Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Fifth Wave Review

The review by Justin Cronin below starts with this line: "In a post-Potter, post-Katniss era, the line between young adult and mainstream fiction often blurs." This is very true, especially for me as I tend to read a lot of YA books. I've written about this before but it remains true that there are some young adult books that are just as entertaining and well written as adult literature. And sometimes more exciting and universally appealing.

Thus is the case with The 5th Wave. Unlike typical dystopian novels, The 5th Wave takes place in the midst of a disaster brought on by the arrival of an alien mothership, which appeared suddenly in the sky. And then did nothing. At least at first. But then come four waves of death and destruction, aimed at wiping out the human race. Here's a description of the waves from an article in Rapid City Journal (whatever that may be):

"In the first wave, all technology is made useless when the power grid is knocked out, causing widespread chaos. In the second wave, tsunamis wipe out coastal cities and their inhabitants. The third wave continues the killing, this time via a deadly plague spread by birds.
Then comes the fourth wave, involving "Silencers," humans who were implanted years ago with an "alien" gene while still in their mothers' wombs. These Silencers look and seem human, yet are actually programmed to kill any remaining humans. Because it's impossible to tell who is really human and who is a Silencer, the basic rule for everyone has become: Trust no one.
As the book opens, it's time for the fifth wave, which is supposed to empty Earth of all humans so the Others can take over a planet free of what they clearly believe is a lower intelligence."
Okay, so that's the basic idea. The story itself is told in a couple different voices. Cassie, a sixteen year old survivor, is living by herself in the woods, a few months after the first wave (although initially it seemed to me at least that she had been alone much longer). Through Cassie's memories, the reader understands the different waves and what happened to Cassie's family. Both of her parents are dead when the book opens, but she has a much younger brother named Sam who was taken by soldiers into a refugee camp. She promised to join him when he was taken (she wasn't allowed to join him) but is having trouble keeping that promise since she is afraid to wander too far from her camp because of the Silencers. Cassie is a realist but still clings to the memories of her past life - her family and her unrequited crush on Ben Parrish. 

Cassie finally decides to go after Ben, but on the way, she is shot in the leg by an unseen Silencer. She tries to flee from a car under which she has taken refuge, but ends up passing out in a snowstorm. That isn't her end though. She is found by Evan Walker, a slightly older farm boy who nurses her back to health and teaches her how to use a gun. She isn't without her suspicions of Evan, though, whose story doesn't quite add up even though he seems to have developed real feelings for her. 

Meanwhile, another young man nicknamed Zombie ends up at the same "refugee" camp as Sammy (nicknamed Nugget). Turns out children are being trained to fight the Silencers. However,  as Zombie trains and deploys on his first mission, he learns that the army he is fighting with may not be exactly what he thought they were. 

The Fifth Wave is a well written, gripping novel with well-written characters who don't fall into the typical cliches of YA dystopia. Even the love story angle works well, although I think it could have used more buildup. The end is definitely exciting and sets the story up nicely for a sequel. I haven't read about one yet, but I'm sure it's coming. And the movie rights were bought before the book was even released. The Fifth Wave is getting a lot of buzz out there and it's definitely worth reading, especially during all the intense summer storms we've been having!


NY Times Review (written by Justin Cronin!)

The Next Hunger Games?

Buy it at amazon and Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Revenge Wears Prada Review

Oh man... this book. I first read The Devil Wears Prada after college when I was working at Soap Opera Digest. I couldn't quite relate to Andy even though I was working at a magazine. We certainly had pages of the magazine go around that was like "the book" from the novel but my boss, who granted a bit high strung, was mostly fine - nothing like Miranda Priestly. I remember reading The Devil Wears Prada and being vaguely entertained but frankly I remember the movie more than the novel and even that I haven't seen in a super long time. But still, I wanted to read this and thought it would be an easy read while I was going through the craziness of the end of the year and packing up my apartment to move to Philadelphia.

Ok, beware, SPOILERS to follow - including about the end of the book so read at your own risk.

Revenge Wears Prada picks up ten years after The Devil Wears Prada ended. Andy is successful both personally and professionally. As the novel opens, she is preparing to marry the very wealthy Max Harrison, scion of a wealthy NYC society family. During the wedding day preparations, she flashes back to her life since leaving Runway. Her parents got divorced, Lily (her college best friend/alcoholic) moved out to Colorado where she married a yoga teacher and had a baby and Alex (her boyfriend) did Teach for America and now apparently has a serious girlfriend. Oddly enough, Andy and Emily (Miranda's senior assistant at Runway) now are best friends after bonding at a cooking class a year or so after Andy screamed at Miranda in Paris and quit the magazine. Emily ended up being fired right before she was due to be promoted. Both women still worked in the industry, more or less. Andy wrote for a wedding blog, while Emily worked at Harper's Bazaar, until Emily had the idea that they should launch a high end wedding magazine together. Andy resisted at first but they ended up being able to get funding (mostly due to Max Harrison's money. Andy and Max first met at a party Emily threw to attract financiers) and launched the magazine, which three years later was doing quite well as the story opens.

