Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner

I initially had no interest in The Maze Runner. The blurb on the back of the book seemed a bit tried, and lately I’ve been finding that teen fiction has seemed a kinda stale. There are always these huge trends after one popular book. With Twilight‘s monumental success, there came a wave of look-alike vampire/werewolf love triangles that were enough to make even me (a paranormal lover) a bit nauseated. So now, with The Hunger Games’ EPIC WIN, everyone is rushing to pump out another teen survival, battle-of-the-wits-against-a-higher-power type drama. And I have to say, I was NOT impressed with the first book, but I couldn’t put the second and third books down. The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure were unstoppable. And because of this, I’ll forgive Mr. Dashner.

The Maze Runner starts with the main character Thomas suddenly waking up to a life he has no memory of. He’s deposited from the lift into “The Glade”–a large green space surrounded by towering walls and populated by several dozen surly, self-sufficient male teenagers. He soon learns that their whole life there revolves around finding a way out of the Maze. During the days, the doors are open, but at the same time each evening they shut–keeping the boys inside and the monsters outside. Unfortunately, the walls change every night and after two years of trying, the original “Gladers” still haven’t found a way out.

Just when Thomas is beginning to accept his new life, all the boys’ get turned upside down with the arrival of a new Glader–who appears in the lift without warning, apparently in a coma. And better yet… a girl. Theresa. She is the chain reaction that sets off the whole story of their escape.

And yet, every day on my lunch break for a few weeks, I slogged through it. I didn’t find the language captivating, and the special slang all the Glader boys (I kept thinking of the Lost Boys from Peter Pan the whole time, by the way…) used was off-putting at first. The whole book seemed like it was just a set-up for the second and third–which both had much more action. It moved slowly, and I was ready to give up on the series–except for the insistance of one co-worker that no, really it get’s good in the end!

So, I carried on…

The Scorch Trials detailed the boys’ subsequent escape/rescue from the Maze and their horror at finding out what the real world had become. All had had their memories erased, so saying they were a bit upset learning that major parts of the world had been completely destroyed by solar storms and that the rest had been decimated by a virus called “The Flare” is kind of the understatement of the century. The Flare slowly turned the victim into an insane, zombie-like cannibal called a “Crank.” Ugh. Now their only hope for survival was to cross a hundred miles of scorching hot desert (hence the name, “The Scorch”) and numerous town infested with Cranks. Oh yeah, not to mention “The Creators” have informed them that they are all infected with the virus and only have two weeks to make it to the safe zone.

This book had all the elements of a good story. Tons of action, betrayal, grotesque violence, a love triangle, and horrible zombie killers. This is where you actually start to care about who dies and who lives. I could totally see this series turned into a movie because of this book. I admired the boys’ perseverance, because once you read what hell they went through, you’ll feel like you have sand in your teeth and white-hot sun in your eyes.

The Death Cure wrapped the whole thing up. Why in God’s name were the Creators doing this to the boys? (Oh yeah, and there’s a Group B–all girls.) Who could Thomas trust and who was a betrayer? Who will make it out alive and who will succumb to the virus?

All juicy, juicy stuff–especially since Dashner only reveals his information a tiny bit at a time, so by the third book I was screaming “OH, COME ON! Let me in on the secret!” But in a good way.

I did think the ending–or the solution, really–was a bit crest-fallen. I see where he was going with it, but I didn’t expect that. And not in a good way. ALL OF THAT MISERY, and that’s where they’re going to end up? I wanted a bit more bad-assery, just a bit.

But all in all, even though the first in the series had a shaky start, the last two more than made up for it.

The series gets 4 of 5 stars, shank you very much.

(You have to read them to get that, FYI.)

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

It’s no great secret that I love Alice Hoffman. I try to read everything of her’s that I can get my hands on, because she had me at Practical Magic. And because she wrote The Dovekeepers, I was persuaded to give it a go. I mean, the Romans invading and conquering the Jews in the deserts of ancient Israel isn’t my normal fodder… I was worried that it would be very drab because of the thick history laid upon it, but I was pleasantly surprised. 

