Flirting in Italian: Lauren Henderson

One of my goals in life is to get down to Italy.  The country has such a rich history, the food’s delicious, and the Ferrari was invented there.  Oh, and Roman Holiday.  So when I saw this book in the bookstore last summer I had to buy it.  I figured it would be a nice pick me up that wouldn’t cause me to concentrate too much…boy, was I wrong.

 

General Summary: After spotting a portrait of a girl who heavily resembles her, Violet makes it her quest to find out all she can about that painting which means hello Italy.  However, once she gets to Italy Violet’s mind becomes all wrapped up in boys, vespas, and gelato.  So, she forgets about the painting for awhile until someone tries to kill her.

Review:

I have mix feelings about this book.  It was okay at first.  But a bit of a disappointment.  The first thirty or so pages were really excellent.  The premise was great.  A historical mystery that somehow lead to an identity quest in Italy.  A little cliche maybe, but still pretty awesome.  However, once the book got to Italy…

It was all about boys. And mean girls.  Very cliche mean girls.  In fact, one of the biggest pet peeves I had with this book besides its disjoint-ness were the characters.  They were all stereotypes:

Violet: Our MC.  A little self conscious about her looks, though it’s obvious that plenty of guys are into her.  Oh, and she’s just sort of in the middle between the rest of all our characters.

Luca: The hot Italian boy who despite speaking English all his life still doesn’t speak in grammatically correct sentences.

Paige: The first American stereotype.  Paige is a country girl at hear a  big bubbly blonde American who is dumb as a box of rocks who gets drunk all the time who radiates self esteem.  Also, she is described many times as being easy. The description of Paige was probably the most offensive out of any of the characters in the book.

Kendra: The other American stereotype.  Kendra is the  supermodel beautiful cold Tyra Banks look alike who’ll cut you if you call her exotic.  I actually liked Kendra the most out of any of these characters weirdly enough.

Elisa: The skinny bitch who slut slams all the time: Italian version.

Kelly: The overweight self conscious  character who eventually becomes the MC’s  best friend and learns that hey she should embrace herself all because of the MC.

Don’t these characters sound wonderful?

Okay, to give the book some credit.  I did enjoy some of these characters.  Like I liked Kendra she was cool.  And I liked Kelly too when she wasn’t being mopey.  But really, the stereotypes were rather jarring just like the plot.  Also, the whole chapter titled  “Swimsuit Beauty Parade” didn’t help matters either since it was essentially all about the MC doubting her figure.

After introducing us to several stereotypes and talking fluff for about a hundred and twenty pages or so the book finally picks up again with an attempted murder attempt on Violet’s life.  This plot point is really discerning since it doesn’t make sense.  Oh, we sort of get a half ass explanation at the end of the novel but it really didn’t make sense.  I mean, I get why the culprit wouldn’t like Violet but to try to kill her?  No.  Just doesn’t work.

Just like the whole idea that there’s a sequel to this book makes no sense to me.  I feel like if about forty or so pages were chopped, and Henderson actually focused on the plot of the book there would be no need for a sequel.  It’s simply milking a cash cow that has no milk.

Best Feature: Italy.  By far the best part about this book was Italy.  I thought Henderson did a nice job describing the country.  And I want to go there even more now.  Though, I will admit that she did exploit the use of Italian stereotypes here as well.  But whatever.  At least the scenery was breathtaking.

Worst Feature: Identity Crisis: I really don’t think this book knows what it wants to be.  At the beginning at the book there seemed like there was going to be a real cool mystery that was going to go on that was somehow going to be about the character’s identity, but that was dropped for about a hundred or so pages for Italian fun and the sun fun.  Before it appeared again for a few pages, dropped again, and then someone tries to kill the character.  Yep, there’s attempted murder and then that’s followed by more fluff and….well, you get the pictures.  The tone of the book was off.  The character would jump from serious events in her life to talking about boys.  And I like talking about boys.  I like books that talk about boys.  But when you have a set up for a potentially interesting mystery you should stick with it instead of making your readers wait for a useless sequel.

At least Nancy solved the mystery at the end of each book.

Appropriateness: Other than a sad attempt at attempted murder and some underage drinking scenes this book is pretty clean.

Blockbuster Worthy: Well, if they could somehow solve the identity crisis it would make an alright movie.  Here’s who I’d cast:

Violet: India Eisley is the closet actress I can think of who I imagine Violet looking sort of like.  The weird thing is I have an exact image in my head of how this girl looks, but no actress really does the character justice.

Overall Rating: Five out of ten scoops of gelato.  It’s average.  While I did find parts of it to be annoying, it wasn’t like it was the worst thing I’ve ever read.  And it did have some potential. Will I read the sequel?  It’s likely, but I’ll probably check it out at the library rather than buy it.

 

A Temptation of Angels: Michelle Zink

God, I really hate this cover.  Seriously, I can see up the models nose why couldn’t they tell her just to look down a little.  
 

People often ask why I review things that I did not finish.  Well, I think the review is justified with the fact that I’m reviewing the reasons why I didn’t finish the book in question.  Plus, I don’t review things that I haven’t read most of.  In the case of A Temptation of Angels,  I made my way through about two-thirds of the book before I called it a day.

General Summary: When Helen’s parents are killed, she finds out that she’s one of the guardians of Earth (a keeper) and that someone’s trying to kill her.  And somehow it involves her childhood imaginary friend-Drop Dead Fred much?  Anyway, that’s as much as I made out of it.

Review:

It’s not horrible.  I mean, the writing was easy to get through and none of the characters were terribly offensive, I just couldn’t connect to this book and I think that was it’s main problem.  Well, that and the info dumping.

Seriously, I think more than anything else the info dumping confused me.  I sort of got what was going on, but at the same time I didn’t.  It was really weird.

Another problem I had with the book were the characters.  I didn’t feel like they were fully develop.  I wanted to like Helen, but I couldn’t.  I just didn’t really know much about her other than her parents are dead and that she’s suppose to be one out of three special snowflakes left in the world.  Oh, and there was something about her imaginary friend two and she’s sort of kissing one of the other special snowflakes for some reason?

Yeah…I was confused.

The other characters didn’t help much either.  Once again, it was like I was an outsider trying to look in.

The storyline was also confusing.  I get that Helen and her friends were suppose to be these powerful beings, but if someone’s trying to kill you shouldn’t you try to hide and protect yourself rather than solve the mystery?

Yeah, plot holes.  There were lots of them.

With the addition of info dumping, I really wasn’t a fan.

Also, despite the fact that this book was suppose to be taking place in Victorian England, I really didn’t feel the period or location.  The only time I really knew it was a historical was when Helen went on about adjusting her clothes to fight.  Look, this is a pet peeve of my own but if you’re going to do a historical don’t alter the clothes.  Make the character learn how to fight with her usual garb on.  The Victorian period was all about manners, having the character in altered dress in going to make them suspicious.  Also, some of the choices of names made me a little skeptical.  Raum as a name for someone who lives in Victorian England?  Galizur?  I’m no expert, but those don’t sound like the typical Victorian names to me. If I’m wrong, please feel free to correct me on this because this is the sort of thing I’m interested in.

Best Feature: Intriguing Premises: The premises looks really intriguing and the way the novel was set up, I thought this was going to be an interesting read.  So, I will give Zink the benefit of knowing how to pull a reader into her stories.

Worst Feature: WTF is going on?  Seriously, despite reading almost 300 pages of this book I really couldn’t get what was going on and that’s despite the horrid world building that was going on through dialogue info dumps.   Let’s just put it this way, when reading this book I felt like I missed something.  You know like when you turn a movie on TV and missed the thirty minutes and spend the rest of the show trying to figure out what’s going on.  That’s how I felt when I read this book.  And from what I could make sense of it felt really cliche like one of those National Treasure movies (which I love, but that’s besides the point).

Appropriateness: There’s some violence.  I mean, people are getting killed right and left.  The language was pretty clean for the most part and so far (up to page 300) there was just one chaste kiss.

Blockbuster Worthy: I don’t really feel movie with this book.  I really couldn’t get into the characters enough to cast them.

Overall Rating: Four out of ten stars. I didn’t finish this one, but it wasn’t because it was terrible.  Rather, because I just couldn’t get interested to it. I think there was a lot going for it, but it never really grabbed my attention.  Hence, the lower rating.

