Peak by Roland Smith Review

Hello! I hope everyone is having a nice holiday season! I’ve been spending my time off reading (very slowly). I managed to find a book several weeks back that was buried behind a stack of books in the Young Adult Fiction aisle at Barnes & Noble, Roland Smith’s Peak.

I was immediately drawn in by the cover of the book, which features two photos taken by real-life climbers of Mount Everest, which is fitting since the book is about a fourteen-year-old boy named Peak (everyone in the book agrees this is a stupid name for a human), who climbs to the top of the world.peak_cover

Now here’s the thing, the book isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a creative book, with lots of research done on the topic, and with a story that I can really get behind. I just wish there was more to it. Some of the characters are pretty one-dimensional, and a good chunk of the plot that would normally have been really emotional was cut short or left unexplained.

Peak (still a stupid name) is a young kid who climbs skyscrapers in New York City. His step-dad is a wealthy business man, his mom is an ex-mountain climber, and he has two young twin sisters that they all call “the Peas.” His dad, a famous mountain climber, hasn’t spoke to or seen Peak in over seven years. But when Peak comes into trouble when he’s caught climbing  the Woolworth Building – I mean, really dude? – his dad mysteriously appears offering him the chance to leave America and go to Chiang Mai for a little more than three years, until he’s eighteen, where Josh’s office is.

I should probably mention that the judge involved in this case very much wants to convict Peak because unfortunately there was a copy-cat the next day, a young kid who attempted to climb a skyscraper and fell to his death. Josh’s offer is accepted by the judge, because otherwise the judge will sentence him to three years in a juvenile detention center, and while that’s good news for the family who lost a son, and for the judge, it also brings on a lot of publicity and a lot of issues from Peak’s very affluent and powerful step-father.

What Peak and the rest of his family does not know, is that Josh (Peak’s dad insists that he calls him Josh since they don’t even really know each other) has an ulterior motive: to have Peak reach the summit of Mount Everest before his fifteenth birthday just a several weeks away. Why? Because apparently his company is in an extraordinary amount of debt, and the best way to make money is to get on camera the youngest person ever to climb Mount Everest – who just so happens to be his son, and in Josh’s company’s climbing party.

Issue #1:

Peak barely seems phased at all by this. His actions have spurred a kid to attempt doing something extremely dangerous – which is bad enough, except that that kid died! Peak justifies it by saying that he didn’t tell this guy to do it, he did it on his own. His mother attempts to get it into her son’s head saying that this actions are a direct correlation to this kid’s death, but Peak almost doesn’t seem to understand.

At the end of the novel, Peak maybe? kinda? sorta? understands it a little bit better, but he still seems more upset by the dead people he finds frozen on the mountain than he does by the person who imitated him and fell to his death. Dat’s fucked up.

Issue #2:

Peak doesn’t even seem mad that Josh is using him. In fact, he brings the issue up to Josh who of course brushes it off, and that’s a-okay with Peak! And even after asking Josh whether or not he would have come to help him in NYC if it weren’t for the fact that he was fourteen and not fifteen (and thus, would not have been eligible as the youngest person to climb Everest) and gets blatantly no, he not only still goes along with his dad, but also still seemingly wants his approval.

At this point I still felt bad for Peak – he was just finding out some deep things about his dad and I can imagine that’s very hard for a young kid who has only ever wanted his father’s attention. But as the story progresses, more information comes from his dad: he had a backup plan in case Peak didn’t make it to the summit so he would still make money, he had received the letters Peak sent when he was a kid and just never replied because he didn’t want to, he never actually told Peak’s mom that he took Peak to Everest, and when Peak tells her himself Josh blows up at Peak, etc. And still this kid seems to not care. He gets frustrated for an hour or so, but then it blows over. No! No, no, no!!

I waited through the entire book to hear Peak give Josh a piece of his mind, and it never happened. Actually, at the end Peak realizes how much he just doesn’t care about his biological father and that’s that. No! I mean good for him for making that realization, because no one should have people in their lives that don’t care about their wellbeing, but at the same time my patience level with Peak had plummeted HARD.

