Judge a Book by Its Cover: Red, White and Blue

What the Cover Says: Cyborgs have taken over the earth and rule over humans.  To support their bodies there is a Bone Season where any human can be a donor.  Willing or not.  Isla is a cyborg and she needs some replacement parts.  Little did she know, her target would have a protector.  A protector that’s pretty cute for a human, even though he wants nothing to do with Isla but send her to the bone yard.

What the Book is Really About:  A dystopian world where the main character has supernatural  powers.  It’s being held as the next Harry Potter.  Hopefully, it’s not the hype that’s talking.
Verdict: I like it.  It’s simple and tasteful.  And you can definitely take it out in public.
What the Cover Says:  Ursula is a giant and a ghost.  Not your average teenage girl, that’s for sure.  When  a sexy ghost hunter comes to her castle searching for the grand white lady.  Ursula has flashes to her past and finds that the past is not as dead as…well, her.
What the Book is Really About: A girl is locked up in a tower because some crazy drug addicts are after her.  And an extremely mopey boy comes not her life and, well, it’s YA what do you think happens?
Verdict: It’s okay.  The long hair signifies Rapunzel enough, I guess.  Though when I look at it I think Snow Queen.    And God, those extensions look really, really bad on that model.
 

What the Cover Says: A dystopia remake of The Wizard of OZ where ruby slippers are replaced with suede boots and the Yellow Brick Road is replaced with Route 66.

What the Book is Really About: A girl goes on a road trip after her brother dies.
Verdict: When it comes to being patriotic this one is a win.  Though it looks like it’s going to be a bit more of a happier read than it actually is.
What the Cover Says: Rose Red is sister to Snow White.  When she hears that an evil witch is after her sister-who’s apparently the prettiest girl ever-she helps Snow high tail it out of the palace and they make way to the woods where they meet a talking bear (I kid you not).  A talking bear.  Rose is suspicious of the bear, who wouldn’t be?  But Snow White is not.  And seems to be developing some sort of odd relationship with him.  Rose is trying to figure out how she’d feel with having a bear as a brother in-lawy when Snow is kidnapped and she finds out that that bear really isn’t a bear.  And now she has to save her sister again, damn it.
What the Book is Really About: A girl finds out she’s a time traveler and gets paired up with another hunky time travel and there’s lots of mysteries and all that good stuff.
Verdict: I like it.  It’s not disturbing looking and I can actually take it out in public without grimacing.  That’s always a plus.

What the Cover Says: Angela is obsessed with being beautiful.  So when a mysterious man with perfect teeth comes in her life and says he can make her forever beautiful-freeze her in time.  She signs the deal.  Not knowing that that’s what she would become: frozen.  Like in Sleeping Beauty frozen except instead of pricking her finger on a spinning will she actually signs away her lifetime because she wants to be pretty.  However, eventually she flaws out when her beauty is no longer considered pretty more. Now in a world where looking like Angelina Jolie and putting on lipliner correctly means squat, Angela must fight to survive with the help of a dashingly good looking (well, in Angela’s view) tomb raider.  Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

What the Book is Really About: A dystopia society that involves magic, food that comes in cans, and blackjack dealers.

Verdict: Disappointed to be honest.  I really don’t understand this trend of giving all the recent de la Cruz books covers with people lying down and their faces being partially be covered with greenery, flowers, or in this case water.  It’s time to move on from this look.

Okay, positioned a little different but still.

The Chaos of Stars: Kiersten White

The shallow part of me wants to buy a hard copy just for that cover.  But I am NOT going to be shallow because this…this…this

Disclaimer: I received an ARC from Harper Teen/ Edelweiss this has not affected my opinion of this book.  I am also not a book archeologist or am claiming to be a doctor of any kind even though I have a JD which is technically a doctorate most people don’t call me doctor unless they’re my aunt.

From the Diaries of Dr. MJ—book archeologist: in LucasFilm’s set for Ancient Egypt (hey, I need something more dramatic than my storage unit)



I made a strange discovery today on the job.  I found a book.  Okay, so I find a lot of books hidden in these tombs of forgotten books-but this book it hasn’t been published yet.  Why is an ARC in the Temple of the Forgotten?  I must read it.

I read it.  This happened.

Yes, my head really did explode.  Or the little vein that’s on my forehead popped a little bit.  It was that bad.

As a book archeologist it’s my duty to study how this book became what it is.  It’s a hard job, I know, but I’ll do my best.  I don’t blame who tried to rid it from this world of its existence though.  Might I recommend burning it next time because unless…

Oh, God, I can’t believe I’m actually advocating burning a book.  That’s not me at all.  Now I feel dirty.

I need to be scholarly.  After all, that’s what Dr. MJ is scholarly when she’s not fighting the Nazis with a bazooka and finding lost antiquities….different archeologist.  I only visit storage units.

So, how do I tackle this books awfulness.  Let’s start with the source: the author.

Kiersten White is probably best known for her Paranormalcy series which reads like a kid high on candy.  I actually liked the first two a lot, but I never loved them  like a lot of people did.  I could never pinpoint why until now because of this book.  After Paranormlacy was published White released Mind Games.  The book was sort of a disaster.  But it amazing that White tried something new, stream of consciousness,  and that she wrote it in like two weeks (amazing, but it really shows).  I had really high hopes for Chaos of the Stars.  I thought that without being on a sugar rush or the weird stream of consciousness that Mind Games employed, this might be the White book I was waiting for.

Boy was I wrong.

Instead, I found out what I hated about Paranormalcy because this book had the same proble: it was gimmicky.

If you take a part the few differences: Sparkly character replaced by sullen character, secret organization of paranormal hunters replaced with Egyptian compound, beep replaced with floods, girl moving to realty, they’re very similar.  Down to a lot of the same gags and humor.  It’s blatantly obvious here that White relies on her own tropes.  Other authors that I like do this, but it’s not this obvious.  Take for example, Meg Cabot.  You could make an argument that her characters are very similar, but each of her stories is unique and her tropes are altered more than changing beep to floods.  Reading that just made me groan.

It probably also didn’t help matters that I hated Isadora.  I know why she was not a goddess because no one would want to worship this girl.  She’s horrible.  She makes Bella Swan look like a happy character who loves life.  That’s how depressing she is.  And she’s just so self entitled.  She hates her parents basically because she’s going to die like…you know, everyone.