What Were You Thinking: Annoying Characters Edition

MJ:(serious news caster voice) It’s a disturbing trend in YA.  A protagonist you can’t stand.  You try o like her.  You really do.  You might try find things that you and her have in common with in common.  Except, well, you don’t gel and that just sort of makes the rest of the book suck.  But why are these characters so annoying, why can’t they chill.  Well, today  on What Were You Thinking we’re going to dig deeper in those feelings (cue the cheap theme music and log, this time we got all fancy and have clips from our previous shows as credits).  Now that our credits are out the way it’s time for me to introduce our guests.  First of all, you want to punch her when you read all about her exploits with Xavier in Halo, Ms. Bethany Church.  Next, we have everyone’s least favorite magnolia, Alexandra Lee from the Magnolia League.  And finally last but not least, Elsie from Notes from an Accidental Band Geek.

(As the guests enter a close up is focused on MJ who is popping a perfuse amount of happy pills because in order to interview these bitches MJ needs to be pretty high).



Each of you are here because you annoy me.  How do you feel about that?

Bethany: You’re going to hell.

MJ: Like I care Little Ms. Fallen Angel.

Bethany: I’m not a fallen angel, at least not yet.

MJ: You should be by now.   Exactly how many times have you decided to defy heaven with Honey Boo Boo Huggie Bear?   Since you decided to initiate this little conversation let’s talk about how you’re an obnoxious character first.

Bethany: You meant how I’m a wonderful character who everyone loves.

MJ: No, I’m talking about obnoxious.  You my dear, represent the worse in YA paranormal herorines.  I mean, do you have any hobby that doesn’t involve Xavier?  Any goals?   Any ambitions?

Elsie: I have goals and ambitions but I learned that…..

MJ: Sorry, it’s not your turn to talk.  I’ll get with your insturmentality (is that what you call being attracted to your instrument?) in a minute.

(Elsie pouts, MJ rolls as as Bethany tries to hand Elsie a Bible.  Which Elsie promptly throws in her face and mutters something about how she can’t concern herself with something that doesn’t involve music).


Bethany: You know, you don’t have to be rude.

MJ: Are you talking to me again?  Seriously, you should realize by now that you’re advice does nothing to me.

Bethany: I know.  But seriously, why are you judging me?  Is there anything wrong with being with the one you love?

MJ: No.  But you should still maintain some sense of self.  Healthy relationships are about having experiencing with someone who’s not…well, you.

Bethany: Well, I’m an angel Xavier is a human.  That’s our differences.  Besides, it’s a good thing I’m obsessed with him.  That means, our love is true.

MJ: See this is the sort of crap that annoys me.  More than you being so stupidly perfect.  Being beautiful but not realizing it.  And always managing to find inner strength of God or something to help you out when you get in a bind.  This is why I don’t like you.

Bethany: Because I obsess over Xavier?

MJ: Exactly.  You a dependent idiot.  You are like Bella Swan but dumber.

Bethany: How dare you compare me to that demon…she decked me.  Remember, she decked me.

MJ: And you deserved it.

Bethany: You are so going to hell.

MJ:(Combo sigh and rolling eyes) Yeah, I’ve heard that one before.  Now, I want to talk to Alex.  How would you describe yourself?

Alex: Describing yourself is so mainstream, man.  Why must you conform to everything?

MJ: How am I conforming to anything?

Alex: You work for a fictional TV show, you are so selling out to the man.

MJ: Trust me, if I wanted to sell out there would be a lot better ways to do it like write a Twilight fan fiction where Bella gets together with Edward, Jacob, Christian Gray, Travis from Beautiful Disaster and any other douchey male characters that women find to be simply irresistible for whatever reason.  And get a seven figure publishing contract because you know p2p fiction is so in right now.  Cinderella story, ya’ll.

Alex: Thaddeus is simply irresistible.

MJ: God damn it, you’ve barely said two words to that guy before he put a love spell on you.  And for that matter he was mean to you.  He didn’t love you for who you were.

Alex: That was because I was fat.

MJ: Bull shit.  You are hardly fat.  You were a size six before you went on this magical bulimia thing.  And furthermore, I don’t care what your  dead mom says using magic to adjust your looks  is never right.  You should be happy with who you are and celebrate it.  Embrace it.  And tell anyone who says your ugly to go screw themselves.  That’s what being an individual is about.

Alex: But I was so fat and ugly.  My hair was in dreads and Reggie called me Pudge.

Seriously, boyfriends who call you “Pudge” are pigs pure and simple. 

MJ: Because he’s an asshole.

Alex: He’s dead now, you know.

MJ: For some unexpected and glossed over  reason like the rest of your hippie commune (my guess is Eric Cartman finally got to them).

Alex: I died too for a little while too.

MJ: Because you were a dumb ass and trusted a crazy lady.  Seriously, it’s not smart to get into a coffin unless you’re dead or a vampire.  Otherwise you’re going to be buried alive.

Alex: But I was brought back through the power of love…

MJ: For a guy you barely know.

Alex: That doesn’t make me annoying though.

MJ: No.  What makes you annoying is that you  are a sanctimonious ingrate who has an unrealistic view of body image.  Come to think of it, I really can’t stand sanctimonious characters which brings me to you, Elsie.

Elsie: So you’re letting me talk now?

MJ: Well, yeah, I did say I was going to interview you.

Elsie: I’d rather play the French Horn.

MJ: (sarcastically)And I’d rather be watching Wheel of Fortune, but you can’t always get what you want in life.  Surely, you know that.

Elsie: Obviously, you’re not good enough to get what you want.

MJ: What?

Elsie: I’m sorry, was I being insensitive?

MJ: Yes, actually you were.  You know your insensitivity was what really annoyed me.

Elsie: I don’t mean to be insensitive and I’m really not, I’m a musical genius.

An example of an actual musical genius.

MJ: (laughs)



Elsie: What’s so funny?

MJ: You are just too precious.

Elsie: How am I precious, I just told you the truth.  I am a musical genius.  I am going to be the youngest person ever in the BSO after I graduate from New England Conservatory and…

MJ: And rack over a hundred grand in loans.  Yes, I know.  I heard it.  I just think you need a reality check.  And you’ll get one eventually, unless you decide to rely on nepotism your entire life.

Elsie: Hey, I won that position at Singing Birches all on my own not that I took it because my friends in marching bands feelings would’ve been hurt.  Dad didn’t say anything.  The conductor was impressed with my marching band solo.

MJ: Oh, yes because he could just hear it.  Honestly, I don’t see why he’d be impressed with a bastardized piccolo solo especially considering you flubbed it.

Elsie: My friends said it was okay.

MJ: They didn’t want you to freak out on the bus.  You tend to freak out on buses.  Let me count the times first there was the time with your dad (that freak out and its aftermath lasted twenty pages), then the time you got locked on a bus ( that took five pages and a bad Star Wars revenge to get through), must I continue?

Elsie: You’re mean.  You need to apologize.  You know no one is going to like you because you use big words and act like you’re better than anyone else.

MJ: Fine.  Let them hate me.  And what big words did I use, seriously I just spoke English.

Elsie: Well, you’re being mean to me, Alex, and Bethany.  And that’s not right.  You have to be nice to people.

Alex and Bethany: Yeah.

MJ: (shrugs)Well, you don’t have to be nice if the person sucks and for that matter if they annoy you to no end.  What you have to be is honest and I honestly find you three to be some of the most insufferable characters out there in YA today.





Obviously, I own none of these characters.  This is more or less an opportunity for me to explore on why certain characters or character types in YA drive me bonkers.  Alexandra Adornetto, Katie Crouch and Grady Hendrix, and Erin Dionne respectively own the rights to their characters. 

Notes From an Accidental Band Geek: Erin Dionne

Definitely not high marching fashion.
 
 

Confession: When I was in high school I was in band.  Actually, I’ve mentioned that before.  What I didn’t mention was marching band.

Honestly, some of my worse memories are from marching band.  I was a double alternate (i.e. they gave up trying to teach me how to march in step).  The ironic thing is, despite this I actually excelled at  actually playing my instrument.  I was the only one in my school to qualify for the All-State band and that lead to better and grander things in my life.  So I guess in a way, I got the last laugh (evil laughs).

