Pinch Reviews: February 2014

Apologies for the delay in pinch reviews this month: it’s been a hectic few weeks as far as computers go, and I didn’t have a spare moment until now. Work is picking up, too, so when I have a minute to think about this, I have to grab it! Without further ado, pinch reviews. As always, if we aren’t friends on Goodreads, add me.

UNINVITED (Sophie Jordan) – 1/5 pinches

It’s not often that I really hate a book. I wrote a very spoiler-filled and extensive review for this on Goodreads, but for the sake of brevity (pinches!), suffice it to say that I thought the concept was brilliant and the execution was terrible. I love the idea of the discovery of a “kill gene” that indicates probable homicidal tendency, and the aftermath of the idea; however, it seems like Jordan got too excited about the save-the-cheerleader-save-the-world trend that tends to trap YA series right now, and forgot to invest in the science, the characters, and plausibility of plot. Overall thoughts: do not read this unless, you know, it’s killing you not to.

GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY, HOLLYWOOD AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF (Lawrence Wright) – 5/5 pinches

Now, back on to the books that I loved, which is the rest of them. GOING CLEAR, a 2013 National Book Award finalist, is a thoughtful non-fiction discussion of Scientology, from its foundation with L. Ron Hubbard to its current existence and membership. Not only did I feel that Wright left no stone unturned, the book also filled in sociopolitical gaps from the last fifty years for me. There were moments here where historical events just clicked together for me, and it was easier for me to see why some things were the way that they were. If you have even a passing interest in Scientology, you’ll be unable to put this down. There’s a reason it was on the NBA shortlist.

CRESS (Marissa Meyer) – 3/5 pinches

Cress is the third book in Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series (Cinder, Scarlet) that retells classic princess fairytales against a futuristic sci-fi YA landscape, and it’s exactly as awesome as you think. I liked CRESS a lot, but I have to say that I didn’t like it as much as the first two. I found Cress to be a rather weak character compared to Cinder and Scarlet, especially in our post-Tangled Rapunzel world. Meyer clearly has the rest of the series plotted, if not written, though, and while this book wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped, it’s perfectly interesting and serviceable to the greater story. Read CINDER first (duh).

THE MOON SISTERS (Therese Walsh) – 3.5/5 pinches

I have a lot of feelings about this book. I’ll probably write a longer review just because I’d waited until its release to talk about it, as I usually try to do with books I read in advance. Sisters Jazz and Olivia Moon both come of age and find each other emotionally as they deal with their mother’s suicide in the different stages of grief. The sisters were so full as characters that everyone else fell a little flat, and at times I was irritated that other characters were interrupting the growth of the sister relationship. This book is sad and beautiful and interesting in its own way, and I’d probably recommend it. It would be a great book club title.

THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE (Audrey Niffenegger) – 5/5 pinches (annual)

One of my favorite books, THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE makes it around to the list about once a year. I just can’t get enough of the story, and every time I read it new details stick out to me. I find myself in a different place emotionally each time I reread it, and the layers in this book are just truly complex and lovely. Listening to the audio book is really wonderful, too, since the alternating chapters are read by a man and woman. If you haven’t read this, drop everything else.

THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER (Leslye Walton) – 4.5/5 pinches

I received this on Net Galley in exchange for a review, and I wasn’t sure what to expect at all. I sat on it for about a month, and decided to give it a try—and then I fell in love. Less about Ava and more about the generations of a family who immigrate to the US from France, the story entwines magical realism into a spellbinding story written in nearly poetic prose. Walton wrote this book for adults and it was sold as YA, so it tends to the more serious. Truly loved this book—look for it.

A LONG, LONG SLEEP (Anna Sheehan) – 3/5 pinches

There’s just something about sci-fi retellings of fairytales that I can’t step away from, this time being Sleeping Beauty. Rosalinda Fitzroy is woken up after sixty years in a chemically-induced coma and must readjust to not only the world around her and high school, but with coming to terms with the fact that everyone she knows is dead, she’s the heir to one of the world’s largest corporations, and that perhaps not everything that happened to her has been an accident. If this sounds like your jam, read it; if not, you should probably skip it. What finally hooked me was an interview with Sheehan where she said she’d like to know what happened to Sleeping Beauty after she woke up, and what she did then. It’s great in most regards, though at times seems to try too hard. If you read YA regularly, you’ll probably like this.

WE WERE LIARS (E. Lockhart) – 5/5 pinches

I can’t say much about WE WERE LIARS, given that I don’t want to give anything away for you. Lockhart weaves together fairytales and classic stories as coping mechanisms for our protagonist, whose memory of a night years ago she must recover with the help of her family and friends. This isn’t typical YA, and I’d recommend for any audience. Really sad. Really beautiful. Really perfect. It comes out in May—order it now and read it immediately.

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Long Weekend Relax

It’s just been a few weeks since the big holiday publishing break, but having a long weekend was particularly relaxing this weekend. My friends and I didn’t do too much, since we usually reserve our weekends for pure relaxation and this was no different.

We spent Friday night at Charles Hanson’s 169 Bar, which we say we do every Friday but get to at least once or twice a month–to be totally honest. There’s just something about a platter of oysters that can’t be beat, you know? Of course, I always want to get my dim cell phone pictures before the tray is empty, but I only remembered about three-quarters of the way through the plate this time. I think that deserves a little pat on the back, at least.

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And, you know, a taxidermied t-rex above our favorite table.

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Otherwise, I had dinner at Bodega in Bushwick with a friend from home in town for the weekend, and we pretty much just bummed around the neighborhood to eat delicious meals and watch great movies together. I saw both In A World… and Frozen this weekend, so I’ll call that a success!

As far as books go, I’ve already read five books this year, somehow, and this week I finished Maria Semple’s WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE?. This book is delightfully individual in its document-heavy concept, and transcends the limited format to convey not only a complicated narrative but implied emotion and character development. I know these are basic parts of a novel, but in less capable hands this would seem gimmicky, especially since the story deals with adult paralyzing anxiety, adjustment to life change at all levels, and complex parent-child relationships–mostly conveyed within documents like emails and work documents, along with commentary from Bee, the fifteen-year-old narrator.

I’m currently still in the middle of both Lawrence Wright’s GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY, HOLLYWOOD, AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF and Libba Bray’s THE DIVINERS, both of which I’m loving (obviously for different reasons). I’m planning to have them both done in time to do another mini-review roundup at the end of the month. So far it seems like my plan to read 75 books by the end of the year is going swimmingly, which I’m thrilled about.

It would have been nice to get a little more done this weekend, but at the same time, it’s really nice to spend the weekend relaxing, cleaning, and catching up on movies we missed.