Get over it.

Seriously.  That’s her beef throughout the entire novel.  And instead of trying to act all mature about it, what does she do dye her hair green and get a faux hawk and proceed to judge others on the beach and calls her brother Horus, Whore-us (real mature) .

I kid you not.  She and her new friends also devote their times making fun of people in their swimsuits (in particular a pregnant woman).

A real sweetheart that one.

And of course because this is YA she’s guaranteed a man-cessory who helps her break that hard bitchy exterior of hers (he doesn’t, despite what White says).   Let’s describe Ry.  He’s described looking like Prince Eric and Evie  Isadora keeps mentioning how blue his eyes are.  There’s a paragraph that’s like blue, blue, blue (Oh, the art of the English language).  And then bam, he’s the descendent of Greek gods which is just completely random and irrelevant to the story except for the fact that White puts her foot in her mouth when she states that Greek and Egyptian mythology is the same thing.

Um, no.

They might share some similar elements, but they are not the same thing.  The Osiris and Isis myth is completely different from the Persephone myth, for instance.  The thunder god rules the Greeks, the sun god is in charge of the Egyptians.  Greek gods for the most part were human figures, Egyptian gods often were a little bit more animalistic in appearance.  I could go on, but I won’t.  And yes, White, I get your point that a lot of religions revolve around agriculture I read The Source for Mrs. R’s World History class after all, but still different mythologies.  And WTF was Ri the some of Aphrodite and Hephaestus was it just so that Isadora could get access to their Wonder Woman jet for the stupid climax?

 

You know what, I don’t even care.  It’s the same thing with the whole basis of human spawns from two gods.  There’s no explanation for it.  I’m just supposed to buy it.

And you know, I don’t.  I don’t.

Maybe it’s wrong for me to question things when I read, but I want some explanation besides the facts you found about Ancient Egyptian mythology Wikipedia.  Seriously, the tone of the info dumps read like Wikipedia.

It was pathetic.

It’s not difficult to breathe life into mythologies.  Even Josephenie Angelini has done that to a degree in that shit storm, Starcrossed.  The info dumping was hideous in that novel, but at least it didn’t seem to be like a ripoff of Wikipedia which made the rest of the book feel disjointed.  It probably didn’t help matters that were just some random bizarre parts of the book.  For example, at one point the main character talks about her dad’s magic penis.

Her dad’s magic penis.

That is one thing I don’t want to read about especially in a YA book.  And yes, I know she was retelling part of the Osiris book but…mind bleach please!

I think the info dump, the lackluster narration, and the illy placed dreams made the pacing in this book seem very awkward and just sort of ruined climax.  I didn’t really know what to make of it and wasn’t sure if there was supposed to be a sequel or much.   I really couldn’t make sense of the plot if there was one because I just kept groaning so much.  Like when Ry assumes that Isadora speaks Arabic because she looks Egyptian and starts randomly speaking to her in it despite the fact she spoke to him in clear English with no accent.

This book is best forgotten.  It sort of reminds me of the term lemon (not the fan fiction term, but the term we talked about in several classes describing car or other product that seems perfect on paper but just falls apart once you actually use it).  I understand why this book has been hidden in this temple of lost books.  But it needs to be hidden better where no one can find it.  Unfortunately, though I see many people falling for it like I did.  But a White sucker I am no longer.  Not after this.

Ink: Amanda Sun

Really a gorgeous cover.  Gorgeous book design in so general.  If you don’t usually buy paper copies this is one you might consider getting because its just that pretty.

General Summary: Katie is moping because she’s forced to live with her aunt in Japan instead of her grandparents in Canada.  Yeah….we’ve seen this before.  Add in a mysterious boy that Katie just knows is hers who has some freaky superpowers you get a Twilight redux that’s mildly interesting because Japan.

Review:

Okay.  This one.  I was really excited about it.  So much that I preordered that despite reading some dubious reviews from some trusted sources.

I should’ve relied on my friends.

I didn’t hate this one.  It had a nice idea that sort of succeeded and I think it captured Japanese culture pretty well.  Grant it, most of my exposure to Japanese culture has been limited to sushi, Hello Kitty, and Nancy Drew, and all those Karate Kid movies; but the book made me feel like I wasn’t in America.  And I liked that.  That part of the book really succeeded.

Oh, and who can forget this gem.  This was one of the movies I was forced to watch in my youth and unfortunately was one of my first impressions on Japan.  Yeah, it’s not exactly culturally enriching.  More like culturally offensive to both Japan and the US.  

The drawings in the book, though slightly random and sort of sparse (there were only like four of them and the book was like three hundred plus pages long) were pretty kick ass too.  That being said, this book had issues.

It was just a walking cliche.

That’s the best way to describe it.  That sounds horrible, but it’s true.  And yes, I know YA especially YA paranormal is a genre that is filled with cliches but come on Twilight came out almost ten years ago it’s time to move on.

It’s especially painful when your book has so many original elements like Ink does.  The Japanese mythology was refreshing.  I really feel like most of the genre is filled with Greek and or Judeo-Christian  mythology as bases for their various worlds and that’s a shame.  The world is filled with many different religions and mythologies and I think its about time that they’re incorporated in YA.  So plus to Sun for that..but at the same time the mythology at times felt a little weak.  I get that Sun didn’t want to info dump and I thank her for that but I wanted to know more.  And what I did see, I didn’t understand why it basically had to be used for a replacement for vampires.  Just ridiculous.

So how many Twilight cliches are in Ink?  Let’s count them shall we?

1) Our darling main character has a nontraditional family and is moving with a new relative in a far off land.

2) She has friends almost automatically and sees a boy with a bad reputation (which btw, am I the only one that finds it disturbing that she stalked a guy who she thought had a child on the way.  Really?  You think he’d want a new girlfriend when he has a kid on the way-priorites).

3)Bad boy turns her down but she keeps stalking even though he’s nasty.  She meanwhile suspects he’s not normal and turns to Google for help.

4) They unexpectedly get together usually when there’s bad weather and she confronts him.

5) He reveals his dark secret but since she’s “the one” she doesn’t freak out and says she can handle it.

6) A big bad usually comes at this point and fucks things up

7) Our damsel in distress meanwhile meets a new hot friend to set up a love triangle for the second book.

8) She then finds herself in peril that a sensible person could’ve avoided with pepper spray, taser gun, and/or a loud set of lungs and a good kick in the groin.