That’s besides the point though.  I have to say that despite my utter hatred for marching, I always thought a book about marching band would be a pretty cool YA book.  In fact, my friends and I often joked about how we were one day going to write a YA book called Under the Shako.  What is a shako you might ask, well, it’s the ugly ass hat they make you wear to march just to add to the humiliation of wearing a hideous polyester uniform.  That aside though, I was excited to see an actual book involving marching band at my library.  However, it was one of those relationships that was too good to be true.

Shakos are not in style and they never will be.  You don’t have to be Nina Garcia to know that.
 

General Summary: Because she was too stupid not to sign up for youth orchestra and her school apparently has no concert band program, Elsie is forced into marching band so that she can audition for BUTI Shining Birches.  Will she survive or will someone give her a swirly for being an insufferable ass?

Review:

It’s not going to be pretty guys.  First of all, I’ll tell you I’m probably a little biased.  As I said before, I was in band.  But to be honest, I’ve really spent all my life around music.  All of my family has musical degrees.  My aunt and uncles bands have won several awards for marching and concert work.  My mom herself is a fantastic teacher.    My sister is an orchestral musician.  My dad was a jazz musician.   A lot of my friends are musicians.  So, when it comes to fact checking in this book any mistake isn’t going to get past me.  Rather, it’s going to annoy me.  And boy there were a lot of mistakes in this book.

Let’s talk about what’s good about this book.  It a nice easy read.  Yes, the main character was insufferable and the dialogue sounded really fake–both things I’ll get into more detail in a minute–but it was an easy read.  And the concept was cute too.  A little out there given all the factual discrepancies but it worked.  Enough I guess.  And there was a plot and an actual attempt to develop character.  It really didn’t work though, but there was effort.

Alright, let’s talk about the problems because I’m probably going to spend quite a bit about the review talking about them.  This book is cringe worthy people.  Even if you know nothing about music or the music industry, there are things about it that will get you groaning.  I’ll discuss those things first before I get technical.

Everything in this book just comes off a little fake.  First there’s are main character who is a bitch.  There’s no other way to describe her.  As I discuss in the Worst Feature section, I thought maybe it was because she suffered from a social disorder, but nope.  She had no excuse for her behavior.  She’s just insults people for the heck of it.  Likewise, I think her friends (if you could call them that) were a bit over sensitive as well.  They just wanted her to be a doormat.  To succumb to mediocrity.  And the love interest he was pretty bland until he got mad out of her in a fit of petty jealousy because of a guy named Punk (yes, there was actually a character named Punk who dressed like a punk).  Her father was pretty awful too there was this ridiculous temper tantrum that went on between him and Elsie and I honestly thought….ugh, you don’t want to know.  Basically, the point I’m getting at is that   there was no happy medium when it came to characterization in this book.  No wonder the dialogue felt so slanted.  Also, can I say that I hated how this book would put in pop culture references but not outright say them, i.e. there are Twilight  references but instead of calling it Twilight Dionne refers to it as Dusk.  Not to mention a dozen or so Star Wars references that were put in, in an obvious attempt to be hip (seriously, there was a character whose whole purpose was to quote lines from the movies).

A lot of things about this book just didn’t make sense there were a glob of plot holes and plots that I just couldn’t make sense of.  And to having plot holes in a contemporary is a pretty big deal.  At least with a paranormal, you sort of have the excuse of another world but here there are no excuses.   None at all.

Okay, guys here’s the technical music related stuff.  A lot of this might bore you to death, but I feel like when you’re writing a novel proper research is a must and with the age of the internet it’s not that difficult to do.   Here are just a few of the things that bothered me about how Dionne handled the subject matter:

1) Transcribing a piccolo solo to mellophone can’t be done.  A piccolo is the highest pitched instrument on the field a mellophone plays a lot lower.  You play in treble cliff on piccolo you play in bass cliff on mellophone.  And furthermore you’re bastardizing Sousa’s Stars and Stripes when you use a mellophone.

 
2) Marching Band isn’t so much about the music than it is about the drill.  Quite honestly people aren’t going to hear you in the stadium they’ll mostly hear the percussion if anything else.  What makes or breaks a show is the actual drill.  Many schools have shows written just for them in interesting themes.  It’s all about the show not the musical quality which is why novice players are often allowed on the field because they don’t have to actually play.
3) Rehearsals aren’t just three days a week they’re almost every day a week in Texas we have an eight hour rule.  Which means bands can rehears up to eight hours per week.  Usually though this rule in broken.  Band directors are better than lawyers at finding loopholes.
4) If a student passes out there’s no way in hell they’ll be allowed to stay at practice that day.  It’s hello emergency room.  There’s just too big of a liability with more and more kids suffering from heat strokes and other health disorders in recent years.
5) Expecting a job in a Big Five Orchestra is like expecting to be Angelina Jolie.  It’s hard, guys.  It’s really hard.  Elsie acted like it would be a piece of cake if she got into her camp and got into the right school.  Well, it doesn’t exactly work that way.  There are a limited amount of jobs out there and there are so many factors in who chosen for what job.  To be blunt about it, the best player often doesn’t get the job.  They might not even advance. Yes, advance there are multiple stages to audition for a job.  Sometimes, you have to get invited to an audition Each group has their own criteria in who they hire.  Many musicians get upper degrees so that they can teach at a university while looking for a job that actually pays and  this process takes multiple years.  Not to mention the student loans for these schools are just awful and that if you decide to quit depending on your degree you might have a difficult time getting a job in another industry.  Furthermore,   it takes some musicians up to a hundred or so auditions before they find a job.  Finally, it should also be mentioned that playing music in a symphony isn’t at all glamorous.  Many orchestras have gone on strike in recent years.  Notably, the Atlanta and Chicago symphonies with the musicians often taking a pay cut.
6) Private lessons are a necessity.  Most schools have their own private lessons teachers.  If they don’t the music program is probably lacking in funding.  These teachers often provide the only individual instruction students get.
7) There is no parade competition in marching band.  You run your drill usually there are three acts so to speak.
8)You perform at every football game, not just homecoming and always in full dress.  There is never half dress.  I remember wearing wool when it was a hundred degrees outside.  It sucked and I couldn’t stand the fact Elsie was complaining about it being hot in freaking Massachusetts obvious she has not spent a day outside when it’s 106 degrees outside in Texas in July.
9) You don’t learn music by rote.  You count the piece, subdivide it.  Learn it measure by measure.  But not by rote.  You will sound like this if you learn music by rote:

10.  Getting into a big parade like the Macy’s Darcy’s Thanksgiving Parade or the Rose Bowl isn’t accomplished in just a few weeks it takes years.  And usually when you do get invited it’s the whole district not just one school (I would know my uncle’s school district got invited to march for the Rose Bowl a couple of years back).

Note, I could go on.  But I won’t.  I have other things to do like finish this review and pet my Rat Terrier.

Best Feature: The Subject Matter.  I like books about band.  Music played an important role in my life and I think it’s important for kids to realize that it’s out there and this book does it.  Grant it, it gets a lot of things wrong.  But I like it’s intentions..

Worst Feature: Suffering from Sheldon Cooper Syndrome: Okay, Elsie.  Girlfriend, you’re not getting a b.f.f. charm from me anytime soon.  In fact, I’m almost tempted to throw you in the dungeon of doom.  However, you aren’t the typical Sue I’ll give you that.  You’re just mean.  And don’t know how to deal with people.  I actually wondered if you suffered from a social disorder like Aspergers or something and if that was the case you know more power to you.  I feel like YA protagonist should be more diversified since the world itself has a wide array of people. And I have to admit it would be sort of cool reading a book in the POV from someone who views the world differently than I do.  But you, my friend, you don’t have a social disorder and you have no excuse for being such a bitch to everyone.  Yes, I get your instrument is your life.  But let me tell you, being from a family of musicians you’re going to get nowhere.  You think you need a night off of practicing before a marching band contest.  A marching band contest where quite honestly no one is going to hear you over the crowd….let me just put it this way, my sister who is actually a symphony musician practices at bare minimum of three hours day.  Usually it’s six plus.  When I was in high school, I practiced at least ninety minutes a day and it wasn’t music that was fun for the most part.  I did fundamentals like scales and stuff. Also, don’t act like you’re so much better than your peers.  It’s not your place to correct them unless you’re the section leader or whatever.  Your band director or private lesson teacher (oh, right I forgot your school doesn’t have private teachers) will be more than happy to point out their faults, they don’t need to be told how much they suck from a wannabe like you.   I will say as insufferable as Elsie is–seriously, she’s like an mean version of Sheldon Cooper of the band world-I did think her friends were a bit overly sensitive and rude themselves.  So what if she doesn’t want to eat ice cream with you guys?  Get over it.  She’s been with you all day long at the field and really who wants to be with a person 24/7.  Seriously, this book lacked balance when it comes to social interaction.  You’re either an ass or a doormat.  No in between.

