Releasing the Frontal Lobe: A Catch-Up Post

So, I really haven’t been doing much reading lately–well, I have, but I just can’t seem to finish anything! With all the events of the last few weeks, including LATFOB, Gayle Forman’s Musical Tour, and Children’s Literature Council, and everything I need to read/write/make for school… My eyes are about to fall out of my head.

So I’m going to unload a little bit of information onto the blog, and hope that makes some room in the grey matter chamber to finish the semester without too much screaming.

Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have by Allen Zadoff
If you hunger for love and thirst for approval, you’ll devour this clever novel in just a few bites. This book was funny, touching, and a great counterpoint to Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. I think it’s pretty strange that I decided to read them both at the same time. Food is much more enjoyable; I enjoy the complexities in the various characters like O. Douglas, the quarterback who takes Andrew “under his wing” so to speak; the various attitudes toward fatness that help both Andrew and the reader see beyond the blubber. For the synopsis, click here.

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (The Queen’s Thief, Book 1)
This has been sitting on my shelf for at least a year or two. I finally picked it up last week and couldn’t put it down! Storytelling figures greatly in this book as Gen and other characters retell folktales based on Greek myths. The final twists and turns revealed at the end of the book are clever and well worth the wait! I wish I weren’t still in the middle of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell so I could plow through the next three books. For the synopsis, click here.


Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder (Inside Out, Book 1)
A wildly imaginative new fantasy from the author of Poison Study. Some may find the endless tension tiring but it just kept me wide awake. I know from experience, Maria’s hard on her heroines–they can never seem to catch a break. If you love dystopia, you’re in luck. And if you’re not an attentive reader, leave this one alone: I needed a map to figure out where the heck Trella was going under, inside, in-between and upside down in this futuristic thriller. Luckily the author provides them on her website. 😀 For the synopsis, click here.
FORTHCOMING:

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book 2)
Due out July 20, 2010. I got my hands on an ARC of this for about 24 hours and I was not disappointed–all the romance of the original plus a sly, creeping dread; a new wolf; and what I love most of all: Maggie’s lyrical writing. So few writers now can really use language in a way that makes you want to dance; Stiefvater’s musicianship seems to come out of every instrument–even the lowly word processing application can be made to sing. Play on, Maggie, play on!

There’s more, but I’ve got to get to chem lab (shakes fist at double-displacement reactions) so check back later!

I leave you with a link to new original fiction at Tor.com: “The Courtship of the Queen” by Bruce McAllister.

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Harsh, I know. But honest.

Harsh, I know. But I’m being honest. I did not like this book.

Spoilers ahoy, and beware!

The Gist

Luce is a troubled young girl who has just been forcibly enrolled into Sword & Cross, a reform school where she is expected to overcome whatever violent tendencies led to her previous almost-boyfriend Trevor to die a horrible mysterious death–which she is supposedly responsible for, though the authorities couldn’t prove that what happened was her fault, nor can they prove really what happened at all. Something to do with dark, swirling shadows.

The Plot

Luce navigates high school usual (mean girls, gym class, detention) while being fought over by two boys, Cam and Daniel, to whom she is mysteriously drawn–Cam is gentlemanly and keeps giving her gifts, while Daniel is cold and aloof but she’s inexplicably drawn to him anyway.

The Good

There was one good and unexpected twist, a character who appears to be on on side but is really on the other. Lauren Kate, you really did fool me. Bravo.

The Bad

Luce and Daniel have a supernaturally connected past–he seems to know everything about her already, while she seems to have no idea why. Instead of exploring this intriguing setup by elaborating on these many past-life romances (which, done right, would have been WIN!), the author enumerates them in 1 sentence about 3/4 of the way into the book, after boring the reader to death by falling into the treacherous Twilight-find-and-replace formula (epic FAIL).

For those who are not familiar with Twilight:

1 ) Girl feels an inescapable “pull” towards Cute Guy
2 ) Cute Guy treats her coldly
3 ) Something threatens to crush Girl–in this case, a stone angel statue falling in the school cemetery (yes, the school has a cemetery)
4 ) Cute Guy saves her from smushing, starts being nicer to her
5 ) Girl spends rest of book remarking on how cute Cute Guy is
6 ) Kissing
7 ) Peril–in this case two factions of fallen angels fight over Luce’s soul, no reason is given, although ostensibly there is one that will be revealed in later books
8 ) Cute Guy saves Girl from further death, then pushes her away “for her own good” leading into the sequel

Replace Girl and Cute Guy with the names you picked for you character and you’re set for a teen blockbuster!

