Friday, November 18, 2011

In Protest

This is the weekend a million screaming tweens and their moms gather together to gush in high-pitched tremors of just how much Twilight means to them. All around me--at college--people are discussing the newest film. As if there's anything really to talk about. It's just the "A Baby Story" from Hell. Boy and girl have sex, girl gets pregnant, wolf gets protective, everyone cries, baby rips itself out of womb, girl should die, luckily boy is a vampire and saves her taking it.


If you haven't guessed, I can't stand Twilight. Not just because of the poor writing or the fact that, by the end, it morphs into soft porn, but mostly because the "lessons" in them.... /shudder. The Bella-Edward dynamic, it's just not healthy. On any level. Nor is it ever romantic. Please, please, PLEASE explain to me how a 200-year-old creeping into your room in the middle of the night to watch you sleep is romantic? It's not. But people aren't just like "OMG, this is so not real life!" No, people get serious about it. I read an article about a woman who told her husband she wouldn't have sex with him until Bella slept with Edward. And then there's, where these women spend THOUSANDS on Twilight tours and figurines. They even annotate their books. Of course, in response, there's which is replete with horror stories about crazy, obsessive wives pricking their fingers and licking the blood as foreplay.

So this isn't simply a dumb book people like. It's a book people worship. And it's sick.

Some people (read: little girls and bored housewives) consider my view on Twilight to be misanthropic. I'm just jealous, I just don't understand, etc., etc., etc. But, no, this is not mere cynicism. This is built on a life of reading literature that inspired me. Not in a lecture-ish way (I mean, look at this blog: heaven knows I like some silly stuff), but I still learned about being strong, smart, brave. From The Magic Tree House series to Chronicles of Narnia, even Little Women and definitely Harry Potter. There's good stuff out there. But Twilight? Mostly, I can't stand when negative qualities--especially sexist qualities--are professed to be something good, something enlightened. Bella Swan is no role model. She's weak and Edward relishes in the control. What Stephenie Meyer calls chivalry I call male chauvinism.

I am not opposed to a man holding a door open for me, paying for my meal, even buying a gift. I am opposed to a man telling me what to drive, telling me I can't drive, and definitely watching me sleep. Bleh, I say, bleh. Not to mention, he's there because she smells good. She's his own personal brand of heroin, remember? But that's a major question of mine: shouldn't the attraction end once the crack-infested blood stops pumping through her veins? That's all he wants, right? That's why he's there; that's why he can't stay away: she is the object of his blood-lust. And that's what romance is--at least to Meyer.

I mean, their relationship (if you can call it that), isn't built on anything. What do they ever talk about? How they shouldn't be together. I doubt he even knows her favorite color. Because, I mean, he never really lets her talk. He abandons her, but then even keeps her from moving on. He is the one deciding what is best for her; she has no say. When they get together, when they have sex, even when she becomes a vampire--these are all decided by him. It's disgusting.

But it's not like she has much going for her anyway.

Meyer tries to make Bella a sort of feminist--what, since she's not "pretty" and so introspective. But all she really seems concerned about is being a year older than her ageless boyfriend before they hit the sack. Really? That's what's eating her up inside? Not that, say, she has an affinity for attracting mystical creatures, or that her boyfriend wanted to kill her when they first met, or that her in-laws almost ate her. Nope, she's just some shallow teenage girl. And it's probably a good thing that Edward can't read her thoughts because I'm pretty sure even he'd be running for cover, terrified by how insipid, dim-witted, shallow-minded, and obsessive-compulsive his forever-love is. I mean, she's the one who becomes attracted to him when she realizes he is physically repulsed by her; she's one who goes from almost kissing the wolf-boy to running off to Europe (without telling her parents) to save her ex who left her to die in the woods; she's the one who jumps off cliffs when things don't go her way; she's the one who makes out with her wolf-boy in front of her lover-boy and only sorts through her feelings for both when, conveniently, she has a baby girl said-wolf-boy can mate with, thus solving her "perfect family" worries.

It's messed up, people.

So why do I spend so much time talking about Twilight? In my defense, it comes up when the movies come up. And they won't die. I mean, I thought this was the last one. No, it's the first part of the last one (further proof that they wish they were as cool as Harry Potter. Fact: they will never be). So there's still a whole other year before even the POSSIBILITY of Twilight fading from the human consciousness begins to happen. So I rant, I rave, and I mock. Because, okay, it's hilarious stuff (and I heard this fourth film is the funniest,'s got that going for it). But since this is a book blog, and since I haven't had time to read recently, I thought I'd post an old review of the Twilight series. Because it's pretty epic. And I want to spread the word in any way possible. Maybe bring a few twi-hards back to sanity.
If only.

But, without further adieu, I give you...
"Twilight, Or When Women Stepped Back A Few Hundred Years."

You know what I can't understand? How ANY of this is attractive or exciting. It's just not healthy. These are trashy novels--as in they literally belong in the trash. They're severely sexist, bordering on misogynistic; they're poorly written, relying on repetitive adjectives like "alabaster"; they offer nothing good yet purport themselves as clean and empowering when it's actually all completely irrelevant. I feel my brain cells dying when I read (or watch) any Twilight. So what business do I have here? Why did I bother. was hilarious. Depressing, sure, but hilarious. Mostly because people take it so seriously. And the fact that 14-year-old girls bond with their 40-year-old mothers over this. Isn't that reason to give pause?

I read somewhere that Edward can't read Bella's thoughts because she doesn't have any. It's something I can believe. Her motivations make no sense, her logic is nonexistent. Who she is as a person...I find myself wanting to reach into the pages and choke her out. I mean, come on--anyone actually attracted to a bloodsucking vampire just because he is, in fact, a vampire obviously has mental problems, or at least some major daddy issues. And then, at the same time, she falls inexplicably for the werewolf with anger management issues who is the exact opposite of her "soul mate." But she literally only lives to please them, turning in circles because she can't decide how to make both of them happy. She needs thrown into a Women's Studies class ASAP.

