2012 Books

James Dashner's The Death Cure - Grade: A. This is the third installment in The Maze Runner which, if you haven't started reading them, you should. Because they are pretty awesome. Again, I struggled to remember what happened in the previous book, especially some of the characters. I don't know if that's because they weren't developed well-enough to be memorable, or just that I suck at remembering. But again, Dashner is in his element, producing a heart-pounding, page-turning, gripping novel. As I got near the last 30 pages, I didn't want to keep reading, because THE END was coming! Nooooooooo!!! I don't WANT the end! My heart was racing for so much of the book. Dashner knows how to keep readers on the edge of their seats, that's for sure. I enjoyed this one alot.

Rick Riordan's The Son of Neptune (second book in The Heroes of Olympus series) - Grade: A-. Another victory for Riordan. I struggled to get through this book at parts, but for the most part the action and story were intriguing, engaging, and the characters believable and relate-able. I think Riordan does a good job of continuing the saga, and feel that he has achieved success where authors like Jacques fall short in simply reproducing what they've already done, simply in a different light. Riordan is not that author. His material is fresh, diverse, and always interesting.

Charles Jensen's The First Risk - Grade: B. This is a collection of poetry documenting four separate accounts: 1) the murder of Matthew Shepard and the myth of Venus and Adonis through the eyes of Italian Renaissance painter Luca Cambiaso; 2) the eccentric women of Pedro Almodovar's All About My Mother and their search for authenticity; 3) the nature of love and obsession in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo and the pain and confusion of loss; and "The Strange Case of Maribel Dixon," the compelling novella-in-verse of a physicist in search of his lost wife, haunted by a phantom voice that may or may not be hers. This collection really struck with the poems about Matthew Shepard. I found them very, very powerful and spell-binding in their prose. I cried too. I found the poems haunting, and beautiful at the same time. The other three sections left me wanting, but that could have been simply because I didn't connect with them on the same level. The words were pretty, they didn't seem poorly written... but they did not capture like the Matthew poems had.

Allison Burnett's Christopher - Grade: C. I actually stumbled across the sequel to this novel (The House Beautiful - review forthcoming) when I was doing my search for gay poetry. I put it back though, so I could read this one. It was eh, which seems to be my opinion on most gay-themed Lit. The main character was a soppy, hopeless fat man who gives real gays a bad name. I'm glad this book isn't wildly popular actually. The main character has a hopeless crush on the dashing young tenant next door...I'm just glad it didn't play out the way I thought it would. Christopher (said dashing fellow) remained ardently straight and B.K. never got what he wanted. Which I suppose in all fairness makes the book more believable and reliable, but still. The unattainability of Christopher led B.K. to do raucous, unfulfilling things that most people who are ignorant of gays think we ALL engage in. Not my favorite 'model citizen' book.

Leah Cypess' Nightspell - Grade: A-. I'll bump up the grade on this one ever so slightly, because I thought her second novel really outdid Mistwood. The plot was more cohesive and well-done. She's definitely improved. There was less characterization than her first novel, but overall still well done. Apparently, there is a character that spans both novels, though the connection was so stretched/faint I could not even tell/remember. I did read some on the subject though, and the link is there I guess. The world was interesting, as was the concept, though some of the "twists" were predictable. I like her writing, and will read whatever she writes next.

Clint Catalyst's Cottonmouth Kisses - Grade: B-. This was one of my poetry forays, and was a book with short stories, poems, and essays. Parts of the book really resonated with me and I said, "yes, he got it. This is what gay feels like." But other parts were drug-tripped, chaotic, and seemingly nonsensical and I could not relate to them no matter how I tried. So, mixed bag.

Poppy Z. Brite's Drawing Blood - Grade: C. This novel was suggested to me (again) during my gay poetry phase. I finally got to it, and I can't believe I read the whole thing. Again, my feelings are torn. First off, the plot is insane. Twisted, horrific, and dark, it's about a boy whose father murders his whole family and then commits suicide, leaving this one son alive. The son returns after 20 years to the scene of the crime and tries to reconcile his past with his present. It ended up being gay lit, featuring a love story with the two main characters. But the story was tainted by creepy, weird, bizarre happenings and love-making evolving out of bloody fighting. It was just weird and didn't sit right with me. Not one I'd recommend unless you go for that sort of thing.

Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind - Grade: A. Wow, wow, wow. Wow. I haven't read a book this good since The Magicians. I devoured this book, loved every moment of the plot, and could not put it down. The one issue I took with this novel was that I felt like Rothfuss started to build up the story, and then was like, just kidding. Before we can get to that, we have to go back to when I was 5... and then he launches into his main char's backstory, while dangling tidbits of the present every so often. I have now read the first two books in the series, and I still feel like the "story" hasn't even started... sigh. I don't know. Everything about this series is brilliant though. Riveting, and a must read.

Mary-Elaine Jacobsen's Liberating Everyday Genius - Grade: B+. So, in my attempt to better myself and better know myself, I picked this book at the recommendation of Sarah. Basically the book addresses the fact that in our society we have designed curriculum and programs for Gifted children, so they can learn and excel at their own speed, but then once they graduate... we pretend they disappear. Which isn't the case. As a gifted person, I find this plight unique, baffling, and sometimes daunting. But it's true. We just expect these kids that we've separated out and provided accelerated learning to, to just re-integrate into normal society once they turn 18, and that's just not possible. So the book addresses this issue and proposes things we can do as Gifteds, to alleviate some of our struggle and difficulty. It didn't provide all the answers, but it offered quite a few. I also felt like every time I read a chapter in this book, I found some way to apply it to the work I was trying to do with myself in meeting goals, and getting more writing done. I really enjoyed this book.

Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins - Grade: B. Now there's a classic kickback. Just like I had an itch oh so long ago to reread The Giver, this one has been on my list for a while. I finally found it for like $0.25 or something, so I got it and read through it in a few hours. I didn't remember it being as lonely as it was, nor did I remember it being based on true accountings, so that was cool. But it failed to move in the ways the very best of books do, so I didn't love love it.

Benjamin Alire Saenz's Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Grade: B+. At first I wasn't sure what this book was going to be about, or where it was going. But I have to say from the very beginning all the way to the very, very end, I super, super enjoyed the narrative voice. I felt like it was 100% spot-on and really, really accurately reflected a 15-18 yr old. I felt like with making the characters Mexicans the author was trying to run some sort of commentary on race and discrimination, but it ended up feeling very underdeveloped to me, and fell flat it the places I felt like it was trying to be accented. Some of the time I couldn't tell if one of the characters was white or not. But I think I settled on them both being Latino. I also really struggled with the ease with which pot and alcohol had their places in the story. I can understand how my personal bias would play into that somewhat, but really the book all-but advocated under-age smoking and drinking. Once you're 18, I support the do-what-you-will mentality, but here it just seemed to me to be borderline-advocacy for teens to drink and smoke, which I would think would have some resonant with parents, no matter who they were. Am I crazy? It didn't seem to bother anyone else. But I liked the story and how it slowly sprang the "love" story on the reader. Some people I've seen have criticized the book for having a rushed ending, but I thought it was picturesque and perfect considering. For once, I found a romance that worked and wasn't painted in the wrong way. Granted, the other pieces of the book tarnish it's splendor, but at least it was there. Certain plot elements were too cookie-cutter "draw-attention-to-the-plight" for my liking, but I could see why the author included them.

More books to come in 2012! Keep on Reading!

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