. Unwind by Neal Shusterman

unwind

I picked Unwind for this week’s TTT because of the discussion potential. I don’t think a book club would run out of things to talk about with this book.

4. This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

This Song Will Save Your Life

Another powerful book I think would be great for a YA book club. Whenever I’m talking to someone who’s just beginning to get into YA(real life friends, mostly), this is always a book I recommend as sort of a YA “starter”.

5. Something Real by Heather Demetrios

Something Real

Something Real is such a great look into a family who’s fame and fortune comes from reality TV. Like most of the books on my list today, I picked this one for the discussion potential. This was one of my favorite reads of early 2014 and I know I had very interesting discussions about this book in comments/social media, etc.

6. More Than This by Patrick Ness

More Than This

This book is so mind-boggling and twisty! At least with a book club you could all be confused together until the slow reveal.

 7. Great by Sara Benincasa

Great

Since Great is a retelling of a classic, I think it’d be a good book club pick. Think of the opportunities to compare and contrast!(can you tell that once upon a time, I was an English major?)

8. Golden by Jessi Kirby

Golden

I’ve read 3 of Jessi Kirby’s books, and Golden was the only one that really stuck with me. While I do think this one gets a little heavy-handed in it’s “seize the day!” message, I really enjoyed the story and the way it played out and I think there’s a lot to chew on there.

9. Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

Complicit

This book has some twists & turns that would be fun to read along with a book club!

10. I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

I am the messenger

So I really love Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, but I think I Am the Messenger may actually be a better book club pick.  I loved how this book explored how our actions impact others and it even though it’s not a cheesy book, it’s still a feel-good book to me.

LET’S CHAT: What books would you recommend to a book club?

newsignature

Book Review: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Book Review: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Imaginary Girls

by Nova Ren Suma

Imaginary Girls

Original Publication Date: January 1, 2011
Length: 348 pages
Obtained Via: Borrowed from the library
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile

Standalone
View at the Traffic light:

red-24180_150

the story morning glory

 

Chloe’s older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can’t be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby’s friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.

But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.

With palpable drama and delicious craft, Nova Ren Suma bursts onto the YA scene with the story that everyone will be talking about.

howwasit

This is my second book by Nova Ren Suma, and I’m more enthralled with her writing than ever. While I didn’t love Imaginary Girls as much as the first book I’ve read by Suma, her upcoming The Walls Around Us, I still found myself completely drawn into the story. Suma has the way of writing that makes her words feel weightless. It’s often no trouble for me to distance myself from the act of reading and there’s a cadence in the story that makes me feel like it’s being told to me, rather than being read by me. Imaginary Girls felt that way from the very beginning.

Imaginary Girls tells the story of two sisters: Ruby, the oldest, and Chloe. Ruby’s the type of person who’s instantly charming and charismatic. She can get anyone to do anything she wants and weaves a spell everywhere she goes. Chloe, the main character, looks up to Ruby and is just as mesmerized by her as everyone else in their tiny town. But one day Chloe finds a body in the town reservoir, and she’s sent away to live with her dad.

Then, two years later, Ruby comes to get her. . . and as Chloe goes back to town, she sees London, the girl she found in the reservoir, alive and breathing. Chloe knows that something’s going on, but she struggles to get to the bottom of it. She’s in over her head and the truth might drown her.
This twisted tale of three girls is mesmerizing. I had a good inkling of what had happened right away, but that made it no less eerie to join Chloe on her journey for the truth. There’s a haunting quality to Imaginary Girls, often subtle and occasionally spooky, though not frightening. In every sense, Imaginary Girls is a ghost story, but not only about the people who have died. Chloe’s ghost of her past in this case seems to be quite literal, but there’s also the ghost of the truth that’s following her. Chloe struggles to put the pieces together of what happened one summer all the while Ruby seems to weave an enchantment around everyone.

Despite my love for Suma’s storytelling, there was a sense of something lacking in Imaginary Girls. Perhaps because the book so laser-focused on Ruby, there seemed to be less development of any of the other characters, including Chloe. My grasp on her character was slippery at best, and it made it difficult to lose myself in the story. Something about Imaginary Girls just seemed off, and not in the deliberate way.

That being said, I enjoyed slipping into the story of Imaginary Girls. While not my favorite by Nova Ren Suma, it did solidify my love for her writing style and prose, and I know I’ll be reading more of her books in the future. The story of Imaginary Girls might not stay with me long after reading, but the writing will.

finalimpression2

Something about Imaginary Girls didn’t quite captivate me. The characters, other than Ruby, didn’t feel as real as she did, and that was jarring. However, I loved Suma’s prose and the story behind this book, and I eagerly look forward to reading more from her in the future. 3/5 cupcakes.

3cupcakes

yellowaddit3

newsignature

Book Review: My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins

Book Review: My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins

My True Love Gave to Me

edited by Stephanie Perkins

My True Love Gave to Me

Original Publication Date: October 14, 2014
Length: 321 pages
Obtained Via: Borrowed from library
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Anthology
View at the Traffic light:

red-24180_150

the story morning glory

 

What if, after spending a lifetime deceiving everyone around you, you discovered the biggest lies were the ones you’ve told yourself?

