Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Fifth Wave - a book review, Or She's Got Those Moves Like Jagger

The 5th Wave
Rick Yancey
497 pages

This book is about an alien invasion--which has been in movies, books, and songs since someone looked up at the sky and said "Someone out there is trying to kill us!"--so I'm not going to pretend like OMG this is such an original concept at all.

Humanity is removed from the face of Earth in a series of waves (not unlike the TV show Falling Skies). Not, like, water waves. We're talkin' waves of destruction, chaos, famine; Honey Boo Boo renewed for another season and cats and dogs living together. All witnessed by Cassie. Who is named after a constellation and is looking for her missing brother (which is not an over used plot element at all). She's survived the first four waves and is waiting on the fifth to kill her.

Cassie, though, she's tough as nails (not unlike other female teenage characters who are tough as nails and have dead parents). Until she meets some guy in a cabin and they start a-snoggin' (this is British slang for kissing). But is he one of THEM or is he someone else? Is there going to be another wave? Will she rescue her brother? Am I going to ask more questions than I answer in my first blog post of 2014? Yes.

"Welcome to Bel-Air."
So let's see: alien love story set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Yeah, still not original. Oh it's referencing Independence Day? Still not original. Why am I pointing out the lack of originality in Rick Yancey's book? Because its lack of originality works so fucking well.

What is right with The Fifth Wave since I'm unabashedly bashing it: it's paced really well. I couldn't put it down. It was boom. Then a big boom. Then a bigger boom. Then a BOOM! You know what I'm talking about?

Rick takes all the scifi cliches like the God Rod and parent death and "Welcome to Earth!" moments and ties them together into a singular thrill ride. A ride where half the time I was waiting for Rick to reference a movie or book or scifi cliche and then he did (you're my homeboy, Rick). It's a fast paced novel filled with nerdy genre references and it somehow works. I'm coming to terms with it.

Three Out of Five Fucks Given

(Full Disclosure: I purchased this and read this on my Kindle)

Side Note: Yes, there is one water wave. I forgot about it until after I wrote this post.. 
Extra Side Note: I have no idea how to review this book without spoiling it, but since everyone else has read it, I probably could. But hey, I'm a nice guy and the Internet is an archive and this is probably on a To Be Read Pile for someone somewhere. And if Google brought you here because you didn't know what to read next: you're welcome.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Shift - a book review, or Ghost Adventurers Gone Wild

Shift (The Shade Trilogy)
Jeri Smith-Ready
400 pages

It's been several months since I updated this blog and by proxy, a few months since I've read Shift. It's been almost a year since I read Shade. After finishing Shade I also stopped blogging for a few months. In both those times spans I also stopped reading young adult fiction.

This is not a coincidence.

If you have short term memory loss, as I do, you might remember that I didn't like Shade all that much. I even coined the term coitus spectrophilia (sex with ghosts) to describe it, and I believe I invoked The Holy Jerry Seinfeld "Ehhh. I'm out." quote.

So why the hate for The Shade Trilogy?

The very first book in the Shade series is about a girl trying to fuck her boyfriend (he's a ghost). The first part of this book--the sequel to Shade--is about the same girl trying to fuck her ex-boyfriend who is still a ghost but only sometimes. BUT it turns out ghost-fucking is hard, because you can't touch ghosts, so fucking them is a little difficult (also, said ghost has abs and a button-up shirt that's always open).

I have never had a complete "fuck this book" moment until Shift (and I have read the collected works of Ayn Rand). I am sure some of you are saying "But Adam, we need examples..." WELL BABY I GOTS EXAMPLES.
"Since ghosts are frozen in the happiest time of their lives, a lot of men appear in sports or military uniforms--or nothing at all. At least this one was wearing socks."
This is about the time I threw my Kindle in the microwave (I would've used the popcorn setting had this really happened). To further expand upon the quote: in this book people who die are frozen in time as ghosts--they appear as they were in the happiest moment of their lives.* Which explains the open shirtness, ab-ness of previously said Fuckable Ghost.

So let's examine--in nifty list form!--why this one part offended me oh so badly (Please note: this is only one example).
  • Not all men like sports.
  • Not all men like sex.
  • Not all men's happiest moments happened in bed or in battle.
  • You are generalizing men in the worst possible way.
  • You are generalizing girls in the worst possible way.

So wait wait wait wait is what you're saying at this point. It can't be that bad. You're making mountains out of molehills, Adam (I hate this third person speak I started writing in). LET ME BREAK DOWN THE CHARACTERS IN THIS FUCKING BOOK:

  • Logan - He died after taking cocaine. (He took cocaine so he could bang his girlfriend Aura).
  • Zachary - He just wants to bang Aura. (He even sets up a special date for her to lose her V-card).
  • Dylan - Wants to fuck Aura. (He's 16 but has banged sooooo many girls).
  • Aura - Our female lead, who, well, just wants to fuck three different dudes.
  • Logan's Other Brother - I remember nothing about this character.