Appropriateness: This book seems pretty clean.  I mean, after meeting Elsie you sort of understand why.  There’s not going to be any happy times for her romantically until she loses that chip on her shoulder plus I think her dad would hit someone with his French Horn or whatever if they even got close to second base which I don’t think she’ll get to with the love interest in this book.  However, what bothered me about this book for young readers was the fact that it preached for mediocrity.  Seriously, Elsie was shunned because she was practicing.  Like practicing is a sin.  Some of the stuff she said was offensive, but her practicing that shouldn’t be judged. But seriously, in the end she realizes that her goals aren’t important just as long as she’s having fun in a group and gives up a great opportunity.  Well, Elsie tell me how you feel ten years from now when all the French Horn playing you’re doing is for your community band?

Blockbuster Worthy: Um, no.  I don’t think I could handle this one on the big or small screen.  It would be a Disney movie for the week for sure.  And you know what, I’m not even going to bother to cast roles because I don’t want to be that mean.  Plus, I can’t think of anyone bitchy enough to play Elsie besides Kristen Stewart and they don’t look anything alike.

Overall Rating: Three out of ten shakos.  I liked the idea the writing was easy enough to read.  But God, the characters the lack of research just drove me crazy.

The White Glove War: Katie Crouch and Grady Hendrix

Seriously, there was no money in the budget to touch up her roots.

Full Disclaimer: I really did have no intentions on reading this one.  The Slate Article left a nasty taste in my mouth and I’ll be referencing that article in my review a lot, FYI.  I know that one of the authors has said that the article was said in jest, but it still offended me and a lot of other people.  Just because YA isn’t considered traditional literature doesn’t mean that time isn’t taken to write these books…but that’s another story for another day.  That being said, I’m really going to make an effort to try to be objective here which is going to be rather difficult (admittedly).  The reason I picked up the book was mainly out of morbid curiosity and they had it at my library.  Plus, I needed a quick read since I have a twenty page paper I need to be working on and this one was easily accessible and easier to finish than The Temptation of Angels.



General Summary: Ah, dearie me.  Let me try to remember what happened last time on Honey Boo Boo,  I mean The Magnolia League.  So essentially, Alex figures out that her mom’s soul is being held prisoner and she got caught for using a love spell.  Can’t say I didn’t tell her so for the love spell thing.  So, the book basically starts off there and she pretty much makes a lot of nonsensical choices.  However, it’s not all Alex’s story this time around we get to see Hayes who actually isn’t half bad.

Review:

So I think I’m going to put my review in context to the Slate Article.  While the article was apparently written as satire a la Twain.  I couldn’t help but think of it when I read the book and shook my head and certain points of the story.  Were some of these mistakes done on purposes.   Let’s see:

It would be creepy if we included explicit sex scenes with glistening young skin and heaving young bosoms, but we keep it on the clean side. This isn’t Twilight. No slutty werewolves here. Mostly we pass the rare sex scenes in outline form back and forth between us like a ticking time bomb until one of us bites the bullet and puts it on paper. When it’s completed, the other one innocently asks to make a pass “for editing” and then reads it aloud in a mocking voice and turns the most embarrassing lines into an email signature.”

What neither of us was prepared for was the insane pace. There’s a reason that so many Y.A. series are written by collaborators: The timetable is crazy. Katie, having come out of an M.F.A. background where the rule was that good writing requires rumination, pain, and the slow loss of your best years, fought the craziness at first. But readers in Y.A. don’t care about rumination. They don’t want you to pore over your sentences trying to find the perfect turn of phrase that evokes the exact color of the shag carpeting in your living room when your dad walked out on your mom one autumn afternoon in 1973. They want you to tell a story. In Y.A. you write two or three drafts of a chapter, not eight. When kids like one book, they want the next one. Now. You need to deliver.

I pulled out these two quotes from the Slate Article because I think they’re relevant to analyzing the work as a whole.  I should mention that like Crouch and Hendrix I have a degree in Creative Writing.  And I’ve seen the whole literature vs genre writing debate in action.  And yes, there are people who actually talk like this for real, so even though it’s said to be in jest.  The paranoid me  can’t help but wonder….

Anyway, their intentions are not relevant now.  What’s relevant is the problems I found in The White Glove War and how they apply to these quotes.

Let’s first talk about the first quote.  So essentially the jist of the quote is after that a rather unfunny joke about sex in YA (which I’ll get to more of in a minute) they then discuss how writing the these scenes were  hilarious and cringe worthy.

Well, they’re right.  Not about the sex scenes per say-becuase there was no sex in the book- but the  writing was very cringe worthy.   It’s like they’re either trying to speak teen, or info dumping, or using bad fake dialect .  Writing dialogue isn’t really a difficult task.  Just be natural.  If you think the lines sound cheesy more than likely they do.  And boy were there some cheesy lines in The White Glove War.  Here are just a few little gems:

” ‘Hi,’ Alex says.  She hesitates, then hugs me.  ‘Oh, dude.  I’ve missed hanging out!  We’ve hardly talked since the Christmas Ball, except for that meeting, and that barely counts.  I’ve been jonesing for a download.’ ” (Crouch and Hendrix, 57).

Um, who actually talks this way?  Save for Janice on the Muppets.  And what does jonesing mean…oh, thank God for Urban Dictionary.  That’s all I can say.  And it’s not an isolated incident….

” ‘Dude, you’ve been totally MIA,’ he says.  ‘Plus the Baby Maggots are all over your butt, man.  And not in a good way.  It’s like you pepper-sprayed their Hanky Pankys or something.” (82).

Seriously, is everybody in this book  on the set of Wayne’s World. And yet it continues….

“‘We live near Doc’ cause he’s old and he needs us, you little crab.  Eat your stew.  You’re such a skinny little shrimp that even a hungry shrimp would throw you back.'”(155).

This is their attempt to be regional.  Rather, it just flops in my opinion.  Look, I live in the South.  I have heard various forms of Southern dialect.  People do not talk like this. At least no one I know.

I hate to say this but the unnaturalness of the dialogue carried on to the rest of the book.  Characters weren’t developed.  They all seemed flat, dispensable,  and the same went with the relationships.  Honestly, I didn’t get the love between Thaddeus and Alex that supposedly willed her to go come back to life.  And for that matter, I found Thaddeus to be a bit annoying.  He claimed to love Alex before her hoodoo induced makeover.  But I specifically remember in the first book he didn’t even look her way until she had dropped fifteen pounds and had perfect hair.

Maybe the lack of relationships is their way of keeping the book chaste.  Honestly, I think if that’s the case they’d be better just leaving out the romance all together.  Plus, if that was really the case you know there are some pretty good YA romances out there without sex.

As for the second quote, I get that YA books come out faster than other books, but it’s really about how you pace your workload.  Plus, I know that there are some authors who delay publication of their book and things work out for the better.

Look, I’m not judging them.  I get that writing is a tough business.  But I’m just saying, if you time manage your work it’s not as difficult as it’s made out to be.  Plus, literary books are usually a lot longer than YA books are and the publishing contracts differ as well.

