Saturday, December 19, 2015

Tricky Twenty-Two (A Book With a Number in the Title)

Pro: Something to entertain for a few hours
Con: Same old, same old

The Bottom Line: I don’t know why the formula doesn’t change for these books, but it doesn’t, and that’s sad.

It’s been a handful of days and I’ve already pretty much forgotten the plot of the book. From a combination of it being the same as most of them these days to….well, that’s pretty much it, really. So I’ll go look it up real quick and plop it in here for you.

Ken Globovic (aka Gobbles) is the head honcho of the Zeta frat house. After making bail for the whole beating-up-the-dean-of-students thing, he’s on the run. Except as Stephanie snoops, there are a lot of weird things going on at the Zeta house, unexpected flocks of geese notwithstanding. Meanwhile, a slew of killings is going on that seem to have stranger connections than Stephanie first thought. And while Ranger keeps asking for her help, suddenly Joe Morelli is pushing her away. As always, things are never right in Stephanie world – until the end, of course.


At this point I’m wondering if Janet Evanovich is stuck under contract for X amount of books or what. Even so, I don’t see why that wouldn’t give her room to change the characters up or make them grow. That’s really the biggest problem with this series. The formula is the same, same, same. Lula makes sassy jokes, Stephanie’s stun gun never $@&#! works (cripes woman, BUY A TASER!), her cars get demolished (except Big Blue, surprise, surprise), Stephanie’s skips make her look stupid, etc. The plot was different, but still leaves you making that, “Um…okay…?” face. I’m even getting bored with Ranger. You think he’d at least drag Stephanie’s ass to a shooting range, give her better gear (although she’d probably screw up and it would end up being used against her), and tell her to get her shit together before she’s killed. Heck, Stephanie doesn’t even blanch when she starts getting weird stuff in the mail. Yeah, okay, you’re used to weird stuff, but maybe you should tell somebody. Common sense.

So again, meh.

I think it’s interesting to note that I took a peek at other folk’s reviews to see what other readers had to say, and many pointed out things I hadn’t paid attention to at all. Several even question who the actual author of the book was given that there were several discrepancies that Ms. Evanovich should have known given that this is her universe, after all.

As for me? *shrug* I’ll probably keep reading them. Maybe because I’m a sadomasochist when it comes to this series. Or maybe it’s because at this point I’m so far entrenched I want to be there when it all finally ends…which hopefully it does. Because at this point I’m numb to pretty much everything from the “love triangle” to the whole car-blowing-up thing. I really only get frustrated with the never-ending stupidity. But given that the books come out with long intervals in between, I can handle it.

…That and I needed a book with a number in it.

Still. If you’re considering reading any of the Stephanie Plum series, I encourage you to go back to my Stephanie Plum September posts and figure out which number you’ll decide to stop reading. Because trust me, you really don’t want to continue on to where I am now.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Death Cure (A Trilogy)

Pro: A thrilling end to a thrilling series.
Con: Trust issues, a few questions, and one death

The Bottom Line: If you want dystopia but feel wary about this since it’s teen – read it anyway. These kids go through stuff that would break most adults.

Let me put this in perspective for you.

I didn’t ever intend to read this series. Nothing against James Dashner, but it just wasn’t high up on my already massive reading list. But then I saw The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials in theatres. And I wanted to know the end. Like, now. So I went to two different libraries on the opposite sides of town to get both books. This book wasn’t available, so I put a hold on it, figuring that by the time I finished the first two, I’d be able to pick this one up and read it. That is, until I looked at the queue and saw that I was 30th in line. NOPE.

So I bought the book. I don’t do that. I don’t buy the third book in a trilogy if I don’t have the first two. But that’s how badly I wanted to read this book. That’s how much I wanted to know just wtf is happening to these kids and how it’s all going to end. Now I do.

Thomas is finally free of WICKED, but there are prices to be paid. He doesn’t know who he can trust, how he’ll stay clear of WICKED, is still ignorant of his past (although maybe that’s for the best), and the world seems to be falling down around him – figuratively and in some cases, literally. He wants nothing more than to make WICKED pay for what they’ve done. But how can he? And at other times he still finds himself asking – should he?

I had trust issues throughout this book because I kept thinking, “How do I know this is for real? That these people aren’t a part of WICKED’s plan?” Eventually you have to be like Thomas and hope that for once something isn’t fake. That there are people that want to help, and that it is possible to have something go right for once.

Just like the previous two books, there’s a ton of stuff happening almost every day for poor Thomas and his crew, and things just never really get any better or easier. I sort of wished this more in the second book than this one, but it still applies – how no one completely went off on any of the WICKED people. Just simply yelling at them about what they’ve been through, how awful, sick, and twisted WICKED is. I don’t care what they were trying to accomplish – the way they were doing it…WICKED is not good. Adults would sneer and look down on Thomas and his group, and no one ever snapped back that they’d been through way more than any of those people, and all of it much more horrific.

It’s all interesting and exciting and comes together in the end, though I was kind of confused as to Teresa and her group’s escape (was it an escape? Fake? Did they decide to escape after getting their memories back? I don’t get it). I was also surprised at the lack of reaction to someone’s death near the end. Especially given Thomas’s attachment and despite previous events…I don’t know. It was just like, boom, it happened, bummer, moving on.