It's not like she needs to be a feminist. I understand she's a stupid, starry-eyed teenager in love. That's fine. JUST STOP HAVING HER MAKE LIFE-ALTERING DECISIONS. She is self-centered and stupid. She pretends she isn't but she is. Her friends are background noise, her parents are worse. She disrespects everyone, including herself. She sees Edward as a god--literally calling him one about 5,000 times (I could make a drinking game out of it). So she gives herself wholly over to him, regardless of what everyone/anyone else in her life would say. And then, amidst all that, she decides that yes, indeed, she's ready to risk her soul just to do it with some cold vampire. 

It's uncomfortable how much she's given herself up. As I heard one girl put it, any series that climaxes with a girl waking up bruised and battered but assures her husband over and over again that it's fine, that she understands, that it's not his fault, that she asked for it, that she loves him--it's just not healthy. It's irresponsible for anyone to purport this as any sort of ideal, perfect, fantastic relationship. It's abuse. Physical, mental, emotional. And I'm not even kidding.

Edward is overprotective, controlling, smothering. I don't care how chiseled his abs are, just how perfect he is with his "translucent" skin. There is no explanation behind their relationship beyond the sexually charged and blood-sucking-fueled tension between them. Off the page, they don't make sense together. Scratch that: even on the page, they don't make sense. There is no chemistry. Unless you call him wanting to lock her in a cage and eat her alive chemistry.

Really, everyone complains about not knowing what Bella's thinking. I'd really be interested in the vampire's inner monologue. It can't be pretty.

And then Jacob? I've never understood this whole two-polar-opposites-love-triangle-thing. What can they both see in Bella? And what does Bella possibly see in either of them? He's a dog. Literally, figuratively, all of the above. He gets a high off of pushing her around, demanding things from her until she gives in. And then he imprints. On her newborn. Even the word sounds dirty. Imprinting. On a baby. Meaning he's found his soulmate, the one he'll magically love forever, no matter what. While she's just clawed her way out of his girlfriend's womb. Now, what's really interesting here is that it seems that, even though imprinting is a magical wolf thing, these girls just go along with it. They have no choice; they've been chosen. So...yet another woman loses her identity to a man she's inexplicably paired to. Like mother, like daughter.

But that would be an interesting conversation: in the mere days it takes for this special child to grow up into a beautiful, poised, perfect little whatever-thing who will actually never live (seeing as she had no childhood and she has no future). Can't you just see them, maybe holding hands as they rip a bear gracefully apart? "Mother, I'm getting married." "It's about time, darling. You're getting old." "Don't you want to know who to?" "Oh, but everyone already knows. To your babysitter, Jacob. You know, I almost married him once. We even made out. He was in love with me for three years." "But...that's longer than I've even been alive." "I know! Isn't it wonderful?"

But, hey, that doesn't matter right? I can't insult what isn't actually discussed. And, hopefully, Twilight 2: Renesmee's Story never hits the shelves. I think even Meyer realizes she painted herself into a corner with that one.

The point is, this series is weak. It's based on a middle-aged woman's fantasies. And it's obvious she's been sheltered her whole life (though you can watch her TV interviews to figure that one out). Frankly, though, it scares me how obsessive people get over it. I feel like I'm caught in a literary Josie and the Pussy Cats where there's some message 
brainwashing everyone but I'm missing out on hearing it. The hype just doesn't make sense and it's terrifying that this, this is the book that will define this decade, this generation.

Remember Harry Potter? How love was never lust but something that could literally save lives? How you didn't have to be beautiful to be awesome (Hermione, Neville, Ginny, etc.)? How even when a boyfriend dumps you, you carry on instead of just, say, jumping off a cliff? 

But maybe that's my problem: I'm such a dyed-in-the-wool HP girl, I can't even pretend to understand the Twi-hards. And I hate that name. And I hate that they embrace it. If I had a choice, my nickname for them would be Twits. It's more true to life, right?

Seriously, though. I think I'm going to start telling people puppies die when they say "Twilight" and "good" in the same sentence.

Unless the sentence is "Twilight is a good piece of crap." But even that can be misleading.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Verdict, No. 15

 (find the judgment here)
by Robin Wasserman
I bought it on a whim.
I bought it because it was cheap.
I bought it because maybe I was intrigued.
I bought it because Scott Westerfeld told me to.
I bought it without really looking into it.
I bought it because I was bored.
I bought it, okay.

No matter my excuses, let me tell you now, I will never be able to justify or excuse the fact that I paid money for this book. Nor will I be able to forgive myself for insinuating to the publisher, author, etc. that I am in any way interested in this book. I'm not. And it's not that it's the worst or even stupidest book I've ever read (cough*Twilight*cough), it's just...lousy. If you can believe it, it tries too hard while not really trying at all. There's a desperate attempt at shock-and-awe, at edginess, but two-thirds into it and I saw just how quickly it was getting no where. I mean, I forgot about it for three days straight--at the climax. And, let's be honest, I haven't picked it up since. Frankly, it's just not worth the time.

Maybe the fact that they had to repackage it to try and get more sales should have been proof of that.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Judgment, No. 15

by Robin Wasserman
"She's not the same person she used to be. Maybe she's not even a person at all."
This is some major sci-fi. Something I'm not usually comfortable with, that I usually avoid. Yet here I am. Why? One, it was only 9.99--the exact amount of cash I had in my pocket at the time. Two, Scott Westerfeld said it was "spellbinding." But why am I so intrepid? One, it was only 9.99--and we all know how cheap cheap books usually are (remember that trio of $5 books I bought? Unfortunately, I still do). Two, Scott Westerfeld really disappointed me when he sold himself out and made his epic Uglies trilogy a series. Which brings me to point number three: This is, in fact, a series. And, not only that, it is a reprinting of an old series originally called Skinned. As if they're hoping for more success come round two. Which feels like cheating. But they went for edgy, concept cover-art where the three books stand together to reveal--you guessed it--a (metal?) woman...dripping...with water. So...there's that. And it sounds a lot like Bicentennial Man, but a girl. And it's about a teenager. And they tend to be pretty stupid/annoying/ultra-angsty.

Still. I'm reading it.

And I think/plead that, maybe, it just might be good. The story goes that this girl in a futuristic world gets in a car wreck and her memories are transferred onto a microchip and put in a robotic body Thus, is she alive? Is she human? Is she anything? It's like A.I. Artificial Intelligence meets The Island. That's what I'm getting/hoping for at least. And, hey, if we're lucky, and seeing as she's a non-human entity and all, there won't be a love triangle. Or any romance at all! But...seeing as this is YA fiction, there's bound to be something. I just hope it's stomachable/awesome.