Issue #3:

When Peak decides he’s going to go with his dad in Chiang Mai, his mom barely seems sad at all. She’s still angry with him for doing something so stupid – and I think we can all agree that climbing a giant building in the middle of the night for the sole intention of graffitiing the the top of it is pretty fucking stupid. But even as they’re in the airport waving him off, there’s a hug and slight dialogue, and then off to the adventure.

Now I’m not a mother, but I am a dog mom, and I know that even if I’m angry at my dog for peeing on the floor or scratching me trying to beg for food that if I had to send him off for any stretch of time, I would be distraught. I would be falling apart. I have a hard enough time leaving him to go on vacation for two nights even though I know he’s in wonderful hands. And that’s a dog child. Not a human child that someone birthed.

I just feel like the way Smith wrote his mother into the story was too forced – almost unfeeling. Generally if a character is upset the author will draw you that picture. In this case it was more like, ‘I’m leaving to Chiang Mai.’ ‘I know. Be good.’ ‘I will.’ ‘I’ll miss you.’ ‘You too.’

I mean, say what? No tears? No heartfelt goodbyes? What is this? It’s almost like Smith didn’t know how to portray a female character and the proper emotions she should have had leaving her son for three years. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I really think maybe he doesn’t know how to portray a female character. There are four females in this novel: the mother, the two twin sisters who are both like six or seven years old, and a journalist who is really only there to be this shrill obnoxious person who annoys everyone around her. Every other character in the entire book is a man. Hmm.

Issue #4:

The parts of the plot that explain why a person behaves the way they do, or explains what a person has gone through in life, are not elaborated on. For example, Josh was saved by a Sherpa the year previously, and the Sherpa died saving him. So that backup plan I mentioned was actually that Sherpa’s son. But there wasn’t a lot of elaboration. They didn’t really go over in a lot of detail what happened, how he managed to save Josh, why that guy went to save him, etc. I’m sure you’re just supposed to infer that the Sherpa thought it was the right thing to do and saved him, and faced lots of hardships getting down the mountain, but I wanted those details! Josh was still alive, and obviously knows what happened on the mountain – he should have explained it all.

Look, this is a short book, less than 300 pages. This guy could have easily expounded on those points and made it a far more interesting novel to read, and still made the book less than 400 pages, easily.

There’s also a part where we find out why Peak’s mom stopped mountain climbing. I wanted more information! I want to know exactly what happened. But we don’t get that. It’s a short conversation between Peak and his mother, and again it’s fairly unfeeling. I want more!

I don’t want to say that everything is bad in this because it was a fun read. I really enjoyed reading a climbing Mt Everest story, which I don’t think I’ve ever done. And I really loved the idea of the story – the plot itself of a kid who has a limited amount of time to get up the hardest mountain to climb in the world. Of a kid who has an absentee dad all of a sudden in his life and telling him what to do. It’s an interesting idea and I think it has a lot of promise. I honestly just wish there was more. I think Roland Smith was spot on with the idea, but just didn’t know how to turn this into the grand novel it really could have been.

Again though, I think it was incredibly fun to read, and I honestly do want to read the second book – which features Peak several years later in the Army’s climbing unit somewhere in the Middle East. I think that sounds really cool. I’m just hoping the writing is a little more detailed.

All in all it’s a good book. I’d give it a three out of five. Not for lack of plot, but for lack detail.

If you guys have read it, or have any comments on it be sure to write your thoughts in the comments or e-mail me at rachel@booksandcleverness.com– I’m always interested to hear other people’s takes on things.

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year, and had very happy holidays!

Until next time,

Rachel

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Book vs Movie: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

I finished Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them!!! And let me tell you – it was mediocre.

Okay, let me explain: I’m a huge nerd.

I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan. I love everything about it. I love the books, I love the movies, the symbolism, the fan-base. Just everything. And I read the actual Fantastic Beasts book (the encyclopedia version, that came out as a two-pack with Quidditch Through the Ages, which was published in 2001) and I loved it because it opened up a world of new creatures I hadn’t known, or that had only been mentioned once or twice.

