Monday, August 31, 2009

Book Review: Ballads of Suburbia

Title: Ballads of Suburbia

Author: Stephanie Kuehnert

Pages: 344

Summary:

There are so many ballads. Achy breaky country songs. Mournful pop songs. Then there’s the rare punk ballad, the ballad of suburbia: louder, faster, angrier . . . till it drowns out the silence.

Kara hasn’t been back to Oak Park since the end of junior year, when a heroin overdose nearly killed her and sirens heralded her exit. Four years later, she returns to face the music. Her life changed forever back in high school: her family disintegrated, she ran around with a whole new crowd of friends, she partied a little too hard, and she fell in love with gorgeous bad boy Adrian, who left her to die that day in Scoville Park. . . .

Amidst the music, the booze, the drugs, and the drama, her friends filled a notebook with heartbreakingly honest confessions of the moments that defined and shattered their young lives. Now, finally, Kara is ready to write her own


*warning* here be spoilers

Man, I loved this book.

That's all there is to it: I.Loved.This.Book.

I'm not even sure how to begin this review. I'm completly at a loss for words at how to describe the awesomeness of Ballads of Suburbia. There is no way I can capture the heartbreaking reality of Stephanie Kuehnert's prose or the tragic way I devoted myself to every character. There is absolutley NO WAY to describe how happy I am that I am not alone in my PJ Harvey obsession. NONE.

Well, here's the quote that starts it off:

"If you made a book of what really happened, it'd be a really upsetting book"

--Angela Chase, My So-Called Life


Kara and Stacey are outsiders--from the moment they met on the plaground on Kara's first day of school, it was them against the world. Parents who didn't understand and classmates who picked on them for not wearing the right shoes ruled their lives until, eventually, the music took over. They were best friends, until one day, when Stacey's mother announces they are to move to a lower-rent apartment. In another school district.

This is the beginning of two things. One; Kara's relationship with her brother and two; it's the day she begins to cut herself.

I don't want to delve to deeply into the plot right in the beginning, because upon reflection it's really not important; what's important is everything that happens after Stacey left and Kara was left alone with no one but MTV and her little brother to console her.

Okay, I'll get straight to the chase: I loved these characters. Loved them.

They came off so real to me, not as just one-demensional sidekicks playing second banana to the main protagonist's little issues. A book of "ballads"--confessions of the suburban punk rockers who dominate the storline--gives real insight into every single character. Even has the characters bounce from Bad Guy to Good Guy and back again, you still sympathize with them...it's uncanny.

I think that's the part that gets people--the individual ballads. It gives everyone their own story, their own reasons for doing what they do. It makes them all the sweeter to read about. Like Christian, whom I loved to death, even after what he did to Kara and Maya. You should think he's a jerk, you know, intelligently, that he's no good, that you should have seen it coming from the moment he threatened Mary and Jessica. But you don't. Partly because he seems so harmless, yeah. But mostly because you know why he does it. You read his ballad, and you feel like you know him, and you really don't want to think of him like that. You just don't, and I think this is Ms. Kuehnert strongest suit--making you feel for the supposed "bad guy".

The writing style isn't flawless, of course. There are some things I would have re-worded, switched around and all that. But there is still something about it that makes it true storytelling. Not just a narrative, not just a girl watching watching her friends destroy themselves. There is a certain connection with the reader that makes you feel like your there, and you right beside Kara the whole time.

The plot is a difficult one, something a lot of authors can't really pull off without sounding hoaky or preachy. There is no difinitive revelation at the end, no one seeing the light and changing their ways with a little help from their friends. It is realistic, which might be upsetting to some people, but to me, it was perfect.

I especially love the musical undertones to it--myself being a huge music junkie. The character's lives are pretty much wrapped around music and the punk subculture that they belong too. It perfectly describes the angst and rebellion of the neglected suburban kids of the ninties, overcome by sex, drugs and rock n' roll. In front of every ballad, there are lyrics that are relevent to the character's stories, all of them tying in with the script Kara and her friends make out of newspaper articles--the "Stories Of Suburbia".

I especially love these lyrics by The Replacements:

"We are the sons of no one, bastards of young"


My favorite character was Adrian--even when he took his turn as 'the bad guy', even at the end when he still hadn't changed, even when he made it really hard to like him, I loved him. I love how he doesn't sleep with Kara because she's on of the only girls he respects, I love how he hurts her to help her, because he doesn't want to see her in pain. I love how he's so tragic without meaning to be. And I love his tattoos. I'm a sucker, though. :)

The author does a lovely job of getting inside every character's head, making them so real that it breaks your heart whenever they're hurting. Ms. Kuehnert is definetly a suberb writer, and I look forward to anything she may have in store for us.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Also: Here's a book trailer:




...and an excerp from the prologue, which is really the epilogue, which you can also get at Stephanie's website:

"And the embers never fade in your city by the lake
The place where you were born."
-Smashing Pumpkins

December 1999


Sirens and lights welcomed me back to the suburbs of Chicago. It seemed fitting. Symbolic, considering they'd also heralded my exit. And it couldn't have happened anywhere else: only a Berwyn cop would pull Stacey over for rolling a stop sign, cash in on her total lack of insurance, but not notice the underlying stench of pot smoke on us. It clung to Stacey's auburn ponytail, my freshly-dyed black hair, and the clothing beneath both of our winter coats. I'll never know how he missed it. A rare stroke of good luck? The karma I was owed for agreeing to come home in the first place?