If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. Whether you enjoy celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or New Year’s there’s something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love.

howwasit

Yes, I read and reviewed a holiday anthology in January. What can I say, I’m a rebel. Overall I found the My True Love Gave to Me anthology to be an incredibly mixed bag. That’s par for the course for anthologies, but few have as many ups and downs as I found in My True Love Gave to Me. There were a few stories that were so fantastic, then a few that I enjoyed, some that were just okay, and then another couple I could barely get through. I averaged my rating per story and came up with 3 stars. There are some short stories I would re-read, but I don’t expect to find myself re-reading the entire collection in holidays to come.

Midnights by Rainbow Rowell–5 stars

This story was truly adorable. Rowell’s writing is always great and Midnights started My True Love Gave to Me off on a strong foot. I loved watching the sweet interactions between Noel and Mags on three different New Year’s Eves over the year. It’s such a brief glimpse of a friendship, but somehow Rainbow conveyed so much about the two of them.

Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link–DNF

Yeah, so. . . I managed about four pages of this story before I decided to skip to the next one. I found the writing so dry and the staccato sentence style just grated on me.

Angels in the Snow by Matt de la Pena–4 stars

I loved the voice of this one, the way it dealt with culture, race, etc, and the realism. I appreciated the realism’s of Shy’s lack of money and how it would affect his holidays. The characters felt deep for such a short story.

Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han–2 stars

This short story revolves around Natalie, a girl adopted by Santa who lives at the North pole. The idea was fun, but the story itself felt kind of all over the place and I finished it feeling very unsatisfied.

It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins–5 stars

Color me shocked. To this point, I have not enjoyed Stephanie Perkin’s novels, so much to the point I considered skipping this story, but it turned out to be my favorite of the collection. Part of that is because it revolves around the purchase of a Christmas tree and I have a soft spot for holiday stories that are about Christmas tree acquisitions(probably because I am allergic to Christmas trees and thus never get to participate in these traditions), but I felt so much chemistry in the two leads. North was one of my favorite love interests in this book and I found him fascinating.

Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan–2 stars

A guy plays santa for his best friend’s young sister. It was an okay story, but didn’t really resonate with me and I wasn’t a fan of David Levithan’s writing style in this particular instance.

Krampuslauf by Holly Black–3 stars

My notes for this one just say “WHAT ON EARTH WAS THAT?” This story was weird. Incredibly weird. And yet I liked it–I think. I did like the inclusion of magic, at any rate, and it was certainly a memorable story.

What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth by Gayle Forman–3 stars

I loved the set-up of this story and the inclusion of Hanukkah, the love interest Russell, and the dismantling of stereotypes, but I was less pleased with Sophie’s elitism about being “big city”. I promise you, sarcasm is not limited to people who are from new York or Chicago or LA or whatever other big city. It’s not a foreign language. Us small town folk don’t get to take sarcasm 101 instead of Spanish or French in high school, promise.

Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire- 4 stars

I really liked this one! It’s one of the few stories told from the male POV, and it really worked for this story. The pastor’s daughter and the town prankster was not a pairing I thought I would like, but it worked great in this context. The story was funny and sweet.

Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kierstin White–5 stars

Another surprised. I also really loved this one, especially with the focus on home and family. There was a great theme of accepting things and people and also had some small town charm. It’s not my favorite of the bunch, but it’s probably the most memorable.

Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter–2 stars

This one was just okay. I didn’t even really have anything to say, so. . . ehh.

The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor–4 stars

I loved Laini Taylor’s lush writing. This story felt very much like a fairytale and I loved ending the anthology on this high note.

finalimpression2

A rather mixed collection of stories. There were plenty I found forgettable, but the ones I enjoyed I REALLY enjoyed. I’d probably like to re-read Myra McEntire’s, Stephanie Perkin’s, Rainbow Rowell’s, and Kierstin White’s in the future.  3/5 cupcakes.

3cupcakes

yellowaddit3

newsignature

Book Review: Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky

Book Review: Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky

Anatomy of a Boyfriend

by Daria Snadowsky

Anatomy of a Boyfriend

Original Publication Date: January 9, 2007
Length: 272 pages
Obtained Via:Bought
Publisher: Delacorte

View at the Traffic light:

red-24180_150

the story morning glory

 

Before this all happened, the closest I’d ever come to getting physical with a guy was playing the board game Operation. Okay, so maybe that sounds pathetic, but it’s not like there were any guys at my high school who I cared to share more than three words with, let alone my body.

Then I met Wes, a track star senior from across town. Maybe it was his soulful blue eyes, or maybe my hormones just started raging. Either way, I was hooked. And after a while, he was too. I couldn’t believe how intense my feelings became, or the fact that I was seeing—and touching—parts of the body I’d only read about in my Gray’s Anatomy textbook. You could say Wes and I experienced a lot of firsts together that spring. It was scary. It was fun. It was love.