So when I heard that they were going to come out with a movie based on that book, but instead of an encyclopedia of animals, it was going to be a fictional story based on the author of that encyclopedia, Newt Scamander, I was thrilled! I’ve waited three years for this movie to come out, and it was fantastic (see what I did there? You can’t see me, but my eyebrows are moving up and down suggestively). It was incredible, and it actually blew me away.

It was an incredible movie. It was so much darker, and much more adult than the Harry Potter movies (I think the books are still just as dark and adult, but the movies never truly portrayed that dark, eerie, messed up world that Harry and his friends were journeying through). This movie was the perfect blend of character development and animal development. I found myself wanting less of the humans, and more of the creatures – but even so, I thought there was a great blend of the two.

The main character, Newt, was wonderful. He was exactly the type of antisocial, awkward, uncomfortable person that I could imagine would make a life out of studying magical creatures. I loved how awkward and how much unease he seemed to feel around humans, but how relaxed and free he felt around the creatures, and talking about the creatures. It’s this spectacular transition that I thought genuinely made this movie come to life. Newt could have been any one of us nerds. He could’ve been me, being awkward around others, with a quizzical nature towards people who want me to feel accepted …. Is this a trick? Do you actually want me here, or should I just go find a dog to pet?

The cinematics of this film were wonderful. The colors were beautiful, the CGI and 3-D animation were seamless, and the music was the perfect at every instance.

But the book. Oh God, the book.

I didn’t realize they were coming out with a screenplay of the book until maybe a week before I saw the movie. I was thrilled, though. I knew it was a screenplay, and not a novel, but I felt like the script for the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Pt. 1&2 was pretty great, so why wouldn’t this screenplay be? I was wrong.

Look, there are great parts to this book: the cover is beautiful, it’s made to look like a 1920’s hardcover novel, and the interior art is absolutely stunning! It’s honestly the beautiful book I’ve ever seen in my life – no joke. But the writing is not as good. I feel horrible saying it, because I love JK Rowling so much, but the writing is subpar. ne60ri1lfofa99_2_b

It’s written in screenplay version. So it’s supposed to be written with very little detail, since the real detail should be in facial expressions, scene art, and story. But that’s the thing – this book is word-for-word the movie.

The only part that is different is the very first page, where they show Gellert Grindelwald killing a bunch of people. Every single thing afterward, including the newspaper articles from the beginning of the movie, are in there. No extra dialogue, no extra information, no extra subtext, or body language, or anything that would make me truly imagine what was going on.

In fact, I’m so happy that I watched the movie before reading this screenplay because I can guarantee I would have been like, “what the hell am I reading?” because there just wasn’t enough description of characters and animals for it to actually make sense, or for me to truly imagine what I was reading.

I saw the movie twice in theatres, once with my boyfriend, and once with the rest of my family – but honestly I feel like I watched it two and half times, and the last half just wasn’t as fun.

I’m really disappointed, actually, because I was very excited for this screenplay and I’ve NEVER disliked something that JK Rowling has written. I was skeptical when The Cursed Child came out, and I was expecting to hate it, but I didn’t. It wasn’t a perfect book, but it was still very good. This book I just don’t like at all.

I’m glad I own it for aesthetic purposes, but honestly I wouldn’t recommend reading it. I DO, however, want you to know that I am not only recommending that you see the movie, but demanding that you see the movie if you like this type of story, or are a Harry Potter nerd like myself. It’s uttertly fantastic!

The movie is obviously the clear winner in this case, so my tally is:

Book: 8, Movie: 6 

Let me know in the comments or via e-mail if you felt any differently. I don’t know if maybe I was just expecting more from the book and was just let down, or if there were other people out there who didn’t like it as much as I did.

Until next time,

Rachel

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Have We Regressed? Or Have We Just Been Silent?

Hi everyone! I’m doing something a little different today.

I’ve been largely quiet on this page as to my views and beliefs, and I want to state right now, before anything else, that I respect and honor your opinions and beliefs and will fight to make sure you are always able to express them; please do the same for me.

Now, like many people in America, I’m upset and disturbed at the path our supposedly progressive country has chosen to go down. I recently discovered that I’ve honestly been fairly naive and arrogant in thinking that the America that I grew up in, and the world I grew up in, is this great, loving, free state of life. In reality it’s still just as backwards as it ever was.