Welp, that's it for now, folks. Now, if you'll excuse me, The Sandman awaits.

World War II: The Revenge

*this is a phrase coined by meh sister Erika*

Now, you all may be thinking to yourselves, "Self, this gal is outta her Vulcan mind." Why is World War II something to laugh at? Why is Auntie Danielle writing a blog post with clever word play turning one of the most destructive battle of pricks and gun powder into a sequel that nobody wanted?

Well, that's the thing.

It's the sequel that nobody wanted.

We all know 'em; that companion to a perfectly fine novel, that unnecessary "II" at the edge of your favorite movie logo, that horrible recasting and "Direct to DVD" sticker at the corner of the poster. Children run crying from the Bad Sequel. Bad things happen in the Bad Sequel.

Which leads me to this week's pole.

What is, exactly, the worst sequel in the history of entertainment? Book or movie, video game or TV spinoff--everything goes. Once more, what is the best?

Leave your two-cents (and I want good arguments, here!) and let me know!

Cheers,

Danielle

Sunday, August 30, 2009

In My Mailbox (3)

Alright, haven't gotten much this week, but here it is:

For Review:



The Blue Star by Tony Earley

Dragon House by John Shors

From Amazon:



Half Life by Shelley Jackson

A Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagiassotti

Other:

Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci (for writing fifteen reviews for Young Adult and Kids Central)



Impossible by Nancy Werlin (at Wal-Mart!)



This next parts a bit complicated; see, I recently got a notice from my school telling me I am now enrolled in Honors English, which is strange since I got a C in English last year. Aparently my short stories for Lit have proven to be quite advanced for my age, which would be cool if it didn't call for me to read two very boring looking books in one week (school STARTS next week...hmph). Of course, it is optional, but my mother is extsatic at the thought of me being in an advanced ANYTHING, so of course she is giving ME the option of Honors English or mustard sandwiches for the rest of my life. So I had to go out and buy Having Our Say by Sarah I. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany (with Amy Hill Hearth) and A Seperate Peace by John Knowles.



On the bright side, my mom felt guilty about this forced labor of literature, so she also shelled out for a copy of Sleepless by Thomas Fahy:



It seems all black clouds do have a silver lining.

Have a great Sunday,

Danielle

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Imagine by Ginger R. Williams

Title: Imagine

Author: Ginger R. Williams

Pages: 702

Summary:

Kaitlyn is a girl who knows what she wants, and what she wants is Paul. But Paul is a guitarist--a violinist's worst nightmare. Seperated by circumstance and title, they fight for their love with the only weapons they have--the music.

Alright, I'm just fucking with you. This is just a cover I made with that YA cover generator going around. I think I did pretty well with the fake summary, though :)

So, here's how you make your own:

1 – Go to “Fake Name Generator” or click

http://www.fakenamegenerator.com/

The name that appears is your author name.

2 – Go to “Random Word Generator” or clickhttp://www.websitestyle.com/parser/randomword.shtml

The word listed under “Random Verb” is your title.

3 – Go to “FlickrCC” or click http://flickrcc.bluemountains.net/index.php

Type your title into the search box. The first photo that contains a person is your cover.

4 – Use Photoshop, Picnik, or similar to put it all together. Be sure to crop and/or zoom in. I reccomend Picnik, definetly.


5 – Post it to your site along with this text.

Have a nice day, everybody.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Marvel Zombies...Hell Yes




This is for the ZOMBIE CHALLENGE!

I'm hyperventilating right now. I am. This was...heaven. A religious experience. God in print.

Oh, I promised myself I wouldn't cry...

I'm in what you would call a 'slump' when it comes to reading. I started re-reading Stardust--just cause--and then I just...stopped. I put it down, and didn't put it back up. Haven't read anything on paper for two days. Then this comes along...and I have to share it with the massess. I'd be a terrible person if I didn't.

Summery (From amazon.com):

Torn from the pages of Ultimate Fantastic Four! on an Earth shockingly similar to the Marvel Universe’s, an alien virus has mutated all of the world’s greatest super heroes into flesh-eating monsters! It took them only hours to destroy life as we know it - but what happens when they run out of humans to eat?! Follow their search for more food, and witness the arrival of the Silver Surfer! Collects Marvel Zombies #1-5.

I know, I know. It sounds kind of stupid, but I assure you, it's AWESOME! (a word I don't throw around to often...=P). Not in the epic way you usually expect of comics, but in a way that's almost hilarious in it's outragiousness. Oh, but it works. So, so well. The artwork by Sean Phillips is stunning, gory in this kind of cross between B movie horror and the best of Romero...except they're superheroes. It's a macabre, undead version of Spider-Pussy. I mean...come on. What's not to love?