Man, I'm such a pessimist. I should work on that, but I probably won't.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Verdict, No. 14

(find the judgment here)
Blood Red Road
by Moira Young
"If you know how to read the stars, you can read the story of people's lives."
This is quite possibly the best book I have ever read.

It sounded so cliche, you know? Girl goes to save a sibling, gets caught in a government upheaval, meets a handsome stranger, makes tough-as-nail friends. It sounded like everything I've read before. I was sure it would suck. I mean, even after I bought it and it came in the mail, I didn't touch it for another day. And I just thought I'd read a couple chapters before bed, maybe like it a little. But it amazed me. Literally and in every sense. I talk about needing to be "wow"ed? This is it, folks: it's the best book I've read in a long, long time.

And I know this blog hasn't exactly...set me up as a critic of great literature. If I'm not touting Anna Godbersen, I'm suddenly in love with Delirium. But all those books--those frilly, melodramatic obsessions--they're guilty pleasures. They're great and I still stand by the writing, but...they're not everything I read, and I know they aren't the best. But maybe I've already lost some of my credibility because of it. Maybe you all roll your eyes at my choices; maybe you snort at my praise for certain books; maybe you doubt my ability to really know good literature. And maybe you do all that with good reason. But I have to ask, if you're going to listen to me on just one thing, hear me now: read Blood Red Road.

I might absolutely adore the Luxe series and I might have been blinded by Delirium, but Blood Red Road wasn't just a silly read I giggled over; this was a book that made me excited.

Remember reading Hunger Games for the first time? I came across it before it was a big deal (at least before I knew it was a big deal) and I was obsessed with it. Completely absorbed it in just a few hours and then I jumped up and down and told everyone to read it too. And people are saying this is as good as that. But it's not: it's better. It's crazy, and it's crazy-good.

Instead of some whiny, insipid girl you wish would just up and off herself already, thus sparing us the self-loathing (Katniss), here we have Saba. She's just a straight-up BA who don't take no BS from nobody. She's tough as nails, often...unapproachable, and willing to pretty much cut down anyone who gets in her way. Including, from time to time, her little sister. Is she perfect? Hardly. Is she beautiful? Not exactly. Is she idealistic and hoping to change the world? Actually, she's mostly selfish and very angry. But, even for all that, she's someone you can't help but root for.

I mean, for one, she doesn't become the face of a revolution just because she was clever enough to hide in some trees and sic bees on people; she doesn't spend her time manipulating the perfect boys around her who are inexplicably in love with her even though they're complete opposites; she doesn't mope and cry and consider suicide again and again. Saba is freakin' amazing, and her story is even more so. And I say it like she's real because Moira Young is great at characterizing. But, then again, Young, I quickly realized, is pretty amazing at everything: dialogue, emotions, narration, and just setting a really good scene.

There's nothing really unbelievable or awkward (...except perhaps 30-foot worms with claws. But, trust me, you buy into those pretty quick). And at least there aren't weird surgical beauty regimes or most of those sci-fi aspects often littered in dystopian fiction. But that's because this isn't dystopian. There's no dictator, no pretense of perfection. There's just the desert and the rusted remains of what they call the "wrecker" times. It's an ugly, lawless place, but Saba doesn't know anything else; she just wants to survive. It's her supporting cast that kind of pull her out of her self-absorbation. And they do it with all sorts of personalities. And, sure, people die. Lots die. There's killing all over the place. I mean, they're up against a drug lord. You have all sorts of people fighting to live and taking out anybody to do it.

But, listen. It might sound crazy--it might be crazy--but...I mean, from the first page, I was breathless. It sucked me in, zero seconds flat. It was like magic: I curled up under my covers, I flipped open to the prologue and...I was flabbergasted. In the best way imaginable. It was like my whole body went to sleep and I was just absorbed into the pages. Frankly, I'm in love. The language, the writing, the voice--whatever you call it--it bewitched me, body and soul.

And that handsome daredevil? I'd trade Peeta in for him any day of the week.

But I'm completely serious. If any of you really love reading, really love good STORIES, read this one now. I think I'm going to read it again. Right now. Cuz I just can't get enough of it. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Judgment, No. 14

Blood Red Road
by Moira Young
"A monster sandstorm arrives bearing four cloaked horsemen, and her world is shattered."
This seems like some BA post-apocalyptic stuff. I'm kind of tired of the "dystopian" trend, where a perfect society turns out to be not so perfect. But I still love that end-of-the-world, societies-crumbling, life-sucks sort of vibe. What better than a book about a girl living in the deserted outlands (a pun! a pun!), living off of landfills before being forced to go off to save her brother and stage a rebellion with the help of an attractive, rebellious boy?

Maybe don't answer that.

But, really, it sounds interesting. Very dry (hopefully not a pun). And it's gotten a million and a half good reviews--things like, "On par with...Paulo Bacigalupi," "Better than Hunger Games," "a distinct Cormac McCarthy vibe." The critics use words such as "eerie," "powerful," "minimalist," "intriguing," "fast." There are creepy creatures and empowered women and all that fun-loving, angst-ridden stuff. And though someone called it an "epic love story," I'm hoping it's believable and not just...lame.

That, or it's as good writing as everyone says it is, because you all know how easily wooed I am by writing. I mean, I even fell for Delirium. AKA the cliche-ridden-train-wreck of the year.

Three problems:
One: it is a series (known as Dustlands). And I'm really sick of this series trend. When did it become so necessary to have a story that didn't ever officially end? Nothing's safe anymore. Not even if you call it a trilogy--they'll still find a way to throw in a fourth one (I'm looking at you, Uglies and Eragon).
And, is it just me, or does the cover feel like a video game?
It looks a little cheap, okay. 

Two: the set-up sounds cliche. Everything is cliche now, I know. But, seriously? Couldn't they disguise it a little more? Am I really the only one to grow doubtful when I'm told the "unbeatable and cunning" main character will be "teamed up with a handsome daredevil"?
Insert eye roll.
Hey, at least it's not some bimbo beauty wondering why on earth all the men around are in love with her. That's one cliche I can't stomach (right at ya, Twilight).
Three: last time I was told a book was for the lovers of Hunger Games, it turned out to suck (Yeah, Maze Runner. Epic suck). So I'm a little timorous.