So why am I writing about this? Well, I grew incredibly upset with an article I read in People Magazine titled Jinger Duggar’s Big Day! This article is about a 22-year-old from a well-known reality TV family. The Duggar family is consisted of two parents, Jim and Michelle, and 19 children. They believe that God will give them exactly what they need in the world, so they do not believe in contraceptives, abortions, or medicine interfering when it comes to children. This girl, who I believe is the fourth oldest, recently married a not very well known ex-professional soccer player, Jeremy Vuolo, 29. I think it’s fantastic that these two got married, as long as they’re happy.

What I had a hard time sitting with was this exact quote from Michelle Duggar:

“Jeremy is a strong leader, and Jinger is such a gentle people person and a great follower.”

Let’s read between the lines here: Jeremy, an athletic, wealthy, religious man, is head of the household and is a great leader, and Jinger? Why she’s a pretty young girl who just can’t wait to follow her husband to Texas, and be a little social bee in their upscale neighborhood.

Maybe I’m just stubborn (I think anyone who knows me would agree with this) but if my boyfriend ever told me to  be his “follower,” I’d plant my heels in the dirt so fast he wouldn’t know what hit him.

Now I brought this up to my boyfriend (who promptly agreed that this would not be a favorable situation for him, but who also looked me in the eyes and told me, “I want you to know I value your opinions.” D’awww!) and we started to have a very interesting discussion – not about these particular people, who can do whatever they please in life, but about American society as a whole.

You see, before the Duggars, I actually did not think there were many people out there who still had their way of thinking: God is king, man is law, woman is behind man at all times. Again, if this is your way of thinking, that’s great. But it’s not mine, and frankly I don’t personally know of any woman who would agree with this either.

So before this well known family emerged, I thought this type of thinking was in the past. Arrogantly, I thought, okay, I know there are some men out there who think a woman’s place is in the kitchen, but there aren’t THAT many. In fact, I distinctly remember when the Duggar’s show came on air, and I thought, wait, is this real? Like actually real? I couldn’t understand that this was a show about real life people and their real life beliefs; that it wasn’t a scripted reality TV program like Laguna Beach, and the people in it were expressing genuine views.

I’m having this same train of thought now, in 2016. Donald Trump had been running for President of the United States of America. A whopping title! I, like many others, believed it to be a joke and he’d jump to the side of the podium one day with jazz hands flailing, yelling, “Gotcha!” And everything would be back to normal.

But nope. Sadly, his campaign has not only succeeded in getting that whopping title, but it’s succeeded in bringing out all of these different people that I thought history had erased. I didn’t think the person across from my apartment complex could possibly be okay with sexual assault, sexism, racism, bigotry, misogyny, and many, many more things that we, as a people, have tried so hard to get rid of. I didn’t think the person that gave me my bagel in the morning was an advocate for inhumane rights, homophobia, and making Muslims wear identification tags. I didn’t think that the friendly people I see every single day secretly hated others so much that they would proudly come forward with Trump. No, sir, I did not.

Growing up in school, the question always raised in history classes was: How could people have let Hitler do the things he did? How could someone have been okay with this?

Well, I’ll give you a new question: How could we, as a supposedly caring, kind, empathetic, accepting group of people, have that age-old-question and still follow Trump blindly?

The answer is so simple. We just haven’t changed as much as I thought we had.

History is doomed to repeat itself. I never thought that the horrible ideals that people had in the past would come back, but apparently they just never left! People are still out there preaching hate, condemning other people based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and even sticking to the idea that women are nothing but pretty objects to look at (but God forbid they talk!) These opinions are nothing new, they’ve just been largely silent for the past 70 years.

I guess what I’m saying is that, it seems to me, large groups of people with ancient and hurtful ways of thinking, have suddenly surfaced in a time where I thought we were civilized enough, advanced enough, and accepting enough to never let history repeat itself in this large of a fashion.

This is a scary time. But remember, it can get better!

My one plea to you is this: Our country and a lot of the people in it are moving backwards. If we, as individuals, can keep moving forward we’ll be all right. We just need to accept people as they are, and understand that you can’t change them – but you can change the way that you react towards them.