I love this image of the zombified Silver Surfer:



My favorite part was the hypocricy the author uses in making the heroes abuse their powers--to get their daily feed, they would approach frightened citizens, who would greet them with open arms. Their saviors! Their heroes! Their--shitballz, fool ate my leg!

And I laugh.

I know this is a tad sick--who would want to watch Mr. Fantastic chewing on a child's toes like tator tots? (alright...me) But you guys have to keep in mind I broke into hysterical laughter during the birth scene in Rosemary's Baby. Maybe this is my way of dealing with the grotesque, but I think it's mostly because I am a deplorable individual who should be locked up as soon as possible.

Moving on.

Another comendable charactersitic is how every character still maintains the ghost of their former personalities. Peter Parker (more on him below), true to his pre-zombified state, turns into a sniveling, sobbing puss-cake whenever the unsatiable hunger falters and he is left with a clear mind--much like a hangover. You see, our dear Peter went a bit...Hannibal Lecter on his Aunt and Mary Jane (not that I mind the thought of Kirsten Dunst being eaten by Tobey McGuire...I'd see that movie) and, in his guilt, is even more annoying then normal. A wonderful poke at the character's insistant ponderings on the meaning of morality and Right Vs. Wrong, if you ask me. Even his fellow crime-stoppers are getting annoyed.

I had very few issues with Marvel Zombies, but if I had to chose...

Me Hungry: Okay, here's the thing. Directly after the zombie-people feed, they momentarily gain back their senses and that spark that made them humna. During this time, are they trying to find a cure for this disease? Are they attempting to save what's left of their humanity? No. They are trying to figure out where to get their next meal. That's right. Mr. Incredible is--in a moment of sanity--trying to find more humans to eat before he goes back into his pro-zombie mode. For Christ sake, it's all they talk about. All the time. Not mourning for the friends they digested (except Peter Parker, but about that later), or the loss of life as we knew it. Food. Food. Foodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfood. Omigod it's not even funny the obsession they have with it. JE-sus.

Mopey Spiderman: Basically the angst in the entire thing consist of Peter Parker whining about how he ate MJ and Aunt May. Boo-hoo, we get it. Bruce Banner aka. The Hulk ate Betty, he ain't complaining. Even his fellow zombie-heroes are fed up with it.

Gross-ness: Okay, since they pretty much ate every human on the face of the earth, they reside to eating themselves. Okay, not eating themselves. Cutting their stomachs open and re-eating undigested body parts. Yeah.

Overall, though, the art work is amazing, the story is perfectly scripted to not be as ridiculous as it sounds, and it's just overall fun to read. Fun as in it doesn't take a terrible amount of brain work to go through...it's just so ridiculous, so outragious, that even the most fearful of dooms-day sayers will be chuckling to themselves at the audacity of it all. I myself enjoyed a good amount of lulz, and I am very hard to amuse.

Rating: 8 out of 10. Some flaws, but definitley worth trying

Also: Go here for details on how you can enter this contest as well!

Another Thing: I dare everyone to go out and watch ONE zombie film and report to me on how you liked it. Nothing formal, I'm just curious how me readers enjoy the undead.

ALSO: Check out my guest post at THE BOOK SMUGGLERS!

Zombies...oh my.



Yes, another challenge. I shall not be sleeping much in the next several months.

Go here for details on how to win all sorts of zombie swag, including a copy of Never Slow Dance With A Zombie by E. Van Lowe!

Mwuha...*eats brains*

And I Am Telling You

Guys, we have a problem. Something has occured in my social life that has turned me into a steaming pile of vindictive bitch. Therefore, I am clearly not in any state to blog. In fact, if I were to write a review right now, I would probably tear said book to shreds and leave the author rocking in a corner sucking his/her thumb. SO today I thought I'd just leave you a clip from the old show The Fresh Pince of Bel-Air, with Will Smith being...well, Will Smith.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Book Review: The Tear Collector by Patrick Jones

Title: The Tear Collector

Author: Patrick Jones

Pages: 263

Summary (from PatrickJones.com):

Fans of urban fantasy should prepare for a new kind of vampire—one that feeds off of tears instead of blood. Descended from an ancient line of creatures that gain their energy from human tears, Cassandra Gray depends on human sorrow to live. Her job as a grief counselor at the hospital provides the perfect cover to keep this secret safe, and any time a friend needs a shoulder to cry on, she’s there. Only Cass has grown tired of living a lie and wants to live like a human, especially now that she’s found someone worth fighting for.


I had read and loved his previous novel, Things Change, so when I found out he was writing a new spin on the Vampire myth, I had to get a copy.

Cassandra is a heart breaker; she's had her fair share of relationship, all of which have ended in tears--which are the only thing keeping Cass and her family alive. What they are aren't human--they are creatures who live and feed off the misery of others. It's Cassandra's job to collect tears for her family, forcing her not only into positions as a grief counsler in the hospital and the school, but into relationships that she knows will only end once it becomes serious. She knows she will never find love, or happiness, only sorrow...that is, until she meets Scott.

