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

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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

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I & II Review

Hi friends! Guess who read the new Harry Potter book? This guy!

I got my preordered copy of Harry Potter and Cursed Child on Monday the first, I believe. I halted the book I was reading (Cress by Marissa Meyer) and went straight into this book. If you can show me a person that says they can sit through a book they’re already reading when they have a new HP book sitting on their shelf, I will show you a liar. Harry Potter waits for no one.

For those who don’t know, I am a HUGE Harry Potter nerd. I love it, I have a tattoo for it, I have a painting for it, my life is basically all HP, and my blog is named for one of my favorite lines in the entire series, “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things – friendship and bravery” … I’ll admit, I omitted the latter half because I mean, really, what’s more important than books?

So I sat down a week ago and read the book. Admittedly it took me three days to do so, but I finished it! And oh my god…

This was completely different than the usual HP books, which was both good and bad:

First of all, it’s written like a play is written. For good reason: it’s the book based off of the play that just took stage in London. It’s supposed to be the same story that they’re doing on stage, only they turned it into a book for everyone to read instead of just the lucky few who get to see it on stage.

I am a huge fan of the fact that they released this book. I remember how bummed out I was when they said there was going to be a play but it was in London. I actually considered just going to London to see that play, so having the play in my hands and only paying twenty bucks instead of probably over 2,000 bucks was an amazing feeling.

The story itself is fantastic. I was hesitant at first because I thought, ,”okay, am I really going to sit down and try to feel okay about Harry being a forty-year-old father?” But I thought they did a great job.harry-potter-and-the-cursed-child-poster-461923

This book picks up exactly where we left off at the end of HP and the Deathly Hallows which I thought was a really great way to start the book. Just from the first few pages in King’s Cross Station I could already start to get a feel of the characters and their differences and similarities to the original books.

The plot was fun. It’s about Harry’s son, Albus Severus, who is trying to find his own identity at Hogwarts while everyone thinks he should be just as great as his dad (or the two wizards he’s named after…. Side note: I always thought it was fucked up that he named his kid Albus Severus because it seemed like a pretty heavy burden to put on someone. They’d constantly be trying to live up to the name. But in the book Harry actually asks a portrait of Dumbledore how he feels about having someone named after him and Dumbledore, being the smarty pants he is, says that it seems like a big weight to put on a kid! Ha! I was right.)

Albus Severus then goes on an adventure with his best friend Scorpius (Malfoy’s son) to try to change the past. Adventure ensues. I won’t give it away because I think it would make it much less exciting if you knew the whole story.

Now, while I enjoyed the books I did have a few dislikes:

As much as I love plays (I’m a Shakespeare girl through and through) I really do wish this were in novel format. Not because it wasn’t an amazing story the way it was, it really was an amazing story, but rather because I feel like there could have been so much more detail. I thought there were times where everything felt like it got cut off – because it was.

Because it’s in a play format, you don’t necessarily have all the imagery that you’re used to with Harry Potter books. There were several times that a scene ended and I was like, “no, there has to be more… Right?”

The problem with play format is that its broken down into what the character is saying, a small descriptive action, and then back to what a character is saying (obviously not always in that order). But because it’s broken up that way you almost don’t get as many of the descriptive emotions going on – you just have to identify it for yourself. Part of me is fine with that, but the other part of me wishes there was more meat to these bones.

The other thing I wasn’t crazy about was the portrayal of Ron. I know this is going to sound nit-picky, and it really is. But one of my favorite characters is Ron because he’s so cheeky, sarcastic, and just kind of reckless. Whereas in this book I didn’t get the same feeling from Ron. I got the same feeling from Hermione, from Harry, Ginny and Malfoy, but there was a disconnect for me with Ron.

Ron in this book felt more staged, almost like they wanted to have him say something funny but it just didn’t work. I wish they had more fluidity with his character.

Now, do I think that that’s a deal breaker? No. Do I think that makes the book any less great? No. I just really wish that there had been more “Ron” in Ron’s character in the book.

Other than that, I really did think this was a great book. It was so exciting to finally read a new HP story with new characters and a whole new generation.

I thought the idea was fantastic, the writing was impeccable (You can always count on Jo), and mostly the feeling of being back in the Wizarding World made me feel as free and welcomed as it always has.

Once again, JK Rowling has done it. She’s made me fall in love with Harry Potter all over again.

Now who’s ready for Fantastic Beasts????

Until next time,

Rachel

P.S. If you have any opinions on the book, have seen the play, or just want to talk to me about everything (because I want to talk to you about everything) leave a message in the comments or shoot me an e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles) – Marissa Meyer Review

Hi! I finished another book, holy crap! I’m like a five foot speed reading demon over here! I can’t help it, I absolutely LOVE this book series.

I just finished Scarlet which is the second book of five in the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I told you guys about her first book, Cinder which is a futuristic, science fiction version of ye ole tale Cinderella.

The first book is basically about a young cyborg who is one of New Beijing’s most renowned mechanics. She’s so excellent at her job that she finds herself helping out the Prince just days before the royal ball. Unfortunately, The Plague gets in the way before the fairy tale can take on the usual story. The plot unfolds from there into all kinds of twists and turns, a lot of them sinister and creepy.