Also, while the fallen angel mythology is fairly transparent to the reader, it takes the main character much too long to figure it out. The “dark shadows” that follow Luce around are inconsistent and are rendered so non-threatening that by the middle of the book, you’re not sure whether you’re supposed to be worried about them or not. And by then, I also wanted to just make someone else read the book for me, then have them explain what happened just to satisfy my curiousity.

Now we come to what I call “Lost Season 4 Syndrome”: when the Story poses more Questions than it Answers, and none of the Answers that it does reveal are compelling enough to make the Audience want to continue on further discovering Answers, you Lose the Audience. I, being a conscientious audience member, soldiered on (both with Lost, which I now like again, and with Fallen, which I finished but did not enjoy) and I really do hope that both creative parties make me glad that I did. Will I read the sequel, Torment? Probably, yes. Will I like it, now, that’s a different story.

Now what?

If you know me, you know that while I like Twilight, I am not blind to its weaknesses–I know it’s poorly written and kind of silly. I also know that it is extremely easy for young adult authors to, whether they go into it knowingly or not, end up using the same formula–see also Evermore & Hush, Hush. I am still holding out hope that somewhere along the production line for whatever the author/publisher thinks will be “the next Twilight”, someone is brave enough to go, “Hey, you know, this sounds exactly like–“. I am still holding out hope that whoever worked on Fallen and the other two didn’t just see the similarities and, instead of pointing it out, rubbed their hands together and said “We’re gonna make millions!” followed by an evil laugh or two.

I am hoping that the author has a better idea for the second book. sigh.

The contest!

What? You’re giving away your ARC? I thought you hated it and are telling me not to read it!

First of all, I’m not telling you not to read it. It’s a free country. Undoubtedly there will be people out there who do not have the same reading tastes as I do, and/or are looking for something that will hit the same nerves as Twilight (and unfortunately for this author, those nerves of mine have been beaten to a pulp by Twilight and no longer activate). In which case, Fallen will scratch that itch!

Secondly, there’s that whole FTC brouhaha (The Story Siren has a great blog post about that from a few months ago) about ARCs as compensation for favorable reviws–in this case, it was not a favorable review anyway, but I’m still getting rid of the book.

So!

If you are still curious, and if you liked Evermore and/or Hush, Hush and think you will enjoy this book too, then enter to win.

Comment below and answer one or more of the following prompts:

Are you still in the thralls of Twilight-mania, and do you think this condition will allow you to view Fallen in a more favorable light than I did?

Are Angels the new Vampires? Why or why not?

Is there a YA book that you enjoyed in 2009 that stood out as not being a Twilight clone? What was it, and why do you think so?

If you read a negative review of something, will you still read the book? Why or why not?

+1 for every prompt you answer and +1 for subscribing or being a subscriber already <–edit: do this on Blogspot! I’m moving later this week.
+1 for friending me on GoodReads!
+1 for each tweet and/or blogpost about this review and contest. Here’s the shortlink: http://bit.ly/rnslfallen

Each point is assigned a number, and at the end of the contest I will use the random# generator to choose a number between 1 and the total number of points. If the number corresponds with one of your points, you win! The more points you get, the more chances you have of winning. I can only track the points you declare in the comments portion of this entry, so comment whenever you tweet or blog leading someone to this post.

The contest is open to US residents only (sorry, I’m poor on postage right now) and ends at 12 am on January 11, 2010.

Beautiful Creatures, why you should keep two copies of a few books, and some silly questions

Photos will have to wait because I forgot to charge the camera battery before today.

But (*squee!*) I got to meet Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia, the authors of the new YA fantasy novel Beautiful Creatures.

Their launch party was held in the teeny tiny Diesel Books (support thy independent bookstore! – my shopping list follows) at the Brentwood Country Mart.

