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.