I’m going to leave you with a poem that I absolutely love, and find strength in all the time. I’ve tried to live up to this every single day since I first read it.

IN LAK’ECH

Tú eres mi otro yo.

You are my other me.

Si te hago daño a ti,

If I do harm to you,

Me hago daño a mi mismo.

I do harm to myself.

Si te amo y respeto,

If I love and respect you,

Me amo y respeto yo.

I love and respect myself.

Until next time,

Rachel

rachel@booksandcleverness.com

P.S. I’m sorry to anyone who is offended by this post. I did not mean it as an attack, or as hurtful criticism. I simply wanted to get my opinion out there. If we have different opinions, that’s wonderful! I’m glad! That makes life interesting, that makes the conversation better. But let’s keep it at that: a conversation.

The Lunar Chronicles: Winter Review!

I’m back! I know, I know, three months off seems a little excessive, but hey! This is just for fun, right?

I’m finally going to talk to you about the last book of the Lunar Chronicles series, Winter.

I have one word: DAMN!

No, three words: oh my DAMN!

This book was intense. As per the previous novels, each story has a underlying fairytale that accompanies each character that the book kind follows. Each character is loosely based on a fairytale, but mostly the author just rips apart everything you ever knew and turns it into something completely different. The first book was a take on Cinderella, the second on Little Red Riding Hood, the third on Rapunzel, the fourth on the Wicked Step Mother, and the fifth and final book in the series, on Snow White.

Okay, now that you’re all caught up: this book was crazy. I don’t think I’ve ever actually read a book series that captured my attention from the start and kept it this much even three months after I’ve finished it since Harry Potter. Seriously, if I weren’t so busy (and didn’t have a hundred books on my shelf that I haven’t read yet) I would have already re-read this series.

winterMarissa Meyer does an absolutely phenomenal job portraying each and every character and I’m so impressed that she was able to jump from point of view to point of view, while still keeping track of five different characters at once. It’s absolutely incredible and awe-inspiring to read a book from someone so talented.

Winter is definitely tied for the darkest book of the series, which I didn’t think was possible after reading Fairest. Both books are the type that you read and say, “that’s fucked up.” every ten pages or so, which was (weirdly) a breath of fresh air.

You see, from looking at the beautiful covers of these novels you would not for one second think it would get as dark and twisted as these books do, but I love that!!! Every turn is surprising and new and I never know what is going to happen. I’m pretty certain that those two books have more scarring content of any young adult novel I’ve ever read.

There is psychological and physical abuse. There is madness to the point of taking control of other people’s minds and having them stab people. There is gruesome accounts of burning alive. There’s basically almost molestation, and there’s an all out war. You expect plot points like these for regular fiction novels, but never for a young adult novel! I think it’s absolutely astonishing that Meyer was able to take these very adult themes and manipulate them and turn them into beautiful lessons and just beautiful stories overall.

The ONLY negative thing I can say about this book (and I’m not even sure it’s a negative, really) is that the ending isn’t a traditional happily ever after. It has those elements, yes. But each group of stories within the larger story has a much different ending than I would have expected. But is that a negative? I’m not so sure. I think it just makes it more realistic.

If you love books that are loosely based on very grim fairy tales (ha! – grim fairy tales;  Grimm’s fairy tales… funny right? No? Okay, I’ll just wait over here…), if you love romance stories, action stories, science fiction stories, young adult fiction, alternative future stories, scary-ish stories, I have no reason to believe you would not love these books. Each one is so unique and so special that I just have nothing bad to say.

I’m also going to add an image that was on the inside of the front and back covers for Winter because it’s absolutely ASTOUNDING! Artemisia.jpgFor book cover art, it’s easily one of the most captivating images I’ve seen.

Good job, Marissa Meyer! I can’t wait to see what you produce next!

Again, I’m sorry it took me three months to get to writing this, please don’t ston me to death! I swear I’ll try to do these quicker. For those who stuck around and waited for this last installment, thank you – I hope I didn’t disappoint, because this series sure as hell didn’t!

If you have any questions or comments or just want to say hi, I’ll leave my e-mail address below. In case I don’t get the chance beforehand, Happy Thanksgiving all!