9) She has to be rescued

10) She ends in bittersweet misery because even though she and her love are safe darkness or scary redhead vampires surround them (i.e. there’s going to be a sequel).

That’s Ink minus the scary redheaded vampire.  It’s original enough.  It involves Japanese mythology and there’s no Cullen family, but it follows the Twilight formula which I find just to be lazy.  But then I read the rest of the book and it’s obvious she did research and I’m just….

Conflicted.

Though, according to  Nessa’s review some of  the Japanese elements weren’t even researched that much.  However, for the Japanese novice that I am I didn’t notice this much.

To be honest I probably would’ve given this one a solid six on my own review scale (three stars Good Reads) if it wouldn’t have ben for a certain fight that our main characters have.  Tomo you are an ass.  No means no and you need to respect that.  And Katie, you do NOT rationalize that he only did that just to protect you he was out of line regardless.

Yeah, I had to use  the mind bleach after those scenes.

Best Feature: Japan.  By far the best feature.  I actually felt like I was sucked into the country when reading this book.  Grant it, I don’t know squat about the country other than from my Nancy Drew games/books, but I really felt like I learned a lot from this book.  And not in the dorky educational type of way.

My first exposure to Japan and it’s my second favorite Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys mystery next to Secrets of the Nile which is the best super mystery by far for obvious reasons (cough, Nancy and Frank, cough).

Worst Feature: Cliches.  Oh.  My.  God.  As I said before,  this book reminds me of a lot of other Twilight ripoffs I’ve read, but I like it slightly better because it involves Japan and the mythology is fairly unique.  But that being said, remember Carrier of the Mark?  If you don’t, I don’t blame you but it’s essentially that shitty Twilight wannabe book that took place in Ireland.  This reminded me of that book except it was better written and Sun didn’t go as far as to ripoff the Cullen family and its five thousand super powers.  The structure though and the main characters are a riff on the Stephenie Meyer series.  Honestly, I was able to tolerate a lot of these cliches.  It’s YA.  I almost think publishing companies require  cliches to be in the book , but in this book what would’ve been an awesome story is just overpowered by them.  And I really can’t help but feel sorry for it and it’s a book and books are in-animated objects that I shouldn’t feel sorry for.

Appropriateness: There are a few f bombs here, some violence (which includes dating violence).  It’s fairly typical to what you see in YA today though.

Blockbuster Worthy:  Maybe.  I need to read the second book.  Right now, I’m thinking no even though I’d love to see a movie that takes place in Japan.  The story is just too weak.

Overall Rating: Five out of ten bottles of ink.  I wanted to love this one, but I didn’t.  I couldn’t hate it either even though it relied on too many cliches and there were some groan worthy moments.  This book is a nice escape.  I think that’s the best way to describe it.  I actually felt like I was in Japan when reading it which is better than other designation reads I’ve read.  But considering I know next to nothing about Japan, that might not be saying much.

Awesomly Lifetime: Jodi Arias Dirty Little Secret

It’s time to review a Lifetime movie because Lifetime is all the fun I’m having these days (hey, I could make another set of MBE questions and you know you wouldn’t want to read about YA characters committing various torts, or having contract disputes, or  even worse real property issues (oh, the excitement of YA characters having mortgage issues)) and today I decided to dig out another one of Lifetime’s staple genres.  Real life stories, in this case the Jodi Arias story.  Which was only resolved (sort of) a month ago.  That just shows you the “quality” of these productions.  Though admittedly this one was enjoyable in the let’s see how bad they can butcher a movie sort of way.

Melodramatic Summary: Jodi Arias is a crazy bitch, according to Lifetime and a good percentage of the population.  Lifetime of course decides to exploit this fact  from the first time she enters the movie and she gets crazier and raunchier and the movie continues.  If you’re watching it because you want to see the crazy antics at the trial you can  just wathc the last fifteen minutes.  A lot of the movie is spent with her boiling bunnies.

Review:

Oh, man.

I honestly watched this because I thought hey…educational study break.  I can review crim law and criminal procedure while watching this.  Instead I got toxic relationships, bad sex, and why some people should not wear fishnets.

I think Lifetime jumped the gun a little too much with this one.  It wasn’t God awful persay, but I think it would’ve been better if they would’ve waited till the trial wrapped up and focused more on after the murder than before the murder.

I also wish they would’ve portrayed Travis in a better light.  I think the actor did a fairly good job, but if Jodi wasn’t…well, Jodi he would’ve been one of those jerkwad boyfriends in the romantic comedy Lifetime movies that got dumped.  Even with his relationship with Rated G Virgin in the movie, I couldn’t warm up to him and I actually thought he and that actress had some nice chemistry.  And if Lifetime was actually writing a movie based on fiction than real life, it might’ve been nice to see the Rated G take on and beat the shit out of Jodie Arias.

Him and Jodie though.

Well, I’ll let Britney sing it to you….

Seriously, I was like dude get a restraining order already.   Any sensible person would after all the things Jodi did in the movie.  She just came off as creepy.  And I know Travis was supposed to be this good religious character, but the religious people I know aren’t dumb enough to know when to use their pepper spray on their crazy ex.  It probably also doesn’t help to tell your non-Mormon crazy girlfriend that you’re only planning on marrying a Mormon.

Grant it, I think he honestly thought Jodi liked having a no strings relationship at this point and hiding in his bedroom and that just seemed ridiculous to me.

Balance.  That’s what this movie needed.

In addition to the cartoonish characterization, more time should’ve been spent on the aftermath of the murder than ninety minutes leading up to the aftermath.  The trial itself was crazy.  The entire process  has been going on for five years, while the relationship that Arias had with Travis only was like one year or so.

Ridiculous.

And we didn’t even really see any true development with the characters.  Most of the development was spent on showing how Jodi Arias looked without her clothes and I really don’t want to see that.

And the big ominous moment shot was not an emotional spiral into madness, but her dyeing her hair.  I kid you not.

It just seemed rush.  Sex, sex, sex, sex, then she goes crazy on Travis, they then have sex again, she kills him after Rated G calls him, she acts like America’s dumbest criminal and, well, the end.

Really, really, bad.

I was actually looking forward to this one too.  Educational experience and, well, I was sort of addicted to HLN during the trial.

HLN was better than this and so was CNN.

This was just…blah.

