Adventure

Did Not Finish: Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick
Image from Houghton Mifflin

Title: Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick

Author: Joe Schreiber

Genre: Thriller

Format: Hardcover

Back cover:

It’s prom night. Up until now, Perry Stormaire’s only worries were finishing his college applications and getting his band its first big gig in the Big Apple. But when it mother makes him take geeky, quiet Lithuanian exchange student Gobija Zaksauskas to the prom instead, Perry figures the night is going to be a disaster.

He has no idea how right he is.

Gobi has a special mission – five targets by daybreak – and Perry’s roped into it whether he likes it or not. Now they’re off like a prom dress on a reckless, no-brakes blitz through nighttime Manhattan in his father’s red Jag, going eyeball to eyeball with Russian mobsters and teen angst, high-velocity bullets and high school bullies, all things to the  most beautiful girl that ever almost got him killed.

Read to: Page 64 (chapter 12)

Reason for stopping: Poor morals, frustration with all characters

Review:

This is one of those books that I’ve had on my Want to Read list for a long time, and when I saw it at the library I grabbed it without thinking too much about it. I put it on my list purely for concept – nerdy foreign exchange student turns out to be an assassin, boy gets dragged along for the ride. But I probably should have read the reviews before I read it.

Perry wasn’t too bad of a character. He could be a tiny bit irritating at times (especially when whining about wishing he had a girl), but for the most part, I didn’t mind him. Part of the conflict was him getting dragged around by Gobi while his band was supposed to be playing their big gig and he needed to be there on time – and I liked him enough that I hoped he would get there in time to play.

Perry was the best of the lot, though. Gobi went from an awkward, poor-English-speaking foreign exchange student who I didn’t mind to a hot, competent, complete jerk of an assassin. She only needed Perry because she couldn’t drive, and it seems to me that an assassin should know a basic skill like that. Perry’s friends were all irritating high school jerks, and Perry’s dad was so unnecessarily and purposefully cruel to his son that I wanted to reach through the book and punch him in the face.

I hoped at least the plot would be good, since that’s mostly what I picked it up for, anyway. But once the actual assassin part got started, it floated along on high-speed driving and Perry freaking out. Not exactly what I’d hoped. I only read 64 pages because I was bored and too lazy to grab another book – at least until I got so totally frustrated that I decided I’d rather go wash the dishes than continue reading.

A lot of Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick’s good reviews on Goodreads were good because “give it to a 13-year-old boy.” This book is carried purely by the guns-a-blazin’, secret-identities, super-secret-assassin stuff that makes the mediocre action movies my 13-year-old brother loves. But I wouldn’t recommend this book to him. Lots of swearing, bloody murders, a fixation on sex…all stuff I wouldn’t want any 13-year-old reading about.

I was really disappointed in this book, because Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick had a great premise. Unfortunately, the execution completely failed.

The Perry & Gobi series:

  1. Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick
  2. Perry’s Killer Playlist

Report Card

For more on my grading system, check out this page.

AU REVOIR, CRAZY EUROPEAN CHICK scored a 2.3 (D) and a final verdict of

Adventure, Fiction, Middle Grade

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet book cover
Image from KPBS

Title:  The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet

Author:  Reif Larsen

Genre:  Adventure

When genius cartographer T.S. Spivet receives a phone call from the Smithsonian announcing he has won the prestigious Baird Award, a wild cross-country adventure beings.  T.S. sets out alone from his family’s Montana ranch, hopping a freight train with a plan to hobo it east to Washington D.C.  What follows is nothing short of extraordinary, as T.S. maps, charts, and illustrates his adventure – including mythical wormholes in the Midwest, the pleasures of McDonald’s, and a family secret accidentally included in his luggage.  But through it all, a nagging doubt lingers in T.S.’s mind.  What will happen when the director of the Smithsonian finds out their Baird Award recipient is only twelve years old?

I must be feeling nostalgic or something, because I seem to be doing an awful lot of rereads lately.  Anyway, I loved this story when I was twelve-ish, so I decided to read it again and see if it still had the same appeal.

The short answer: No.

I gave it a hundred pages, and then I stopped.  It wasn’t that I hated the book, I just got kind of bored.  Possibly, it was because this was a reread and I knew what would happen – not the details, mind you, but the general scheme of things.

But I think my biggest problem was with T.S. himself.  It’s not that I didn’t like him – he was naive, but sweet.  My problem was that he was a twelve-year-old boy, and acted it.  I know it sounds mean, but I just felt like I’d outgrown him.  His pre-teen observations and imagination that appealed to me at twelve just didn’t have the same appeal at sixteen.

He also had a habit of going off on random rabbit trails, including notes and diagrams and maps of really random things in the book’s margins.  These side notes were one of the reasons I’d originally loved this book so much.  This time around, I just found them annoying.