And then came the fall.

howwasit

Days after finishing Anatomy of a Boyfriend, I still am not quite sure what to think of the book. Perhaps I expected to like it more than I did, and that’s what left me so confused upon finishing, but I don’t think that’s exactly it. I think, in the end, is that Anatomy of a Boyfriend had the potential to be a unique, unflinchingly real portrayal of teenage relationships, but it ended up feeling more by-the-book and less with feeling.

Here are the things I liked about Anatomy of a Boyfriend:

  1. I liked that Dominique got to explore her sexuality on the page in a way that the majority of male characters in contemporary YA get to do, but female characters rarely achieve.

I’m not sure I’ve read a contemporary YA before that so clearly has both male and female teen characters being sexual beings in equal measure. That’s so important, y’all. So often the male characters are perpetually aroused while the female characters are too often either portrayed with a childish innocence or as objects and not actors of sexuality(or, if they are portrayed as sexual beings, nothing good ever comes of it). This isn’t always the case, but it does seem the most common dynamic, and I’m glad Anatomy of a Boyfriend shook that up. In many ways, this aspect of Anatomy of a Boyfriend reminded me of Lauren Myracle’s The Infinite Moment of Us, but I much prefer the way Anatomy of a Boyfriend deals with this.

To go along with this, I also appreciated the fact that while Dominique sometimes made perhaps at least reasonably unwise choices when it came to her relationship with Wes, she was never shamed or humiliated for them.

  1. I liked how the relationship between Dominique and Wes was portrayed.

This is not a “I want them to be together forever” relationship. At no point in the book was I rooting for Dominique and Wes as the reader, and I wasn’t supposed t. Dominique was head over heels for Wes, but I never was, and I’m glad of that. It felt true to life in how teenagers can fall quickly(and not just teenagers–people in general can fall quick and hard), but that doesn’t mean they need to be together forever or that they’re right for each other.

So often, the relationships portrayed in books seem to come down to one of three types. You have A, the couple madly in love and the reader is suppose to root for their happily ever after. Then there’s the B, the unhealthy relationship that’s portrayed as unhealthy and is meant as an exploration of relationship dynamics more than something the reader is meant to desire. And then finally there’s C, the standard relationship the characters are in until something better comes along.

Anatomy of a Boyfriend doesn’t fall into any of those categories. Wes is not an amazing guy, nor he is terrible and awful. He’s just human, like Dominique, and they explore something new together. They struggle with communication and sometimes get to a weird point of obsession, but their relationship is never harmful or seriously unhealthy, nor is it in any way a relationship to aspire to. They fall for each other and they’re portrayed as in love, but at no point does it ever feel like it’s supposed to be this soul-mate relationship, and that’s refreshing.

However, there were also quite a few things about Anatomy of a Boyfriend that I didn’t like.

  1. The characters often felt juvenile despite the mature subject matter.

I realize that this may be an issue of writing choice and a way of showing that teenagers can make decisions about mature topics while still also being young and juvenile and foolish. However, this didn’t work for me because it felt so out of place. If it was a matter of choice, I personally didn’t see that within the story. It often led to some weird form of disconnect and frequently(and I mean frequently) drew me out of the story.
Perhaps if the story had stayed only within the realm of Dominique’s high school experience I would have found this easier to handle, but Anatomy of a Boyfriend continues all the way through Dominique’s first semester at college, and the tone of her voice and her maturity level doesn’t shift in the way I would expect it to. Obviously a semester is not a whole lot of time, but the first semester of college is a time full of changes and I personally have never met a college freshman who hadn’t changed at least a little by winter break.

  1. Dominique felt two-dimensional

Throughout 260 pages, I never felt like I, as the reader, had the opportunity to get a good grasp on Dominique’s personality and characteristics, at least not in a meaningful way. I knew she was smart, because other characters brought it up, and I knew she was driven based on some passages about college applications, but that was about it. There were other tidbits of information here and there–she liked to be prepared, hadn’t really done anything with a guy before, etc–but they felt few and far between.

I wasn’t expecting an in-depth character study, because I knew Anatomy of a Boyfriend was focused on the relationship between Dominique and Wes, but I expected at least something a little more. While I understood why and how Dominique would get swept up in her relationship with Wes, there still should have been some underlying bits of personality still coming through in their interactions. I had trouble remembering her name while I was reading the book. Everything was so nondescript.

I think this issue is why Anatomy of a Boyfriend felt so “by-the-book”, as I described it earlier. With more character development and depth, Anatomy of a Boyfriend could have been unique and revelatory. While there were still aspects of the story and its realism that I appreciated, it felt so standard that it made it hard for me to applaud the realistic depiction of a teenage relationship, because it felt like that was all it was. It felt like the book started out with the idea of exploring a teenage girl’s relationship with her boyfriend and sex for the first time, which is all fine and good, but it never went further to develop an actual compelling story.

finalimpression2

As it is, Anatomy of a Boyfriend had some unique things to offer to contemporary YA, but I wasn’t too impressed by the story-telling. I do believe this is probably a book that an actual YA audience would enjoy, but as a reader who is now out of that age range, it didn’t hold much appeal to me.  2/5 cupcakes.

2cupcakes

yellowaddit3

newsignature