Lifetime Squee: Not so much squee here more like raunch.  The guy who they got to play Travis was good looking, but I really thought his portrayal was wooden and frat boyish.  And the sex scenes he had with Jodie-yuck.  I much prefer him with Rated G, their relationship was sweet.

Oh. My. God. Lifetime Moment: The murder.  Man it was graphic, brutal, but at the same time oddly comical.  Not because it was comical but the way it was filmed was cliche and the camera angles and everything just…well, you could tell it was put together fast especially since the blood really did look like ketchup.  I still wanted to puke though, so that being said I think they did a good job getting the fact that what happened was horrific.

Not the sort of visual effect you want to see.

Overall Rating: Two out of ten Dean Cains.  I really thought at times I was watching a movie that should’ve been on one of those stations….  And yes, I know the Jodi Arias case is sort of explicit and I should’ve expected much after reading fifty or so MBE questions involving gold studded thongs and blood stained machetes, but seriously this movie made me sort of glad I decided to give up on those dreams of becoming a prosecutor after I watched that episode of The Practice where Lindsay gets stabbed by a guy in a nun’s costume.  Of course, most jurisdictions don’t have a Jodi Arias.  But they might just have a stiletto killer.

The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back: Sariah Wilson

My sister had a conversation that revolved around a book the other day.  Here’s how it went.

Sister: You should really read this book.

Me: I’m tired of fairytale retellings.   That Alex Flinn  Rapunzel retelling just about killed me.

Sister: Well, this isn’t really a fairytale retelling and I think you’d find it interesting.

Me: Is it that good?

Sister: It’s not good.

Me: Sister, you know my reading time is limited right now because of the most idiotic test known to mankind.  So, it has to be something decent and preferably short.

Sister: Well, it’s not decent but is short.  I think you’ll like it though it’s like bad candy and it’s extremely cheap too.

Me: Sigh…fine.  I want to have a reading night anyway

So yeah, I read The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back per my sister’s suggestion how did it go…well, read the review below.

General Summary: Mattie has a love hate relationship with her oh so perfect stepsister who is dating the guy she is stalking crushing over.  Plus, she has a she devil for a mom and Henry the VIII as a father.  What’s a girl to do, well, dye her hair magenta for one thing.

Review:

Bad candy is right.

There were so many flaws with this book both in form and in substance, but I still enjoyed it.  And I really can’t figure out why.  Maybe it was the simplicity of the plot.  It sort of reminded me of one of those bad movies on Lifetime that you’ll end up watching because you don’t want to get out of your pajamas and every other station has a Law and Order rerun on or an info commercial about how wearing a sweat suit can make you lose twenty pounds-and yes, that’s basically the line up for TV at three o’clock in the morning.

The plot, as I said before, wasn’t that original and for the most part nothing happened.  In fact, when you thought something was going to happen, it would quickly get resolved.  So conflict really did not exist in this one.

Okay, you could make an argument that there were some overarching conflicts like Mattie’s relationship with her mother and whole I’m interested in magna not pretentious art plot.  But those are subplots.  The main plot arc (which is the relationship between Mattie and Jake, not so much).

Every obstacle these two have are essentially solved within three pages.  I’m serious.  And it doesn’t help that the characterization is horrible.

Our main character is just unlikeable.  It’s obvious that Wilson wanted us to view Mattie as this cool artsy girl, but she sort of comes off as bitchy and stupid.  I really hated her rants about how “perfect” Ella was.  So what, Ella does her chores?  Big deal.  And her relationship with Jake can you say shallow?

Her main attraction to Jake is that he’s tall.   I kid you not.  I guess when you’re a teenage girl that’s 5’11, you do want a guy that’s taller.  But he’s her stepsister’s boyfriend, but she really doesn’t care because she noticed he was pretty since she was nine.  And, well, he’s just a jerk.

Grant it, Wilson tries to make Jake likable, but I just didn’t find him tolerable even at the end.  My sister did say he improved, it was a point of argument between us and I’m telling you now I’m right.

As for the other characters, Ella’s just a doormat.  The Goth best friend is just there to get with Ella.  And one parent is oblivious and the other is a bitch we only get to see via Skype.  And instead of working out their differences in the end, she ices her mom out.  And yeah, I could understand that a lot of the time in YA, but  I feel like here the relationship could’ve been salvageable or it could’ve ended on better terms.

Back to the plot, as I said before there’s not much there and it still would’ve been hindered even if it wasn’t for the bad characters because of pacing.

As I said before, everything resolved in three minutes.  Most of the book was spent with Mattie going Oh My Buddha and then trying to act cool by referencing manga or anime.  Look, I don’t know much about manga and/or anime only that I need to get going on watching Sailor Moon and that a lot of cool people love it, but this character totally read poser to me.  And maybe I’m wrong.  If you’re into either one of these things and decide to read this book, let me know because I want to know is Mattie a poser or not?

Best Feature: Simplicity.  So, why did I sort of like this one?  I really don’t know.  It was fairly readable for the most part and enjoyable.  Maybe it was because it didn’t try to be something it wasn’t.  The simplistic plot kept me from raging about world building issues and it was short enough where I didn’t want to throw Mattie into a dungeon.  And it wasn’t like she was the worst YA MC I’ve read about.  But still, I didn’t like her.  At all.

Worst Feature: Lack of focus.  I just feel like this book really lacked focus in character development and plotting.  If some of these issues were fixed it really would’ve been enjoyable.  I think Wilson has a fairly decent voice.  It just seemed sort of half baked.

Appropriateness: Clean as a whistle.  The morality police would be happy.  I can’t remember seeing any cursing, we barely get to first base, and there’s no violence or foul language.  It’s actually probably a pretty good book for middle graders.

Blockbuster Worthy:  Maybe a Disney Chanel of the week movie.  Or Lifetime.  It’s simple enough to easily be converted.

Mattie: Jenna Ushkowitz.  Mattie is part Asian (yay, for diversity in a genre filled with WASP)  and she’s said to be a little bit of a Goth.  I think Jenna would be perfect in her early days of Glee for the role. Of course, she’d have to dye her hair pink.

Jake: If only I could go back in time and plop Jake Ryan into this role.  It’s sort of obvious that’s who this character was based on.

Overall Rating: I’m giving this one a four out of ten.  It had a lot of problems, don’t get me wrong, but there was something enjoyable about it.  And it’s short and cheap and that’s always a plus.  And my sister was right it’s sort of like bad candy only without the calories.