That being said, I could definitely see why Crouch and Hendrix wanted more time on this book.  It was a mess.  Pacing and structure wise that is.  The book opens with this weird prologue that is really sort of jarring if you consider the cliffhanger form the other book.    In general, the whole book seems choppy.  I did like the fact that they included Hayes here but she was only a bit character in the first book and the introduction to her….oh dear.  It reminded me heavily of one of those old Babysitters Club books where the first chapter is spent explaining what happened in the last installment and describing the characters.  However, the heavy exposition wasn’t the most grating thing about the structure of the book I think it was the shifts from first to third.  I don’t know but I can handle shifting point of views when it’s in the same person, but when you go from first to third it just seems really fan fiction like. The plot was jarring as well.   A lot of times I got lost in the pacing of it and just didn’t know what to make of it.  Though despite these problems, somehow I was able to get through it pretty quickly (or maybe that was because I had a headache this evening and just wanted to do something that didn’t involve me researching Aviation Law).

Best Feature: Hayes.  I actually have to give the books pointers from introducing Hayes.  She’s the only reason I got through it as fast as I did and she provides some much needed sanity to this series.  And she’s a real character.  Though I do feel like people walk on her a wee bit too much because of stupid Alex.  But whatever.

Worst Feature: Body Image: I really don’t know what Crouch and Hendrix are thinking, but a size six isn’t fat.  And for that matter it’s not puppy fat either.  Did you know the average American woman wears a size fourteen? Saying that a six is fat and for that matter alluding to the fact that being a zero is sort of chubby (yep, they allude to that) just pisses me off.   In fact, I ate a big bowl of ice cream just to show my spite for this book.  Look, people’s bodies differ.  Not everyone is meant to be a size zero. And what is this, like third grade?  Body image is already a huge problem in several areas of the world. Especially when it concerns teenage girls.  People die because of these issues.  And having this magical fix where you can instantly lose weight while eating a ton of food, you want to know what it sounds like to me…bulimia.

Yep, magical bulimia.

I freaking kid you not.  I don’t think this was what the authors intended (I would at least hope not), but it just rubbed me the wrong way.

You know, as much as I had issues with Size 12 and Ready to Rock I have to applaud Meg Cabot on how she handled the whole body image thing.  Heather makes a girl any size feel good about themselves (especially in the early books), Alex not so much.

You don’t even want to know how many bowls of ice cream I ate just out of spite for this book.

Appropriateness: Ha!  With lessons like it’s okay to change your own appearance, and essentially magical eating disorders.  I hardly would want any impressionable teenage girl reading this.  Plus, there are some pretty macabre scenes as well. Oh, and teen drinking too.

Blockbuster Casting: I did a lot of the casting in my entry for the Magnolia League.  However, I didn’t cast Hayes.  So who would be the perfect Hayes.  What about Sarah Hyland? I liked her enough in Modern Family and she was in a couple of Disney films that were cheesy than this book.

Overall Rating:  Here’s the deal.  The novel is so choppy that I almost felt like you could break it up into two stories.  For Hayes story I’d give her five out of ten magnolias.  It wasn’t that great but for the most part she didn’t overly offend me.  She seemed like a pretty decent character.  Alex though.  Ugh.  She belongs in my characters that should rot in a dungeon for the rest of eternity.  She’s a little more tolerable than Helen Hamilton, but I still can’t stand her and her story gets a one.  I think it averages out to a three.  So yeah, this book gets three out of ten magnolias.

Work Cited
Crouch, Katie, and Grady Hendrix. The White Glove War: A Magnolia League Novel. New York: Poppy, 2012. 



“It’s Better than Going to the Prom.” Slate Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2012. <http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2011/06/writing_youngadult_fiction.html&gt;.

Do Judge a Book By It’s Cover: Strike a Pose

And once again it’s time to look at more covers and judge them.  Because being shallow is fun, right!  Especially when bad posing is involved.  Let’s look at some more YA covers  But first let’s get some  music going:

Let’s strike a pose, shall we?
What the Cover Tells Me: Tabby has lived her life in prison with her mom.  In her world, children are punished with their parents and Tabby has no hope for a real life since her mom’s doing life for killing her wife beater of a father.  Despite this, Tabby finds herself attracted to the local magistrate’s son.  So in a twisted tale of Cinderella, Tabby finds herself escaping and going to a local ball in a dress made out of prison uniforms.
What the Book is Actually About: Well, it’s like The Bachelor.  And Maxon is down to the final six.  But things have to get complicated-ratings people, ratings.  So the producers decided to drag in America’s ex boyfriend in there for conflict.  Oh, and there’s some sort of war going on that no one really cares about because honestly this series is just sort of silly.
Verdict: This cover is actually pretty interesting to look at and not a good way.  I mean, at first it looks pretty stunning.  It has “the dress”, but the more you look at it you start to see its faults.  For example, the dress isn’t exactly flattering to the model’s hair or skin tone (I think if they were going to go for a red they should’ve gone deep red instead of the prison orange red they used).  Then there’s the pose.  I think they were trying to go for the regal vibe but instead she looks rather stiff.  I will give them props that it isn’t the horrible pose they did last time (I won’t use that joke again it’s dead but I’ll allude to it, model was in need of some Secret), but couldn’t they hire a girl that could smize.  That’s like modeling 101 ask Tyra Banks if you don’t believe me.
What the Cover Tells Me:  Have you ever wanted to fly?  Well, if you read this book you’ll learn how to do almost do that with some rather amazing yoga poses.  Oh, wait you wanted aliens….well, our yoga instructor gets abducted by aliens and you can learn yoga in space.  Instant best seller, right?
What the Book is Actually About: Haven and the gang are back uncovering a sinister mystery in the big easy.  What ever will our angels in training do?
Verdict: Seriously, this girl looks like she is about to get abducted by aliens or something or is in yoga class.  Actually, I think yoga class is more likely since she’s dressed so casual which is quite a bit different from the first book-big frilly dress.  Plus, if I remember correctly the heroine is now suppose to have short hair-whatever.  It’s not like I’m going to read this one anyway.  I couldn’t get through the first book so freaking long.   All I will say though other than the big ass wings, fans of this series are going to be a bit confused with the cover it will be like where’s my big frilly dress.  Why do I want to read about a girl who wears yoga pants that’s so boring.  Big frilly dresses though…
What the Cover Tells Me: Icee has always lived a life hiding in the shadows.  Surviving.   You see, Icee  is half demon and being half demon in her goody goody too dystopia shoes world means instant death.   And that sort of sucks especially when your in love with one of your assassins.  Too bad  Danish Hot Stuff (try to beat those names YA dystopia writer’s) doesn’t know she exists.
 Are you Team Danish?
What the Book is Actually About: It’s about this girl Helen (yes, I know warning bells are going off in my head too) who finds out she’s a special snowflake keeper.  And that she has a destiny to fulfill.
Verdict: This is going to sound really shallow and I really hope the model doesn’t read this but could the photographer take a more unattractive picture?   This is a model.  The girl has lots and lots of flattering angels and they chose this picture.  I can actually see up her nostrils and I totally think they photoshopped her eyes.  Plus, not very historically accurate I mean eye liner in the 19th century as if.  Maybe if took place in Ancient Egypt it would make sense but Westerners didn’t use eye liner till the 1920’s.
What the Cover Tells Me: Dear lordy, it’s really hot in this dress.  But I’m sort of obligated to wear it since I’m a nineteenth debutant and all.  But somehow, I don’t know how someone puts an evil spell on me and I’m propelled from the year 1856 to 2012.  Now I have to get used to the modern world and memes.  What is this face palm?
What the Book is Actually About: This is the pseudo sequel to the awesome Texas Gothic.  This book centers around Amy’s psychic cousin, Daisy, who works for the FBI as a consultant.  And somehow finds herself working for the mob.
 
Verdict: I’m excited about this book.  But seriously this is totally a face palm pose it’s like subliminal advertising to try to get the reader to not like the book.  Not that it will work anything by Rosemary Clement-Moore rocks.

What the Cover Tells Me: It’s December 21, 2012 and we’re all doomed-cue the screams.  However, one girl finds out that she and two boys (the typical one’s mysterious and one’s the best friend she’s had all her life) find out they have the power within to prevent being doomed an drag the Earth into the age of enlightenment.  However, will  the awesome trio be able to bring enlightenment or will they spend the book fighting over Kara’ s heart (the answer to fans of YA should be obvious).

What the Book is Actually About:  Somehow or another a girl finds herself swept into a virtual world with no technology (oxymoron much?).  It really does look intriguing though.

Verdict: I’ll just say this who do they think they are, The Avengers?

