Friday, June 13, 2014

Exposure by Kathy Reichs

Goodreads Description: "When twin classmates are abducted from Bolton Prep, Tory and the Virals decide there’s no one better equipped than them to investigate. But the gang has other problems to face. Their powers are growing wilder, and becoming harder to control. Chance Claybourne is investigating the disastrous medical experiment that twisted their DNA. The bonds that unite them are weakening, threatening the future of the pack itself. The Virals must decipher the clues and track down a ruthless criminal before he strikes again, all while protecting their secret from prying eyes. And everyone seems to be watching."

My Review: LOVED IT. I don't know, sometimes I think I'm a little biased when it comes to this series, simply because it combines everything I love: great, witty, realistic teenage characters + action/adventure + science + slow, realistic romance + humor + media references + gorgeous setting (seriously, I have a love affair with Charleston). So maybe I'm biased. Orrrrrrr maybe Kathy and Brendan Reichs are just great writers! I'll go with the latter. 

Here, to show that I'm not biased, I'll point out the flaws (or what can be construed as flaws, since they didn't really actually bother me that much) in the book. For one thing, the writing was---as usual---not very complex or poetic. It was short, brief, to-the-point. Honestly, I kind of even liked it, because it seemed realistic. When we narrate our lives to ourselves and think to ourselves, we think in very short, to-the-point, fragmented thoughts and sentences. Our internal narrative is not wordy or flowery. I think the basic language kind of words for an action series but I can see where it might annoy people or where it could be slightly more descriptive. And secondly, the mystery in this book...was a bit weaker than the ones in all the other books. I can admit this. I mean, I still totally enjoyed the mystery! But it wasn't as brilliantly-put-together as the other mysteries nor was it as dramatic. You could tell it almost took a backseat to the other issues: Chance lurking around and the emotional fallout from what happened in Code. And I kind of understand; so much happened in Code that SOMETHING had to take a backseat in this book and it appears the mystery did. But there you go, that could be seen as a flaw.

Otherwise...this book was perfect. The action/adventure aspect was fast-paced and totally enjoyable as always. We met some new characters in this book, such as a certain hacker who I really hope shows up in future books because he was hilarious and Tory's friend, Ella, who was also a fun character to read about. I liked her confidence and totally don't-care attitude in the face of bullies. That's the way to bring mean people down: literally do not care. I had all the Tory and Ben feels in this book and Hi really outdid himself with the humor this time. I burst out laughing several times and I really appreciated the Game of Thrones references, being a huge fan of the show and the ASOIAF books. 

Also...the whole plot with Chance killed me. I'm still so torn on how I feel about Chance. On one hand, he's a meddling jerk creep and I wish he'd just back off of from the Virals. On the other hand, his blatant confusion and mental distress makes him slightly pathetic and I kind of feel sorry for him. All I'm gonna say is that I really CANNOT believe what Chance has done now. The ending of this book made my jaw drop. Talk about a cliffhanger. The ending of this book changes everything for the Virals and it makes me simultaneously so excited and yet so uneasy. And now we have to wait yet another year for the next book! Waiting for a new book each year is painful but I guess I should be thankful we don't have to wait two years for each book (God forbid). 

Oh, and shout out to two things. One: I love how Kathy and Brendan Reichs tie the scenery and setting into the books. It's really fun and creative and since I love history and travel as well, it's kind of like taking a trip throughout Charleston, SC, and I just love how the kids are always going to historic locations and abandoned locations. It adds to the flair of the series, the fact that the setting really adds to the story. Two (and I've gushed about this before): I love how the kids actually do research, actually use science and chemicals to search for, and document clues, how they actually look things up and plan things and break into places... It just seems way more realistic than most action/mystery novels where the kids randomly stumble across the clues or wander around blindly looking for them and don't even use science to reason things out. That whole thing with Tory using that chemical to spray for remnants of blood? Made my respect for the series shoot WAY up because it's the proper way to do things, rather than just have the kids be like, "Ohmygod, look, bloodstains!" I admire the fact that the Reichs take the time to put these details into their books. It also helps Tory's science genius cred. Too many times books have these characters who claim they're smart and intelligent but never actually show it. Tory SHOWS that she's a science geek, as do the rest of the Virals. 

Cover: Okay, I've stated before HOW MUCH of an issue I have with these covers. They're not catchy and they're not particularly fun or inspired. I was a HUGE fan of the original covers with the kids running through the jungle, etc. But I can admit that of the new covers, I like this one the best because the green colors and the imagery of falling vines and leaves makes me think of the South Carolina wildlife, so it does seem more connected to the Virals than the other new covers. Still not a huge fan, though.

