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.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Why The Next Generation Was Really About Data

I see a lot of memes about Captain Jean-Luc Picard. I like Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Of all the captains he's probably my favorite. But the television show--and the movies--are not about Picard. They're not even about Riker. They're not about Wesley Crusher becoming a man (and I hated those episodes). Star Trek: The Next Generation is about the humanoid android known as Lt. Commander Data.

"Hello? Yes, I'd love to hear
 about AT&T Uverse."
The first scene of the first episode of TNG has Captain Picard interacting with Data, giving him more back story than any of the other characters on the screen; Worf is there (we are not told about his Klingon-ness), Troi is there (we are not told about her tela-pathetic abilities), etc. We learn  more about Data than we do any other character in about 30 seconds.

Contrast this first scene with the last scene of Star Trek: Nemesis, which is the very last Star Trek movie starring the TNG cast. The last two characters we see--again--are Picard and a now defunct Data. The series begins with Data's quest for his humanity and ends with his death.

(The series also begins with Picard walking down a hallway contemplating his new ship and mission with a scowl on his face. It ends with Picard walking down a hallway contemplating his life, smiling).*

If you were a child of the eighties or the early nineties (when TNG reruns still ruled the air) you can remember at least one scene from The Next Generation. That scene will always involve Data. In the episode Phantasms he starts dreaming. Everyone remembers this episode because there were two guys taking pick axes to the Enterprise.

Everyone remembers the episode where Data got a girlfriend (it was really an allegory for gays in the military, apparently). Everyone remembers the episode where Data got a daughter. Everyone remembers the episode where Data gets a brother; when he is then betrayed by his brother. Everyone remembers Data's freakin' emotion chip.

Mostly all the pivotal episodes of TNG revolve around Data. Including the one where Picard is abducted and assimilated by the Borg. What's Data doing in that episode? His roll isn't big, but in the original version of the script it called for Data and Picard to become one being. Which would, you know, have been a big deal.

(The Borg later abduct Data in First Contact and try to convince him to join them).

The thing I've always appreciated about TNG has been its ability to comfort me when I'm down. The idea that I can throw on an episode and listen to it in the background, or watch it again and again. It's always been there for me. The parts that have always made me smile were the parts with our pale android friend.

Data doesn't quip, it's his lack of understanding that leads to comic relief on the show. And Data is the only comic relief on the show for many seasons. It's odd that an android--that is void of emotion--is the chosen vessel for this plot element.

If Data were not on the screen we would not get the message TNG is trying to convey. That humanity might be out there exploring the stars, but really, we're just trying to find out who--and what--we are.

*Throughout the years the show was on Picard goes from smiling once a season to every episode.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Currently reading...

Right now I'm in the middle of reading Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. It's actually--and I do not say this lightly--better than Cinder. Some of you might remember that I wasn't the biggest fan, but some of you should know, I've met Marissa Meyer (yeah I'm name dropping) and she's a lovely woman.

When asked how she came up with the concept for Cinder she had an interesting response. I might be misquoting her:
"I came up with the idea for Cinder by writing Sailor Moon fan fiction. I entered a fan fiction  contest and the rules were that I had to pick two themes. I had to pick a fairy tale and a setting. So I picked Puss and Boots and space. It turns out only two people entered the contest... and I didn't win."
I think the Red Riding Hood mythos is more appealing than some girl losing a shoe, anyways. (Anyone remember Freeway with Reese Witherspoon? Absolutely terrified me as a kid).

I'm also on a Jack Spicer kick again and rereading--okay, thumbing through--My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer. Here's an excerpt:

Any fool can get into an ocean
But it takes a Goddess
To get out of one.
What’s true of oceans is true, of course,
Of labyrinths and poems. When you start swimming
Through riptide of rhythms and the metaphor’s seaweed

This is kind of like an "Oh no he didn't" poem. Anyone can write a poem, but it takes a poet to get out of it. At first glance the entire poem is light-hearted and jokey. But something about the last two lines of it always strike me as, for lack of a better word, poetic:
What’s true of labyrinths is true of course
Of love and memory. When you start remembering.
Poetry is suppose to be these little moments of thought, emotion, and sensory perception all at once. Poems are written for memories or from memories. I've always thought these last two lines were Jack saying "You know what, I'm a poet, but I'll be damned if it isn't depressing."