Towering: Alex Flinn

Is it that hard to write a modern day Rapunzel retelling?

Yes and no.  I sort of have an idea for one, but I’m not going to write in anytime soon because it currently has five thousand plot holes and probably would be too dark to be mainstream, but whatever. Those who have actually attempted to write one have succeeded somewhat (grant it, I only read two of these retellings and only one has actually sort of succeeded).  Towering  is not that book.

And yes, we’re deviating from my regular review format so you know what that means…

If you like this book, you probably want to run and duck  for cover since I have nothing remotely positive to say about it except good idea.  But unlike Cindy C. Bennet’s book, Rapunzel: Untangled, you don’t see the love for the subject matter here.  It just seems written because Harper Teen saw that Tangled  was a success and told Flinn to write a Rapunzel story.

I think to properly discuss the flaws of the story, we need to talk about the actual fairytale first.  It’s not really that adaptable.  Well, sort of.  It is and it isn’t.  There are a lot of things that a writer is going to have to contend with, with Rapunzel: Rapunzel’s stupidity, Mother’s control, the prince, the whole teen pregnancy thing (oh yeah, Rapunzel had twins in the original version), and the whole magic tears and hair that grows at an unusual rate.  Do you see why I have like fifty plot holes with my WIP that will probably never be in existence?

Yeah, so I gave this one some leeway and it took it to its own advantage by relying on one of the biggest cliches in the YA world today: insta love.

I have my own theories about insta love.  I generally its used as a crutch that has evolved into a trope.  I can sort of understand when it’s used as a crutch because I think at one point every writer has used it.  See the tons of shitty soul bond fan fics (i.e. insta love) on fanfiction.net

But Flinn doesn’t get the excuse of a newbie, she’s published tons of books.  Especially fairytale retellings.  You’d think the person who wrote Beastly-which actually had a love story with development-that she wouldn’t rely on insta love but no….

Look, I get the original fairytale sort of was insta love.  But this is a retelling.  Even Disney didn’t rely on insta love on this one.  In fact, Tangled was one of the few Disney princess movies that didn’t use this trope.  So WTF!?!?!?!?!

Maybe insta love was used because the characters didn’t meet each other until almost a hundred pages ( a third) of the book.  And their meetings were just sort of annoying?  Seriously, the MC cuts herself after meeting her one true love because she’s afraid he’ll never see her again.

Yes, I know people do a lot of stupid things for love, but this really annoyed me.

Yep, essentially Flinn relies  on insta love to direct her characters actions.  And it doesn’t work.  Not at all.  It didn’t help that that whole section of the book that occurred before the characters met, was unnecessary.  Seriously.  The kids that Josh hangs out with at New Year’s you barely see them again after that.  Merely filler.

I also didn’t get a lot of the characters motivations in this one.  Like why did Wyatt’s mother send him with Rachel’s grandmother? The grandmother was known as a creepy old lady in town, suspected of knocking off her daughter, and has been known to obsess over William Shattner’s Priceline Commercials (okay, Star Trek, but still).  That should’ve been warning bells right there to Wyatt’s mom.  And oh yeah, her kid probably needed to be in therapy too-you know, for witnessing his best friend and quasi girlfriend get their brains blown out by their over the top abusive stepfather.

 
Then there’s Wyatt himself.  Oh, God.  I know his sob story was supposed to make me feel bad for him but I still wanted to punch him in the face.   Dude, you knew your friend was getting the shit beaten out of him and you just sat there.  You didn’t talk to anyone about it.  Not one damn person. And then we’re told how it’s not your fault because you weren’t the crazy SOB with a gun.  Well, it wasn’t technically your fault, but you knew for months.  You knew your friend and his sister were getting the shit beaten out of him and…and I’m suppose to root for this character just like I’m supposed to root for crazy grandma who false imprisons her granddaughter for seventeen years.  But that’s okay, it was all because of some stupid prophecy I still haven’t made any sense of that somehow involved oompa loompas (and no I’m not drunk/drank too many grape sodas again, there are oompa loompas in this book).
Yeah the world building…. I still can’t make any sense of it.  Any sense at all.  There really wasn’t much done, honestly.  An info dump at the end.  Some weird climax that I’m just perplexed by.  And honestly from what I saw, maybe with a little work it could’ve been great.  It seemed like it was somewhat interesting, but it didn’t make any sense.
At all.
Plus it really was a cheap trick.  Just so our villain wouldn’t be our villain.  But it didn’t work.  Who falsely imprisons their grandkid for seventeen years?
Seriously, if you were that worried for her safety you would’ve moved halfway across the world not lock her up in a tower.
Stupid.
Stupid.
Stupid.
Dumb.
Dumb.
Dumb.
I can breathe normally again. Sigh.
I think what’s really upsetting about this one is that this is Alex Flinn’s speciality.  She had a movie (albeit shitty one) made off of one of these retellings.  And this is just shit.  Pure old shit.  I honestly had to wonder if she really wrote this then I remembered A Kiss in Time and it sort of made sense.  This book shared many of the same problems that Sleeping Beauty of hers has.  While A Kiss in Time doesn’t rely so much on insta love, the relationship is just as superficial as it is here.  We had a dumb as rocks boy and a shallow girl.  Although, I guess I’ll give Rachel points for liking to read.  Grant it, she only reads classics.  And I have nothing against classics, but when I was a teenager with the exception of a couple of books, most of my classic reading was for school. But nope, that’s all Rachel reads.  Oh, and yeah her dumb as a box of rocks boyfriend thinks that Little Women  and the Little House books are only meant for girls.
You see, why I hate this guy now?
But to get back to the point, this book is just generic like the Sleeping Beauty retelling that Flinn did.  Not only did I see the same character flaws, the plot was about as non-existant as that book.  And the minor characters served very little purpose other than being there.
Could this book have been better?  Obviously.  But writing a Rapunzel retelling is hard.  While Bennet suffered from not deviating from the source material enough, Flinn suffers from deviating form it too much.  If you really want to read a Rapunzel retelling I recommend Bennet’s book, mainly because I felt the spirit of the fairytale was still there.  This book seemed more less an attempt cash in on Tangled and that’s just a shame.

Shadows: Jennifer L Armentrout

This guy I think is the guy when it comes to book covers.  Seriously.

