Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Top 7 Cover Trends I Don't Like.. and 3 Covers I Love

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature of The Broke and the Bookish

I know we should never judge a book by it's cover, but what's up with...

Arise (Hereafter, #2)
Headless Women

Nearly Gone
Unnecessary Sexiness

Eleanor and Park

Everneath (Everneath, #1)
One-Word Titles (AND Headless!)

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)
Boring & Non-Nondescript

Marked (House of Night, #1)
Black Like My Tortured Soul

Crash into You (Pushing the Limits, #3)
Cheesy With a Side of Extra Cheese

And Three I Love:
Fahrenheit 451 book design with a match in the cover and a striking surface on the spine.


Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" - Book Cover Redesign

*Please note that my critique of the cover has no reflection on my feelings regarding content.  


Monday, June 23, 2014

Review of The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau, Or, I Want Those Hours of My Life Back

Do you ever feel like you’re reading a thinly veiled retelling of another, more popular novel? I know the Young Adult world is exploding with dystopian novels thanks to the success of novels such as Divergent and The Hunger Games, but when a new author steals plot and changes some names and thinks she’s selling something new, I get angry. What you’re givingl me is fanfiction, and while I’ve made my positive stance on fanfiction quite clear, the problem is that credit is not being given where it’s due. Fanfiction is an ode, a tribute to a beloved work, and “The Testing” is just theft. Joelle Charbonneau, who was your editor?

Here we have a post-apocalyptic America destroyed by natural disasters and war, wherein a few lucky students are chosen each year to participate in “The Testing,” a prerequisite to getting into the University in the capital city. The proceedings of “The Testing” are top-secret, such that the minds of the candidates are wiped after the experience, although the vivid nightmares and half-memories plague survivors. 

We follow young ambitious Cia who is a product of her privileged upper middle class white family and achieves her life ambition of being selected for “The Testing” until her father takes her aside and reveals to her the nefarious undertakings she might encounter, and that she should “trust no one.” So naturally she proceeds to trust her handler, trust the cute boy who conveniently has had a crush on her forever, trust her classmates, trust that grey haired man on the other side of the fence, etc. For a girl who’s telling us she’s pretty savvy, she certainly doesn’t act like it. This is no Katniss Everdeen, and Charbonneau is no Susanne Collins. 

This is how Cia interprets her father's "Trust no one" advice
Cia is along for the ride with her cute classmate Tomas, who conveniently has a crush on her and who quickly stakes his claim with a lot of non-platonic hand-holding. In the most groan-worthy stolen scene from THG, Cia repeatedly tends to a wound... in Tomas’s buttocks. Their relationship quickly and conflict-less-ly evolves into “true love!” which they oh-so-adorably proclaim to each other once privately, and once for the benefit of the government officials listening. Because, yes, the testers are watching every gushy, vomitous moment. Though it escapes me why you would want the government officials to know you’re in love with your classmate, and how that could possibly behoove you knowing that they are malicious and out to test your boundaries and loyalties. And if I were an official having to listen to this drivel, I’d have killed them both off a lot sooner.

You're prettier
No, YOU'RE prettier!
Each time the book might have held something special, something page-turning, it fell short and took the safe way out. Cia’s father’s dreams of a city of rubble and the horrors that took place there felt promising; what transpired was a perfunctory “then we were scared, then there were shots, then we were safe.” I was never on the edge of my seat. I never cared what happened on the next page. Even the love story (and I’m a glutton for kissing scenes) was tepid and forced. The entire novel felt very… safe; and that’s the one thing a dystopian novel should not be. The point of this genre is to examine human nature using extreme situations. No situation ever felt extreme nor did I ever question the nature of the stereotyped characters or my own character and reactions to them. The Testing was a chore I had to complete.



Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday Feels

When I think of Thomas Hardy, I think of pastoral scenes and depressing plot-lines (Tess of the D'Urbervilles- 'nough said). I was deeply impressed by his progressive views on women and sexuality in Tess, and having just finished Far from the Madding Crowd, I'm starting to wonder how Hardy became so forward thinking and intimately acquainted with the female experience of manipulative men.

I was dismayed when our heroine, Bathsheba Everdeen, succumbed to the charms of Sergeant Troy, but I wasn't enraged until Farmer Boldwood made his second overture toward Bathsheba. Where some authors of this time period might blame Bathsheba for her lapse in judgement early in the novel, Hardy clearly lays the blame where it is due- with Boldwood's Machiavellian behavior in trying to make Bathsheba feel like she owes him something (that something being herself).

Boldwood shows classic abusive behavior- he blames her for all his troubles, leads her to believe he will kill himself if she does not accept his proposal, and ultimately claims this is "all out of love for her." What kind of sick [redacted] finds joy in an engagement won from manipulation, leaving his "beloved" in tears and agony?

What is most interesting to me is that Boldwood is an upstanding gentleman in the community. He is perceived as a "nice guy" who is just a little too much in love. No one thinks poorly of him the way they do of Troy, but Boldwood turns out to be the most detestable villain of the novel.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Feels

"All feelings that concentrate you and life you up are pure;... everything that makes more of you than you have ever been, even in your best hours, is right.  Every intensification is good, if it is in your entire blood, if it isn't intoxication or muddiness, but joy which you can see into, clear to the bottom."
-Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet 4 November 1904

I've been reading a lot of poetry and letters penned by Rilke lately.  It's a good writer who can transmit to the reader the full power of his experience. This is what happens when I read Rilke: his words become my own and express moments of loneliness, longing, searching and fulfillment I didn't think one could put words to. 