So yeah, oh no he didn't.

Jack Spicer died in 1965, a result of alcoholism. (It seems all great poets and musicians have about the same life span).

Full poem.



I've also been catching up on the World of Alcohol, but not really drinking it. I mean, unless it's Samuel Smith, which happens to be very delicious.

Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages

BUT FOR YOU LAUREN OLIVER FANS:


Which, you know, I watched How Beer Saved the World on Netflix recently and the entire subject fascinates me.

That's about it for this week.

Friday, May 10, 2013

why the f*ck friday? (18)

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 are you linking to the evil, the vile, the small business-destroying, Amazon.com?"

This is a question that has popped up this week because I came back, put my Amazon wishlist up (it's on the right sidebar), and was immediately questioned as to why I did this.

Most of my followers know I do not want to monetize this website, and putting my wishlist is "kind of" like asking for money. Putting up a donate button? I might do that. Yes, I might start asking for donations for books, or I might put up an unobtrusive advertisement (but only of something I like).

No, I am not going to start taking ARCs or galleys or anything else. (and you self-published people can still back off). The reason why I am having to put stuff up is because I will not compromise on this position.

This has more to do with having a free website up that a lot of people come to. And me having to sometimes spend $30 on books a week when I am actively blogging. Add that up. It's $120 a month. I am taking a loss on this blog, on my hobby, and on my passion.*

I am not the richest person on the planet, either. I actually have a very mundane job that pays for most of my lifestyle, but if I can eliminate one cost, I can live a little better, I can blog a little better, and I can improve the content on HOGIB.

Investing in this blog will make this blog better.

So here's what I want from you guys this week: what is your honest opinion on a blog that monetizes? On blogs that accept donations? On blogs that accept ARCs? On blogs that just stop being so indie?

If a large enough majority of you disagree with me, this website will remain ad free and donation free, and the Amazon wishlist will come down, and I will try harder to bring my own costs down.

*Yes, I do go to the library, but things like Scarlet by Marissa Meyer are on a waiting list for months at a time.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

All These Things I've Done - a review, or All This Coffee I've Brewed

All These Things I've Done (Birthright)
Gabrielle Zevin
368 pages

This how I imagine the pitch for this book went down.

Publisher: What's it about?
Gabrielle Zevin: Well, it's about Prohibition but in the future.
Publisher: (yawns)
Zevin: Where chocolate and coffee has been banned--
Publisher: (starts to nod off)
Zevin: In a future dystopian society a crime boss' daughter falls in love with a district attorney's son, the two are star-crossed lovers... and... Romeo & Juliet... and... paper is scarce!
Publisher: ......
Zevin: And there's gonna be killin'. Lots of killin'!
Publisher: Sold!

Anya (who also goes by Annie, Miss Balanchine, and a plethora of other names) is the main character in this one. Her boyfriend, well, new boyfriend (who also has a bunch of different names)* is the secondary character.

I mention this because I will be calling them First and Second from now on. First meets Second at school, First and Second fall in love, First and Second try to hide their secret and forbidden love. First and Second fail at hiding their secret love. First and Second do absolutely nothing the entire book.

Absolutely. Nothing.

Like, I mean, seriously. Nothing. All These Things I've Done? This is another Britney Spears "Oops I Did It Again" moment. Britney, you never told us what you did the first time. First and Second, you didn't do anything!

All First and Second do is flirt and get out of trouble--because they haven't done anything. They do not traffic chocolate, they do not imbibe illegal substances, they do not eat green eggs and ham, Sam I am. So I am left to wonder: what the fuck did Anya/Annie/Ann/Balanchine do?