This is the kind of book that’s better for younger readers.  Like I said, I absolutely loved this book as a pre-teen.  It just isn’t the greatest for older readers.

Adventure, Fiction, Middle Grade

How to Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings

How to Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings book cover
Image courtesy of Laura Pauling

Title:  How to Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings

Author:  Laura Pauling

Genre:  Adventure

When Bianca and Melvin brave the jungle to rescue their grandfather, they stumble upon the ancient Maya city of Etza, where the people haven’t aged in 2,000 years. They must learn to work together as they face loincloth-wearing skeletons from the underworld, a backstabbing princess, and an ancient prophecy that says in three days the city will be destroyed.

No problem. They’ll find Zeb and zip right out of there. The fact that a crazy king wants to serve Bianca up to the gods as an appetizer is just a minor technicality. But this ancient evil dude has finally met his match.

I went into this book knowing it was a middle grade book about the Maya.  And since I loved Chris Eboch’s The Well of Sacrifice, which was also about the ancient Mayans, I expected to like this book, too.

And it didn’t disappoint.

I loved Bianca.  She was more of a “leap before you look” character – impulsive, headstrong, and didn’t always think things through.  (Didn’t always follow the rules, either.)  But I really didn’t mind, because I loved her takes on things and her stubborn determination to do what she thought needed done.

Melvin, I also really liked.  I’d call him a mega-nerd (so says the self-professed geek).  At first, I thought he’d get on my nerves, but he really didn’t.  Once he stopped with the know-it-all attitude, he was a really nice kid – in a really geeky kind of way.

I did enjoy the plot – which, as you might guess from the title, involved an ancient spell and a crazy king.  It also involved a crazy wannabe-king, some human sacrifices, a Mayan city, a magical jade necklace, and a semi-crazy archeologist.  Bianca and Melvin’s search for their grandfather (the semi-crazy archeologist) led them all sorts of interesting places, including the Mayan city.  And I think about half of the people they meet turned out to be untrustworthy.

I loved the fact that part (about half, maybe?) took place in an ancient Mayan city.  I’ve always been interested in ancient cultures of any kind, and I loved watching modern kids Bianca and Melvin navigate the ancient civilization.  I also liked watching the ancient Mayans react to them.

Practically the only problem I had with the book was how short it was.  Since it’s a middle grade book, I can understand it, but as a teenage reader, I wasn’t happy about it.  I wanted it to be longer, just so I could hang out with Bianca and Melvin some more.

This makes an excellent stand-alone book, but it also has the potential for an excellent series.  I kind of home Laura Pauling writes a sequel.  I certainly wouldn’t mind following these characters around for another book.

I received a free ARC of How to Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings from the author.  Her generosity did not influence, nor seek to influence, this review.

Adventure, Fiction, Middle Grade

Mission Unstoppable

Image from Dan Gutman’s website

Title:  Mission Unstoppable (Genius Files #1)

Author:  Dan Gutman

Genre:  Adventure

In eight days, Coke and Pepsi McDonald will turn thirteen.  Before then, they’ll jump off a cliff; get trapped in the locked basement of their burning school, chased cross-country by murderous lunatics, left for dead in the pit of a sand dune, forced to decipher mysterious coded messages, thrown into a giant vat of SPAM, and visit the world’s largest ball of twine.  There’s more, but if we told you, we’d have to kill you.

Before I get too far, I’d like to make a distinction.  Young adult and middle grade books are not always as different as they should be.  I’ve read some middle grade books that worked just fine for an older audience.  I’ve read some young adult books that would have been better for ten-year-olds.  It just depends on the book.

Honestly, I did enjoy this book.  It was a light-hearted, fun story.

The problem was, quite a few of the scenes weren’t suitable for “light-hearted.”  That made a lot of reactions implausible.  Take, for instance, the scene right before Coke and Pepsi jump off a cliff.  Some guy is chasing them, a mysterious woman saves them, gets shot with a dart, and collapses, and Coke and Pepsi jump off a cliff.  Kinda intense.  But then the next day, they’ve practically forgotten about it!

I can see why Dan Gutman does it that way.  Mission Unstoppable is a middle grade book, and by dwelling on the scary parts, that would (understandably) scare away the kids.  But that also makes it not as good for older readers.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a good book.  I’m sure my ten-year-old brother would enjoy it.  Heck, I even enjoyed it.  My only problem was that logical reactions were abandoned in favor of a middle grade audience.  That’s not a bad thing – it just means that it doesn’t cross over into older reader territory quite so well.

Mission Unstoppable is the first book in the Genius Files series, but it did just fine as a standalone novel.  Everything was neatly wrapped up.  In fact, I’m not really sure what the sequel will be about, in light of the ending of this one.