Then again, if they mean it's better than Hunger Games as a whole, 
I might be okay with that, because the third one just sort of ruined it for me. 
That, and the movie trailer. 
Liam Hemsworth, of Miley Cyrus fame--really?

But I digress. 

So, yes, this book might have all the makings of a cliche, still gets me a little hyped up. I read the first page feels different. It reads different. I think it will be good. This is a fresh voice, a seemingly fresh situation and setting, and hopefully some fresh characters (a pun?). Sure, it might be predictable--what, with a handsome love interest and a girl rising from the ash of a crumbling society to save her brother but really save so much more (sound familiar? Yup). And maybe it is a series, but some stories deserve sequels (I'm looking at you, Anna Godberson and...nope, that's it).

So, there, I admit it: I'm excited. Only, don't get ahead of yourself. After all, I'm easily excited--I'm an optimist that way--but it takes lots to actually impress me. 
Dang. I'm such a snob.

Friday, September 30, 2011


I don't know what to read. Everything just sounds so....meh. Like I've read it all before. But it's (almost) a new month and I need a new post and I want to want to read. So. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Verdict, No. 13

(find the judgment here)
Beautiful Days
by Anna Godbersen
Let me just say, this will not be a purely objective review. My Godbersen-love-affair naturally makes me a little bias. I mean, I was already smiling from the get-go. I got home, ripped it out of the package, and fell on my bed with a little giggle. And I stayed lost in it for something close to four hours. I couldn't put it down. Not because it was some tense page turner or because it had something important to say; more because it was that last breath of summer air and I was just basking in it. Honestly, I'm infatuated: I'm so caught up in how she writes, I really don't mind at all what she writes.

I sound like such a pathetic fan girl right now, but Godbersen is the only writer to never disappoint me. And we all know how easily I'm disappointed (pretty much...every book here). But I just get giddy reading Godbersen (how's that for alliteration?). And this book really was such a beautiful read. There were moments that literally took my breath away--as in completely, purely, literally: I would stop breathing just to finish without distraction.
Um, the closing scene? Beautiful.

Still, I'll try to be professional about this. Because my cynical self naturally noticed flaws (I just happened to enjoy them, wrapped up with such pretty bows). For one, you could feel the "middle book" moments--where Godbersen was introducing plot elements for a later book. I mean, I had to roll my eyes at the way....someone suddenly started to care about that...someone she left back home (Mosquito netting? Really? That set you off?). Plus there seemed to be a lot of inconsistencies--pieces of the last book that she didn't seem to care about bringing up in this one, but instead went on and introduced new side possibilities until we're all confuddled about who to cheer for and what can possibly happen next.

Clearly, the hot body guard has a thing for his friend's new wife, and said new wife isn't really up to being a wife, plus she randomly noticed the pretty boy who was featured so readily in the last book only to be mentioned once here. And there was that whole awkward, random "kiss your own reflection" moment with...someone. What? But the one other someone did finally get her break, after once again ruining that affable one with her naivety and simultaneous selfishness. Now there's some hot actor to mess with her--married, sure, but drama shall ensue because the climb to the top isn't all that easy. And the sexy pilot suddenly seemed very different. Maybe it was just me, but in the first one he seemed very confident and charming and bold; now, he's...something else--still good looking and all-intriguing (that closing scene, I'm tellin' ya) with that something-twist that gets you going all "whaaat?". But then there's still the original someone who's still so much better for that someone who's now with the pilot-someone, and she's gone all BA with this speakeasy-something which is why she'll probably be the one to die.
Drama, drama, drama. 

And I kept expecting something to go wrong; it wrapped up too nicely, too happily. There was a wedding, a kiss, a....scene. Everyone got some pretty bow on their story. Which just makes me so nervous for the next one. Plus, it's almost the depression and there's a sense of foreboding with how Godbersen writes: you know it won't end pretty, this age of boundless gluttony. It's all bound to implode in some tragic, heart-wrenching way that will most definitely leave me breathless. Literally.

It all sounds so silly, I know. But Godbersen pulls it off. I mean, these are things that just wouldn't fly in real life with normal people, but Godbersen makes it work. She pulls us into the moment till we're tipsy with the characters, starry-eyed and excited by the secretive nightlife hidden behind the city lights. We believe the characters because, even for their outlandish adventures, their reactions feel real. Godbersen doesn't blindly put two characters together just for the sake of action; she doesn't spell out everything or explain everything either, but, I mean, just happens. And to these girls in the last days of the Roaring happens a lot.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Judgment, No. 13

Beautiful Days
by Anna Godbersen
"For the bright young things of 1929, the beautiful days seem endless"
As anyone who reads any of this blog knows, I have a severe crush on Godbersen and her writing. I've read every book and I've loved every book (well, maybe not Rumors of the Luxe series, but that was her sophomore slump, and so I'll give it to her). In my eyes, she can do no wrong. Even if her stories seem superficial or perhaps melodramatic, she at least is unapologetic in her use of melodrama. It's delicious. And it feels real, mostly because her characters don't fall flat; they don't settle into stereotypes. For YA fiction, they are as complicated and plausible as they can get. From the first book carrying on through the entire series, they never stop making sense--their actions, choices, all feels real. 

Which is exactly why I loved Di slipping away in the last book; 
I would have been furious had she stayed because, 
even if it were happy (and it would have been such a happy moment), 
it would have betrayed the character she built. 
And when so many others forget character in favor of plot, 
I practically shouted for joy when Di walked away.

But that's another story. And I could talk about it forever.

This story, though, is the second in her flappers series. I absolutely loved the first one. To be honest, I was worried that it would be just like Luxe, just in another period. But, no, these characters are just as individualistic, just as complex. These aren't just stock characters; there are no straight-up villains, no cookie cutter heroines. I LOVE IT! Every book of hers is like a breath of fresh air.