The only male character who isn't out to game some ass is Zach's dad.

This is a serious book? This is what this author thinks about boys? And girls? This is the impression given to teenagers who read this book? I find this offensive. I never underline sentences. But here we are.

It seems the YA genre has gone in an opposite direction recently; it's gone anti-male, and it's something I've ignored up until this point. It's been pushing more boys away than its drawn in. The audience is predominately female now. It's gone rogue in the worst possible way. It's come to the point where reading these kinds of books is seen as girly. It's become a problem, and Shift has added to it.

I don't intend to touch on the plot of this YA novel any further. Or to delve into the topics I'm touching on here (someone else with better writing skills should attempt to articulate what I'm feeling). If I did it would look something like this:

It goes on to the absurd at one point: Aura, out to get some tail herself, is tasked with picking between a ghost, a Scot, and a 16-year-old. Throw in the popular girl and the best friend; everyone wants to fuck one another. Teenage romance has never been so polyamorous.

If you enjoyed this book? It isn't a bad judgement on you. I need readers to understand this: there is no such thing as a bad book. I honestly believe it. And Shift is not horrible. There is a such thing as an insulting book, though. And in this regard Shift is awful.

Basically, if I wanted to read a trashy romance novel I'd get one while I'm at the grocery store.

One Out of Five Fucks Given

Side Note:  Jerry Smith-Ready is not a terrible writer; I just don't jive with her male characters. I find them awful and generalized, if I were to ever meet her I would want to sit and talk to her about it. I would probably ask "So, you think having a penis means wanting to bang everything?"

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Scorpio Races - a book review, or My Little Pony Death Race

The Scorpio Races
Maggie Stiefvater
416 pages

This is a book about water horses. They are not called sea horses because that's something else entirely. These sea water horses are nothing like Snorks. They kill people. So what do the residents of Thisby Island do to contain the threat known as capaill uisce? They throw a horse race of course!

Which, you know, makes total sense. A deadly horse race so people can win money and fulfill their wildest fantasies. Which, for Kate Connolly (known as Puck) is to rescue her dilapidated farm. Not to, you know, move to the Mainland to escape the deadly threat of the water horses (are you with me so far?).

Sean Kendrick is out to be Sean Kendrick. He has a tortured past and a tortured soul and he wants to win the race so he can be free of his boss. Which is more admirable than saving a farm and NOT moving away from the threat of bloody beach horses.

I'm not even kidding. Half the time I'm reading this book I'm saying to myself "Why the fuck don't you just move?" And "Oh you found a dead sheep and your children can't go out after dark because they might get killed? WHY DON'T YOU MOVE TO A SAFER FUCKING PLACE?"

The answers border on the asinine: "Thisby is my home!" or "My heart is in Thisby and nowhere else!" The amount of Shell Shock a resident actually goes through while living on Thisby is mind boggling. Oh and everyone is poor and half the people want to move to the Mainland but don't. They want to sit in their homes located on mud holes and let the guy who runs the island treat them like third class citizens.

Which, you know, makes total sense.

So what did I like about The Scorpio Races? I love the way its written. I love the mythology of the island. I love that it's a unique subject in a genre that needs more uniquey-ness. Most might find the plot boring, but being a resident of Derby City; there's something about horses I will always find compelling.

Thisby is a bit like Sleepy Hollow; a unique story about a town's local legend, it's got a slow creepy chill to it, and it's a welcome change to an ever expanding genre. I'm okay with it. Except when the residents are completely oblivious as to how not to die.

Two Out of Five Fucks Given

Full Disclosure: I read this on my Kindle.

Side Note: Sean and Puck almost remind me of Dagny and Rearden from Atlas Shrugged. The two are extremely head strong, stubborn, and come across as self-righteous in the worst possible ways.

Friday, May 24, 2013

why the f*ck friday (19)

Welcome to WTFF. In which I attempt to answer a single question--normally a thought on a book or a bookish subject--that I've been pondering for the past week. It's more of an airing of grievances. A place to complain. This week it's "why the f*ck are you following along with your finger?"

I blame elementary school for this one. I actually follow along with my index finger while I read sometimes. It helps me keep my place on the page and stops my googly eyes from jutting around the page.

It's actually why I prefer to read on the Kindle. I can enlarge the font, give the book more spaces, and jab my finger down on the screen. Granted, I don't do this with every book I read. Only the long-winded ones with small fonts, like fantasy or, well, fantasy. (I think this is why I have an issue with the genre).

It actually turns out--because no one is alone on the internet and everyone is actually a dog--that I am not alone. And it really turns out that everyone should be doing this.