Yeah, another Lux book.  I couldn’t help myself because I sort of got hooked back in the world after reading Obsession  and didn’t want to wait to the release of Origin.



General Summary: This is a prequel to the Lux series.  And it’s basically Dawson’s story.  And you find out that he’s pretty hot, but not as hot as Daemon.  And that’s about it.

 

Review:

I liked this novella, but I think had my reading time not been reduced to two hours at night, I probably wouldn’t have liked it as much.  That being said, it was sort of the perfect read for me the past few days.  Flaws included.

It’s very short (a novella) and luckily the price was fairly reasonable-$2.99 on Amazon.  If you read the main series, you’re not really getting anything new like with Obsession this is merely a prequel.  But a fairly decent one that gives you some insight into what happened before Katy moved to WestVirginia.

That being said, this little book had some flaws.

Mainly the characters who I felt like were not that well fleshed out, save for Daemon.

I’ll go into this more on my worst feature, but I really do feel like Armentrout has two types of characters.  Some of the characterization problems I’ve seen before with Wait for You and Cursed.  And honestly, it might’ve been difficult to avoid here.  This is a novella, so character development  probably wasn’t the focus here.

The plot really wasn’t that eventful either.  One of the things that I found annoying, was the way Bethany took the whole alien thing.  It was basically the same reaction Katy had.  She was okay with it.  Seriously, why can’t one of these characters ever panic.  Have a mini meltdown.  I know I would if my boyfriend turned out to be an alien….

However, Bethany seemed to accept it  pretty easily.

The book also seemed rush.  Yes, its a novella.  Yes, I know it’s going to be paced differently from a regular novel, but God I felt like I was dealing with whiplash a lot of the time.  And the ending just seemed so sudden.  Not to mention, Bethany and Dawson suffered from a major case of insta love.

Best Feature: How e-book only format should be done.  Even though I have an e-reader now, I still get annoyed with e-reader only reads if they’re not either  independently  or small house published.   I mean, seriously, I get digital books are big and all but not everyone has a iPad or a Kindle.  What I like about this book is that you don’t have to read it to get the rest of the Lux series.  Sure it’s nice, but it’s not a necessary read.  And that’s why I was okay with it being in ebook formula.

Worst Feature: Bland Character.  Armentrout is smart for using third person.  I’ll give that to her because I have a feeling that if this book was in first I would be a very grumpy reader.  It’s not that Bethany and Dawson are bad characters, it’s just well…compared to Daemon and Katy they’re bland.  And I think is something I’ve noticed in a lot of her other books.  She has two types of characters.  Snarky and blandly perfect.  Bethany and Dawson fall in the latter.  It wasn’t that I found them to be insufferable, they were decent enough characters it was just that I wanted to read Daemon POV more than Dawson.  Even though Daemon was sort of being a douche in this particular installment.

Appropriatness: There’s a few f bombs here and there, but the sex and violence is much more restrained than other Lux books.

Blockbuster Worthy: Not this one.  It’s too short, besides we all know who really owns this series and it ain’t Bethany and Dawson.

Overall Rating: I’m giving this one a six out of ten.  I liked it (enough).  Probably because I’m a fan of this series.  If I wasn’t it would probably be getting a four or a five.  It’s not a bad novella, it’s just….well, sort of bland.  And I think I’ve had my Lux thirst filled to August, so that’s something.

Gorgeous: Paul Rudnick

General Summary: After her mother dies, Becky goes to New York where she’s given an offer that would turn her into the most beautiful girl in the world.

Review:

This book barely gets a regular format review.

That’s how disappointing it is.

I was able to find one, one redeeming feature and that was the idea of the book.  Which it failed epically on.

Sigh.

So yeah,  let’s get started.

I’ll start with characters because if you have lousy characters, more often than not you’ll have a lousy book.  And boy is our main character a piece of work.  I just….I just didn’t like her.

It’s not like she was Zoey Redbird offensive or anything, but it was like a constant self pity fest.  And I thought she was incredibly shallow.

And yes, I know the summary was sort of shallow, but I though tthere would be a bit more to the story and I thought at the very least she wouldn’t be calling a whole country full of people ugly.

That’s right, if you’re British you’re ugly.

Polarize your audience much?

I honestly think that Rudnick thought this was being cute or satirical like it was some sort of running joke, but it just came off as annoying and eye rolling worthy to me.  Much like the rest of the book.

Because really if you get down to it that’s what the problem with this book was, it takes itself way too seriously.  It thinks its cute and funny when its not and instead of coming across like witty social commentary like I think it’s trying to, it comes off as annoying.

Case in point, throughout the book Rudnick tries to take a tongue and cheek tone on Hollywood, a la Spoiled.  However, where that book succeeded this book failed, because it just came off as mean.

Yes, I said mean because there’s no other way to describe it, especially when we get own to body image issues.

If you read my reviews, you probably know that one of my major pet peeves in the YA world (or book world in general) is body image.  While I’ll be the first to admit that I do enjoy a good old fashion makeover scene (if done right), most of the time these scenes just make me cringe.  And honestly, Gorgeous was like one of these scenes made into an entire book.

I freaking kid you not.

When I DNF’d the book Becky still hadn’t received two of her dresses yet.  Not that I cared because I had enough of Becky.

From what I saw of this book there are two types of people 1) model pretty and 2) fugly.  I freaking kid you not.  That’s how Becky describes herself which to me is ridiculous.  And even if she was hideous, which I doubt, I don’t understand why it’s so impossible to create a YA heroine that’s average looking (this could extend to the YA hero as well, since let’s face most teenage guys are not six feet something and ripped).  Is that difficult to say that little Mary Sue might not wear a size triple zero and poses for Vogue, but at the same time doesn’t need drastic plastic surgery?  What concerns me about this most of all is that preteens and teenage girls are reading this.  I know that a lot of these kids are mature enough to see past this bull shit, but if you’re just a smidgen insecure this book is just going to amp up these insecurities.    Case in point, I felt hideous when I was reading this and I don’t consider myself to be an unattractive person.  This book just makes you feel bad about yourself unless you’re, well, Rebecca.

I hated Rebecca and what she was supposed to represent. Instead of calling Rebecca the most beautiful woman in the world, she should’ve been referred to as the most shallow woman in the world.  There is no other way to describe such a character.  Besides the whole British people are ugly thing, she decides to marry this guy (who’s a prince) just becuase she thinks she’s pretty enough to be a princess.