I'm sounding a little obsessed. Like stalker-ish. But I'm not, I promise. Just impressed. And I'm eager, excited, enthralled to be impressed again. Only problem? This is the second book. Like Rumors was. So I'm a little nervous, a little worried that it will be...dry, busy fixing up plot lines for the rest of the series. But I have faith. Mostly because, hello, look at that cover.

What's going to go down? It's a little hard to say--as in here. Because 1) I can't spoil the first one for those who haven't read it and 2) I can't say anything about this one without having to talk about the first one.'s quite the conundrum. But let me try:

I really hope someone gets to flirt it up with the pilot someone. But I also hope said someone comes around to loving the original someone again because, come on, we all know he didn't do that some thing. And I hope one of the other someones gets over herself enough to accept the affection of that affable one and, maybe, get a big break too. And the other someone should stop smoking long enough to really take stock of her life and go after that poor but beautiful someone who--come on--is not hooking up with that one someone's mother. And that male someone, maybe he'll wind up wandering over to that middle someone just to stir trouble with the latter someone and put all the someones in quite a tizzy. And maybe the first someones...someone that she left back in somewhere comes looking for her, because that could get awkward. 

What more can I say? I just love all these someones, and I'm quite looking forward to the release of this something. 

Here's to it being good.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Verdict, No. 12

(find the judgment here)
The Daughter of Siena
by Marina Fiorato
If I had done my original thing and tried to surmise the plot from the cover, I would have had it down pat. Everything about it was predictable; the back cover game it all away--you just had to read between the lines:
Girl is married off to evil boy.
Girl falls for pretty boy. 
Pretty boy wants to win race for girl. 
Girl evokes wrath of evil boy. 
Evil boy loses anyway. 
Did I give anything away? Not really. I thought maybe the plot wouldn't matter; that with such a pretty cover, it would be gorgeous anyway. But, alas, it failed me. I wouldn't recommend it anyway. Not on any level. Because it really wasn't anything.
It wasn't historical fiction 
No, there was a historical backdrop where Fiorato had her characters--some of them real--do whatever she wanted them to. I mean, she even had an apology at the back of the book for rewriting history to fit her story. And I may have been out of the historical-fiction loop for awhile, but I don't think that's how it traditionally goes. For all the drama, I don't feel like I learned anything honest about that time period. It all felt fake--like a Spanish soap opera (complete with a long-lost twin).
It wasn't romance. 
It tried to be, but it wasn't. Again, Fiorato's characters did whatever she wanted them to. So all she could say about the main characters relationship was that they  were "inexplicably drawn" to one another. Well said; it was inexplicable. All they could say about each other was that they were beautiful. That, my friends, is called LUST, not love. I mean, after they shared their first kiss (lame), the first thing he could say was "Lay with me." Ah, yes, those are the words I would give up anything and risk everything for.  
And it wasn't even lovely about it. 
Seriously, it got uncomfortable. Fast. There were near-rape scenes, constant abuse--self-afflicted and otherwise--and then, midway through, there was a sudden fascination with homosexuality. And it got graphic. I don't consider myself overly-sensitive, but the only way I got through the whole thing was by ripping out nearly 20 pages in the middle. That's right: I desecrated the most beautiful book I've ever seen. And it only sits on my bookshelf still because it is so pretty. 

So, there. I'm just as shallow as the main characters.

But I suppose, in this case, the old adage is true: you can't judge a book by its cover. Because, if you could, I would have loved this book. It should have been my favorite. Just like Entwined. What cruel irony, then: my favorite covers, home to my least favorite books. Life really isn't fair.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Verdict, No. 11

(find the judgment here)
by Julia Karr

This book is entirely forgettable. Literally and in every way. Three days, and I've already thrown any and all recollection of it away. So I guess I'm really not in any position to review it. But I'll try.

I remember the beginning was good. The build-up. (And I remember I was dead on about the plot twisting at the 50-page mark, because I never forget being right like that). And I remember there was indeed a complete-opposite best friend (didn't really see that end coming though). And there was something close to a love triangle for all of three pages before Karr decided, without reason, that that didn't matter anymore. Introduce hot Asian chick, pass off ex-lover to her, and everyone's happy-go-lucky again. Because these characters are devoid of any realism. They are fake cut-outs that you're never given any reason to care about.

Oh, yeah. I definitely remember that.

This novel was weak in every way. It fell into every common YA trap: it introduces an edgy concept, only to never really follow through with it; it turns from focusing on the world to zooming in on the relationship status of the main character; it doesn't worry about characterization but about reaching the next plot point; it relies on cliches to create a world that even the writer didn't understand completely; and there is no point to it. You think with 1984 as the grandad to the dystopian novel people would understand it wasn't just about a gritty world--it was about relating it back to our now and making the characters stand out in some real sense.

Nope. Nothing like that here.

And I really did start out liking it. The first few pages were interesting because of the world. And then Karr bailed on that to tell us how much her two main characters were in love (we won't even get into the ultimate cliche of how they actually had no reason to be in love. At all). So by that 50-page mark, I felt betrayed. None of it mattered. The world was too broad for the narrow focus she spun; the characters were too shallow for the depth she tried to throw them to. And it wasn't even well-written.

Everything about it felt forced. The writing, the characters, the world. There was nothing real about it, and so I just put it down and moved on. Because, on every level, I just didn't care.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Judgment, No. 12

The Daughter of Siena
by Marina Fiorato
"Amid the intrigue and danger of 18th-century Italy, a young woman becomes embroiled in romance and treachery with a rider in the Palio."
This is real stuff, people.
It's books like this that made me start this blog. I mean, look at that cover. I knew I needed it the second I saw it. I think I actually let out a little gasp, my mouth drawn out in a lovely "oh" when I saw it. I picked it up and the world went slow around me. I could possibly, literally look at it all day.

And it's dresses like that that make me sure I was born in the wrong time period. I covet.

But the book itself? I can't really say much. I mean, I haven't read this sort of book in a while. That sort being "adult" fiction. I'm a little nervous that my taste has been worn down to something incapable of stomaching grown-up writing anymore. My brain has been inundated by frivolous YA where everything is predictable and shallow. Real fiction in real settings with real events...and really sprawling narratives. It might be more than I can bear!

