Heartless Pt 1 of 2 Review

Alright we have a little bit of a situation.

I started reading Heartless by Marissa Meyer to start the new year off right – haaaay 2017, whaddup? I’m absolutely in love with Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series, and I was thrilled when I heard that she was writing a new book – separate from the series – about who The Queen of Hearts was before Alice in Wonderland. That’s awesome, right?!

Except I really don’t like this book so far.

So what’s the deal, you may ask? Why is this even going to be two parts if you don’t like it, you may ask? Well, I got so pissed off at this book that I put it down for three days. In fact, I got so pissed off at this book that I started reading another book! But after careful consideration today, I decided that I’m going to tough it out.

I have not loved a Young Adult fantasy series like I do the Lunar Chronicles since I read the freakin’ Hunger Games in 2010. Six years! It took SIX YEARS for me to find a YA series that I genuinely, absolutely adored. So I think I owe it to myself, and to Marissa Meyer, to give this book a fair chance. After all, the Lunar Chronicles was five books – so I know she’s a great writer.

Now, I’ve made my feelings very clear in a previous blog post back in 2015 why you should stop reading books you don’t like. However, I’m going to tough this one out, and see if she doesn’t disappoint…. For science!

Before I say the bad stuff about the book, let me tell you one great thing: the packaging. The book cover is gorgeous, the hardback is beautiful, and even down to the page it’s stunning to look at it. That’s one thing I can say without a doubt about Meyer’s novels, is that the artwork is phenomenal.18584855

Okay, why do I not like Heartless so far? Well, to start, it’s incredibly slow on the uptake. I understand that she’s trying to build suspense, and set the scene, and I appreciate that. But the way she goes about it is wrong.

The book so far has been about a girl, Cath, who dreams of owning a bakery with her servant, and best friend, Mary Ann. She’s such a wonderful baker that the King of Hearts himself requests for his desserts at parties to include her treats. Now what Cath doesn’t know, is that her parents have arranged for her and the King to get married. At the royal ball, the King is about to announce to everyone that intends to marry her. Spooked, Cath flees from the ball she faints and is revived from the new Court Joker, Jest.

This all seems fine, normal, and dandy right?

Yeah, but that night she discusses with Mary Ann that she doesn’t want to marry the King at all. She wants to open the bakery.

Before I get into that, I want to take a minute to mention that the King is like the world’s nicest man! He’s always happy and kind to everyone he meets, he’s constantly smiling and telling bad jokes, and yes maybe he laughs too much, but I’d rather be around a King who is kind and can laugh at the world than one who can’t stand his people or takes everything too seriously. Just a genuinely sweet man, and she acts as if he’s the grossest thing in the world, and thinks his laughing is so annoying. I mean, look lady, did it ever occur to you that maybe you’re just a stick in the mud?

Anyway, so she complains to her friend-servant that she doesn’t want to marry the King and how awful that would be. Mary Ann, who is a servant, is rightfully upset. She doesn’t understand how anyone could not want to be Queen – she wouldn’t answer to anyone, she’d have all the freedom in the world, she’d be able to do anything she wanted, and the King was a nice man… I mean, come on, you can’t really complain to a servant – who will never be able to move upwards in society, and who has to clean your goddamn bed pans every night – that yeah, I guess it’s a wonderful opportunity for not just Cath, but for her entire family and probably even all of the servants and servant’s families because they’d likely be moved to the castle to serve, but by golly does that bakery on main street sound nice!

Here’s my other thing, if she’s the fucking Queen, why can’t she open a bakery herself? If that’s the only thing in life that she’s concerned with then by marrying the King she would be able to have the money to pay for the bakery, would have all day every day to bake in the royal kitchen which I would assume is pretty top notch, and to buy the specific plot of real estate she wants without going behind her parent’s back and stealing the money they were going to use for her dowry (I forgot to mention that her parents don’t even know she wants a bakery because Cath has never told them, so instead of them listening to her and understanding what she actually wants for her life, they just assume that she would be happy marrying the King. And even when she says she doesn’t want to marry the King, Cath still doesn’t tell her parents what she wants instead). Am I wrong, here? Furthermore, it’s not even like the King would be mad, I don’t think. I think he’d be happy because it would mean she’s making him desserts all day, and bringing in money for the Kingdom. I mean, really.

