BFTA Review: Michael Crichton – Jurassic Park

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Title: Jurassic Park
Author: Michael Crichton
Alfred A. Knopf
Rating: 5/5
Read for: 2011 Book Blogger Recommendation Challenge

An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Creatures once extinct now roam Jurassic Park, soon-to-be opened as a theme park. Until something goes wrong…and science proves a dangerous toy…. (goodreads.com)

Almost everyone’s seen the 1993 movie Jurassic Park, infamous for its T-Rex scene in which the Rex terrorizes people in a couple of Land Rovers. The novel is so much better, in that it’s gorier and definitely creepier.
There are technical aspects, such as the constant discussion of DNA replication, along with incomplete strands and filling in the voids with amphibious DNA, as well as Ian Malcolm’s constant discussion of chaos theory, not to mention the technical aspects, where lines of code are tossed on the page like word vomit.
But it’s all explained in layman’s terms, and it’s easily glossed over in favor of the better part of the novel (and the main characters): dinosaurs.
There’s something you get in novels that you don’t get in movies, and that’s smell. In Jurassic Park, characters are constantly commenting on the smell; carnivores smell like rotted flesh, mostly because of their messy way of eating. Blood and bits of flesh stick to their exposed teeth, their face, their forelimbs, and eventually the material rots. It’s an experience we can’t get watching the movie, and it makes the novel a little creepier because there is a comment on a rotting-flesh smell, and it gives the scene an ominous feeling.
The Velociraptors, although incorrect, are probably the worst in the whole bunch. Definitely the T-Rex is scary, mostly because of its size, but the Velociraptors put a whole new level on terror with their calculating hunting techniques. It’s too bad the Velociraptors were nothing like what’s in the novel. Had the book been written today, they wouldn’t have been Velociraptors, which were about the size of a turkey; they would have been Deinonychus, which were definitely bigger and had the big, scary claw that gave me nightmares as a child.
Despite all this, I loved the book. Really, I love dinosaurs, and I’m most definitely looking forward to reading the next novel, The Lost World.

Originally posted 26 January 2011.

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Review: Jennifer Brown – Hate List

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Title: Hate List
Author: Jennifer Brown
Little, Brown
Rating: 4 / 5

Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.
Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

I must admit, I had a hard time with this book at first. It was kind of slow-going, especially since recently I’ve been reading plot-driven books, and this definitely is not one of them. Once I got into the rhythm of reading a book that was more about character, it became an easy read and I read it in just a few hours.

Hate List is not an easy read. It’s not really a book you walk into with expectations of a light and fluffy read. This is definitely not that, either. A lot of my notes are angry caps-locked fun. I got angry at Val a lot–mostly because she was blind to a lot of what was going on around her, especially before the shooting. For example, within the first fifty pages, Val flashes back to a conversation she had with Nick regarding suicide. She likened his thought to Thelma and Louise, an infamous movie about two female criminals who end their own lives by driving off a cliff. Nick disagrees and likens it more to Romeo and Juliet. My angry caps-lock note for this exchange says, “Are you dumb or just really dense?”

Actually, what disturbed me more than anything about that exchange was that Nick thought of the notion of suicide as romantic. I think he was mis-reading Shakespeare the whole time, if he thought Romeo and Juliet was a romance.

At another point, Val reflects on how she started the Hate List. And I got mad at her again. Truthfully, Val reacted how a lot of teens react to having a really bad day–she blames everyone else. The more I thought about it as I read, the more I realized that this book is more truthful in terms of teenage reactions than a lot of the teen books I’ve read lately.

And then there were her parents, who decided that not only could they not trust their daughter anymore, they also didn’t like her anymore. There was more guilt-laying and hate-spewing from them than from Val’s peers at school. As a mother myself, I wanted to revoke Jenny Leftman’s mother card. She didn’t deserve to be a mother. Especially not when, instead of feeling relieved that her daughter didn’t do it, she continues to condemn Val when she’s found innocent.

“Are you joining up with them so you can finish the job that Nick started?” (p. 223)

This? This made me sick.

In contrast, Nick’s mother, who we never really meet, gets full stars from me. Despite her son having caused this tragedy, she loved him no matter what. She has “beloved son” engraved on his tombstone. Nothing else. Just that. And Val thinks she can hear what his mother was trying to say to him:

“You were beloved, son. You were my beloved. Even after all this, I still remember the beloved you. I can’t forget.” (p. 345)

I hated Val’s peers, to a certain point, but at the same time I could certainly understand their anger and hatred towards Val, who helped create a list that got several of them killed. They didn’t know why they were on that list. Truthfully, some of them probably deserved to be ratted out as the bullies they were, but some of them were just sitting at the wrong lunch table, or happened to be passing by at the wrong time. But no one deserved to die like that.

The principal of the school drove me nuts. In an effort to save his own ass, he decided it was okay to continue pressuring and bullying his own students. I really wanted to slap him at certain points, especially when it seemed like he was singling out Val, determining that she was just as guilty as Nick (just like her parents do), when it’s not really his place to determine guilt or innocence and I really just wanted him to shut up and do his job and stop lying to the press about it.