But no matter what, it was a really good ride. Will I have to reread it when the movie finally comes out in the future? Hell no. This story will stick to my mind like glue for a long time to come. And the only thing I ever saw coming? The truth of where the Flare came from.


Future Movie Thoughts (in case you’re interested)

I do look forward to the movie. I’m very, very curious as to how they’re going to handle things, from the plot itself to character deaths. I’m sure other folks who have read these books can make guesses as to who might bite it in the end – and who we hope they might change in order to survive to the end.

But I will say one thing – I’m still glad they changed what the Flare does to a person. Because going mad in that fashion is frightening and terrible…but what the movie version does to people is far, far worse. I’ll live with Dashner’s Flare and lose my mind. But if the movie’s Flare takes root in my brain – and body – that’s when I eat a bullet.

I do know that there is a prequel that Dashner put out after this was complete - but I'm still dubbing this a trilogy and counting it for my reading challenge. So nyah nyah,

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Scorch Trials (A Trilogy)

Pro: Keeps you reading, 100%
Con: Not really.

The Bottom Line: How more of these kids aren’t dead or suffering from severe PTSD or simply breaking down, I’ll never know.

Once I was done with the first book, it was time to dive into the second. I’d already seen both movies, so now I really wanted to know how The Scorch Trials compared to its film counterpart.

Holy cow, are they different. But let’s talk book first.

Thomas and the other Gladers are out of the Maze. They’ve been rescued – or so they thought. Turns out the Maze was only the first phase of the trials. Now they have another to face; the burning wasteland of the Scorch, an area of the world where sun flares have fried everything to a crisp, and where a nasty disease called the Flare eats away at people’s brains until they’re psychotic, ravaging maniacs. Good times. And if Thomas and the others survive – who knows? Maybe WICKED keeps its promises, maybe it doesn’t. Thomas doesn’t know what to trust anymore – or who to believe.

Wow this book was violent. I mean, stuff happens to these kids that only happens in horror stories. WICKED puts them through some awful, awful things in order to get what they want, ultimately justifying all that suffering with a promise of a cure for the Flare. Yeah right. I certainly don’t believe it, myself. I have my theories of what’s really going on, but even so, Dashner keeps you on your toes so you never truly have any idea of what’s happening, who to trust, what’s real, and what might happen next. In the end, all you have is Thomas to hang onto, and he’s as baffled and beaten as the rest of them.

There are so many twists and turns and weird crap happening that I truly cannot recall a time I’ve ever been so off balance by a book. I mean, yeah, I have theories, but in the end they’re weak and only vague guesses at certain pieces of the puzzle. When it comes to the big picture, I’m pretty well left in the dark. Heck, as I write this, I’m 1/3 of the way into the final book, The Death Cure, and I still don’t have any new ideas. I like it. I like that it’s totally new and not cookie-cutter stuff that makes it super predictable. I like that I’m so in the dark and Dashner does so many different things I can’t even cheat and skip ahead to discover anything because stuff can change in their world at the drop of a hat.

I do still think that the overall experiment is absurd since WICKED has no control, and by doing so they’ve put themselves in a position to be royally screwed by losing all their subjects, but I’m too well entrenched to let that bother me. So instead I just think, “You guys are fucked up,” and move on.

I paced myself with this book – and I use that term loosely. I finished this book over two days. Partly because I’d wiped myself in reading the first book the day before, and partly because I actually had to go to work.

Movie Comparison (if you’re interested)

Now if this set of book to movie changes make readers mad, I wouldn’t be too surprised. The movie is pretty much nothing like the book, and I think they may have pulled a bit from the third book into the second movie (and I only know that because of my cheatsy sneak peeks in the third book to where I saw mention of the Right Arm). But there are tons of things they left out – but again, in many ways I can understand.

The truth is that if all of Dashner’s horror were left in the movie, that sucker would be rated R, hands down. There are hanging dead people. Kids that lose heads in what’s probably the shittiest way to have it done (no, really, they literally have their heads removed from their bodies). There are more monsters, both human and non, Thomas gets the shit kicked out of him on what seems like every page, and so on. And all the kids reading these books wouldn’t get to see the movie, and the parents that saw it would flip out with, “Oh my God – what are you reading?

That aside, there were a lot of other changes. They stuck with a lot of original shifts simply because they don’t translate well to the screen. The Scorch isn’t a purposeful trial in the movie the way it is in the book. I think they pushed along the plot more in the movie so you know earlier what WICKED is hoping to achieve, which is also fine, otherwise moviegoers might leave frustrated and confused, and then have to piece it all together a year later. I hesitate to say that it’s dumbed down; more like a lot of the tests that WICKED runs in the books are etched out entirely and we move forward to Thomas and Co. seeking escape, safety, and answers.

Oh – and I like what they did with the Flare in the movie. If you’ve played The Last of Us, think final stage of infected folks. If not, go look up cordyceps fungus. I’ll wait. Yeah, that’s kind of what they went with in the movie, and I’m totally cool with it. It’s creepier by far, and while I’ve got nothing against Dashner’s Flare, I’m bored with crazy/rage-induced viruses.

Ultimately, I’m okay with the movie and the book. The movie is almost like its own story, which is fun, and which makes me wonder how the final movie will go. Until then, I’ll discover the rest of the story in the final book.

Looking forward to how it all plays out.


Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Whoops! I completely forgot to mention this. Last month I reviewed Stephanie Garber's amazing book Caraval for the web blog I curre...