I understand that in the end she’s going to do something horrible because she is still the “off with their heads!” Queen, but holy crap – I mean, I have no sympathy for her struggle in the least. I’m just waiting for her to know that she’s evil so that at least I can hate her as the villain in this story and not just as annoying narcissistic girl with no empathy for what her loved ones might be feeling.

Now lets move on to this Joker, Jest. Cath feels like she’s in love with him because she had a dream about him and then suddenly lemons and roses appeared in her bedroom. Okay, that’s a little weird, I’ll give you that, but a dream does not a relationship make! Furthermore, in almost every instance Jest has hinted that he’d be happy being the jester to the King and to her – AS THE QUEEN – for the rest of his life. He even talked to the King when he realized she wasn’t ready for marriage and asked the King to slow it down and court her, to which the King was delighted to do because he really, truly cares about Cath for whatever unknown reason other than her goodies (pun intended).

It honestly sounds like a one-sided romance to me. And not in the brilliant way that Meyer’s did in her novel Fairest where we follow the bad guy before she was the bad guy and you can see all of the things that led to her becoming the way she is, including forcing a man to love her by killing his wife and then making herself look like his dead wife. I 22489107mean that character went through some really messed up stuff, and I can’t really blame her for becoming evil. Not that I liked the character, and in that book she did some really dark stuff, but at least I understood. In this, it’s different. The character is just a jerk, but she thinks she’s this thoughtful great person.

So now I’ve reached that impasse where I think, Rae, you’re like two hundred pages in, and even when you skipped ahead  to see how much more of this book you’d have to sit through, she still was on the fence about marrying this King and running off with Jest- do you really want to subject yourself to listening to this spoiled girl go on and on about how she wants this bakery? 

Normally my answer is no. Normally, my response is to say fuck this book – I’m moving on. Life is too short to be reading bad books. But then there’s that flicker that says, Nah, dawg, wait it out. 

Thus, I’m listening to the flicker. Even as I wrote that sentence, I rolled my eyes and put my hand on my face like “oh, I have such a headache, I’m a screw up. Fuuuuuuuuuuuucc…..”

We’ll see. I hope I’m not disappointed, but this bitch better either turn evil real quick so I’m justified in hating her or at least make me sympathize with her in like the next 40 pages because I swear by the time this book is finished I’ll have gouged claw marks into the pages.

I’m going to try to read it as swiftly as possible, but no guarantees it’ll be done in the next few days because at this rate it’s been about four days and I haven’t even touched it. I promise I’ll pick it up, though, guys. I do promise you that, because I’m actually interested in seeing where this experiment goes.

Now I’m off to do me the big science! She blinded me with sciiiiience… na, na naaaa, na…. Science!

I’m sorry I just threw some Thomas Dolby at you. I’ll just be over here if you need me.

Until next time,

Rachel

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

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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

Top Five Love Stories (In The Past Twenty Years)

Ta-Da! I’m back!

I haven’t really able to write recently for a myriad of reasons, but mostly the past couple months have just been hard. I don’t want to lie to you guys and tell you that life is great 100% of the time, because that’s not how life works. BUT life is filled with little bits of extreme happiness and love. And fortunately I have love from my family and my significant other to help me through.

It’s exactly that love that I want to discuss today, because on Monday the 16th it will be mine and my boyfriend’s anniversary (whoopie!!! part-ayyy!) and I’m psyched! I love our anniversaries, it reminds me of when my life really began to feel complete (okay okay, I’m sorry I’m sappy!)