I have to admit, I was a bit dissapointed with The Tear Collector. Maybe it was because, due to the premise, I had unreachable expectations. But I think it was mostly because Mr. Jones doesn't seem to...understand teenagers.

Now, I'm not saying I'm the ambassador to all Teenagerdom, but I am a high schooler, and I do know how kids my age talk. And this wasn't it. The dialogue was so...formal. Not even in the olden-times way...just really...I don't know. It's just not the way teenagers speak in general. I may sound critical, but if you read it you'd know what I mean.

Also, Cassandra's inner monologue is just so mellow-dramatic. Every few moments, it's strange descriptions of the world around her that would be more appropriate for a Gothic tragedy then an urban fantasy. I don't care how mature she is, NOBODY talks like she does. This could be a good thing or bad thing, but to me, it was a bad thing. I just don't like over-dramatic inner monologues.

Another gripe I had with it was that it was...how do I say this...cheesy. I won't elaborate but for one bit of dialogue:

"I thought you drowned, Swimmer Girl," Cody says, when I finally emerge.

"Only in your love," I say, then kiss him on the cheek.


I almost slammed the book down right then and there. I didn't, and I'm GLAD I didn't. but still. Mr. Jones, if you are still in the editing process, please, dear God, omit that line. I beg of you.

Moving on.

Other then some mellow-drama, atrocious use of the word "Shawty" (no matter how mocking), and plenty of awkward dialogue, I enjoyed The Tear Collector. It's different, the prose and writing is very elegant, and the main character was believable. At first glance, she seems vaguely stuck up and bitchy, but as you get deeper into the novel and come to see her reasoning, it's really easy to understand where she's coming from; sure, she thrives off of the unahppiness of others, but it's not like she can do anything about it. It is, after all, who she is.

The secondary characters were fine, some a bit thin for my taste, but entertaining nontheless. I especially loved Scott, Cassandra's love interest. He's--from what Cassandra says--probably the only boy in her school with depth, something going on under the hair. He's a normal guy, while Cassandra is the mythical creature--which is incredibly deviating from the norm in today's YA fiction. You all know what I mean. *caugh*EdwardCullen*cough*

Other then a few flaws, The Tear Collector is definetly a fun, entertaining read and I would absolutley suggest it to fans of urban fantasy and romance.

Rating: 6 out of 10--good.

Also: Be sure to check out Patrick Jones' other novels, such as Chasing Tail Lights, Cheated, Things Change and Nailed.

P.S. Sorry it's such a short post today, guys. I have to go to a party in like ten minutes, and I want to finish this before I go or I'll completly forget. *shrugs*

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What Makes My Wallet Hurt (2)

Alright, did anyone else see this? The new cover for the sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth--The Dead Tossed Waves.



Gabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living. She’s content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry’s mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead. Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry. And suddenly, everything is changing. One reckless moment, and half of Gabry’s generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother’s past in order to save herself and the one she loves.


Is it just me, or does this summary have a decided lack of Mary-ness? Where's Harry? Cass? Jed? Because, God knows nobody told me. I'm going to assume Gabry is Mary's daughter, but what happened to everyone else, left in the Forest of Hands and Teeth?

I must say, sequels like this always put a downer on my day. Not because I doubt Carrie Ryan's ability to write a damn good book no matter how far into the future, but...I liked Mary. I don't want to watch her daughter go about her buisness--I want her to go about her buisness. I'll probably buy the book anyway (no matter how much my expendable income is depleting), but...still. Boo.

Cassandra Clare has also announced that a Simon-centric fourth installment of The Mortal Instruments is set to be released in March 2011. This, combined with her upcoming spin-off series, The Infernal Devices, is sure to garauntee I will be spending obscene amounts of money on her writings. Sigh.

I really want that new Scott Westerfeld book...damn.

ALSO Rob Thurman has released on her website the new cover to the fifth in the LEANDROS BROTHER series, Roadkill!



Hell. Yes.

(on a side note: isn't road kill two words?)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Movie Review: Inglourious Basterds

Title: Inglorious Basterds

Directer: Quentin Tarentino

Starring: Brad Pitt, Diane Krugar, Eli Roth, Christph Waltz

Summary (from imdb):

In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as "The Basterds" are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis. The Basterds soon cross paths with a French-Jewish teenage girl who runs a movie theater in Paris which is targeted by the soldiers


Once upon a time, in Nazi occupated France...

The film tracks the separate attempts to kill Hitler by two disparate forces, one being the "Basterds", a motley crew of Jewish American soldiers out for revenge against the Nazis. The Basterds have a debt of sorts to their leader, Lt. Aldo Raine, where each man must hand over one hundred Nazi scalps after each killing (you thought that was just talk? Uh, no.) The Basterds allow one German soldier to survive each incident so as to spread the news of the terror of their attacks. However, the Basterds carve a swastika into the forehead of that German. The other force concerns Shosanna, (Mélanie Laurent), the only Jewish survivor of an attack led by the "Jew Hunter" that had killed her family while they hid underneath the floor boards of a french milk farmer's home. Both she and the Basterds plot the assination of the upper crust Nazi generals during a film premiere.

