Friday, September 21, 2012

why the f*ck friday (15) (and introducing my rating system)

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. This week it's "why the f*ck don't you have a rating system?"

I guess it's inevitable that I would fall into the trap that is a star rating system. It seems the popular thing to do. Some people even go out of their ways to make it a little different by using different symbols.

I've always steered away from using a rating system on my blog. If I used one--I thought--no one would read what I wrote and go directly to the whole "three out of five stars" thing and fixate on it before finding out why it's three out of five stars. A scale should be accurate and only aide in a book review.

Stars? No. Fuck that.
So, I've decided to start using one on my blog. I'm just going to test the waters with it for a week or so to see if it sticks. If it doesn't, then it goes. If I get lazy or tired of it: it goes.*

I'm trying this now because I feel like I've built up enough of an audience for them to understand that the scale is just a sign post. It's something to be guided by, not the end-all-be-all of the entire review.

So here it is. I'm not going by stars. I'm going by Fucks. I have given this a lot of thought. I was originally going to use cats, but felines seem a little too over done on this blog already. But Fucks? I can never have enough of those. Here's the scale:

One out of Five Fucks Given - I either missed the point or it just wasn't for me.
Two out of Five Fucks Given - There's something here. It's not for everyone, but it's fun.
Three out of Five Fucks Given - Probably worth a checkout if you're a fan of the genre.
Four out of Five Fucks Given - Knock it up on your TBR pile so we can talk about it.
Five out of Five Fucks Given - Why have you read this yet? Why did it take me so long to read this?

Please notice that the scale gives no indicator of a book being terrible. There are no bad books. There are just different kinds of readers.

Just to give you an indication of what this will look like when it comes to books:

Enclave - Three out of Five Fucks Given
Black Hole Sun - Two out of Five Fucks Given
Monstrous Beauty - Five out of Five Fucks Given

My question this week: what do you think of the new scale? Do you pay attention to star ratings? Does it influence your reading? Are you guilty of skipping the entire post? Do you even have any fucks to give?

This post is rated One out of Five Fucks Given.

*Like so many other things I've done.
Note: If we're friends on Goodreads--and we should be friends on Goodreads--then you'll notice that I do star things on there. I've been using this scale in my brain for a while now.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Black Hole Sun - a review

Black Hole Sun
David Macinnis Gill
352 pages

I read this book because it was compared to Firefly. I was told it was a direct ripoff of Firefly. I am extremely disappointed because 1. I miss Firefly and 2. because this book only has hints of Firefly in it.

I'm not really sure where the comparison to a canceled space western comes in, except that this is a space western set on Mars. Durango--the main character--could bubble up to be Captain Malcolm Reynolds. He could, except Captain Reynolds had better lines.

I could see how space cannibals could be compared to Reevers (space cannibals from Firefly), but really, space cannibals have been around for a while.*

I can see how Durango's cursing in Chinese, Latin, and other languages could be compared to Firefly. Except that's all been done before. David Macinnis Gill even has fake curse words, which once again, has been done before.

It's a book set on a dystopian Mars, with cannibals, with gunslingers, with made-up curse words, with characters who curse in different languages, with fucking laser guns. It's a hodge podge of science fiction elements from across the genre mashed into one book. There's even an Artificial Intelligence in Durango's head.**

The book itself is difficult to get into at first. The problem comes from Mimi, the above mentioned Artificial Intelligence, who speaks whenever she wants and sometimes interrupts dialogue. I felt like her interference bogged down the pacing a lot. There's also the issue of the characters speaking another language. It happens way to often and lead to far too much Googling for my own taste.

So here's the deal: I am a hardcore science fiction geek. I love the genre. So, naturally, I enjoyed Black Hole Sun. Its mash up of science fiction cliches and references humored me greatly. There's even a character named Leroy Jenkins.***

There's nothing wrong with Black Hole Sun if you're a fan of the genre. It's actually great fun if you are. If you aren't? You're not going to get it. I wouldn't recommend this book to my sister, but to my nerdy "Star Wars is the best thing ever" friend? Yeah. Him. He'd enjoy it, I think.

*Here's a Wiki article about cannibalism in popular culture. I find it odd this is being kept track of.
**Dystopian Mars: Total Recall. Cannibals: Firefly. Gunslingers: Firefly/Doctor Who. Made-up Curse Words: Farscape. Witty Banter: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Laser Guns: Star Trek, Stars Wars. Artificial Intelligence: Andromeda
***Leeerrooooy Jenkins.
Note: The creepiest music video ever made is called Black Hole Sun.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monstrous Beauty - a review

Monstrous Beauty
Elizabeth Fama
304 pages

This is a really good book. I shouldn't even use the term book. Novel sounds so much more classier. This is a really good fucking novel. That "fucking" is italicized to emphasize how fucking good of a novel Monstrous Beauty is.