The only thing I felt was missing was Val coming to the realization that Nick would have done this whether she had created the list or not. I wanted desperately for her to realize this. Bullied kids don’t let go; they create a list in their head of every minor detail of every encounter with bullies. They remember. Nick didn’t need her list; he used it to get revenge for her, when it really wasn’t what she wanted. A little bullying back, some choice words placed for her, sure, but the end result was definitely not what she wanted. I think Val could have used a little closure on this note for herself, but maybe in the future she’ll come to realize it on her own.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. And, seriously, read it. Read it and enjoy it and love it. Not because I told you to, but because it’s a book that should be read a lot. It really should.

ARC Review: Marie Landry – Waiting for the Storm

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Title: Waiting For the Storm
Author: Marie Landry
self-published
Rating: 4 / 5
Release Date: 09 April 2013

Charlotte O’Dell knows this summer is going to suck. Her beloved mother just died, her sister hates her, and her dad has completely checked out. Fulfilling her mother’s final wish, the family heads to Angel Island for the summer to stay in a beach house her mother once loved.
After a year of being shut away taking care of her mother, Charlotte is numb and practically afraid of her own shadow; she hopes going to the island will give her the time and space she needs to begin healing, and an opportunity to bring her family back together. When she meets her mysterious neighbor, Ezra, it doesn’t take long for Charlotte to confess the issues she’s developed. Ezra begins giving Charlotte assignments to get over her fears, and although she accepts his tasks, all she really wants is to be with him. When she’s with Ezra, she’s able to forget the hollow ache in her heart and the fact that her family is falling apart. But Ezra has secrets…
Can Charlotte pull what’s left of her family together, mend her broken heart, and allow herself to fall for Ezra? Or is it all just a storm waiting to happen? (goodreads.com)

Guys guys guys!!! I cannot gush enough about this book!

It is so rare for me to find a contemporary read that I love this much. Seriously.

Let me put my one, singular issue up first, because guys there’s so much else that I loved that I really just want to get this issue out of the way: When Charlotte’s sister, Ella, is assaulted by the guy she’s seeing, nothing happens. Yes, Ella and Charlotte grow closer and are able to talk to each other and clear the air, as it were, but I really hate when assault, abuse, or rape are used as a means to an end instead of being dealt with accordingly. Ella seems to have no lasting effects from the assault, and I really wanted to see her deal with it somehow. Assault is no joke–but it’s treated so lightly and is treated as unimportant, when I really wanted a little bit of closure for Ella, even if it’s just her finding her way to being okay again after that.

Okay, so that’s my one issue. Let’s get to the fun stuff, because HOLY COW!

Charlotte and Ezra are so cute together. I loved how their relationship develops–no insta!love, no dragging their feet, nothing. It’s a steady climb from meeting to friendship to relationship. It flows at a really nice pace. Another thing about their relationship that I loved? Charlotte’s world did not revolve around Ezra. Yes, she is eager to see him again, but her whole world doesn’t spin around it. She goes out, spends time with her dad. Spends time at the library. She does things other than wait for Ezra to show up again. Charlotte is an independent person, and I really appreciated that.

I felt so, so bad for Charlotte’s and Ella’s dad. It’s hard to lose someone, but to lose your other half, and what’s worse, to watch that person waste away in front of your eyes? It’s horrible. And sometimes people need help coping. I’m glad that it was touched on in a mature way, and wasn’t just a gross, “oh, move on already” type thing. While the issue was dealt with quickly, it was at least dealt with, and well.

The book read so quickly for me that before I realized, I was done. Landry’s writing flows well, and smoothly. There were a few errors that were probably due to converting the file into something that would work on my Nook (things like weird paragraph breaks in the middle of sentences), but the author had warned me ahead of time for that, so it was all good. I was able to just go with it and finish the book quickly.

Like contemporary? BUY THIS BOOK. Like romance? BUY THIS BOOK. Like YA/new adult in general? BUY THIS BOOK. I can’t recommend this book enough, which makes me squee with happiness because it’s so rare that I find a book like this.

A review copy of this book was given to me by the author to review. All opinions are my own and were not influenced by the author in any way.

Review: Easy by Tammara Webber

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Title: Easy
Author: Tammara Webber
Penguin
Rating: 4.5 / 5

When Jacqueline follows her longtime boyfriend to the college of his choice, the last thing she expects is a breakup two months into sophomore year. After two weeks in shock, she wakes up to her new reality: she’s single, attending a state university instead of a music conservatory, ignored by her former circle of friends, and failing a class for the first time in her life.
Leaving a party alone, Jacqueline is assaulted by her ex’s frat brother. Rescued by a stranger who seems to be in the right place at the right time, she wants nothing more than to forget the attack and that night – but her savior, Lucas, sits on the back row of her econ class, sketching in a notebook and staring at her. Her friends nominate him to be the perfect rebound.
When her attacker turns stalker, Jacqueline has a choice: crumple in defeat or learn to fight back. Lucas remains protective, but he’s hiding secrets of his own. Suddenly appearances are everything, and knowing who to trust is anything but easy. (goodreads.com)

WARNING: Here Be Spoilers! To be safe, I’ve marked this review as having some spoilers and putting it below a cut tag.
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