Andy get married, with a bit of trepidation, after finding a note from her mother-in-law before the ceremony pleading with her son not to marry his fiance. The note also mentions that Max ran into his ex at his bachelor's party in Bermuda. Of course Andy doesn't confront Max with any of this for weeks. She also is feeling miserably sick. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Andy accidentally got pregnant a bit before the wedding. The story moves fairly quickly through a year, during which time Andy has a daughter (Clementine) and continues to work on her magazine.

The magazine, The Plunge, is doing well enough that it has attracted the interest of Elias-Clarke, the publishing company that owns Runway. This bring Miranda Priestly back onto the scene, which of course freaks Andy out. Miranda begins seriously courting Emily and Andy. The girls had agreed not to sell for five full years but the money that they would get for selling would be substantial and they would only have to stay on the staff for a full year. However, of course, that was the deal in the first novel - work at Runway for a year and Miranda would help you transition into any magazine you wished. But Andy already couldn't hack a year under Miranda and definitely knew she would not be able to attempt another try. Emily, however, is chomping at the bit, as is Max, whose own company is struggling financially.

Andy manages to delay the decision throughout her pregnancy and maternity leave. Miranda randomly is obsessed with babies and gives her a decadent gift. And then behind Andy's back, Emily and Max sign over the magazine to Elias-Clarke (Max owned 18% of The Plunge so he was able to sign along with Emily). Andy, of course, is furious and kicks Max out of their apartment and refuses to talk to Emily. This is basically the end of the book, except for a coda that takes place a year and a half later. Randomly in the novel, Andy runs into Alex, her ex, and sparks fly. But of course she is married and newly a mother. She goes to this new mommies group where she meets a young woman, the aunt to one of the babies, who has an affair with a young photography student, cheating on her boyfriend, Xander. Before the magazine sale debacle, Andy learns that Xander is actually Alex. So a year and a half later, Andy is doing some free lance writing and Alex shows up and they kiss and decide to move forward with their own relationship.

So basically everyone ends up where they started. Emily was fired not long after the sale of The Plunge, Andy divorced her husband and Miranda got the magazine. I guess that was the revenge of the title. Miranda constantly treated Andy as if she didn't know her although at one moment she looked at her with extreme hatred, so I guess that meant that Miranda wanted revenge from when Andy screamed at her in Paris ten years ago. Or something. Honestly, I'm unclear. Miranda really wasn't in the book that much and it focused just as much on Andy's personal life as the magazine. Actually, I think there was more about her personal life than there was about her career. First off, she was stupid for denying the obvious signs of her pregnancy, then I'm not really sure why she married Max and all of a sudden Alex shows up out of nowhere and is her soulmate?

Whatever. This book was annoying. I guess if you loved the first one, you'll enjoy this. I wasn't impressed. That's all.

Interview with the author

Washington Post Review

11 Most Cringeworthy Moments

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Ashford Affair Review

I had a REALLY hard time picking a new book before starting this one. I tried to get into Mark Helprin's In Sunlight and in Shadow, which sounded awesome, but I couldn't get through the overly descriptive sample. Turns out the book was 700+ pages. I would have drowned in words! Every description I read just didn't pull me in, but I finally went back to my sample of The Ashford Affair, which ended up completely sucking me in. This is a definite recommendation for fans of Kate Morton's novels.

The Ashford Affair follows Addie, a young girl in the early twentieth century whose parents died, leaving her to be raised by her aristocratic aunt and uncle. Her slightly older cousin, Bea, is her one comfort. The two girls are raised together and both cross paths with a man named Frederick in different ways. Addie's story goes from the country estate of Ashford in English to Kenya in the mid-1920's to New York City in the '90s.

By the 1990s, Addie is quite infirmed but beloved by her family and friends. Her 34 year old granddaughter, Clementine, is a lawyer who works ridiculous hours trying to become partner. She has just ended an engagement and feels quite alone as she learns that her grandmother, who helped raise her, is quite ill. Clemmie slowly learns the truth about Addie's past throughout the novel, which also flashes back to Addie's storyline in England, Africa and finally western America.

The story is rich and intriguing. As I said earlier, it's very much in the vein of Kate Morton - a sprawling multi-generational novel with a secret that is only revealed towards the end of the book. Clemmie is sort of your typical overachieving lawyer type who can't see her soulmate under her nose, while the mystery of how Addie ended up married and raising the children she raised definitely pulls the reader in. The ending wasn't entirely surprising, but was definitely satisfying. I've never read the author's Pink Carnation series but they sound interesting although there are so many of them that I don't know if I have the energy to start the books at this point. Overall, I really liked this novel and hope she writes more standalone stories!

Buy it at amazon and Barnes & Noble