ATTID (I'm tired of typing it out) is a classy teen novel set in a future full of vintage clothing and limited resources. A future where the police don't do much policing. A future where it's an adults job to (once again) stop kids from canoodling. Because who needs a bunch of canoodling kids?

Things I did like because I'm rambling on like this is the worst book ever? The Romeo & Juliet references, the throw-back to a granny saying OMG and the kids not knowing what it means, the handicapped brother (because there's always a handicapped brother)**, Gabrielle Zevin's ability to write a mean sentence and tell a good mob story.

Even though the First and Second characters do nothing but hold hands the entire book, Zevin delivers a back history (which is really just our history but from the perspective of the future--genius!) that's both compelling and rich. Zevin might have banned chocolate and coffee, but really, those are just metaphors for, erm, I have no idea.

Three Out of Five Fucks Given

*Seriously, I can't pronounce half the names in this book correctly. 
**Where the hell did this trend come from?
Note: Obligatory link to The Killers - All These Things I've Done.



Monday, May 6, 2013

Outpost - a review, or Fifty Shades of Fade

Outpost (Enclave series #2)
Ann Aguirre
336 pages
(read my review of Enclave here).

(this review is spoiler free, which, you know, isn't easy).

I have a problem with Outpost. The main character's name is Deuce. Which, you know, means two. Ann Aguirre does not utilize this clever name to her full ability. Not once does Deuce say "Deuces!" or "Looks like double trouble!" after stabbing a zombie to death.* Puns she does not. This is like watching a movie where a character doesn't say the title in it.

It's painful.

How am I supposed to know what the name of the movie is if they don't say the title in it? This is madness. There's also a love interest named Fade. These two are out there fighting and killing zombies in a post-apocalyptic wasteland (all the while trying to save a town called Salvation). And yes, not once--after slaying what they call "freaks"--does he pun "And fade to black."

They use giant knives to kill stuff! There's so much pun opportunity--punortunity--it's ridiculous.

I also have no idea what the hell is going on. Like, why is the world the way it is? Why is everyone super religious and what are these "freaks" really? Ann keeps revealing these little tidbits one by one. It's maddening to me. This kind of slow world building builds a lot of suspense, and I had to watch seven years of Lost, so I know about slow building suspense.

I, of course, really appreciate all of these characters and settings and things. And I, of course, really recommend reading the first book, Enclave. (pronounced on-clave, not in-clave). And I, of course, don't mind the amount of gore or mature themes running through the book.

And gore there is.* Copious amounts of gore and a whole new future world to splatter it with. There's also a girl main character who's handy with the big knives (but not with puns) that's discovering her humanity. She's not your typical YA heroine ala Anna and the French Kiss, she's more like that chick from BLOOD RED ROAD.

This is a zombie novel that is not a zombie novel. This is a teen novel that's not really a teen novel. It contains--like an HBO show--mature themes. But that's the way this world is going these days, and Ann Aguirre is one of the writers taking us there.

Four Out of Five Fucks Given

Full Disclosure: I purchased this book in Cincinatti, OH after meeting the lovely Ann Aguirre.

Notes: I got to meet Ann Aguirre a few months ago. She said that in order to really write a fight scene she has to listen to Let The Bodies Hit the Floor by Drowning Pool. It shows. It really shows. 
Extra Note: I love the Sirantha Jax series
*Can a zombie be stabbed to death if it's already dead? 
**Not this Gore.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

I am making a return to blogging...

On Monday.

I could go into depth about where I've been, what I've been doing, but no one wants to hear about break-ups, hook-ups, book writing, Medicaid claims, or my cat's projectile vomit.

Instead I will post a picture of a cat on my back.


Also, some things have changed. Including Google Reader. So I am now on Bloglovin. Follow my blog with Bloglovin
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