November 25, 2012

Greg Taylor: "The Girl Who Became a Beatle"

Title: The Girl Who Became a Beatle [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Greg Taylor [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary, Multiverse
Year: 2011
Age: 12+
Stars: 2/5
Pros: Clean, fun read. Creative premise. May get kids interested in Beatles' music.
Cons: Very light fable. Some inconsistencies (see review). Predictable ending/moral.
Will appeal to: Those who love modern fables and dream of stardom.

Blurb: When Regina Bloomsbury’s band, the Caverns, breaks up, she thinks it’s all over. And then she makes a wish -  “I wish I could be as famous as the Beatles.” The Beatles are her music idols. The next day, she gets up to find that the Caverns are not just as famous as the Beatles, they have replaced them in history! Regina is living like a rock star, and loving it. But fame is getting the better of Regina, and she has a decision to make. Does she want to replace the Beatles forever? (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off, despite my rating, this is not a bad book. It just turned out to be much more juvenile than I thought it was. And predictable too - but still there is some fun to have along the way.
Regina is committed to her band, and to be honest, she seems to care more about actually playing and being heard than about becoming a star - which is refreshing. The Caverns are also her only link with Julian, a fellow band member and her secret crush. Due to her lack of confidence, Regina has never confessed her feelings to him, nor has she ever played her own songs to anyone. The book opens in the middle of a crisis - Lorna and Danny, the other half of The Caverns, want to quit, because they're tired of endlessly practicing without actually getting any real gig. (Well, yes, this is understandable to a point - but on the other hand, I suppose the abundance of talent shows is responsible for the fact that no one wants to work one's butt off to fame anymore...). This is when Regina makes her wish...finding herself in an overwhelming alternate reality the day after. Her fairy godmother contacts her via the internet (well, this is a revised fable after all, 2011-style!), explaining that Regina has got the chance to live like a rock star for a week (which implies leaving her small town and heading to L.A.), after which...she will have to choose - staying in her new and improved reality or going back to normal. But of course, there's trouble in Paradise too, like Regina is to discover very soon. The band is still collapsing, Julian is still off-limits (or better, he and Regina are...exes! and she is dating a teen tv star who may or may not be the right guy), Regina's problems with her mother have only taken a new path, and fame itself has its pain-in-the-ass moments. Also, the Caverns have actually replaced the Beatles in history, and Regina is not sure she can live with that. Not indefinitely, that is. At first, Regina makes a vow to herself to only live in her new reality for a week and enjoy the ride - then she's going to revert to normal. But of course, there are temptations along the way. [...]

November 22, 2012

Christopher Pike: "Remember Me 3: The Last Story"

Title: Remember Me 3: The Last Story [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Remember Me (3rd of 3 books)
Author: Christopher Pike [Facebook | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural 
Year: 1995
Age: 12+
Stars: 3/5
Pros: Well-established female lead. Story gets closure.
Cons: More no-real-mystery (see RM 2). More clichés. More new age blurbs (again, if you're not into it). Moderate sex references. Some seriously out-of-character moments.
Will appeal to: Those who still need more Shari Cooper.

Blurb: Shari Cooper had died once, and then returned to Earth as a Wanderer. Shari has regained her memory of her previous life. She has realized her purpose in returning to mortal life - to write stories for young people to help them understand the immortal life that is to follow. And it is not long before Shari and her books are known all over the world. Then one special night a story comes to her. An ancient tale that speaks of the origin of mankind and the purpose of human life. Shari begins to write it down, sure that it is nothing more than a wonderful fable. But what Shari doesn't know is that her new book is true - a mystical blueprint that warns of a great danger to humanity from creatures who despise all human beings, but who have a unique and terrifying hatred for Wanderers. Creatures who will go to any length to stop Shari's story from being published. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: Given the above blurb, you may wonder why I didn't apply a "Mystery" label to this book. There's a simple explanation: this is not a mystery. There are only a couple of possible suspects in this book, and once one of them is gone, the math is consequential. Also, don't be fooled - this is not a story about Shari trying to uncover the culprit of a murder plan against herself. Only at the end of the book we do realize someone has been wanting her dead all along. And she with us.
RM 3 opens three years after the ongoings in the previous book. Shari-Jean (see RM 2) is now a famous writer, living with a still crippled, sexually incapable Peter (this is crucial to the development of the story). She is also plagued by strong headaches, courtesy of Jean's fall from Lenny's balcony. She's still surrounded by her old friends - Jim, Jo - but seems to have neglected her (or Jean's) Hispanic roots. Also, she was supposed to write inspirational stories for the young, telling them that death is not what it seems and they shouldn't be afraid of it and we really are all one and blah blah, but apparently, she tends to write the same kind of horror high-school stuff Pike more than often delivers. Notable exception: Shari did write a book called Remember Me, the story of her own death and rebirth. [...]

