“The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer” by Michelle Hodkin

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #1)(Author: Michelle Hodkin) + (Year: 2011) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I keep YA novels as my refuge for whenever I am feeling down, or whenever I have read a particularly bad/boring/tough book. That’s how this entire series ended up staying on the last page of my Kindle for years.

Well… I could have gone several more years without it, to be honest.

The premise of the book is quite good and at the beginning, I was pretty excited by the mysterious and ominous atmosphere. And that’s where things ended.

I really could make up my mind about what this book was supposed to even be. Romance? Horror? Parody?

I guess I will go with… a dream. It’s the author’s dream of what she’d like to have in life. The main character is a rather dull, very unsociable and awkward teenager. After losing her best friend, Mara moved to a new school where from a total nobody, she turned into a superstar because of her charmbrainswits… Errm so it might be because of…

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Which is the only compliment anyone ever gives her, outside of her boyfriend.

And don’t even get me started on the boyfriend. A.K.A the most perfect human that ever lived, or so says the author. Has a posh English accent, has read hundreds or even thousands of books, quotes entire pages of Lolita like it’s nobody’s business, drives a fancy car, has a multimillionaire/billionaire father, is worshiped by everyone in school, is handsome as hell, has beautiful eyes, has a lovely soft hair, is very possessive and willing to fight for his girl, is a great kisser, doesn’t kiss and tell, has superpowers. Excuse you. It’s not really like he’s a person at all. The author basically made a character who is 70% Ken doll and 30% British Captain America figurine.

And so this highly unlikely pair happens to match perfectly and create a super-duo. In a great lovestory adventure! Oh, wait… no. In a YA horror story? Not really?! So what are these two actually doing, even?

The entire supernatural story was not much more convincing than the love one. The events were rather scattered and random and I wasn’t even sure I cared to find out what’s going on because there was this general notion of:

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“Captain Marvel, Vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More” by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Captain Marvel, Volume 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More(Author: Kelly Sue DeConnick) + (Year: 2014) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I guess Kelly Sue DeConnick and I are just not meant to be. I hoped that Captain Marvel would change my mind, but it did not.

This book’s basically a poor man’s Saga meeting a poor man’s Guardians of the Galaxy

Having read Ms Marvel before this, I thought that this will be the magnified experience and that I will love it even more than Ms Marvel. The sad reality of the situation was that Captain Marvel is too much space and too little heart.

The story took a rather unexpected turn from my expectations with Captain Marvel deciding to venture into space and be an outpost avenger. The explanation for that, her being restless and needing to find her place in the world, was just a bit too juvenile for my tastes. Her mission in space, reporting to the Avengers and saving a girl in a coma, didn’t really elicit any response in me. I kept expecting a more exciting story to appear out of nowhere. In vain.

So, we joined Captain Marvel on a short journey of her meeting the Guardians of the Galaxy and deciding to make a team of outcasts on her own. Her opponents, just as her friends, were rather weak and not really threatening, and the stakes were very low for a superhero. Captain Marvel’s speeches, though… They were so needlessly dramatic and over the top that I couldn’t help cringing. This is something that I remember noticing in DeConnick’s writing earlier, too. Nothing much is happening, but the characters are making it seem like a poor man’s Shakespearean tragedy.

What I disliked even more than this soulless execution was Captain Marvel’s head gear.

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Nice mohawk. Not.

I get it that suits are made to look formidable and badass, but this is not what I would call badass at all. What’s the purpose of that head gear? How does it make her a better fighter to have her hair pulled up in the middle of her head? What the heck?

And I’m not even going to start with this strange, useless little skirt-thing that she has.

Other than that, I generally liked the art and the big, colorful landscapes. That was probably the best part of this volume.

Considering how much people seem to like Captain Marvel’s series, I will give it another shot with the second volume, but I’m afraid that they lost me with this space theme, so if the next one is also like that, I will remain unimpressed.

“The Trial” by Franz Kafka

The Trial(Author: Franz Kafka) + (Year: 1925) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: Czech Republic)


Review:

For me “classic” literature goes in one of two ways: I either find a certain book absolutely amazing; or I dislike it profoundly. Unfortunately, The Trial was the latter.

I believe the popularity of this book is based on the symbolism, rather than the writing itself. While I do admit the general notion of the book is one I fully support – that of the pointless and even vile system of the Law, – I could not be bothered caring about the book itself.