Troy High: Shana Norris

Is this suppose to be Cassie because she’s not a cheerleader.  Or maybe that’s not what matters since if this book teaches us anything it’s that only the popular kids are worth anything.

General Summary: It’s the Trojan War brought to you by High School Musical.  Seriously, that what this book essentially is though take out the song and dance numbers.  I mean, really musical numbers for Troy that….that just doesn’t make sense.  A retelling of the epic war in high school though that should be no problem, right?

Review:

Really, I didn’t have that high hopes for this book.  Troy retellings and anything that has to do with Troy at this point in my life is a bit of a sore subject for me (see Starcrossed review).  However, I was hoping that Troy High would somehow defy the odds and make me love Homer’s poem again (it didn’t).  I will go on the record by saying that this isn’t a bad book and if I wasn’t a cynical old law student, I might’ve enjoyed it better.

One of the best things about this book, besides it’s concept was that it was an easy read.  I do most of my fun reading while I’m commuting, so the fact that I was able to finish it in less than a week is saying something (either that or the traffic has gotten way worse).

That being said, I couldn’t help but let out more than a few groans when I was reading it.  To say the least, Troy High was cheesy.  But I think even saying that’s an understatement.  I think I’ll discuss what bothered me by breaking up the cheese into little pieces.

Let’s start with the characters.  For the most part they were pretty flat.  I mean, Cassie was nice enough,but I really didn’t like her.  As I’ll mention below the girl’s a bit of a bitch, but not in a good way.  She does some really stupid things and she really doesn’t learn anything from her mistakes.  It’s all washed over in the end.  I guess it doesn’t help that the supporting characters are weak as well.  I mean, everyone is gunning for everyone in this stupid rivalry that’s going on it’s this book  with very little thought.  I get that it’s trying the book is trying to retell the Trojan War, but you have to put into context that this is the modern world and honestly most teens really don’t feel that much pride for their high school.

And the whole forbidden love angle and for that matter the love interest in general.  Really, the most flimsy plot point ever.  He’s not even that great of mind candy.  I mean, the only description that we have of him is of his before look.  And this is going to be shallow, but that before look wasn’t even cute in the nerdy hottie sort of way.   And yeah, I don’t like excessive description but throw at least one abs description (please).

The plot as I alluded to earlier was weak.  And I think it was in part because of the way Norris portrayed high school.  Let’s face it, high school is a complicated place.  Not everyone is going to like you just like not everyone is going to hate you.  There are various sects in the school.  Some are more about school spirit than others.  All the kids at Troy and Lacede they really had team spirit.  That’s the only reason/way I think Norris could sell the whole Troy plot but still it just didn’t work.

And okay, now I’m going to be really nit picky.  I honestly got annoyed with the way Norris portrayed other groups other than the football and cheerleading squad, a.k.a. the band.  You know, I was in band all four years in high school.  My relatives are band directors and let me tell you this, they don’t just have a half time show for stupid homecoming.  The band and for that matter drill team, perform at each and every halftime show.  You might be getting your popcorn or soda while they’re performing but the band is performing their show.  A show that they will have competitions over.  To just state that the band is there for a prop for the football team is insulting to those of us who did not  like playing”Let’s Go Coogs” in high school.  An boy, did I hate that song…

Best Feature: Concept.  This book has a pretty neat topic.  A topic that I think was sort of washed down till it barely represented it’s source material.  But still Troy.  Super cool and neat and all.  And a retelling of Troy that should’ve meant that this instantly should’ve been epic.  But it wasn’t.  And I know that loose retellings can work.  Case in point, Meg Cabot’s Avalon High.  The book was loosely based off of the Arthurian myth and took place in a contemporary high school setting.  But somehow it worked (at least until Disney ruined it).  I think in Norris’s case she took a too literal approach and it sort of slapped her back in the face.  I mean, if you wanted to go literal with Troy you might as well introduce the fantasy elements and Norris didn’t.

Worst Feature: Flatness.  The characters and plot were just flat.  And I think this was the big reason I couldn’t identify with this book.  Take our lead Cassie.  She’s very immature, suffers from self esteem issues, and honestly is a bit of a bitch.  That equals flawed character which should equal awesome, right?  Well, no.  I just didn’t like Cassie.  She reminded me of one of those girls in high school you wanted to be nice to but just couldn’t.  Not because you couldn’t sympathize with them because you totally could.  But because she’d be turning her back on you as soon as popularity comes a calling.  It also doesn’t help that every relationship in this book for the most part is based on pure shallowness but it lacked the necessary descriptions necessary to make shallowness succeed.    Honestly, I think if the book would’ve been in a different character’s POV- say Elena’s I might have liked it better.

Appropriateness: Aside for some jokes about bodily fluids and functions and some rather immature pranks, this is pretty tame.  Really if anything, the book comes off as juvenile.  It’s like one of those bad PG movies your kids drag you too that have fart joke after fart joke.  That should give you some level of it’s maturity.  It’s not going to scar your kids, but it just might scar you.

Blockbuster Worthy: Maybe a Disney movie of the week?  It’s not that great, but it definitely has TV movie potential here’s who I’d cast:

Cassie: I don’t know….Demi Lovato?  Really, I didn’t get a good enough feeling on this character to cast her.

Greg: Greg Sulkin.  Because his name is Greg and he works for Disney.  Honestly, since I didn’t get even a minute picture of what this character looks like any actor will do.  Heck, a cardboard cut out of Robert Pattinson would work too.

Overal Rating:  I’m giving it a four.  It wasn’t terrible.  But I felt like the entire book was a bit flat and juvenile.  Maybe if I was a little younger I would’ve enjoyed it a little more.

What Were You Thinking: Insta Love

MJ: Ah, insta love.  It’s the sort of love every girl wants in YA.  But why?  Surely, there’s more to it than just looking into your soul mates eyes and knowing.  Right?  Well, today I’ve decided to chat with three girls who have found that special someone in their life in five minutes or less.  So let’s get started with the show shall we (cue the intro a fancy logo with “What Were You Thinking” flashes and crappy music is heard).   Okay, folks let’s introduce our guests.  First up, we have Tess from Claudia Gray’s Fateful  (a.k.a. that Titanic book with the werewolves).  In addition to Tess, we have Grace Brisbane from Maggie Stiefavater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls series.  And finally we have Helen Hamilton from Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed because you know I just love talking about Helen and well I didn’t want to bring Bethany Church back to this show just yet.

(Production Notes: Theme music for each of the guests are heard.  “My Heart Will Go On” for Tess, “Hungry Like a Wolf” for Grace, and “Pretty Woman” for Helen).


Grace: You said that there would be puppies.

MJ: What?

Grace: You said there would be wolf hybrid puppies.  That’s the only reason I even decided to appear on this show.  Where are the puppies?

Unfortunately for Grace, no puppies were used as a part of this episode.

MJ: Um, there are no puppies.  At least not here.  And definitely not wolf hybrids.  Haven’t you heard that…

Grace: I’m just going to leave then.

MJ: No, wait.  We have some important things to talk about.

Grace: Like what…seriously, I’d rather be watching New Moon right now than this.  And those are digitally created wolves.

MJ : I was going to ask you about Sam.  How you fell in love with him?

Grace: He was my wolf it’s not that difficult to comprehend.

MJ: Actually it is?  You fell in love with him because he was your wolf?

Grace: Yes.  He was my wolf.

MJ: You do realize that wolves are wild animals, right?

Grace: (Shrugs) The heart can’t be tamed.

MJ (Takes a deep breath): So, you didn’t fall in love with Sam when you found out he was human?

Grace: Well, I suppose we got to know each other more.  It was nice he could talk, I guess.  But I really bonded with him when he was a wolf.

MJ: Uh, huh.  Tess, Alec’s a werewolf too, right?  Did you fall in love with him when he was in wolf form.

Tess (Wrinkles nose): Of course not, I was almost killed by a wolf.  I hate them, save for well Alec.

Grace: How can you hate wolves?

Tess: Correction.  I don’t hate wolves.   I hate werewolves.

Grace: Still though.  Wolves.

Tess: Still though.  Death.  Honestly, MJ, I think what attracted me to Alec more than anything else was that we always ran into each other and he was just so handsome.  It was fate.

MJ: Or plot pointing.

Tess: God, why can’t you be a romantic.  I know that you get weepy eyed in that James Cameron movie.