November 20, 2012

Christopher Pike: "Remember Me 2: The Return"

Title: Remember Me 2: The Return [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Remember Me (2nd of 3 books)
Author: Christopher Pike [Facebook | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural
Year: 1994
Age: 12+
Stars: 3/5
Pros: Well-established female lead (well, part of the time, that is). A sweet siblings reunion.
Cons: Very small action. No real mystery. Some clichés. Some new age blurbs (if you're not into it). Weird and abrupt ending.
WARNING! Moderate sex references (though a not deliberately induced miscarriage is mentioned).
Will appeal to: Those who need more Shari Cooper.

Blurb: Shari Cooper is dead, the victim of a murderous attack. She is on the other side, but she is given a rare offer. To return to Earth into the body of a depressed teenage girl. Shari is given a chance to be a Wanderer, and to do a great service for humanity. It is an offer she gladly accepts. At first she recalls nothing of the afterlife. Perhaps it is just as well. Not everybody on Earth welcomes Wanderers. Of the few who know of their existence, some want them dead. And others, the truly evil ones, wish them much worse than that. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: When you reach perfection, you'd better not tamper with it. Most of the time, it doesn't work (very well).
There's no denying I was excited when I found out that there was more to Shari's story. And, to Pike's credit, it wasn't a three-or-four-books-deal era back when he wrote this. Nowadays, most books are born with a sequel, often two or three, already attached. Remember Me was originally a standalone book, till - after five long years - Pike was struck with inspiration (ahem, not sure) *, or maybe Shari possessed him too, after her brother (see RM, I mean book 1). So Remember Me 2: The Return came to life - and Shari with it. In the sense that she was actually back, flesh and all. Only, she wasn't really Shari anymore.
OK, first off, the blurbs about this book are deceiving. There's no conspiracy against the Wanderers in RM 2. Now, onto the actual review. Let's start from where RM finished (if you haven't read the book yet...spoiler alert!).

RM 2 opens a year after Shari's death, with a total different story about a total different character. Poor, Hispanic, can-see-no-future girl as opposed to rich, all-American, eager-to-live one. Wrong side of town, wrong boyfriend. We follow Jean to a disastrous birthday party (history repeating), at the end of which something happens to her - we're not sure of what. It seems it all turned right in the end though, because after the accident (?) Jean is apparently able to recover (while her bf Lenny, also involved, is crippled for life).
In the meantime, we also follow Shari (and later on, Peter) in the afterlife, chatting with a superior entity called the Rishi, a lot of new age blurb really - though I can't say I was annoyed by that. We learn that Shari can go back in someone else's body, if she agrees - and Peter too, but in his case, because he injured his previous body by purposely ending up his own life, he can't go back in a healthy body, but must suffer a disadvantage of sorts. Guess whose body will Shari wear? and Peter?

November 18, 2012

Christopher Pike: "Remember Me"

Title: Remember Me [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Remember Me (1st of 3 books)
Author: Christopher Pike [Facebook | Goodreads]
Genres: Afterlife, Supernatural, Thriller/Mystery 
Year: 1989
Age: 12+
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Likeable lead. Interesting set of characters. Emotions ring true. Story sucks you in.
Cons: Not the glamorous, imaginative afterlife you find in nowadays novels, since lead still walks the Earth. Very little action (if you prefer a faster pace).
WARNING! Moderate sex references (if they upset you at all).
Will appeal to: Everyone who doesn't care for very fast-paced books or romance-centered ones.