Nonetheless, the past couple days I felt an overwhelming feeling of love not only from my boyfriend but from my family as well. And because of that, I began thinking about the books that I’ve read that have stuck with me as great love stories, or stories of triumph in situations because love was prevalent. Some of my favorite love stories actually don’t have that much romantic, intimate love in them. But I remember the following books as incredibly well written and often struck me as the best love stories of all time. Or at least of the past 20 years.

These aren’t necessarily in any particular order, and this is just my opinion – but let’s be honest, my opinion is always right. So here we go:

1.  Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

This is a book that I love. I just absolutely adore this book. In no way is it a traditional love story, in no way is it a happy story – but it’s the story of a girl with a dream so big and a heart filled with so much love for one person that she is willing to do anything to make it a reality. Now I know that doesn’t sound very romantic, but had you been thrust into a Geisha lifestyle at the age of  nine-years-old and sold for your beauty, you would probably think this story was the most romantic thing you’d ever heard.

2.  The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

This is an easy one, but I would be remiss if I didn’t add it to my list. This novel, with its beautiful writing and striking humor coupled with an incredibly believable and heartbreaking story, has made me cry more than any other novel I have ever read. And this is coming from a girl who has dealt with the deaths of Dobby, Fred Weasley and Remus Lupin all in one book (madness!!!!) But nonetheless, Green writes a novel from the point of view of a girl dying of a disease. Going to support groups for it, she winds up meeting a boy who also has a disease, but not one he’s dying from. The plot thickens from there, but this book was written with grace, amazing humor, and such unpredictability that I was on the edge of my seat (crying) the entire time.

3. Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

Alright, this one I’m honestly a little embarrassed to put on the list, but I cried so much during this book that I had to put it on here. This book, while a love story, is a true story about a woman finding herself and loving who she is. It’s a struggle between living a life she was just comfortable in and a life that has purpose. In this case, her life of purpose includes meditation, lots of pasta and a man she fell in love with. This one struck me as less of a book about the love between two people but rather a book about the love of oneself. The idea that you can live your life, and you can do it your way. The idea of looking at your body in a mirror and saying, “hey, if someone doesn’t like it, then they don’t need to see it. And also, screw them!” and I really like that.

4. All of the Harry Potter Books – JK Rowling

I really don’t need to go into detail on this one, because anyone who has read the books will understand why this is on my list. Despite the romantic relationship stories in this series, the most prevalent, and most important relationship is the friendship and kinship between Harry, Hermione, and Ron/The rest of the Weasleys. If I go into too much detail I’ll start crying over here, so instead I’ll just leave it at this: the HP books have given me a lesson in all the different types of love someone is capable of having. From the smallest bit of kindness to a huge show of affection: love is everywhere.

5. The Valley of Amazement – Amy Tan

My girl! Amy Tan is the shit. I’m in love with all of the books she’s every written, and honestly I wanted to put this book and The Bonesetter’s Daughter on this list, but TBD was less about love and more about over coming obstacles (also I didn’t want to overcrowd you with Amy Tan – but please read that book because it’s fantastic!) Anyway, this novel is incredible. It’s about a woman’s journey as half-Chinese, half-American living in China as a courtesan. Honestly this book has a similar feel that Memoirs of a Geisha has but without the feeling of the main character being a slave and unable to do anything about her own life. This book has so many different moving parts to it, but the thing you need to know is that when this book had loving moments in it, it had heart warming, heart breaking, all consuming, vulnerable, tears rolling down your eyes moments. Read this!

So that’s the last of it. I’m sure if I wracked my brain a little more I’d be able to give you some other books, but for now here are the top five books that center around love that are my personal favorites.

If you have other books that you think ought to be on the list, let me know in the comments or e-mail me at rachel@booksandcleverness.com

The next time you hear from me will be after my anniversary, which means that the next time you hear from me I will have gained twenty pounds from all the pasta I’m going to eat at our favorite Italian restaurant. YESSS! Ciao!