MJ: I haven’t watched that movie since I was about twelve and Leonardo diCaprio was no longer considered hot stuff.  Though, I’ll concede that there are lots of pretty dresses in it.

Tess: I only got to wear pretty dresses one or two times in my book.

MJ: I know.  Your fashion choices took up several pages.  I think in effort to make up for the historical inaccuracies.  Like for instance, your relationship with Alec.  A few things about it don’t…

Tess: Still it’s a good story.

MJ: It’s alright.  I mean, I found it to be an enjoyable enough read but…

Tess: It’s better than the Titanic movie with the rapping dog.

MJ: Clearly.   But I’m not talking about that movie.   I’m talking about the ridiculousness of your book and your relationship with Alec.

Tess:  Oh, please.  It’s fiction.  Besides, my relationship with Alec is sweet and romantic how can you not like it?

MJ: But it’s based on shallow principles.  You liked Alec because he was rich and hot.  And you were forced together….

Tess: Isn’t that how all love stories work?

MJ: Well, no.  There are actually some good YA book where…

Tess: But those aren’t the popular ones, right?

MJ (Sigh): Let’s move on.  Shall we?  So to sum up what we have so far.  Insta love is based off of obsession and there are supposed romantic undertones to it that really are based on shallowness.

Tess: Hey!’

MJ: Just stating the facts.  Now, let’s move on to Helen.  And just for everyone to know in order to interview Helen I had to be halfway drunk.

With Helen I need to drink all of these just to preserve my brain cells.

Helen: Hi, MJ!  Why do you have to be drunk?

MJ: Why do you have to exist?  Oh, perfect one.

Helen (Blushes): Oh, please.  I’m hardly perfect.  I might look like a super model and have all these super powers, but I never wanted it.  And the guy I love just happens to be my cousin.

MJ (Yawns): You know, you can marry your first cousin in a lot of jurisdictions in the world.

Helen: Still, it’s gross.  We’ll have a baby with like three heads or something.

MJ: Helen, did you know cousin marriages were a pretty common occurrence in the not so long ago past.

Helen: Huh?

MJ: Yeah, people wanted to keep property rights in the family.  It happened lots of times.  In fact, there are a lot of famous cousin marriages…

Helen: (Dramatically sighs) Still, we can’t be.

MJ: But you were willing to get with Lucas when it was going to what…destroy the world?

Helen: That’s different we weren’t related then.  Well, we were but we didn’t know it.  And I can survive anything including the apocalypse.

Pssh, armageddon has nothing on Helen “Heaven” Hamilton.

MJ: You know the apocalypse means the end of the world, right?

Helen (Shrugs): I can survive anything as long as I have my magic girdle on.

MJ: Magic girdle.  Is that like better than spanx?  Don’t answer that.  We’re sort of getting off topic here.  I want to know what attracted you to Lucas.

Helen: Well, I really wasn’t attracted to him at first.  I wanted to kill him, but that was because of an evil curse.

MJ: Right.

Helen: Seriously.  I didn’t want to kill him.  I just had too.

MJ: Ever heard of impulse control?

Helen: It doesn’t matter now anyway.  We broke the curse and…

MJ: I know, I know.  I read the book.  I want to get down to the attraction factor.  So once you and Lucas broke the curse you fell in love.  But why?  It’s not like you actually had a conversation or tried to do things the old fashion way.  I mean, one minute your trying to kill someone.  The next minute you two are sharing beds like Bella and Edward.

Helen: Hey!  I am not like Bella Swan.

MJ: Really, do we need to go into this again.

Helen: It’s really off topic.  You wanted me to talk about why I fell in love with Lucas so fast.

MJ: Yeah, I sort of did.  But you kept avoiding the topic.  So I had to touch on the elephant in the room.

The elephant known as Bella Swan.
 

Helen: Elephant in the room?

MJ: God for someone who claims they’re so smart….

Helen: Well, there are no elephants…

MJ: It’s an expression Helen.   Just like the fact that I believe you have no brain.  Anatomically that’s impossible but…

Helen: Hey, I have a brain.

MJ: I see we’re getting nowhere.  Just answer the question, what attracted you to Lucas?

Helen: Well, he was hot and after we stopped hating each other that’s all I could think of how hot he was until I realized he was my cousin…

MJ: Alright, just one more question.  What’s Lucas’s favorite color?

Helen: I…I don’t know.

MJ: Exactly, which proves my point that insta love is just superficial.

*Note: I do not own Grace Brisbane, Tess, or Helen Hamilton.  They belong to their respected authors whose books I have mentioned in the text above.  The characters are merely being used to illustrate the concept of insta love.  A trope in YA that I can not stand.

Starcrossed: Josephine Angelini

Well, I finished it.  I finished Starcrossed much to my disbelief.  I decided not to do a mini review for the last three chapters mainly because those last three chapters I couldn’t make much sense of them.  Really, it felt like the book got on an acid trip.  So, now I’m going to write my final review.  I should warn you if you’re a fan of the book you’re not going to like this at all.  This book left a horrible taste in my mouth worse than Halo or Hades combined and if you read this blog or my reviews regularly you know how I feel about those books.

General Summary: So essentially this is what you need to know.  Take Twilight add demigods stir and take lots of sips of booze and try to tolerate.

Review:

This is really hard.  I want to be nice, but I know this isn’t going to be nice.   I hated this book.  I guess I’ll talk about the good things first because I want to at least give some positive aspect to this otherwise very negative review.

The good things: the covers.  I have the UK cover and while it’s a little cheesy I found it to be somewhat gorgeous.  The US cover is gorgeous as well.  While the image is a little strange I did enjoy the shiny affect it had to be interesting.

Also, the premise seems pretty cool as well.  Greek demi gods.  The Trojan War.  The concept alone makes you want to read the book and sort of explains the otherwise unexplained seven figure advance that being said this book had lots of problems.

Characterization.  Horrible just horrible.  I’ll talk about this more in detail later on.  But I wondered whether if this was because of the point of view.  I’m usually not a fan of third unless it’s in a Melissa de la Cruz book (for some reason I prefer her third person series to her first, but that’s besides the point).  However, the more I thought about it I was glad it was written in first person.  Thinking about hearing Helen’s inner monologue makes me inwardly shutter.  I get that the girl hates bangs, but I can only imagine what sort of stuff she’d be talking about if I had to here her diatribes throughout the entire novel.  Oh, wait I bet I could make some predictions on this:

  • She’d talk about sandwiches and gourmet food and then inform us that she didn’t eat anything becuase she was nervous.
  • She’d talk about her father and how he’s a great dad.  And then we’d hear about how he ignores her while he watches some sort of sports game on ESPN or whatever.
  • She’d talk about how beautiful Lucas was and how she wants to kill him.
  • She’d mope about not having a mom

 

In other words she’d talk like this:

And okay,  we do see a lot of these things in third, but it’s a lot better than hearing it in first.  At least I think it is.  The one really annoying thing about having this book in third besides the excess description  about food is the shift in third person.  For most of the book we’re in Helen’s point of view but two thirds of the way the book shifts to Creon and later Lucas and Daphne’s perspectives without so much as a section break.  This makes the book feel rather clunky and disjointed.

Though I guess it doesn’t help matters that the book in the first place was horribly paced.  I swear, a good third of the book could’ve been cut out and nothing would’ve been lost.  There were unnecessary long passages about Helen’s daily routine, descriptions, irrelevant info dumps, or conversations that should’ve been cut out.  At the same time, there were parts of the book that needed to be expanded on to make sense.  Honestly, the last fourth of the book felt rushed because of this.

And rushed isn’t good my friends.

I also felt like because the plot was so cramped because of the pacing.  Ands the pacing affected a lot of the characters and their reactions.  As I previously mentioned character development was weak to begin with.  But some of their reactions to the situations that are going on just don’t make sense.  Take Helen’s best friend, Claire, who just accepts the fact that Helen is different because she tried to kill her  when she was seven and…just accepts it.

That’s what I found myself having to do.  Accepting a lot of things that just didn’t make sense.  I’m not even going to go off on the subject about the Delos family themselves and how Helen or her mother never encountered them when they used to live on the island.  Or for that matter the portrayal of Nantucket itself.