Overall Grade: A+

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Goodreads Description: "Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan...

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?"

My Review: I admit it: Fangirl belongs to the type of genre I dislike immensely. I've never been sure what to call it---indie-lit? Contemporary-lit? You know, those books that are basically coming-of-age stories about regular, every day teenagers; that don't have any larger plot except for feelings. The type of books that John Green and Sarah Dessen usually write. I've enjoyed a few books from this type of genre...but not many. I tend to avoid them. And I admit it: the only reason I even picked up this book was the title. Fangirl. "Fangirl" is pretty much a word that can be used to describe like 99% of my life, since fandoms---of books, video games, TV shows, movies, celebrities, even fashion---is basically what my life revolves around. I am a fangirl. It's what I am. And the word "fangirl" is a pretty recent term, actually, that hasn't been around for ages, so when I saw this book, I was immediately intrigued. 

And I loved it. I think what set Fangirl apart, for me, from other books in this genre that I usually so intensely loathe was it's simplicity. Fangirl didn't pretend to be something it's not. It wasn't pretentious and filled with profound realizations of life and grand philosophical discussions and revelations. The beauty lay in the simplicity. There was no overt drama and no flashy displays of "HERE, feel some emotion now!" moments by the author. The emotion crept up on you in little bits and pieces and that's the best kind of emotion, honestly. The kind you don't expect, the kind that sort of just...infiltrates your heart. Fangirl was beautiful because it was so simple in its reality. The characters didn't walk around dramatically quoting pretentious quotes or smoking cigarettes while laying under the stars or all the things that teenagers usually DON'T do in real life. The people in this book did things that, while quirky, were still real and normal enough for me to be able to digest. 

And the characters---and their issues---were winning, again, because of their simplicity. Reagan was snarky but not overly so to the point where you wanted to kill her. Levi was sweet but just when he started to seem a little too friendly and overly-sweet, you suddenly realized that he had his own small struggles as well...but most people didn't see them because he was just a Friendly Guy. Let me tell you, it was SO refreshing to read about a guy who wasn't dark, brooding, cocky, arrogant, tortured... Those can all be fun in their own ways. But they've been done to death. Levi was a breath of fresh air and made you think, "Where's MY Levi?" 

And Cath! Oh, Cath. Rarely have I ever found someone so relatable. I admit, I'm not 100% like Cath. Though I suffer from anxiety as well, I'm more outgoing and able to handle new situations. But I could relate 100% to her reluctance and fear of change and her internal panic to new situations and her world changing. I'm not a famous fan-fiction writer nor am I heavily invested in one slash ship as Cath was, but I am heavily invested in several fandoms and several ships/OTP's and I could 100%---nay, 200%---relate to Cath's desire to withdraw from normal life into her fandoms. Sometimes it's easier to worry about your favorite character's problems than your own problems. To focus on analyzing your favorite characters' lives than to analyze your own life. So I admit, at times, I had to pause because I was so impressed with how well Rainbow Rowell got into the head of a fangirl. I admit, I don't think I take any of my ships AS seriously as Cath does...but then again, Cath has way more social anxiety, so I can understand. Her relationships with her father were touching and yet sad and really did send some important messages about the complexity of mental illnesses. And I loved her relationship with Wren. I liked how Rowell didn't just make Wren this one dimensional "bitch" who abandons her sister---she showed Wren's struggle to stay connected to this person she used to be, the person Cath loves, and to also become a slightly new person. 

And what really took this book to the next level? The writing. It was simple, elegant at times, but also appropriately choppy and ragged to show that level of teenager emotion and modern-day fast-paced thinking. We live in a fast world with instant gratification and our thoughts and internal narratives reflect it. The dialogue was fun, flawed, realistic, and I loved it. It felt like real things real people would say. And I really enjoyed how the ending wasn't super-perfect and fairy tale-ish but it was still uplifting and light. You will feel sad at parts of this book but you won't finish it feeling depressed. 

All in all, this is one of those realistic coming-of-age type of books that I really did enjoy...simply because it delivered on its promise and gave me some entertaining-yet-touching REALITY, not a heavy dose of forced emotions and pretentiousness like other books in this genre tend to do.

Cover: I like it! The fact that it's hand-drawn seems to kind of pay homage to the fact that fan art is a HUGE part of fandoms (and this is something I do do!) and the colors are bright and cheery. 

Overall Grade: A+