This blogpost is about children using their fingers to keep track. This blogpost is about speed reading, and guess what's helpful in both instances? Using a tracker to keep your place.
Regression, back-skipping, and the duration of fixations can be minimized by using a tracker and pacer. To illustrate the importance of a tracker-did you use a pen or finger when counting the number of words or lines in above baseline calculations? If you did, it was for the purpose of tracking-using a visual aid to guide fixation efficiency and accuracy. Nowhere is this more relevant than in conditioning reading speed by eliminating such inefficiencies.

Basically: it stops me from back-skipping, it helps me keeps my place, and helps me be a more efficient reader. It can make everyone a more efficient reader, because it turns out everyone has to go back and re-read things their eyes have skipped.
The untrained subject engages in regression (conscious rereading) and back-skipping (subconscious rereading via misplacement of fixation) for up to 30% of total reading time.
Or maybe I just have ADHD and this is my way of keeping it under control.

Does anyone else keep track with their fingers? A bookmark? A single sheet of paper (I'm guilty of this when I get towards the end of a book I've really enjoyed)? Remember: no one is alone on the internet, and nobody knows you're really a dog.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Five Most Overused Plot Elements in YA (right now).

There are several plot elements I find acceptable in Young Adult literature. For instance, the parents. The parents have to be dead , absent, oblivious, or--in the case of most YA novels--grossly incompetent. This is so the plot can move forward without there being an adult interference. This is an issue commonly dealt with by authors when writing YA; overcoming this boundary can be difficult.

However, there's a few trends floating out in the choppy waters that are the YA genre right now, and I think they need to be called out.

5. Mentally ill brothers.

Examples: From What I Remember, All These Things I've Done.


Element: Every main character that has a brother, has a younger mentally ill brother.

Truth: Where the fuck did this one come from? In From What I Remember the brother has autism. In All These Things I've Done the brother has a head injury--which is kind of Mice of Men-ish. This gives the female protagonist something to worry about--something to think about. If she isn't worrying, if it isn't interfering with her relationship with Mr. Protagonist, then the character isn't "complicated' enough. Better add a mentally ill brother.

Solution: It's okay to make boy characters that don't need to be cared for or coddled. The brother doesn't have to exist or be present. The female protagonist has enough worries, what with the boy she has to gush over.

4. I need to rescue my brother!

Examples: Blood Red Road.

Element: The heroine is on a quest to rescue her brother (bonus points if he's mentally ill).

Truth: Why is it always the brother these days? I get it. Female characters can rescue boys. Male characters can rescue males (doesn't happen often). But it's always the brother the girl goes storming off after. Along the way she meets Mr. Right and they fall in love. For once, I think, I would like to see her find Mr. Right and then go rescue him. I don't think that's too much to ask for.

Solution: It isn't super important that she rescue anyone. People have traveled across the world for far lesser reasons than to simply "rescue their brother".

3. Super mysterious male characters.

Examples: Divergent, Wanderlust.

Element: The female protagonist needs a mysterious male character to fawn over.

No abs? No tats?
Must be a complete douche.
Truth: The male characters in most YA novels are made intentionally mysterious because they're easy to write. They can be in a band, but be quiet, they can be an a-hole, but there's a reason for it. Add in a splash of mental/physical abuse (or some trauma) and a tattoo; boom, you've got your standard mysterious character found in 90% of YA novels. Oh, and don't forget about the abs. They've gotta have abs.

Solution: The female protagonist doesn't need to fawn over shit. She is not even required to like boys at all. If you can't write a male character, don't write a male character. Stephanie Perkins (Lola and the Boy Next Door ) gets mad props for writing interesting male characters.

2. Destined to be together.

Examples: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.

Element: The universe needs the two main characters to be together or the world will explode.

Truth: It is not a requirement to make a story with a love plot in it. Love triangles do not need to exist just because they're popular. Romance doesn't need to be complicated.

Solution: Don't write a love plot.

1. World governments/the authorities giving a shit.

Examples: DivergentMatched , The Hunger Games (any and all post-apocalyptic, dystopian novels).

Element: The authorities don't want the lead female protagonist and the lead male protagonist to canoodle. Because two canoodling teenagers will ruin their plans of global domination or subrogation.

Truth: No one gives a shit.

Solution: There isn't one.

Conclusion. 

In the case of most examples I've listed--I actually enjoyed the books. I don't mind an overused plot element if it's done correctly. There isn't a way around some plot devices, the general idea to not write them; that can be next to impossible. Real people do have mentally ill brothers, real people do have world governments stopping them from being together.

The idea that looks still matter, or that gender roles still matter, is what really bothers me. We can harp on and on and on about how young girls are given unrealistic expectations when it comes to their bodies. But when it comes to boys? Where are we drawing that line? When it comes to love triangles: why not two girls and a boy? And no, not the boy likes both girls, or the girls like the one boy, but the girl can't pick between the boy and the other girl.