First of all, thanks to Jane and Alfonso for giving us a ride to Santa Monica–it’s not that I forgot about the signing, but that I had absolutely given up hope of doing anything other than working ridiculous holiday hours for the next month. Thanks for reminding me to have a life and eat some Popeye’s fried chicken.

Next of all, thanks to Margaret and Kami for writing such a fantastic book!

Third of all, thanks to Kristen @ Bookworming in the 21st Century for the ARC. (Although I do also have a hardcover, and an audiobook version… hrm. I may have to splurge for the eBook too, so I can have it with me at all times without fear of scuffing up the jacket.)

– – –

Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures is exactly what I aspire to be as a human being: pretty, funny, and smart all in one package. Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl have written a seamless and utterly absorbing tale of a cursed romance: a Mortal boy who falls for a Caster girl in a small Southern town. Meaningful thoughts about love, loyalty, and prejudice unfold from this intricately parsed novel: those who love books will delight in the literary references, those who love love will swoon over the star-crossed couple, and those who love good writing will greedily devour every carefully chosen word.

Better yet, get the print version and the audio, both. The music and sound effects (particularly for the dream sequences) in the audiobook version add yet another dimension to the Gothic atmosphere the authors have built.

Another book for the loaner shelf*.

*You will need two copies of certain books–one to loan out to friends until they get hooked and become convinced that they also need to go out and buy a copy (or two) and one to have handy in the middle of the night so that when you get the hankering to pick up and read a certain passage (or 576 pages), it’s there. Believe me, after the number of times (7) that the Poison Study and Twilight series caused me the distress of not having a copy to read when the book-hunger struck at 1 am (because some “friend” or other borrowed my book) taught me, there are books for which you need to keep a loaner copy. BCis one of them.

**I was asked recently why my reviews are so short. I have a long chain of reasons. 1) I’m very busy. 2) I’m very tired. 3) I’m kind of lazy. 4) I don’t want to give anything away–if you asked me in person, I would probably tell you too much. With blogging I can edit myself and stop before I’ve told you who wins and whether the dog lives or dies. 5) You can find the synopsis anywhere, so why waste time copy-pasting it? (See #3, above.) 6) I’d rather be reading.

– – –

Also at the launch party: Pseudonymous Bosch, suspiciously without any kind of disguise (I wish I’d known–years ago I had him sign my copy of The Name of This Book Is Secret, but my other two volumes are conspicuously missing signatures!)

and, freshly ordered from thebookstorethatshallnotbenamed.com, Katie Alender, author of Bad Girls Don’t Die. (Quick! Add this to your TBR on GoodReads.) Hurry up, mailman! I need this book, stat!

– – –

Is Beautiful Creatures the Next Twilight?

I agree with TeamBella76–it’s not the next Twilight. It’s the first Beautiful Creatures. According to the article, the first of five (*squee!* sorry…), and I hope no Patrick-Rothfuss-like delays result in the next four years. I just pray that unlike most book-to-film adaptations, no one screws it up. (Amen.)

– – –

So, it’s a year until the release of the as-yet-un-named sequel to BC. What to read in the meantime? And where to buy it?

The Poisons of Caux: The Hollow Bettle (Book I)

Candle Man, Book One: The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance

Toby Alone

– – –

Missed Margaret and Kami at their launch party? It’s all good! You have many more chances to meet them. They’ll be at Borders in Northridge, CA at 7 pm on Thursday, Dec. 3. (Ooh! I’m off that night… wonder if they would take kindly to being gently stalked…)

Turkey Day Splurge (Future IMM)

Bookstores closed? Borders.com is never closed!

I meant to buy this:

Mirrorscape

and ended up with this:

Avatars, Book One: So This Is How It Ends (Avatars)

and

Gateway

and

A Brief History of Montmaray

and found out that Sony eBookstore also had this:

Guardian

(which I could never justify buying unless it’s brilliant, because it’s so short, so I’m probably just going to borrow it)

and this:

Tall Stones

for just a few bucks, which I might get.

But first, empty bellies must be fed!

Husband made the meal this year–pot roast and chocolate chip cookies. Thanks for my husband who can cook 4 things really well, for my family who doesn’t suck, for books and booklovers of all shapes and sizes, for my coworkers who are the only reason I bother showing up to work any more (even though sometimes they are the reason I don’t want to show up, thanks anyway).