Gobble gobble,

Rachel

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Cress and Fairest – Marissa Meyer Reviews

Hi friends! I’m almost done with the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer!

When we talked last, I had paused reading Cress, the third novel in the installment, so I could read the newest Harry Potter book (!!! – I’ve already done my review if you’d like to read it!) Well, once I finished reading that, I picked up where I left off, and boy was it good.

For those who don’t know, the series is a play on different fairy tales, for example, the first book is centered around Cinder – a well known mechanic who is trying to save her sister from the worldwide plague, Letumosis. The story gets crazy from there, but let me just say: this is no fairy tale story. Unless you’re counting the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales, in which case – yeah, that seems about right.

The other books are Scarlet (a play off of Little Red Riding Hood), Cress (Rapunzel), Fairest (a prequel following around the evil Lunar queen, Levana), and lastly Winter (Snow White) which is the last of the series.

So since we last talked, I read both Cress and Fairest and holy shit. Let’s do this one at a time:

Cress:

cress-final-e1378337072559This story follows a girl named Cress. She’s been kept in isolation for her whole life spying on Earth for Queen Levana. She’s awkward, anxious, socially inept, and totally in love with Carswell Thorne – a friend of Cinder’s. I don’t want to give too much away because I really think you should read this series, but she and Carswell have to go on an adventure together, while Cinder is left to deal with a huge amount of problems and worries with the rest of their crew.

This book hit me harder than the two previous novels. As an awkward, anxious and socially inept person myself, I fit in with her. I also have a shit ton of hair, so I feel like she and I have a connection.

This book was written spectacularly, and I thought the story was above most fiction I’ve read recently. The character development was not only great to watch unfold but felt really genuine. I really feel like I’m watching these characters develop before my eyes and love it!!!!!

This book was pretty big, over 400 pages I think. But it went by so quickly. It’s just such a great read!

Fairest:

5119ihf8lulThis book is fucked up. I’m putting that out there now. It’s fucked up, but it’s awesome. This is the fourth book in the series and serves as a prequel to everything we know from the beginning of Cinder on.

It follows Levana back when she was just a princess, and her jerk sister, Channary, was Queen. It follows her path of destruction, her manipulation and basically slavery of the man she “loves”.

My boyfriend can tell you: I said aloud quite a few times while I was reading, “Wow, that’s really fucked up.”

Seriously I don’t want to ruin everything, but one thing that we know from the beginning of the series (it’s not a surprise) is that Levana killed her niece by burning down her nursery because the young Princess Selene was too powerful. She burned down a nursery to kill her niece. Legitimate murder. Straight up, no remorse, killing an innocent child murder. Dat’s fucked up.

This whole book was just one horrible thing after another, but I thought it was incredible. It was a great way to actually get inside the mind of this horrible Queen and what her justifications are for doing such horrendous things.

I’ve mentioned before that I love crime books, serial killer books, and things that really let you get inside a messed up person’s mind. I like to hear their reasoning and try to understand why someone would do something so terrible: this book did not disappoint. I felt like this book was almost as messed up and as amazing as the book I read about Carl Panzram (Panzram: A Journal of Murder Review) which was an incredibly messed up book. I think because it’s fiction it’s not as terrible and disgusting to read, but the way that Meyer writes the story feel so real that I was sitting there like, “someone better kill this bitch. Oh wait, she’s just misunderstood. Nope. Nevermind, BURN HER!”

highly, highly, highly recommend this book series. I’m about 250 pages in the last book, Winter, and it’s sooo good. It’s incredible. And I just can’t praise this series highly enough.

This series appeals to not just the young adult fans, but also the fans of science fiction, of war, of fantasy, of fairy tales, of romance – it has everything. It’s one of the most exciting series’ that I’ve read in a very long time, and I just absolutely love it!

Marissa Meyer, keep up the good work.

10/10 for both books. 8 thumbs up! 12/10 dentists would recommend.

Until next time,

Rachel

If you have any opinions on the series, or any questions, or even just want to chat – you can leave a comment down below or you shoot me a message to rachel@booksandcleverness.com