Rachel

One Lovely Blog Award!

lovelyblogger

Hello, blog family! Imagine my surprise when last night I woke up to an e-mail telling me that I’ve been nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award by the tremendous couple on Husband & HusbandI’m so pleased that you two find my blog entertaining and informative (particularly because I absolutely adore your blog) so I’m more than happy to have gotten this award! Thank you thank you thank you to Aaron and Jonathan for showing Books and Cleverness some love. I truly love writing this blog, and any recognition I can get from it is greatly appreciated, so thank you.

Now onto the rules. I’ve looked it up and the rules are pretty simple:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you for the award.
  2. Display the banner/sticker/logo on your blog.
  3. Share 7 facts or things about yourself.
  4. Nominate 5 bloggers that you admire and inform nominees by commenting on their blog.

Easy enough, right? So without further ado, here are 7 facts about me!

1. I don’t eat seafood. I’m not going to go into too much detail about it, because my reasons are totally weird and even my family, though they understand, still can’t fully comprehend it. Basically, I love sharks. I’ve always loved sharks, and since I was little I’ve refused to eat seafood because it takes food away from sharks. A part of it is also that I don’t like the taste or smell, and I can’t stand seeing the eyes on lobsters and crabs. But regardless, I eat no seafood. Who’da thunk?

2. I knit! I’m a certified knitting instructor and I work at the local Michael’s teaching beginner and advanced knitting. The best parts about it? A) No one I know will ever be cold. B) I never have to buy Christmas presents, I just knit them.

3. I could eat ice cream for every meal for the rest of my life. I love it that much.

4. The only country outside of the United States I have ever been to is Canada! O, CANADA! OUR HOME AND NATIVE LAND!

5. I drink a LOT of coffee. An ungodly amount of coffee. The people at Starbucks not only know me by name but know what I’m up to most days, ask how work is going, etc. When we moved into our new apartment, I went to Starbucks the day after and they said, “Oh hey Rachel, how was the move?” So yeah, I drink a lot of coffee.

6. My goal is to be a somewhat successful book writer. I say somewhat because I’m not a complete idiot, and I know that I won’t be J.K. Rowling level of successful. But if I could be like Jim Butcher or Amy Tan level of successful, I’d be happy. Honestly I’d be happy even if I just wrote one book but made enough money off of it to live. I’ve already written short stories, poems, parts of books, and more. If I put them all together I’d probably have a fairly complete book. But writing is my dream.

7. Last but not least: I love horrible movies. I could watch Ice Spiders every day and never get sick of it. I love disaster movies, Category 5 was amazing. If it’s a bad movie, I’ll see it. And I’ll probably love it.

So that’s some stuff about me. I hope I haven’t mentioned any of that in my blogs before! If I have, I’m sorry. I’m ashamed of myself. You can burn me at the stake now.

Now onto the more important part – selecting the nominees for the One Lovely Blog Award!

1. https://thewritestuff123.wordpress.com/ – this blog is so good! If you’re interested in an eclectic variety of books to read, go visit her and see what she recommends. You won’t regret it!

2.https://errka220.wordpress.com/ – Erika in Bookventureland is awesome. From bookshops to visit to authors she’d want to meet, you’ll find it all!

3. http://publishinginsights.org/ – this is a great blog for people who are curious about how publishing works, how advertising works, best ways to calm down and realize that publishing isn’t going to happen in a day. Everything I’ve learned from this blog I’ll be taking with me when I try to publish my own books. So visit them!

4. https://mztressofallevil.wordpress.com/ – yes yes yes yes. Mztressofallevil is my go-to Disney blog. She has some of the most exciting Disney posts I’ve read, and it makes me happy every single time. Most recently she discussed the Disney Parks, which was extremely helpful with planning my Disney trip!

5. https://notesfromtheboss.wordpress.com/ – Post-it Notes From My Idiot Boss is HILARIOUS. If I’m feeling down, I go straight to their website. I absolutely love it! Example: “How often do we get the quarterly reports?”

So there you have it, folks. Thank you again, Husband&Husband for this award, I’m super stoked about it. And good luck to all of the bloggers I’ve mentioned!!

Until next time,

Rachel