And yes, I know, satire.  But how many times can you use that as an excuse.

I’ve read allegorical and satirical work, I was an English major after all.  This is not how a good allegory or satire is written.  This is a piece of shit that tries to hide its shittiness  by calling itself a satirical piece of work.  No, it’s not satire.  It’s offensive.

I had to wonder what makes this NOT a satire.  Is it just the fact the jokes work, there’s horrible characters, and the plot doesn’t make sense (seriously, half way through the book I still had no clue how Tom Kelly was doing any of this an dI really didn’t care), was it the fact random characters would show up and leave?   I have no idea and I don’t care.

That’s probably the worst thing I have to say about this book, despite its faults I just didn’t care.  I’m writing this review right now and even though there were numerous problems and I have some rage filled moments, I know that I’m just going to forget about this one probably within two weeks time.

I would dare say, I’d feel sorry for it if it  didn’t make me so offended.  A lot of the problems were some glaring obvious and the attempt to being “literary” were so sad that I just wanted to give this book a pat on the back.  Then it would just do something stupid and, well, I wanted to kick its ass.

Best Feature: Concept.  I liked the whole idea of this story, but this is one of those cases where the execution fell flat.  Occasionally, there would be a decent line or two.  But then….well, then something offensive or eye roll worthy would be said and…well, this is the best feature and this had a decent concept.

Worst Feature:  This book thinks rather highly of itself. There’s just a stuffy condescending tone about it.  It reminds me of one of those hipsters I see when I study at Starbucks.  You know, the ones who look down at people who don’t eat all organic or like to hear the occasional pop tune because pop can be fun.  In other words, an undergrad creative writing major  who looks down at genre fiction and only writes fiction about the three Ds (death, depression, and destitution).  That’s the feeling I got from this book and God knows being pretentious  did this book no favors at all.  I feel like if the I’m so smart and you know it shit was cut a bit, I would’ve enjoyed this a lot more.  Does that make any sense?

Appropriateness: Ha!  Yeah.  Sure.  From detailed descriptions of burn victims, talk about sexual situations and promiscuity, bad body image issues, teen drinking, and f bombs here and there.  This one’s hardly appropriate.  Honestly, I didn’t even know why they classified this one as YA.  I think it really would’ve done better being viewed as adult fiction.

Blockbuster Worthy:  Maybe.  I think if a good screenwriter was involved, a movie could actually be better than the book.  Here’s who I’d cast.

Rebecca:  Maybe Emma Roberts.  I don’t know if she could play both roles, but I do picture Rebecca sort of looking like her.  As for Becky, with the way Rudnick was describing her I expect her to sort of look like Shelly from South Park if she wasn’t a cartoon.

Gregory:  Prince Harry.  I kid you not, he’s even described looking like Prince Harry.  So there you go.

Overall Rating: I’m giving this one a three.  I like the idea.  And I get that this is supposed to be satire, but the satire just sort of fails which makes the book in general a flop.  I might be overly harsh though which is why I’m giving this book to my sister.  She likes fluff and has more tolerance for bull shit than I do these days.  However, since one of her favorite books is The Runaway Princess and this pales in comparison to that book, I think it will be interesting seeing her reaction.

The Collector: Victoria Scott

General Summary: Dante Walker is the type of guy that usually I get my reviewer gun out for.  But surprisingly, he actually has a heart beneath that obnoxious YA bad boy exterior of his and becomes a pretty likable character when he gets sent on his latest job: to corrupt Charlie.

Review:

I really liked this one.  It made for perfect I’m too tired to do anything else reading and that’s what I needed this week.

It might seem cliche from the summary-typical story of paranormal jerkwad meets naive girl, but I really like the take Scott took on it.  It reminded me of She’s All That.  You know, if the devil was somehow involved.

Seriously, I kept thinking of Freddie Printze JR as Dante even though Dante is way cooler than Freddie.  But this book is sort of like that movie.  You don’t think it’s going to be as good as it is.

And I think, like with that movie, the strength of this book resided in its characters.

I loved both Dante and Charlie for completely different reasons.  Dante because he’s a realistic character and he’s actually a decent “bad guy”.  Charlie because she’s so painstakingly relatable.

Charlie reminds me of myself in high school (though she’s probably nicer and a lot more perfect).  Painfully awkward, sort of shy, but has big dreams.  And she gets shitted on because, well, she’s not like most kids.  And what I really appreciate about her is she accepts her flaws…or does she?  Dante soon has her wishing for a makeover, but you question her reasons for the perfect hair, eyesight, and boobs (yes, Charlie gets a magical boob job in this book too…however, unlike other YA books its not heinous).  It’s an actual part of the story, and Scott does have Dante admit it’s wrong.

Another thing I liked about this book was the world it created.  Grant it, there wasn’t much world building in this one, but with what I saw I’m intrigued.  I want more.

Admittedly, it took me awhile to get into this book because Dante was such an ass in the beginning.  I was at first going to say that it might’ve helped the story had there been alternative points of view, but after finishing it I realized it wouldn’t have been as good if it hadn’t been in Dante’s POV.  As much as I’d love to read what was going on in Charlie’s head, the heart of the story is Dante’s redemption.  I guess that’s why I was able to get past some of Charlie’s dumb choices (seriously, she’s naive enough to believe Dante).

This probably wasn’t the most original idea I’ve read, but I liked it a lot.  I think the execution was great.  And I liked how Scott took a lot of these cliches we’re seeing in YA and make them seem new again.  It’s a fun read.

Best Feature: Bad boy POV.  I am really glad that this book was told from Dante’s POV.  I think it would’ve failed otherwise.  I know that sounds harsh, but I really don’t mean it to be.  What I mean is, we actually got to see more character development because the book took place in his POV and a lot of the stuff other bad boys in YA get away with…well, Dante’s held accountable for and he does reform.  And yes, its a real reformation unlike a lot of these YA book where the only reformation seems that the guy is no longer trying to steal the girl, in this book Dante actually regrets what he is doing to Charlie.  And I like how he admits that he was wrong in the beginning.

Worst Feature: Naivety.  Honestly, I get Charlie is suppose to be this pure character, but even I didn’t buy Dante’s whole soul contract is for heaven thing.  Maybe it’s because I watched too many bad Disney movies where hockey players sell their souls for the Stanley cup or whatever.  But dude, don’t sign anything even if it’s supposedly from an “angel”.