Well, let me say this: this series, although it’s technically for young adults, is not for kids. I would not recommend a young kid reading these. Throughout the first book and the second book, which I’ll get into in a minute, there are extremely graphic descriptions of situations, of how certain people look, of bloody battles, of death, of people dying of a horrible plague, basically just some kinda gross stuff. So if that’s not your thing, then maybe take that into consideration before reading it.

The second book, Scarlet, follows both Cinder and a French farmer named Scarlet. Cinder is on the run, and Scarlet is searching for her lost grandmother. Her grand-mère has disappeared – something that would never happen for this stubborn farmer. She would never have left her granddaughter, and yet – three weeks after she’s reported missing, no one is understanding just how serious this could be.9780312642969_fc

Michelle Benoit (grandmother) was an eccentric woman. She was different than the rest, and was often thought of as crazy and kooky, but to her granddaughter she was everything. So what does Scarlet do? She goes on a search for her, with the help of a random street fighter she just met named Wolf, who seems to have an idea of where she might be – and who might be keeping her.

Now when I was first reading this book, I was really enjoying it, but kinda thought that it was too much to go from one story following one character to the next book following two characters and two different stories. Granted, they meet up at the end, but when I first started it I didn’t know that.

However, I was so invested that I didn’t even care. This writer, Marissa Meyer, is phenomenal. She seems to write with the greatest of ease. I know from being a writer myself that writing about character’s different personalities is hard enough without making each chapter from a different perspective. That takes a lot of skill and a lot of care. There’s a lot that she could have done that would have made this series total crap just by having so many different stories going on at once, but she does it so seamlessly that I didn’t even mind.

I love the fact that Meyer takes all of these old fairy tales and turns them into something completely different. She takes the old Cinderella and turns it into this extreme fantasy world thats crumbling down, or Little Red Riding Hood and makes it a novel about these grotesquely animalistic humans. It’s just fantastic.

I could say so much more, but I think it’s probably safer of me to just stop there before I start giving away the whole story!

But I would definitely recommend this book. Anyone who has been here for a while knows that I’ve been reading at an extremely slow pace recently, and in 20 days I have finished two books that were either almost or over 400 pages. They’re fantastic books and it feels wonderful to get back into the swing of things.

So if you like fairy tales, you’ll love these books. If you like science fiction, you’ll love these books. If you like fantasy worlds, you’ll love these books. The only way you won’t love these books is if you don’t like stories that tie in dysfunctional relationships. Otherwise, go to your bookstore and buy these freakin’ books!!!!!

If you want to talk to me about any of these books, or if you have any questions or opinions, you can comment below or you can send me an e-mail at rachel@booksandcleverness.com. I’d be MORE than happy to talk to you about it!

Seriously – go get this book.

Until next time,

Rachel

Cinder – Marissa Meyer… Just Read It!

I just finished the BEST book. I’ll preface this by saying that it is a young adult novel, but it really doesn’t read like one.

The book is called Cinder by Marissa Meyer. It’s a spin on, obviously, Cinderella. But unlike the fairy tale, this book does not have a happy ending.cinder_book_cover

Okay okay, I won’t spoil anything. But here’s some info:

So this book takes place in the future, after World War IV, in New Beijing. Cinder, a cyborg mechanic, lives in a world filled with plague brought on by the race of “Lunar” people on the moon. Much like when Europeans explored the new world and brought Smallpox, the Lunar people would escape the moon because of their tyrannical ruler Levana, and come to Earth, bringing new diseases that Earthen people were not used to – the plague is called Letumosis.

The whole of New Beijing is excited for the ball that Prince Kai is the special guest for – they’re even suspecting that he’ll find a new bride there! Cinder’s stepsister loves Kai. Poeny is one of Cinders best friends, and would do anything for her, despite the fact that her cruel mother and other stepsister don’t care anything about Cinder and even blame her for the death of Garan, the father of the girls and husband of Adri.

As a very well known and renowned mechanic, even though she is only 16, she gets the attention of Prince Kai, who needs one his androids fixed. But the prince doesn’t know she’s a cyborg and the story progresses from there and takes some insanely crazy turns.

It’s been a little while since I’d read a young adult novel, and I was not disappointed at all. I’ve mentioned quite a few times that I’ve been reading quite slowly recently, but I read through this novel in 7 days, despite the fact that it’s over 400 pages.

This book is the first in a series of five books, and I’m so excited to read more. The day before I finished the book I bought the next in the series, called Scarlet which incorporates a Red Riding Hood theme.cover-set-2-1024x253

So far, I can not rave highly enough of this book. Anyone who has been reading my posts for any amount of time knows how much I love fairy tales, how much I love young adult novels and how much I love science fiction. This book is all three, and is basically my perfect novel.

If you like any one of those three things, you will undoubtedly like this book. It’s fantastic.

Go read it!

If you have read it and want to talk about it as much as I want to talk about it, leave a comment or send me an e-mail at rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Until next time!

Rachel