It is historical fiction set in Renaissance Italy. 1729 to be exact. There's a horse race and a diabolical father who uses his daughter like a chess piece in the political battle the tournament masks. And we know she goes and falls in love with the mysterious rider who is probably challenging all her father stands for. And who is definitely not her betrothed.

But I don't think it's chick-lit. I know Fiorato respects history too much to water this down into some bodice-ripping romance. Actually, I'm a little worried that all that attention to detail--especially revolving around a horse race--won't entertain me.

But I'd read anything in that cover. Even if I just numbly turn each page, incapable of following the action, I'll read it. Because a book that pretty--it deserves being celebrated. And I'll never regret buying it.

Yeah, I'm that shallow.

Judgment, No. 11

by Julia Karr
"For Nina, turning sixteen promises to be anything but sweet."
And this could be the most horrifying book I've ever read.
Here's the basic gist: when you turn 16, you're branded with a tattoo on the inside of your wrist. And that means you're free for the taking. Sexually, that is. It's called turning "sex-teen." Clever, huh? Not that rape is legalized, but girls are completely sexualized, any and all traces of feminism removed. Men can do whatever and women should enjoy it, seeing as that's all their good for in this world.

Kind of perverse, right? And it is published through SPEAK, which is famous for "pushing the envelope" with "serious" (read: graphic) topics. And, actually, I rarely like their stuff.

My mom is probably doing her tongue-clicking-gasp thing right about now wondering where I find these things and why on earth I'm reading it. It's a good question, too. In part, I was just drawn inexplicably to the cover. I mean, do I like dramatic covers that hide girls' faces behind the title? Maybe. But the thing is, no matter the subject matter, I really doubt this will get explicit. I don't think this will be some contemporary teen's sexual awakening. It may be the opposite, actually (whatever that means). And the important thing to remember is that this is just another dystopian novel. So there are mainly two things we can be sure of (both of which tend to undercut any serious discussion of the actual world/society):

One, the girl will be indifferent if just a little frightened of her inevitable fate. She'll have to have a best friend who is much more excited--the polar opposite thing again. But this girl, Nina, will have something happen that shocks her into action. Probably at the 50 pages mark (allowing enough angst to build between friends versus the society).

Two, there will be a boy. And he will be pretty and mysterious and the answer to all the questions she didn't know she was asking. While she's been oblivious her whole life, he'll probably be part of the resistance--of which there has to be a sort. He will make her face the truth with his pretty eyes and soft kisses. He will probably get in the way of her settled friendships, including a probable love triangle a la Every Other Book Ever Written. Only, in such a sex-fret world, it will be much harder for her to feel safe with a guy. But he'll succeed. Because love always wins.


The one thing I'm really worried about is it reading like a PSA. Or trying to be all preachy and cutting edge. Like a Glee episode. Who knows--maybe it won't be risque enough to satisfy my curiosity.

Just kidding, mom, no worries. 

Verdict, No. 10

by Lauren Oliver
"He is my world and my world is him and without him there is no world," p. 332
I hate being wrong. And I hate having to admit publicly that I'm wrong. And I hate when I let the immense amount of poor literature taint my usual optimism for books. Mostly though, I hate being wrong. And I was wrong.

Well, no, I was right: everything I said would happen pretty much happened; it was a book riddled with cliches and predictable plots. And I tried really hard to hate it--I was practically determined to write yet another scathing review condemning the world of YA lit. I mean, from the get-go, everything was stacked against it. By anyone else, it would have been a disaster. But, see, it wasn't written by anyone else. It was written by Lauren Oliver, who's deft prose always seems to transcend any traditional YA traps. At least for me.

She did it with Before I Fall (that story should have been a mess, but it was beautiful), and she does it again with Delirium. Because, honestly, it was so very pretty.

It was as if Scott Westerfeld and Anna Godberson's books got together and made a baby--that would be Delirium. That quirky combination of serious heart and thought meddled with melodramatic love affairs, capped with tantalizing characters and heart-thudding finishes. So of course I love it.

Was it world-class fiction that will go down in history as a new classic? Hardly. It was self-indulgent YA frivolousness at its best. And it was done so beautifully. There was none of the arrogance or self-important writing some YA, and especially dystopian YA, falls into. It didn't feel over-the-top or overtly melodramatic; Oliver wasn't taking it too seriously or not seriously enough. She wasn't trying to be illustrious, she wasn't trying to be either a trendsetter or a follower. She was just writing a story she wanted to tell. And it was refreshing, that lack of an ulterior motive. An author that still writes just for the love of writing!

With Oliver, I never felt like I was being jerked around, like these characters were just cut-outs of reality to further a plot and churn out sequels. Everything, every decision (well...almost every decision) felt natural. The characters felt real and their choices felt at least plausible, and that saved it. Because even though you see everything coming from a mile (or at least a few chapters) away, the characters are real enough to still care, to feel attached, to really wish the sequel was right there so you could just find out what happens next.

So, there. I was wrong.

I was wrong about it being like Twilight. Twilight is and will always be trash--the epitome of bad fiction, bad storytelling, bad characterization, bad everything. And this might not have been the epitome of perfect literature, but it was great fun. And it was wonderfully written.

I was wrong about it being mushy, because there wasn't as much of the ooey gooey love stuff as I presupposed. There were definitely some intermittent eye-roll crap (see above quote), and some what-the-is-happening moments. Did it drag? Yes. Was 400+ pages a little much? Sure. But it wasn't overwhelming.

And I was wrong about the world not mattering. It was and will be very important to the story and the characters, which is just grand. The one problem was I couldn't entirely buy into the concept. I don't understand why anyone would so suddenly and so obsessively get rid of love. It doesn't seem like a normal power-play for the government. Especially not how they talk it up as deadly. And that is never explained.

But I could forgive all that and anything else because of one thing and one alone: I am a sucker for Oliver's writing. Because even is she sticks to the most cliche story lines, it always feels like something entirely new. True, some bits felt too melodramatic (it is a forbidden love story, after all), but so much of it felt alive. Like I was there. So whatever weaknesses in the contrived plot, characters, or setting--and there were some--her writing lulled me into a pleasant dream that I couldn't mind, no matter the flaws.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Judgment, No. 10

by Lauren Oliver
"I'd rather be infected with love for the tiniest sliver of a second than live a hundred years smothered by a lie."
Only a sappy teenager caught in a nightmare of cliches could ever get away with saying that.
This book was recommended by a friend. She hated it and wants me to hate it too. Because that's the sort of friends we are (read: awesome). Plus, I've been slowly coming to terms with the fact that I'll have to read this eventually. Because I always cave to pop culture, sometimes just out of the pure joy that comes in despising something everyone else loves (why else do you think I read the entire Twilight series?).