Appropriateness:  There are quite a few f bombs dropped and more than one scene involving teen drinking, as well as some violence at the end.

Blockbuster Worthy: I would enjoy seeing this on the small screen I think.  It actually would make a pretty great TV show.  CW I’m thinking just as long as they don’t get that 7th Heaven woman in charge we’re in business.  I’m not going to cast though, mainly because if you’ve seen She’s All That you’ve seen my cast.

Overall Rating: I’m giving this one an eight out of ten.  It really was close to getting a nine but a slow beginning and some logic issues lowered it.  Still, I highly recommend for anyone who wants a decent YA book with a bad boy staring in it.

Raiders of the Lost Book Shelves: Avon True Romance series (yeah, I was that pathetic of a teen)

A long time ago, before most people could afford iPods and Borders still exist I was in Drivers Ed at the mall.  Sears, if you want to be specific,  which was next to a B. Dalton (Do they even have B. Dalton’s anymore?)  And I wanted to read romance novels, and I happened to come across Meg Cabot’s Nicola and the Viscount  and Victoria and the Rouge and liked them and found out they belonged to a whole series of books called Avon True Romance.  Today I’ll reflect on a few that I found in my shelves/storage unit and try to rationalize why I bought them (besides the fact that they were a series and I’m a little OCD when it comes to getting books in series-seriously, if I don’t have a complete series with the same cover format I get on Amazon and do bad things-a.k.a. hit the one click buy button).

What’s It About: This girl’s family is broke because the dad is missing and the mother doesn’t attempt to even do anything useful like sell churned butter or whatever and so Samantha decides to go all Mulan cut off her hair and join some cowboys so she can save the farm even though Texas has like a homestead law and her mother could’ve kept the land except if they had a mortgage on it which I don’t think they did but….yeah, I’ve been studying way too much.

Why did I buy it: Because I loved Mulan and I wanted to see the reveal scene.  I don’t know what it is,  I always think these reveal scenes are going to be much more dramatic than they really are.  But really they’re just bland. And it’s always the same reaction-boy gets upset and gets over himself and well sees the girl in the end in a pretty dress and realizes that his bromance is actually a romance.

How Would I change that Stupid Cover: Well, obviously I’m not going to leave Lindsay Lohan and that guy with the bad pair of Wranglers on there.  I’d probably have an old fashion cowboy hat in the Texas wilderness there  or a pair of pink cowboy boots.  Even though I don’t think they had pink cowboy boots when this book was published.

Did I Regret This One: No, I really don’t.  It’s cliche, but I look back on it with fondness.  And if I actually attempted to go through my storage unit I might actually read it again.

What’s it About: Ewan finds out that he’s like the long lost heir to the dukedom gets his butt over to his relatives house.  Finds out that he has an evil half brother and falls in love with his brother’s girlfriend and essentially pulls a What About Bob?  on him.

Why Did I Buy It: Because the title of it reminded me of Anna and the King from the King and I which I was obsessed with at this point in my life, despite the movie’s depressing ending.

How Would I Change the Stupid Cover: I’d probably do something cliche like have a bunch of flowers on it.  Or maybe make it look like an old fashion journal or something like one of those Julia Quinn novels.  Indiscreet is key, especially if I wanted ot read this in public.
Did I Regret This One: No.  It was hilarious in a bad soap opera way.  I kept thinking that Richard was going to get a What About Bob? ending, but alas his fate was much grislier.
What is it About: I don’t remember much only that  Gwyneth invited Robin Hood’s greedy cousin to live with her,  so that  apparently the kingdom could be saved and there were lots of scenes describing how people didn’t usually like to bathe in the middle ages save for our “special” characters (it’s weird what will stick in your head almost nine years later).
Why Did I Buy It: I used to be obsessed with the medieval period before I ate at that stupid restaurant on a band trip where the only thing medieval about the food was the fact they didn’t get you eating utensils and then later long when I took that class with that asshole who made us buy four hundred dollars worth of books for an undergrad course.  And whose five page max paper needed to be eight pages if  you wanted a decent grade.
How Would I Change the Stupid Cover: I probably would’ve  left it.  The cover shows that the book is stupid.  And stupid is how I remember this book being.  A bathtub might also be appropriate as well.  Since you know, they talk about baths for a good chunk of the book.
Do I Regret This One: Yes, as much as my band director regrets having us eat at that restaurant because a good chunk of the band getting food poisoning from it (a.k.a. having forks is important, especially when teenagers lack proper hand hygiene).
What is it About: This guy who used to be an out law gets sent to live with this prissy girl’s family.  I don’t remember much but thinking she was obnoxious and that he had a slightly interesting though predictable backstory.
Why Did I Buy It: I actually enjoyed Samantha and the Cowboy and was really big into Westerns back then.  I’m from Texas, remember?  I think every Texas girl fantasizes about a cowboy once in awhile.  But God, that guy on the cover  was not fantasy worthy even nine years ago.
How Would I Change the Stupid Cover: Remove the stupid models and I think the cover would be passable.  Or this might be one of those cases where a headless hot model with a naked chest or great arm muscles would work.
Per example.
 
Do I Regret This One: No.  Even though I really don’t remember it, I think it was better than Samantha and the Cowboy in a weird way.
What is This One About: It’s a Meg Cabot regency, so it’s as close as your going to get to Jane Austen in this series.  And it includes a Darcy and a Wickham.
 
Why Did I Buy It: Meg Cabot. That’s all I need to say. And what’s interesting about this one I think it was the fastest book she ever wrote.  And I have to say, why can’t I be productive when I’m sick?  All I could do a last week when I had the stupid summer flu  was suffer through bar studying.  And play Temple Run.  Temple Run is pretty important thing to do when you’re not studying.  Though I should be doing something productive like trying to write a book.
How Would I Change the Stupid Cover: They have already done that, change the cover that is.  It’s now some stupid cartoon that makes the book look like it’s written for a nine year old.  I hate cartoons on book covers.  Why not just use a simple prop like a flower or whatever?  It’s simple, effective, and works for all ages.
Do I Regret This One: No.  I actually liked this book quite a bit, especially once I graduated to the adult regencies written by Cabot.  If you haven’t check out An Improper Proposal.  Seriously, good stuff.