Can I even express in words how amazing Inglorious Basterds is? That would be a huge, resounding 'no'. But I'll do my best.

First and Foremost--Christoph Waltz, playing the dasturdly "Jew Hunter" Hans Landa, diserves an Oscar. A big one, special, making a little gold thumbs-up and with jirating shoulders. He deserves all the Oscars--best actor, best supporting actor, best actress, best adapted screenplay, EVERYTHING. Mr. Waltz simply IS the movie. His performance is so perfect, so twisted and hilarious and chilling that I was laughing and pissing my pants all at once. His character is both believable, because of Mr. Waltz's outstanding preformance, but also...not. Probably because the thought of a dude like that running around is so horrifying it couldn't possibly be real. Or could it...?

The true protagonist of Inglorious Basterds is really the French actress Mélanie Laurent, playing a Jewish young women who's family was killed by Landa, and who's theatre is set to play host to the premiere of A Nation's Pride (movie within the movie directed by Eli Roth, a homage to the Nazi propaganda films of the fourties.) Ms. Laurent does a lovely job as the vindictive Shosanna, one second playing a frightened young women, the next a Kill Bill-esque Bad Ass who can--and will--kill without mercy. She reminds me of Marion Cotillard in La Vie En Rose, in that, though she doesn't speak a word of English, American audiences can understand the emotion she puts into her dialogue. Not to say this is an emotional character. It is, after all, Tarentino.

Even Diane Kruger was not nearly as annoying as I expected her to be.

Brad Pitt's Southern Nazi hunter is, undoubtedbly, the highlight of the entire frikken thing. His...erm...Italion accent would make the Marx brothers double over with laughter, and that last scene? Sunuvabitch, I could even see the end credits through the hysterical tears. My gut still hurts, ten hours after the fact.

The only gripes I had was how little time they spent on individual characters; yes, there are many who could be considered 'main' characters, too many to fit into a movie, but I would have liked more elaboration on Aldo Raine and Soshanna. Also...alright, Eli Roth does a fair job as Donny "The Bear Jew", but he was not fantastic. In fact, when I learned Adam Sandler was set to play him before he took his role in Funny People, I thought Eli Roth was just annoying. For a minute. Then I remembered he directed Hostel, and I got over it. But still.

Inglorious Basterds is a defininitve Tarentino; bloody, raucous, unapologetic, bordering on satire but not quite there. And, like all Tarentino films, you either love it or hate. I would hope that anyone reading this is the type to love it, but you never know. All in all, however, I found it to be one of the best movies I've seen in a long time, that everyone should watch, if only to make up their own minds.

Rating: 9 out of 10--an instant classic.

Also: "Our bid'ness is killin' Nazis and, cousin, bid'ness is a'boomin'"

iMeme: What I Read

I stole this from...oh, shoot, I forgot. Oh, well, first person who gets dibs gets credit.

1. What author do you own the most books by?
Um...Robert Cormier or D.J. MacHale

2. What book do you own the most copies of?
Well, I have the entire Narnia series in one huge volume, and then all the individual ones elsewhere, so I'll go with that.

3. What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
It's not a secret, honey; Cal Leandros from Nightlife.

4. What book have you read more than any other?
James and the Giant Peach by Raold Dahl. I had an obsession in fifth grade. No, wait, Where the Wild Things Are. First book I ever read all by myself. *pats back*

5. What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
I think Inkspell by Cornelia Funke...or Harry Potter, perhaps. I read a lot back then, so I can't really remember...

6. What is the worst book you've read in the past year?
Breaking Dawn. Just...no.

7. What is the best book you've read in the past year?
Best book: American Gods by Neil Gaimen. Favorite book: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

8. If you could tell everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
One book? Um...No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy...cause it's badass.

9. What is the most difficult book you've ever read?
Erm...shit...um...A Clockwork Orange. Love it, but I can't understand a word they're saying.

10. Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
French. Pretty language =]

11. Shakespeare, Milton or Chaucer?
Shakespeare. I tried read Paradise Lost, and I nearly fell asleep by the third page.

12. Austen or Eliot?
Is that a question? Can you even compare Austen to Eliot?

13. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
I've never read anythign by Jim Butcher. I don't know if that counts as embarrasing, but...

14. What is your favorite novel?
Don't make me chose...it's too hard...

15. Play?
Death of a Salesman

16. Poem?
..."Fire and Ice" by Robert Frost, or "The Raven"...I'm so unoriginal. I do read poetry, a lot of it, so don't think I'm giving any default answers here. These just happen to be my favorites.

17. Essay?
I read Chelsea Handler's collection of essays, and nearly laughed my ass off.

18. Short Story?
Anything in the "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark"

19. Non Fiction
Running With Scissors

20. Graphic Novel?
Watchmen, Hellboy, Zot!, Death; The High Cost of Living...oh, so many.

21. Science Fiction?
I Am Legend

22. Who is your favorite writer?
Hunter S. Thompson

23. Who is the most over rated writer alive today?
Stephanie Meyer. Don't even get me started.

24. What are you reading right now?
The Tear Collector by Patrick Jones

25. Best Memoir?
Again, Running With Scissors.

26. Best History?
Like historical? A Great and Terrible Beauty.

27. Best mystery or Noir?
Endless Night by Agatha Christie

I tag...EVERYONE! Ha.