What are you thankful for?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (3)

Huh, this seems to be the only kind of post I have time for right now! Ah, working in retail.

meme hosted by J. Kaye

meme hosted by J. Kaye

Books I finished this week:

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)
The Maze Runner by James Dashner: Eh. I liked it, will read the next, but it’s no Hunger Games.

Books I am currently reading/listening to:

Push: A Novel

I am re-reading Push by Sapphire. It’s as gritty and beautiful as I remember. I read it a while back when I was fresh out of high school. I found that while fluffy stuff like Sloppy Firsts no longer appeals to me after 15 years, meaningful things like Push (the basis for the movie Precious) really stay with me. When I’m done I think I’ll re-read another old favorite, like Kindred by Octavia Butler or Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I don’t actually own copies of those anymore (my cousin Jerome in the Philippines has them, I think), so will have to re-buy.

I’m also reading Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. I love this guest post he wrote on Joe Scalzi’s blog.

Books I haven’t started yet, but recently acquired:

Everlost

The Boy Detective Fails (Punk Planet Books)

Rasl Volume 1: The Drift

Bone Rose (Bone (Prebound))

Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director's Cut

Squee's Wonderful Big Giant Book of Unspeakable Horrors

Fables: Legends in Exile (Volume 1)

Y: The Last Man Vol. 1: Unmanned

The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes + through Vol. 5

What can I say, the husband is on a huge graphic novel kick and I promised to read them all, too.

Also acquired from David Y at last night’s YABC meeting:

Death Note, Volume 3: Hard Run + through Vol. 9

– – –

Let’s just hope I get some reading done this week.

For more What are you reading?, go to the source!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (2)

meme hosted by J. Kaye

meme hosted by J. Kaye

Books I finished this week:

Lament: The Faerie Queen's DeceptionBallad: The Gathering of Faerie

So, after about 2 weeks of not-reading and utter job depression, I finally picked up Ballad: The Gathering of Faerie and finished it off. It rocked even harder than Lament, mostly because the main protagonist is none other than James, bagpiper extraordinaire. Of the long laundry list of faerie books I’ve read in the last year, this is the only series I’ve actually enjoyed–this, and Juliet Marillier’s Wildwood Dancing.

Death Note, Volume 1: BoredomDeath Note, Volume 2: Confluence

I also read Death Note, Volume 1: Boredom and Death Note, Volume 2: Confluence, for YABC. I bought those two, but instead of buying all the rest of the manga, although I really want them, to save money and be simultaneously entertained the husband and I are watching the anime, which is *so* much better than reading it. They did a bang-up job on the North-American voice acting so it’s extremely watchable in English.

Books I started this week:

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)

I picked up James Dashner’s The Maze Runner in ARC form a couple of weeks ago, and while it has my attention it’s also giving me the same annoying *give me some answers, dammit!* feeling that you get from watching the first 3 seasons of Lost.

Books I haven’t started yet, but recently acquired:

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women

Louisa May Alcott has a new biography out in hardcover. I snapped that one up right away!

Wolf Hall: A Novel

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel is one I snoozed on–and thus missed getting a first edition, first printing, sigh. I think this is the 3rd printing already… well, I hope it’s that good!

What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures

Downloaded the new Malcolm Gladwell, What the Dog Saw, from audible.com. I usually wait until car rides with the husband to listen to things like this, as we both enjoy them, but with my crazy schedule lately we may have to listen separately and discuss later.

For more What are you reading?, go to the source!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (1)

meme hosted by J. Kaye

meme hosted by J. Kaye

This week I finished Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney.

I just started Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater and The Big Burn by Timothy Egan.

I started, then for whatever reason (i.e. laziness) put down Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard, Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, and St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell–all great books, but I just had to put them down and read something easier, like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, because my brain has recently been threatening to make an unrecoverable error and lose all saved data. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a backup system on my brain. Wish I did.

Books I plan to start this week if my brain doesn’t crash and burn include The Unseen by Alexandra Sokoloff, The Keeper by Sarah Langan [on eBook] (I guess you can call it mood-reading for Halloween), and Days of Little Texas by R. A. Nelson.

What are you reading?