Happy Friday!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Top 10 Books I've Read So Far This Year

I'm halfway through my reading goal of a book a week for 2014.  Here are 10 of my favorites so far this year!

This is a feature of The Broke and the Bookish

Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen

Just as in A Doll's House, I love Ibsen's exploration of inter-gender relationships.  He's a writer ahead of his time.

Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag

Why are we so fascinated by real-life horrors?  Why do we respectfully hide the faces of home-grown fallen soldiers but display the skeletal remains of genocides overseas?  This non-fiction exploration of photograhy will make you question yourself. 

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

If you like exposition and backstory, you're going to love this novel. 

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

One of the more disturbing dystopian novels I've read, before dystopian novels were so popular.  This novel made me shiver and long to assert my independence and freedom.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Even better than the lauded Eleanor and Park. Fangirls unite!

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

Time travel. Love triangle. Personal growth. Loved it.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

A stand-out take on the Beauty and the Beast fairytale that incorporates Greek mythology and sinister demons. 

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

A poetic exploration of multi-level, complicated grief with exceptional imagery that left me in tears.

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

An American poet very much inspired by nature and impacted by the Civil War. "Life immense in passion, pulse, and power."

Blankets by Craig Thompson

A graphic novel coming-of-age autobiography.  I love his art, though the story was heartbreaking.


Review of Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

In the over-saturated market of dystopian novels, Not a Drop to Drink stands out. There aren’t weird medical procedures being performed on teenagers, there aren’t mutant creatures lurking in the wild, there are no computer chips being inserted into brains. This is a very believable future where the big wars are not being fought over oil, but over potable water. This is future we might someday meet. (Hi, I’m Kate, environmental catastrophist).

Frightening facts, folks

In contrast with the action-packed novels currently being transformed into movie franchises, Not a Drop to Drink is a quiet novel, focusing on the long empty days that true crisis can create. (In the Civil War- and most wars, probably- soldiers actually longed for the horror of battle just to have a break from the tedium of camp life). Lynn and her mother, Lauren, are surviving on the frontier, mercilessly protecting their small pond and only source of survival.

Imagine your life depends on this
Lynn has been taught at a young age how to purify water (I’m not sure I believe that the sun is strong enough to do that in the Nebraska-like setting I’m envisioning), how to farm, and how to shoot intruders first and ask questions second. Their only other source of companionship is their remote neighbor, Stebbs, and a city-bred family who begin to encroach on their land.

I like that Lynn is a survivor; she’s tough as nails and can take care of herself. While it may seem out of character that she would let anything jeopardize her survival, I think that her slow acceptance of Lucy (a 5-year old who is sometimes older than her age), Eli (a boy her own age trying to learn how to survive outside of a city) and Stebbs makes sense. Her relationship with her mother showed how devoted she could be to others, and while she was very suspect of strangers, she thrived on conversation and companionship. McGinnis showed us from early on that Lynn felt the struggle between doing what she needed to do to get through another season, but also being cognizant to the pain and struggles of others. She was constantly walking the line between survival and compassion, occasionally leaning one way or the other.

I had two main problems with the book, (other than the graphic hunting and butchering scenes, hard for me as vegetarian to read), the first being the repeated references to rape and sexual assault. My appreciation that the author recognizes this as a constant and realistic concern for a girl alone in the wilderness was somewhat tempered by my frustration that every man seemed to grab his crotch in Lynn’s presence and suggest some metaphor for rape (are women such a shortage that every man is now a sexual fiend?).

Despite McGinnis’s depiction of an austere world fraught with perils, I didn’t feel as though we spent enough time in mourning when a life was claimed. Maybe there was just too much going on and it’s a coping mechanism, but I would have appreciated a further exploration of grief. It was annoying when EVERYTHING HARRY SAID WAS IN CAPS in Order of the Phoenix, but it felt like a realistic portrayal of a teen grieving and not knowing how to express his traumatic stress. Lynn is going to explode someday, the way she bottled up and suppressed all her pain.

Kubler-Ross identified 5 stages of grief, though the experience is different for everyone
One note, though: even if Lauren was not religious, Lynn would totally know what the words “pray” and “God” meant. Unless Lauren ripped those poems out of the anthology, there was a lot of religious imagery in most poetry pre-21st century. That part was questionable to me.

What are your thoughts? How does this world compare to more fantastical dystopian worlds?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Top Ten Beach Reads

Summer is here at last!  That means long days, SPF 50, and lounging on the beach with the perfect book.  Below are top 10 books I plan to read on the beach this summer.

Mind Games by Kiersten White
YAF meets Alias

East by Edith Pattou
A retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon (the Scandanavian Psyche/Cupid and Beauty and the Beast)

The Last Best Kiss by Claire LaZebnik
Jane Austen's Persuasion meets modern day

Variant by Robison Wells
Dystopian prison-school

Partials by Dan Wells
Hunger Games meets Battlestar Galactica meets Blade Runner

Defiance by C.J. Redwine
For fans of Graceling and Tamora Pierce and redheads (that's me!)

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Slow natural catastrophe a la Age of Miraacles, but hopefully better

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
After I recap on the first 5 books, I'm diving in!

Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier
Beauty and the Beast retold (I love B & B retold!)

Enclave by Ann Aguirre
Post apocalyptic NYC sewers society

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...