In other news, I've bee nominated for ANOTHER award!

Introducing the...

LET'S BE FRIENDS AWARD!



I've been bestowed as a friendly blogger by the lovely Jessica from A Book Lover's Diary.

Blogs that receive the Let’s Be Friends Award are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers.


Hm...let's see...I nominate....EVERYONE! Because your all so friendly and awesome and ROCKIN'! That's right. Anyone who wants it, get's it.

Thanks, Jessica!

Also:



Ha. Classic.

Book Review: Playing House by Fredrica Wagman

Title: Playing House

Author: Fredrica Wagman

Pages: 160

Summary:

When Playing House appeared in 1973, Publishers Weekly hailed it, 'A probing descent into madness that will fascinate the same audience that appreciated I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.' This nationally bestselling story of one woman's struggle with the lasting effects of a childhood sexual relationship with her brother shocked American readers; it remains a literary work of enduring quality and value. In his foreword Philip Roth writes, 'The traumatized child; the institutionalized wife; the haunting desire; the ghastly business of getting through the day - what is striking about Wagman's treatment of these contemporary motifs is the voice of longing in which the heroine shamelessly confesses to the incestuous need that is at once her undoing and her only hope.'


Alright, here's the thing: this was a sort of personel dare for me. When I saw a post on BookBlogs about how they were distributing review copies of Playing House, I was a bit hesitant. This is completly out of my comfort zone--hell, it's probably out of everybody's comfort zone. It's about an unnamed women, living in a haze of what was once real life after years of a slightly abusive, sexual relationship with her brother. The prose is hard to describe...a combination between childlike confusion and detached surealism, laying out the women's slow, painful dessent into madness like a thin, muddy blanket. No one in this book is given a name--the closest it comes is the nickname the narrator has for her husband, the Turtle. It is the women, her brother, her mother, her father, her shrink, her children, her husband. Never named, giving the entire novel a hazy feel to it, perfectly reflecting the narrator's state of mind.

It's remenisent of other novels such as Girl; Interupted and The Bell Jar, in that it demenstrates a women's fall to insanity during the late sixties, when insanity was basically banishment. Except Playing House touches an entirely new spectrum hardly understood in today's society (much less the sixties), taking something taboo and avoided and slapping it in the reader's faces, forcing them to look and see and hear what the narrator has to say, no matter how much we don't want to. This isn't to say that the entire novel is an expanded "The More You Know" segmant. It isn't. It's not preaching about how "this is a real problem, we must save da children!!!!!" or anything like that. It really is a character piece, a love story if your able to look that deep into it. In no way does the narrator show remorse for her relationship with her brother because he's her brother; it's her trying to find something like him, after they have grown and are unable to continue anything with each other and they must move on. She walks through life, feeling nothing, wanting him and missing him and thinking of him, hating him and loving him all at once to the point where her mind snaps like a rubber band stretched too far.

I have to admit; this book was something of a chore for me. Not because I didn't enjoy it, or because it was poorly written or even because of the disturbing content. It was because it was just plain sad. The depth and madness in Ms. Wagman's narrative style is so all-consuming, so draining to read, that I found myself pausing every few pages and taking a huge breath. The word's surround you, forcing you to keep reading and reading and reading even though you want nothing more then to forget the entire scenerio exists. Which is strange, because the relationships in this book are...well, they're not really there. The narrator feels nothing for anybody; not for her husband, her children, her mother, her dead sister. Not even her brother, by which this entire story is built around. Everything is a whirl-wind of emotions that don't lead to anything. Like she knows what she should be feeling, but she can't bring herself to feel it. This novel is by no means endearing or relatable; sure, she seems rather friendly with a swan taking refuge first in the pond behind her childhood home, and then her bathtub as she moves in with her future husband. But even that is like reading about two bricks interacting; neither really acknowledge the other as entities, just things that are there and they have to live with. I don't know if this is making sense, but I'm not saying this is a bad thing. In fact, it just adds to the utter dread that cloaks every paragraph, every sentence, every word.

Playing House in one word: haunting. Utterly, completly haunting that will leave you sitting up at night and wondering how the hell something as disturbing as this novel could keep you reading until the very end. In only 160 pages, Wagman creates characters that have seemingly no personality other then each other, only in a way that works. She was able to pack more emotion and meaning in one sentence then most authors can in 500 pages. The whole thing just...worked. It worked so well I doubt anyone will be able to get it out of their heads any time soon.