The story told the plight of four women during this harsh period: Yael, an assassin’s daughter, Revka, a baker’s wife, Aziza, a female warrior, and Shirah, the Witch of Moab. Each had their own story of how they came to Masada (the last Jewish stronghold) and the triumphs and tragedies they experienced there. The mammoth novel was split up into four smaller books, each designated to one of the women. I liked this format because we got to see bits of the story through each of their eyes, rather than being tethered to one character (and frankly, it helped to break up the number of months the story spanned).

Hoffman did interject her normal poetry and prose into this book, although not quite as heartily as in her other novels. It’s much harder to do when you’re struggling to keep track of so many characters, individual story lines, a foreign time/place, and still keep things historically accurate–or so I imagine…

It took me a while to get used to the past tense all the women were using rather than the present, and that’s one thing I wasn’t fond of. That being said, however, Hoffman executed it very well and in a way that made the book compulsively readable and not a work gone horribly awry. This story could have suffered in the hands of lesser authors.

The Dovekeepers is not pool-side reading by any means, but it is worth the time investment. Hoffman breathes life into these characters and her research indirectly educates her readers as to what life was like for the Jews during the horrific Roman invasion.

You don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate her latest (and some say greatest) piece of art.

5 of 5 stars

2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,900 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 32 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Quote of the Day: Henry Ward Beecher

“Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made and forgot to put a soul into.”

-Henry Ward Beecher

Quote of the Day: Alice Hoffman

“This is what my mother meant when she told me love would be my undoing. Love made you give yourself away, it bound you to this world, and to another’s fate. My mother had warned me what love would do to me. I hadn’t cared then, and I didn’t care now.”

-The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

Three Posts for the Price of One! Happy New Year!

That’s right, kiddos, I’m going to do something a bit out of the ordinary and talk about three books today. I’ve been super busy graduating (read: dream come true) combined with working retail during the holidays (translation: nightmare). Plus, I just got back from a spectacular road trip to Baltimore with a pit stop in Savannah (love it, go there). Needless to say I’m doing a bit of catch up.



So here it goes…

I finished Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk a while back, and as if we didn’t already know it: what a crazy bastard! It talks about an aging porn star who intends to go out with a bang (literally) by attempting the largest gang bang in history. 600 guys in one go. Ew. The cast of men include a balding washed-up tv actor, an old porn co-star, and a boy who claims to be her long lost son. Weird.

This book was recommended to me by my co-workers, who are all as messed up as I am and love this horrible stuff. I loved Fight Club so I was interested in trying some of his other work. When I found out the topic, I was grotesquely interested but I almost felt like I didn’t want people to catch me reading it. I have to say I was a bit disappointed. The whole story seemed to be much ado about nothing, and the ending was strange/unexpected/gross/crest-fallen. It was confusing to keep the men straight at first, since they were all referred to by number and not name. I also hated how Sheila kept referring to them as pud-pullers, tally whackers, and all other manner of weird slang terms. I feel let down by this work…

The second book is Modelland by Tyra Banks. I will sum this up quickly. DON’T EVER, I REPEAT, EVER READ THIS. It sucked so royally it wasn’t even funny. Wow. I mean…. Just wow. Tyra Banks cannot write, even a little. It was really, really sad actually. I used to watch her show when I was a teenager and I think she’s a beautiful woman, but dang… Epic fail. I cannot even begin to describe how ridiculous the whole story was, so I’ll just tell you to avoid it and hope you take my word for it. It was so atrocious it took me a month to read it. Avoid at all costs.

And last but not least was Beautiful by Amy Reed. Her story told the tale of middle-schooler Cassie, whom upon becoming newly beautiful and moving to a new school, quickly spirals into a world full of sex, drugs, and suicide. Typical teenage angst, but it did have a gritty flavor that I appreciated. I feel like many of Cassie’s friend’s personalities fell flat though. I never really cared about Sarah or felt afraid of Alex and an author’s main job is to make you sympathize with the character and immerse yourself in his/her world. Also, the whole drug thing was really glamorized because I don’t know any middle school girl first experimenting with drugs who could pound coke and pot and alcohol down like she could. Kinda unrealistic, but it was a quick read and I did enjoy it. It’s a bath tub book for sure.

Bottom line:

Snuff: 3 of 5 stars

Modelland: 1 of 5 stars

Beautiful: 3 of 5 stars

Nothing too impressive out the bunch. Keep calm, and read on.