Or the fact that there were several plot points that were were thrown in there and solved haphazardly.  It’s not worth my sanity.

To sum up my feelings for this book: I think it suffered from poor execution on both the author and editor’s part.  I do think Angelini had a lot of good ideas but she didn’t know exactly how to put them on her paper and her editor didn’t man up or was on a deadline.

Best Feature: Interesting Concept.   I liked the whole Troy idea and I did think some of the things that Angelini talked about could’ve been cool but the execution was just horrible.  Power down Helen a bit and cut down two hundred or so pages (a.k.a. take out references about how Helen is gorgeous and hates bangs) and we might be in business.

Worst Feature: Characterization.  There were a lot of problems in this book, but if I had to pinpoint what made it god awful was it’s characterization.  Heck, two of the mini reviews essentially focused on this aspect of the book.

If you didn’t read the mini reviews and don’t plan on reading them let me sum up what Helen is-a freaking Mary Sue.  Seriously, I think Angelini purposely took a Sue test online and tried to get the highest score possible and more than likely she succeeded  Because I don’t even think Superman or for that matter Power Girl (who for you non-comic geeks is Superman’s kryptonite resistant  cousin from another world) are as powerful as Helen.

Here’s the thing, people like flawed characters.  Characters that struggle, who are a little unsure of themselves, and who make mistakes and have to deal with the consequences.  Helen does known of these things.  Oh, she makes mistakes but they’re easily swept under the rug or ignored.   Like she doesn’t want to learn to fight.  And you know what, there’s little consequences for this because she’s freaking invincible.

Keeping with the super hero analogy, do you know that most people prefer Batman to Superman?  You want to know why?  It’s because Batman is a more developed character.  I mean,  I think Dean Cain did a fairly nice job of developing Clark Kent in Lois and Clark the New Adventures of Superman  (he’s actually my favorite Superman-weird, I know), but for the most part Supes is sort of a stiff.  He’s this guy who has these amazing powers and that’s about it.  Until recent years (aka Cain’s performance), Clark Kent  was pretty undeveloped too.   With Batman/Bruce Wayne there’s a backstory there (his parents being killed in front of him) and he had to actually work at becoming the world’s greatest detective.  To sum it up, Batman is more relatable than Superman is because of his flaws and backstory.  With Helen we get a Superman all powers and no struggle.  It makes the story a little less than interesting.  And the sad thing is, nothing about any of the other characters helps the story either.

All of them are flat and unrealistic.  The love interest is banal.  Though there are times he seems just a tad bit abusive if that gives him character (I think not).  Honestly, when it came to Lucas’s family I forgot who was who for the most part.  But I guess it really doesn’t matter much since all of them are suppose to be archetypes.  Yep, archetypes.  Their life is essentially destined for them because of their names and how they look like.  Can you say self fulfilling prophecy much?  And if you don’t know Greek mythology this book is going to be confusing.  Heck, I was one of those nerdy kids in high school who leafed through her copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology and I found a lot of these characters and their types confusing.  Like Creon.  The Creon that I’m used to is the confused ruler in Antigone whose arrogance causes a lot of problems for his kingdom but he’s not a full blown psycho.  You know what this Creon is like: Golem.  Yes, Golem as in Lord of the Rings Golem.

Appropriateness: No.  No freaking way would I let my child read this.  There were several things I found about this book to be inappropriate.  But if we’re going to look at it purely from an objective standard the cussing is minimal and there are sexual references made.  That being said, I thought the book was very demeaning towards women in general.  For example, a character in the book was said to be off her rocker primarily because she’d never hit puberty.  Furthermore, it’s said that becuase of this she’ll grow into a cold and bitter creature. In other words, you need a man and baby to be well of mind and body (gag me now).  Then there’s this little beauty of a quote:

“He had sworn to remove the feminine evil of the cestus form the world so that all men, Scion and mortal alike, could finally control their lust.” (Angelni 468).

Okay, I know  that this quote is said by a villain and it’s in his point of view but this quote just pisses me off.  It’s essentially reaffirming the old myth that it’s a women’s fault that men have urges.  Um, no.  No.  Just control yourself, buddy.  I’ll have you know that urges isn’t an excuse in a US court of law (we learn that pretty quick in Crim Law).  And I wish I could say that this quote was the only anti-feminist shit that appeared in this book.  But there was also talk about the virginity.  And how essentially the first person you have sex with you’re married too.

Look, I get the whole waiting before marriage thing.  And I get that your first time is important. And I get that you’re trying to present this idea in a historical context.  But sex is sex.  Essentially what you’re saying is that even if the sex didn’t mean anything or was a violation your’e married.  Do you realize how twisted that sounds?  It doesn’t help matters that at one point our hero jokingly tells our heroine that he’ll kill any guy who takes her virginity or who has sex with her.

Yeah, like me right now you probably want to get drunk.

Virtual margaritas on me.

Blockbuster Worthy:  This book might work on film if there were major revisions done to it.  Here’s who I’d cast.

Helen: Is Barbie available because that’s who Helen is suppose to look like.  Well, I guess if she’s not available maybe Nikki Reed can play the role.  She played Rosalie in those Twilight movies and I sort of imagine Helen looking like Rosalie except prettier because you know Helen is like the prettiest person on Earth ( once again, gag me).

Lucas: Ethan Peck.  Because there needs to be some eye candy to make this role tolerable.

Overall Rating: No stars.  I had to give it a rating on Good Reads and honestly I felt bad about giving this book even one star.  I don’t like it.  The only reason I’m even tempted to read the sequel is just to see if things remotely get better (I doubt it will).  It’s worse than Halo.  It makes me like Bethany Church, but you know that’s not what gives it the zero stars.  It’s that it could’ve had so much potential if Angelini would’ve known how develop her characters and not annoy me and if the editor’s cut about two hundred pages.  Seriously, the fact that this excuse of a book had potential terrorized me more than anything else about it.

Work Cited

Angelini, Josephine. Starcrossed. New York: HarperTeen, 2011

Mini Review: Little Life Lessons Learnt from Starcrossed (Chapters 11-15)

There are lots of little life lessons from Starcrossed that I’ve learned let’s look at a few from the past few chapters:

10) Villains that supposed to be super scary and  very dumb and out of place.  And only to serve as a plot point.

9) Marriage isn’t a legally binding ceremony that is often officiate by a religious or judicial official.  Heck, you don’t even have to live together a la common law marriage.  Rather, all you have to do is have sex together to be considered married.  Note, I said sex.  Doesn’t matter if it was consensual or not or for that matter  a drunken one night stand.  You have sex you’re married, at least according to the Ancient Greeks.

That makes bringing someone home from the bar much more unpleasant. 

8) Dads care more about sports than their daughters.  Making them watch a Red Sox game is an efficient way of sneaking a boy in your room.

7) It’s totally okay that your best friend tried to kill you when you were seven.  She was only trying to see if you had super powers you were never going to get hurt when she pushed you off that roof.

6) Your destiny is fulfilled by your name.  If your parents name you Oedipus be prepared to marry your mother.

5)  People wore girdles in Ancient Greek.  Not draped gown like a chiton, but girdles as in the precursor to Spanx.  And for that matter there are magic girdles.  Yes, magic girdles that can turn into a necklace*

Grecian Spanx it did exist.

4) Making up words= speaking teen.

3) Being a demi god isn’t going to make you the world’s greatest detective or for that matter even a functional member of society.  You might have a GPA that’s a 4.0 but people are still soooo confusing. After all, life is so complicated.  It’s really difficult to try to figure out just who might be visiting your girlfriend when that person looks like her (sans an older version), seems to be aware of her surroundings, and has the same magic necklace girdle thingy.

2) If you never reach puberty it’s because of the fates not a serious medical disorder.  And for that matter you’re going to go bat shit crazy guaranteed.  Just a cold and bitter person because you have no man in your life and Aunt Flo isn’t visiting you.

1) You don’t need to learn to fight when you’re invincible.  There’s no such thing as kryptonite in your universe.  And struggling throughout the process of learning and controlling your powers is just boring.  You should be mooning over a boy.  Of course, if someone rips off your invincibility necklace you might have problems, but one of your boyfriend’s various relatives whose names are inconsequential can rescue you.

 

*Still not sure how that  one works.