What the book represents:

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One of the things that everyone would agree is absolutely terrible is bureaucracy. We all hate it. It’s not only tiresome and ridiculous, but it is also like a machine that actually does damage, rather than just lose time. The law, the courts, the lawyers, the bureaucrats, they are a giant, horrifying monster which never shows mercy and destroys life after life. The Trial is a story which shows this very plainly. The main character, Josef K., is swallowed by the monster called the Law and put to a trial for a crime which is never explained to him.

Every person he meets tries to convince him that he has to give in to the Court, accept the crime as his own, and embark on a journey in which he has to prove not that he is not guilty, but that his guilt is yet to be proven – the purpose of that being that he will continue living free until the court’s final decision, which can take decades. Josef K., realizing that this can hardly be called freedom, decides to fight this flawed system and insist that he is not guilty. Under the heavy wheels of the court, his trial ends tragically, as has the heavy trial of bureaucracy and the machine of communism. The sensational part of this is that The Trial, Kafka’s almost prophetic novel, was written without his ever coming face to face with the communism, which would only appear almost a decade after he wrote his book.

How the book actually was:

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Boring. That’s how it was. The general feel of the book was very dreary and uncomfortable, up to a point I would get frustrated every time I had to start reading (that being early every morning, on the tram commute to work). I kind of expected I would like Kafka’s writing, but this book did not do it for me.

The personality of Josef K., a selfish, pretentious prick, was very infuriating, as were his internal struggles which never really made anything of consequence. By that I mean that the character would always make a decision which would take page after page of explanation, and the moment he met another person, that entire, endlessly too long list of future actions would be completely wiped out and he would start a new plan of action against the Court.

I fully realize that there is a reason for the actions of the Court to be unpleasant to read, but the dread for me went beyond the intentional one. I just couldn’t take any more of the characters, each and every one completely smitten with their own selves, the bragging, the nagging, the way everyone was sure everyone else was a moron and they, themselves, a god.

The dialogues were equally as suffocating and I couldn’t wait for every dialogue to just end. The words of each character just rang hollow and fake and the emotions expressed didn’t really manage to affect me in any way.

I am still planning on reading The Metamorphosis, but definitely not any time soon.

“A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove(Author: Fredrik Backman) + (Year: 2012) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: Sweden)


Review:

“And this is why a cat, and overweight allergy sufferer, a bent person, and a man called Ove make the inspection round that morning.”

A Man Called Ove is quite possibly the best and most heartfelt book I have read this year. I had no idea what to expect, so I kind of imagined some psychological thriller or something, as that is most of the Scandinavian literature I have read. Not at all.

A Man Called Ove told the story of a seemingly grumpy and mean old guy, who turns out to be a kind and gentle man, hardened by life.

I both laughed and cried while reading this book, sometimes even both at once. Every chapter was one little fairytale out of the life of Ove, and all of them told the story of life, love and loss. All of the characters were so endearing and different, each on their own. Among all of those, Ove, being the main character, inevitably stood out as the heart of the book, the core of the events, and also the soul of his little community. I found him funny while he was just a grumpy old fart, and then I loved him as who he really turned out to be.

Both the humor and the story were absolutely fantastic. They were simple, but enticing. And more than anything, they rang as very true and sincere. Ove was both a borderline superhero, and just a man who did his best and expected the same from the world. His story had a lesson, the one about the Saabs and the Volvos, about the struggle to do better and be better, to give the little that to you have to the people who have nothing; about time and the power of people to survive and thrive, despite everything.

“And time is a curious thing. Most of us only live for the time that lies right ahead of us. A few days, weeks, years. One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes with the insight that an age has been reacher when there is more to look back on than ahead. And when time no longer lies ahead of one, other things have to be lived for. Memories, perhaps.”

 

“Fables, Vol. 4” by Bill Willingham

Fables (The Deluxe Edition, #4)(Author: Bill Willingham) + (Year: 2012) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I feel like there was a bit of bad period for Fables around Vol. 2-3, but then it started picking up pace here and I’m really happy with the current progression. I see a development both in the characters that we already have as people, a narrative progression towards the Adversary, and an increase of fable characters, which I highly appreciate.

My favourite part of this deluxe edition, however, were the 1001 Nights of Snowfall. I thought that that was just fantastic, because I love backstories and they make characters feel more realistic to me. Most of all, I was interested by the stories of Flycatcher and Snow White. I seem to have either missed it, or it still hasn’t been explained, but I had no idea why Snow felt the way she did about the seven dwarfs. As I am aware that Disney Snow White and fable Snow White are very different characters, I wasn’t sure how these two stories would fit into the same world, or whether they would fit at all, but I expect something more grotesque to be revealed soon.

In all honesty, I am already reading the next volume, so I already know that the story is getting even more juicy, and I’m definitely hyped right now.