But this book? It sounds like Uglies, minus the awesomeness. A surgery, a government conspiracy, a submissive narrator. Then—BOOM—everything changes, and so close to the deadline too.

Even for such a pretty cover, and even though I loved Lauren Oliver's debut novel, I already know I'll hate it. I knew it as soon as I read the back cover. I mean, the premise has promise—a world where love has been outlawed. Classic. But there are two things against it: 1) this is a YA novel and 2) this is a romantic YA novel. So it's practically destined to suck.

That's not fair. Oliver is an exceptional writer, I think. At least in her first book. And I don't know why she decided to write something so...Twilight but, alas, here we are. Yet another dystopian YA love story. And the weak thing about YA dystopian fiction is that it isn't really about the world or the society (except for The Hunger Games, which was a beautiful exception that ended badly). It's just an excuse for an edgy setting; the same tired plots, stock characters and love triangles are transferred over. And I know that's how it will be in this book.

Love is bad. So what happens? Enter the girl, settled into her unromantic life, probably a bit pathetic and passive just…waiting. Then she'll meet the boy, dark and mysterious and completely inappropriate for her, probably a zillion times more vibrant than her but with enough sensitivity to seek out whispered moments cuddling with his new love. Because that’s what teenage boys want, after all. Of course, he won’t have much to say or any real reason to be there except that 1) this is a YA novel and 2) this is a romantic YA novel. So they're required to fall in love. And they will, quickly and inexplicably. He’ll be perfect and she'll be empowered. Slowly. But even with her manpowered confidence, she’ll spend a good portion of the 400+ pages (oh, wait, seriously?) doubting herself, her lover, her life. It will be all whining and moping with intermittent make-out scenes. There will be her energetic and cocky best friend to clash with and her dull parents who just don't understand. Because, in YA fiction, there's just no such thing as too much drama. 

I just pray to all heaven and earth that there isn't a love triangle. But there probably will be—or at least the promise of one. Because this is a series, after all. I mean, it sort of has to be, seeing as it's YA fiction and all (hate that trend). And with this being the first in the series, it will just be an introduction. I'm sure/hope after pages of dragging it will go out with a bang. 

Hey, maybe the boy will die. Then the girl will go all Rambo seeking revenge on the government. That could be epic. 

...except then there would be a love triangle. Because 1) The love interest never dies; he always comes back, and 2) Girls are stupid in books and don't know this, thus they fall in love with the next available male. And once first love comes back to find second love, the ensuing drama involves the girl taking a passive back seat to watch the two polar opposite men fight over her. 

Maybe a drug discontinuing love isn't such a bad idea. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself--already talking about a sequel when I haven't even gotten (read: struggled) through this one. I really don't understand why it has to be 400+ pages (really?), but I'll read it. It will be dry and lifeless, but I'll read it. I'll resent it, but I'll read it. I just doubt I'll ever enjoy it. 

No matter how gorgeous the cover is. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Verdict, No. 9

 (find the judgment here)
If you had asked me yesterday what the most disappointing sequel I've ever read was, I would have said Mockingjay. Today? I might just have to go with this book.

After a promising debut, Jillian Larkin seems to have forgotten how to write. Maybe she fell and hit her head, maybe she took a writing class from Stephanie Meyer. But something happened, because reading this was pure drudgery. And it's not like I was expecting some grand, award-winning story. I just thought, I dunno, that there would be some sense of continuity. So much of this novel failed to make sense. It was a complete and utter disaster.

First, it was the same exact story. Only, she rotated the characters. So instead of hating Lorraine, Clara becomes the annoying one who ruins everything good in inexplicable ways. She goes completely haywire. Lorraine is set up like Clara was in the first: she's in a new city, trying to prove herself while simultaneoulsy find herself. And Gloria becomes stale. She, and her storyline, were completely forgettable (don't even get me started on that reunion at the end. Talk about mood swings). And I guess Larkin was going through a bad break-up or something, because she hated men in this one.

Which brings me to point two: for a series that started as a tryst-ridden, breezy-romantic story with a darker side, now it's gone ultra-feminist for no apparent reason. The characterization from the first is made void in this one. Every character is suddenly an inexplicably different person. Marcus is suddenly close-minded and dull; Vera is suddenly sweet and even approachable; all the girls change roles as previously mentioned. It's just a catastrophe. As if Larkin wanted to write a completely new story. Well, then she shouldn't have made it a series following the same people doing the same things in the same settings.

I suppose if this were a separate novel, or if maybe I read this one first--I suppose then it might not have been so bad. Except for the writing (Seriously? Was the first one this bad? Or was I just less of a snob then?). I might have enjoyed it on some level (probably not, actually). But the real problem here is that it is a sequel. It's a follow-up and it's a prequel to the next. Yet Larkin spends this whole book taking apart what was built up in the first (mostly), and I no longer care what happens to them. I feel betrayed.

I feel like she lured us with a honey-coated story of glamor and intrigue and indelicacies only to suddenly snap at us with this men-suck tirade. After a torrid tale of forbidden romance and will they/won't they, it becomes all work and no play. The girls are boring, the boys are dull, and the "drama" with the mob isn't really that dramatic at all. Now I can't trust Larkin's ability to spin a serial like this. I'm afraid to attach to any of the characters now because maybe she'll just twist 'em about in the next one too.

A quote on the cover--the only quote, and by some nobody too--says it's "the dishiest." No, not really. Not at all. It's dry and it's boring and too self-important, whereas the last was merely self-indulgent. She puts her characters and her story into a blender, along with any credibility she may have had as a writer. Then she adds a dash of new and unlikable characters, a splash of sudden and unresolved twists. Finally, with a violent edge, she dices up the charm of the first, throws in some all-men-are-cads, and rips out the cattiness and any fun of the first. She turns it on and watches it churn into trite nonsense with, I imagine, only the snidest smile. Ding! It's done. The result? A catastrophic and epic fail with no real explanation.