Now, I'd be lying if I said I'd reccomend this to everyone. That'd be really fucked up. I'd hardly reccomend it to myself, upon reflection. In some countries, Playing House is shelved in the 'restricted' section. It's disturbing in a way even Stephan King can't pull off. It explores things that we as humans tend to avoid. It's raw, uncensored, pure feeling trapped inside madness trapped inside the shell of a human living inside the pure audacity of her actions. It is not for everyone, hardly anyone. There are few people in the world who could stomach it, I'd say, and I'm barely among them. So, no, I won't reccomend it. This is a book for adults, over-eighteen, and even thats a stretch. I'm unable to place a rating on it, because it's so undefinable I would be doing a grave injustice to put it into a 1-10 category. All I'll say is this; Playing House is a haunting, memorable novel that will endure the centuries to come, if not for the lovely prose then for the subject it deals with.

So, that's that.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Alice in Wonderland Challenge!

Jenny over at the TakeMeAway blog has initiated a challenge practically tailor made for myself...



Can I get a HELL YEAH????

Here are the rules:

Starts September 1, 2009 and goes through August 31, 2010
You can join any time during that time frame.
This challenge has two parts; you can decide at any time until the end if you would like to complete only the first part or both. However, prizes will only be awarded to those who complete both parts.

If you have already completed one of the tasks in the past 6 months you may count ONE towards this challenge.
Books may overlap with any other challenges.
Books may be read prior to publish date if you are able to obtain a copy. (Don't worry about the advantage someone has because everyone should have the same opportunity to complete the challenge at the same time).
When you've made the decision to play, post about the challenge and please link your icon to this post. It doesn't necessarily have to be the link on your sidebar if you put it there and are linking to your post, but at least on the picture when you post about this challenge.

Tasks: (Part 1)

Read and review Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Read and review Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
Read and review Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin (publish date December 2009)

Read and review one other book from the list of "retellings and sequels" or "literature with allusions and influences" from the list here . If you know of a book that will work that is not on the list, you may use it, but please have it approved as part of the challenge first.
Tasks: (Part 2)

Watch and review Disney's animated version of Alice in Wonderland
Watch and review one live action (already released) movie version of Alice in Wonderland.
Watch and review Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (due for release in 2010)
Watch and review one other movie listed under "Film" here
Mr. Linky will be posted once a month (at the end) and you can enter the URL(s) of the tasks you completed during that month. (The winner will not be counted until they have posted their last task on Mr. Linky at the time that I make it available for posting at the end of the given month).

Prizes!!:

The FIRST person who completes ALL tasks (on both parts) AND has all their links posted to Mr. Linky will win a $25 Amazon gift card!!
The SECOND person to do the same will win 15 extra entries (to be used all together or split up) for any giveaway(s) they choose.
The THIRD person to do the same will win 10 extra entries (to be used all together or split up) for any giveaway(s) they choose.
Anyone who joins this challenge (and posts about it on their blog) will also win 3 extra entries (used the same as above) to any giveaway(s) you choose.


Alright, it's no secret that I am a HUGE Alice in Wonderland fan. I've seen the animated film twenty times, I've read all the books, I have T-SHIRTS for God's sake. This is MY CONTEST.

I'm already plotting my attack, so I suggest everyone go over to teh TakeMeAway blog and give me some competition.

Happy reading!

Danielle

Saturday, August 22, 2009

In My Mailbox (2)

Alrighty, I wanted to do a vlog, but my webcam decided now was a wonderful time to stop working. So, you'll just have to read like everyone else...:)

Once again, thanks to the Story Siren for the meme!

HUSH, HUSH BY BECCA FITZPATRICK AHH!

Yes, it's a good week.



This is actually for the Barnes and Noble First Look Club. I'd suggest joining. Now.

Second--A Circle of Souls by Preetham Grandhi for review:




(from acircleofsouls.com) The sleepy town of Newbury, Connecticut, is shocked when a little girl is found brutally murdered. The town’s top detective, perplexed by a complete lack of leads, calls in FBI agent Leia Bines, an expert in cases involving children.


Meanwhile, Dr. Peter Gram, a psychiatrist at Newbury’s hospital, searches desperately for the cause of seven-year-old Naya Hastings’s devastating nightmares. Afraid that she might hurt herself in the midst of a torturous episode, Naya’s parents have turned to the bright young doctor as their only hope.


The situations confronting Leia and Peter converge when Naya begins drawing chilling images of murder after being bombarded by the disturbing images in her dreams. Amazingly, her sketches are the only clues to the crime that has panicked Newbury residents. Against her better judgment, Leia explores the clues in Naya’s crude drawings, only to set off an alarming chain of events


Looks good. I also got a few book-cards to go with it, with the cover on the front and a website. When I post my review, I guess I'll give a few away, if anyone wants them =P

Also, I got some oldies in the mail from Amazon; Desolation Angels by the Late Great Jack Kerouac, Life After God by Generation X author Douglas Coupland and The Realm of Possibility by Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist co-author David Levithan.

I also got: SLIGHTS BY KAARON WARREN which is awesome, Playing House by Fredrica Wagman, Gothic! by assorted authors, and Here They Come by Yannick Murphy.



ALSO, The Tear Collector by Patrick Jones

Also, I'd like to announce the upcoming DEXTER WEEK here at the Opinionated? Me? blog, in honor of the upcoming installment of the Dexter series (out in the US September 8th). I've only read the first one in the series, but I figure this is a good excuse for some good ol' fashioned fangirling. The details aren't exact yet, seeing as I have no one to consult with but myself, but I assure you it will be...not awesome, because only you guys can decide that. But I guarentee I will be as fulfilled as expected. I MIGHT even make a cute little banner thing...if I can figure out how...hm...