Yes. It's about mermaids. Yes. It's about a mystery and a curse and a love triangle. This isn't Nancy Drew Solves a Mermaid Mystery, though. This is The Little Mermaid meets American Gods.*

So here it is. An engaging YA novel that pushes the boundaries of the genre. A YA novel that is both entertaining, dark, and prose-y. A novel that's YA and smart. A YA novel that doesn't treat the reader like they're 14. It uses big words and big concepts and expects you to pay attention. Not to placidly sit back and marvel at how beautiful one of the male leads is. It's a YA novel that isn't a YA novel but is a YA novel. 

I can't describe the plot without describing the ending, which is actually the beginning, which is actually part of the charm the entire endeavor. (insert Quentin Tarantino reference here)** So this makes Monstrous Beauty something everyone will have to read to understand.

There's a simplistic approach to the prose-y style of Monstrous Beauty. There's a richness to the writing that seems simple at first. Yet I know each sentence was labored over. It's that kind of quality that's been missing from the last few YA books I've read. Where some authors would write a paragraph to describe the ooey-gooey feelings their characters are having; Elizabeth Fama only writes one.***

I have a blurb for the back cover. I really do. I want--and this is me summing up my appreciation for the novel--to sum it all up with one sentence because I cannot do it in five or six paragraphs: "Monstrous Beauty satisfies a craving that wasn't initially there, a craving for something dark and sensuous, it's as bitter and filling as semi-sweet chocolate, I was glad to sink my teeth into it."

*I never compare anything to American Gods. I reread it every year. So this is a rarity.
**Actually, I wanted to go with M. John Harrison's Light, but I wasn't sure everyone would get that reference.
***The first line of the novel is "Syrenka wanted Pukaknokick." 

Friday, September 14, 2012

why the f*ck friday (14)

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. This week it's "why the f*ck did I just buy that?" 

I know I'm not the only one out in the world with a weird reading fetish. I'm not talking about reading multiple books. I'm talking about buying habits. I'm talking about purchasing books you have no intention of reading.

I think it's called cover appeal. I am attracted to a good cover, sometimes I don't even intend to read the book I just bought. I just like how it looks. I have found myself doing this less and less (covers seem to be degrading in quality and I can only take so many chopped off faces).

What do I consider a good cover? The Sirantha Jax covers:

What is it about these book covers that just make them seem fascinating? It's somewhere between "classic science fiction" and "bad ass chick" on the cover scale. Whomever did the artwork for them summed up the series with just a cover.

There was absolutely no reason for me to buy the actual books, I could have gotten them in ebook format. Instead I opted to buy them in paperback just for the covers. So my question for everyone this week is: what is a good cover to you? Do you buy books with no intention of reading them? Just for the cover? Can you explain your attraction to them?

Note: If I ever meet Ann Aguirre I will have her sign all my copies and cut off the covers and frame them. Maybe.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Enclave - a review

Ann Aguirre
272 pages

I want to start my review of Enclave by talking about zombies. Or what classifies as a zombie. Or better yet: what is the zombie motive. Clearly, the zombie motive is to eat people. But these aren't normal zombies. These zombies can reason to some extent. They can form small groups and go after people.

These are also Ann Aguirre zombies. Some might not be aware of Aguirre's Sirantha Jax series--a great space-y scifi epic for adults. From those books I have learned not to trust Ann Aguirre. So what exactly are Ann Aguirre zombies? They're smelly. They're claw-y. They're known as Freaks to the characters. They're mindless wandering and endless hunger are what set the tone for Enclave.*

Deuce is our main character. A huntress from an underground clan known as an enclave. She's never been topside (above ground). Certain things (like sex, good food) are banned for her. She's a fierce warrior girl. I end my description of the plot there. Spoilers and all that funky stuff.

There are certain moments during Enclave that I thought to myself "Is this a fucking kids book, really?" It's like watching an old episode of a TV show. One that you watched as a kid and are now seeing as an adult. Except then you realize there are a lot of adult themes on that show that you never picked up on. If I were twelve and reading this? I'd be "OMG ZOMBIES". Instead, I'm an adult, and I'm thinking "Wow. That's some serious shit right there."

How I felt while reading Enclave.
Ann Aguirre manages to plop her characters where they don't need to be. She's extremely harsh to her characters. She abuses them. She tussles them about. She'll kill them and starve them. She is not your typical YA author. She was far kinder in the Sirantha Jax series. This is saying a lot, because those books are for adults.

How bad is it? It's bad. The zombies at least have a reason for the way they are, the human characters? They're actually worse. From the worst kind of complacency to murder to hinted at atrocities to almost useless hope. That's the Ann Aguirre formula for this one.**

Enclave stands out in the same way that Blood Red Road did. It's refreshing in the same way. It's meaty and dark, bloody and bold, killer and... you get the point. Just don't wander into this one expecting fluffy bunnies and rainbows. It ain't gonna happen.