No, scratch that. The explanation is that Larkin wanted a different, edgy story. But she betrays her foundation, and her fan base, to get it. And, trust me, it doesn't pay off.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Judgment, No. 9

Remember this book? And how right I was? Well, The Flappers? They're baaaack...

I must admit I am more excited for Godberson's flapper series sequel. But that is because of my fetish for Godberson's writing. As you all should know, she's my favorite.  Still, Larkin's first book kept me entertained. It read like a darker side to Godberson's glittery world, the smoky backstage of the golden era. Larkin's a good enough writer and, though she does take on more serious plots, she never takes herself too seriously. Which is great. Because, let's face it, it's just young adult fiction. So it's about stupid young adults doing stupid things. Ah, the drama! So scintillating.

My major gripe with this series is actually the cover art. The more I look at it, the more I hate it. Especially this book. It looks cheap. It looks like a fourteen year old did the photoshop and a twelve year old pasted the fonts on. Why those ages? I don't know; they were the first to come to mind.

It's been hard to find anything but the photograph to go off of. Seeing as it's not being released till next week, I can't find a back cover quote or anything. It's just the same catch phrase as the last one, which makes me a little nervous that this will read like a television series where the popular first season's plot lines are recycled for the second one (Like Glee. But that's another gripe altogether). Larkin doesn't even have a website to preview anything with it. And I don't really want to read the reviews of pre-readers because they will taint my experience (and I just want to be the one to do that for you, see).

So what can I really say when it comes to judging this book by its cover? I guess it will be the same as the first. Pure relationship drama. Except I think it will become more melodramatic and...immense. All the dramatic reveals of last time--the mob, murders, spies, break ups, betrayals--they'll all get tangled up in this one and it will melt into a dirty puddle fit for a daytime soap opera.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Larkin will be able to keep her various threads from unraveling, tangling, tearing each other apart. But it will be hard just because there's so much. They've moved to New York and they all hate each other so, for the time being at least, each of their lives will have to have it's own convoluted plot which all then come tearing together at the end, I'm sure. It just can't be as neat as the first. Everything will implode on everyone. Since the love interests of each girl had already been settled, I'm sure Larkin will stir the plot with more pretty boys, more catty fights, more angst hidden by frills.

I just hope its yummy.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Verdict, No. 7

 Well, I got what I paid for.

Books are just becoming more and more disappointing. Really, though, it was exactly what it said it would be: a love story. With a love triangle gone haywire. I just didn't expect it to be so…uneventful.

I was pretty much dead-on with the judgment (about the love square with a best friend, old boyfriend, and the bad boy) and that made me feel good about myself. But I quickly discovered there was no real plot to follow. It was just a classic story of girl-breaks-head, girl-meets-boy, girl-meets-other-boy, girl-meets-another-boy, girl-chooses-boy, girl-chooses-wrong-boy, girl-chooses-right-boy. Predictable? Definitely. Believable? Sometimes. Entertaining? Not exactly.

The best I can say is that Gabrielle Zevin definitely knew her protagonist. As a character, she made sense. Most of the time. And I loved the best friend. I was laughing out loud in the beginning over his goofy antics and his and the protagonist’s natural back and forth. In fact, I could believe everything about the main character and the sidekick best friend. It was the bad boy new guy that threw me off. The major emotional baggage he carried—didn’t see that one coming. And her original boyfriend felt very flat, dry, dull, irksome. He was just there to be there. Some sort of tie to her past. But that’s just it: her past was the part of her that didn’t make sense. The version of her hinted at in the beginning, before she lost her memory—the calorie counter happy to be popular—didn’t make since in the new-self context. And it was never explained. Plus the popular/shallow side versus the yearbook/dorkie side versus the damaged/mysterious side was never really explained or pulled together in any way. She was just who she was according to who she was with. And that is what eventually…well, ruined the story.

The first half of the novel was definitely better than the second. The second dragged with the weight of all this lovey-dovey, daddy issues stuff. As a teen romance dramedy, it went off the beaten path. Which could have paid off, but here the whole piece just floundered. Halfway through, I was no longer excited by the will-they-won’t-they. It was obvious who she would end up with—who she should end up with—but who’d she’d choose first. But I can usually put up with predictable fiction, only here there was no pay off. No point in caring, no point in remaining attached. There was no reason to her rhyme, so the say. The story fizzled, the plot arch disappeared, and all there was was a girl fighting the inevitable in a dull sort of way. It wasn't necessarily bad, it just wasn't that good.

Verdict, No. 6

This was a simple book (to put it kindly), so this will be a simple review. Mostly because I don’t want to spend more time on this review than I did feeling involved in the story. That means I have like…three minutes to write this.

So. Three reasons I didn’t like The Compound?

One: The characters made no sense. A mother willing to poison her husband but not willing to stand up to him about killing babies? A little girl who talks in a British accent because she spent her childhood watching Mary Poppins? A step-sister who is simultaneously emo, a classical dancer, and a weeping romantic? A man smart enough to make BILLIONS but crazy enough to consider locking a family in a compound a fun family vacation people would pay for? And then a boy who truly hates life, who’s supposed to be super evil, yet finds it in himself to love his opposite brother and pull a 180 in less than a day?

Sorry, but I just can’t buy it.

Two: The plot made no sense. A compound as a resort function? Really? Sorry to sort of spoil the ending, but the “explanation” is just so lame. The climatic reveal is just a what-the-crap-was-that-person-thinking moment. And I’m still confused on what the father’s intentions were with the “supplements” and then the cloning. I’m still reeling from how far Bodeen expects us to suspend reality.

Three: The finale made no sense. And for those still hoping/willing/wanting to read it, I won’t go into it. But just trust me. It made no sense.

If any of you have seen the film Knowing…think of that ending…and then just don’t read this book because it’s even worse.

Really, though, there were some exciting moments. Some twenty pages towards the end—with the puzzle and the pieces all coming together—were all entertaining to read. It was fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat stuff. But then it just…ended. For such a long, tortuous build-up, no rising action/falling action made the ending worth it. It all felt too easy, too obvious, and so boring.