These themes--the ones listed above--and the ones listed here in the conclusion are also found in adult literature. So don't go on about "exposing children" to "mature themes". If a kid has seen Sandy Hook footage, he's seen more violence in a news cast than he has a book. If he was in the room when Will & Grace was on? Don't get me started.

If Dumbledore can be gay--if Ron Weasley can be a cool ginger--then anything is possible in 2013.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Slammed - a review, or Smugged a New Novel by Colleen Hoover

Slammed: A Novel
Colleen Hoover
352 pages


I've heard a lot about Slammed. It's been making its rounds on all the Young Adult blogs for a while now. Unfortunately, I was off on an adventure while it did this. As of last week I only knew two things about it: it was originally a self-publish novel and got picked up by a publisher (And proud we all are of Colleen Hoover for pulling off that feat)*, and it was written in one month.

This book isn't about all of that, though. It's about love, death, life, and trying to fuck your poetry teacher.

TRYING TO--PARDON MY LANGUAGE--GET SLAMMED BY YOUR NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR. GET IT? IT'S A PUN.

Like, seriously, guys, seriously. Will "The Hunky Next Door Neighbor" Cooper* and Layken "The Lake" Cohen are almost in a relationship but then not. Will is 21, Lake is 18; it's complicated y'all The entire book is like seeing a Facebook relationship status between overly dramatic friends over the course of one week. It would look something like this:

Will Cooper is in a relationship with Layken Cohen.
Will Cooper is single.
Layken Cohen is in a relationship and it's complicated.
Will Cooper is single.
Layken Cohen is in a relationship.
Will Cooper is single.
Layken Cohen is... you know what? You get it by this point.

Slammed means more than the kind of poetry present in the book. We are slammed with plot twists. We are slammed with harsh realities. We are slammed with Avett Brothers songs. We are slammed with life and an overuse of italics.

An overuse of italics. I thought I was the only one guilty of this. But guess what? Colleen Hoover's writing does hold up. It holds up so well that I slammed (see what I did there) through the book in several hours; this is the first book I've read in a single day in a while. Whether or not this is because the writing is simple and straightforward, or because it's just a quick OMGWHATHAPPENSNEXT type of thing; I don't know.

If you're looking for a quick read--and one that will make you question your own morals--this is the book to do it.

Also, I deducted a Fuck. This book should get Four Fucks, but a real romance would not have a sequel.

Three Out of Five Fucks Given

*I'm still not reading self-published books. Also, this is not a self-published book since it's been picked up by a publisher. Loopholes! Not just for Congress.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Scarlet - a review, or Little Red Riding in the Hood

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, Book #2)
Marissa Meyer
464 pages

(This review is spoiler free, which, you know, is hard to do).

I fell down a hill yesterday because a girl smiled at me. I mean, like, smiled smiled at me. I scraped up the whole right side of my arm and bruised my butt. The aftermath of the fall resulted in cursing and hissing and the girl quickly walking away from me. I was also on the phone with my sister.

She heard everything. I apparently said "Fucking boat shoes." Then I thought about
. Cinder who--in the last book--snapped her foot off, which leads to her incarceration in prison, and the new Emperor Kai keeping the cyborg girl's foot in his desk (clearly something is afoot with his feelings).*

Smile Girl and Cinder have two things in common: both of them walked away quickly from an out-of-control situation, and both of them made a guy swoon. Like, a hard swoon. Scarlet does not have these attributes. Scarlet would have stopped and helped me (alright, she would've laughed at me, or would have pushed me back down). She is, after all, on a quest to find her grandmother.

There's also a guy named Wolf who may or may not be a bad guy, and Cinder, and Iko, and the newly crowned Prince Kai; everyone is back. Even the evil step mother, the evil Moon Queen, the evil robots...

Scarlet is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinder a retelling of Cinderella; except these two heroines don't lose shoes or get trailed by wolves; they lose feet and team up with wolves.

I'm starting to think Marissa Meyer got too tipsy on wine one weekend and had a Sailor Moon marathon followed by a watching of The Tenth Kingdom.** There are so many different elements at play, so many things I could reference, so many good science fiction-y moments, that I had trouble keeping up. (There's even a few Heart of Gold moments a la The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy).

What Scarlet is is a much more put together story--a more broader look at the world of Cinder--than the first book of the Lunar Chronicles.

Every once in a while I give a series a second chance, a pardon. Looking back Cinder wasn't a terrible novel; it just didn't jive with me. Looking at Cinder after reading Scarlet? I'm prepared to give a HOGIB pardon to Marissa Meyer. She actually pulled off a rebound.

Well done.

Four Out of Five Fucks Given

(full disclosure: I bought--and read this--on my Kindle).

*This is a pun.
**Go suck an elf if you haven't seen this one.
Edit: Yes, I really fell down.
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