*The characters also mindlessly wander around with an appetite all their own. I see what you did there, Ann.
**Really, this book is a middle finger to The Hunger Games. Please remove The Hunger Game comparison from the cover.
Note: Wander/wonder still trips me up.
Extra Note: I'm still in love with Sirantha Jax.

Friday, September 7, 2012

why the f*ck friday (13)

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. This week it's "why the f*ck didn't I read for a month?" 

Instead of turning this into a "what I did on my summer vacation" post, I thought I'd explain why I didn't read for a month. Or why I did read but didn't blog about it. Either or, really.

We'll start off with the obvious: it is really hard to read when you're slightly inebriated.

The inside of my fridge. 
Of course, that did not stop me from trying to read while I was drinking:

This is why it took a month for me to
read From What I Remember.
So really, I made the effort to have a fun and literary summer, it just didn't happen. I have no real regrets about it. The only bad part was that I missed blogging and had nothing to blog about (and yeah, I missed you guys, blah blah blah). I briefly wanted to make this blog about the cat I just adopted:

Meet Cady (pronounced Katie).*
Also, here is a horrible picture of me, intoxicated, on the 4th of July. Humidity kills me:

It's too hot and loud outside to read.
Bonus picture of me sun burnt in an Arby's somewhere:

This only happens every summer.
And that's what I did this summer vacation, and also why I didn't read this summer vacation. Or blog. Or read other blogs (although I did stop by a few every once and a while to see what was up). I am back. I am visiting other blogs, I am reading again. So, like Amy Poehler in Mean Girls I'm asking: "What's the 411? What has everybody been up to? What is the hot gossip?"**

I'm ending this WTFF a little differently. If you're a blogging buddy of mine I want you to post what you did this summer below. Also, a few links back to your blog of posts you think I missed/would enjoy. It would be appreciated. If you're not a blogger, just a "what I did and what I read" comment would also be appreciated. And please let me know how many drinks you had this summer. Just a rough estimate. I'm going with at least a tanker truck for myself. I want to make sure that's normal.

*Here is a video of how my cat eats her food. That's my sister talking.
**There's been about five Mean Girls references in this post alone.
Small Edit/Note: I acquired zero new tattoos this summer.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

From What I Remember - a review

From What I Remember
Valerie Thomas, Stacey Kramer
480 pages

Ohhh. Look! A bunch of attractive people on the cover of a book. And they're dressed all stylish too. A chihuahua and a sombrero? Wow, what kind of quirkiness could be contained within the pages of this book?

It's a book about the beginning of an endless summer of romance. It's a book about teenage hopes and aspirations. It's a book about social pressures to conform. Okay. Not really. It's a book about drinking too much tequila.

Really, it's about a couple of teenagers who go out to Mexico, get too drunk, and can't remember exactly what happened. Enter Our Alternating Point-of-View Characters: Kylie (valedictorian, social outcast), Max (mysterious rich boy with a heart of gold), Chris (Max's best friend), Will (Kylie's homosexual best friend)*, and Lily (Max's bitchy girlfriend).

My entire time reading this I thought "Gee. Is this where the killer pops out and starts a-killin' these people?" Because every road trip novel could go that direction. Especially when alcohol and sex and juveniles are concerned.

It's the last day of graduation and Kylie and Max meet up to do some kind of homework assignment. I can't really remember because it's never addresses the rest of the novel. But the point is, the two end up stuck in Mexico, just a day before graduation, and might miss graduation. The two also--ahem--might've done some things after a night with tequila. Like, oh, get married, or oh, have sex, or oh, drink too much tequila. This has happened to everyone, right?

I have a lot of good things to say about From What I Remember. I remember laughing. I remember not liking or empathizing with a single character. I remember reading it with a bottle of Ketel One by my side.** I remember thinking "It's great that these characters curse and drink like real teens." I mostly remember laughing, though.

I have a few bad things to say about From What I Remember. Okay. Nothing too bad. But it was entertaining as fuck.

There are no morals that I can really pull from From What I Remember. Just that the characters learn to live in the moment. Which is surprising, because most teenage characters can't see five minutes ahead, yet these kids are planning five years in advanced. There's also that rule about tequila. Too much is a bad thing. Too much is trouble.

Too much of the airy-ness that is From What I Remember is also a bad thing. So after finishing it I put away my Ketel One and reached for something with deeper meaning. I won't remember the characters next month, I'll probably forget the plot in a few months, but it's a fun little book. It'd make an okay movie.

*I'm getting tired of books--and movies--where the girl's best friend happens to be male and gay. It's been over played these past few years. Why can't he be straight? Is it that hard for an author to explain that nothing is going on between two best friends? One is female, one is male, it doesn't me they're banging. And where is it written that all gay males have female best friends? Hollywood, men and women can be just friends. Hollywood, men can be friends with gay people and not be gay. Get over it.
**I am not kidding.
Note: This is my first review in over a month. I'm a little rusty. Excuse me while I get back into the swing of things.
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