Blurb: When Shari Cooper awoke at home after being at her girlfriend's birthday party, her family acted like she wasn't there. Then the call came from the hospital. Shari didn't know what was wrong. Not until she followed them to the hospital. There she found herself lying on a cold slab in the morgue. The police said that it was suicide. Shari knew she had been murdered. Making a vow to herself to find her killer, Shari embarks on the strangest of all criminal investigations: one in which she spies on her friends, and even enters their dreams - where she comes face-to-face with a nightmare from beyond the grave. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: My first review had to be about the book that introduced me to YA Lit in my adult age...
First off, I mean to remind you that RM came out long before "dead girl books" became all the rage. Shari's story may sound simpler and less glamorous than the most recent ones about girls in the same predicament as hers. There's no fancy afterlife scenery - you could say there's no real afterlife scenery at all. Like most dead girls in YA Lit, Shari was beautiful, popular and rich in life - but the narration doesn't really dwell upon that. She doesn't come across as a spoiled little brat with a lesson to learn...on the contrary, she's a lively, likeable, lifelike character (OK, I didn't plan on describe her with an alliteration and a bunch of parent words, but it sounds clever on my part, doesn't it? LOL just kidding). She has a truth to unveil though: how she ended up dead. She feels compelled to know, despite her fellow ghost-friend Peter's efforts to steer her toward the Light. Can you blame her?
Pondering about it, the real magic of this book is not in the story itself. The final denouement may surprise you (it did surprise me, though it's not that unpredictable. I probably let the book suck me in to the point where I couldn't see the killer's imprints anymore!), but it's not like Pike came out with a highly original scenario. It's simply a new twist of one of the oldest themes in literature. So, you know, the real magic in the book comes out of Shari. You gotta love her. You follow her and see the world through her eyes, like you were in her shoes. You care for her, dead or alive. You love her brother Jim through her. And so on.

November 10, 2012

A Picnic in the Twilight Zone

Before I actually begin to review my favourite books (and my not-so favourite ones too, of course), I mean to share some thoughts about the main genres I picked out to blog about. You must have noticed this site is mainly dealing with afterlife, supernatural, very imaginative sci-fi and such. Most of the things these books dwell upon are very unlikely to happen, or in most cases, totally cock-and-bull. I, for one, sure don't believe in any of them. Well, like many of you I presume, that's precisely the reason why I enjoy the stuff so much. It's an escape, sort of an out-of-body experience by fiction. Because these things can't happen in the world as we know it, we lustfully suspend our disbelief, in the old Coleridgian fashion, and lose ourselves in the big sea of If Only. Even when our picnic in the Twilight Zone is totally scary, we wear a giant grin and take pics the whole trip through. Mind you, while I don't believe in ghosts or vampires or reincarnation, the real supernatural to me is romance. I would rather be persuaded of the existence of such creatures than expect a strong, valiant (but romantic), hot guy crossing my path and falling for me. (The truth? I wouldn't even care if he did. Really, not my type. But I digress). I think that, deep down, a good portion of those who love romance hope to meet that strong, valiant (but romantic), hot guy one day. Or at least they think he exists, and it's just bad luck if their paths haven't crossed (yet). While personally I love supernatural stuff precisely because I don't expect it to happen anytime soon. Well, actually, anytime at all. So, while I can enjoy an alternate world where young girls investigate on their own death, or vampire djs run a radio station, or clairvoyants foresee their own future, I'm not keen on romance also because it seems to be rooted in a normal, everyday world, where some lucky girls were able to find these rare specimens of men, while the vast majority simply never stumbled on them. (Well, this is not the main reason why I don't like romance, though. In short, the knight in shining armour doesn't do anything for me. I'm the don't-bring-me-flowers type LOL).
I would like to hear your thoughts about all this. Please don't be shy - I may be very opinionated, but never hurt anybody's feelings...not on purpose, at least (insert wink here). Maybe you read romance for the very reason I read weird escape. Maybe you don't believe in Prince Charming, but you are contented with dreaming of him. Same goes for male readers and Pretty Princess. Maybe you read supernatural etc. in order to achieve catharsis, or like me, for fun and for the unexpected (well, maybe for cathartic reasons too, to a certain extent). Let's talk about it!