Anyway, have a great Sunday and pray to Buddha Monday will have some mercy!




Cheers,


Danielle

Book Review: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Title: Hush, Hush

Author: Becca Fitzpatrick

Pages: 391

Summary (from http://www.beccafitzpatrick.com/):

Falling in love was never so easy . . .

or so deadly.

For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch came along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment.

But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure who to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.


I'm going to try to keep this post spoiler free and, seeing as every little detail winds up into the big finale, this might turn into a very short review.

It's no secret that the hype around Hush, Hush has been staggering, ranging from mild excitment to "tear-my-hair-out-I-can't-stand-it-any-longer" anticipation. Already the success in pre-order sales has been through the roof for this debut effort by Ms. Becca Fitzpatrick (who I imagine is staring at the numbers in awe as we speak). There are many questions that come to mind: why is the hype for this so huge if this author has never published anything before? Is it the KICK-ASS cover? Perhaps the hot lad on said cover? It might even be the actual story, filled with delicious romances and fallen-angels--a seemingly lost genre of literature, these days. Who knows. But I could care less about these questions. There is only one question that any self-respecting reader should ask themselves:

Can it live up to the hype?

I am happy to report, dear readers, it can. And it has.

We begin the story with a passage from Peter 2:4, an excellent forshadowing tool from Ms. Fitzpatrick:

...God spared not the angels that sinned,
but cast them down to hell,
and delivered them into chains of darkness,
to be reserved unto judgment...


Then there is the prologue; Chauncey is a boy living in the year 1565, France, the son of the Chateau de Langeais (whatever that is) when he meets another boy while walking home. The boy wants something from Chauncey; an oath of fealty. Forced to one knee, Chauncey swears his allegience to the strange boy under an influence he can't describe. Then, the boy informs him he is not, in fact, the son of the Chateau de Langeais, but a Nephilim, a biblical race consisting of half mortals, half fallen angels.

As the boy runs off with the promise that he will be back for the start of Cheshvan (the Hebrew "unholy" month), Chauncey asks the boy if he's a fallen angel. He does not respond, only dissapears with his laughter echoing through the darkness.

CHAPTER ONE: Coldwater, Maine, present day.

When Nora walks into Biology, she does not expect for her life to change forever...okay, that sounds cheesy. Whatever.

Anyway, her coach/biology teacher for completly unknown reasons decides to switch seats. I'd like to take this time to point out, for future reference, that Ms. Fitzpatrick is excellent at forshadowing. Not the obvious, you-can-see-it-coming-from-a-mile-away forshadowing. I'm talking subtle, hardly there hints that, upon reflection, were SO OBVIOUS that you feel stupider just for not getting it.

So. A boy named Patch--who has completly slipped her radar for the entire year---has taken her best friend's seat beside her, automatically winning Nora's disdain with his arrogance and rude remarks. She attempts to brush him off, even as he displays a disturbing knowledge of her past, revealing just enough to get under her skin. The chemistry leaps off the page as these two silently duke it out, both keeping something from the other. Nora denies any feelings between them--he's dangerous, after all, and she can't afford any danger in her life.

Soon, though, she starts seeing him everywhere--at the mall, at the arcade, at the store. It's almost as if he's following her. While this technique has been tried and failed in the past (I'm looking at you, Edward), Fitzpatrick manages to create a believable, even sympathetic motive (even when Patch makes sympathy a hard card to draw).

Concerning Patch, there is only one thing I can say--move the FUCK over, Eddie Cullen. Deep, dark and dangerous has a new name, and it DOESN'T SPARKLE! Becca Fitzpatrick writes a forbidden romance that hasn't even been touched before, in a way so intoxicating it should, by everything decent, be illegal. But, like booze and Red Bull, I'm so happy it's not.

Nora doesn't know whether to trust him--in fact, she thinks he's trying to kill her. But there's this animal magnitism between them that is undeniable.

HUSH, HUSH focuses mostly on developing Nora, Patch, and their dance of a relationship. While it sometimes proves to be more of a fight for power, there is a very honest tenderness hidden beneath the surface that is so subtle, you don't even realize it's there until you put the book down and reflect on it. Nora and Patch are so well drawn out that I could imagine myself there, could picture the characters in my head, living and breathing and there. Though the story does lag a bit, and the secendary characters are rather dull and shapeless, the beauty of Patch and Nora is undeniably the factor that makes this book what it is; a dangerous romance of biblical perportions (please, excuse the pun).

While I have to say some of the subplotting, like the constant mention of Nora's dad being shot, is a bit unnecessary to the ACTUAL plot, it does add some nice angst to the picture and doesn't deter the reader to much from the story.

Like I said, the secendary characters like Vee and Dabria are pretty thinly drawn out, and I would have liked to see more from them. However, this really is Patch and Nora's story, and I have a feeling if it were more of the minor characters, I would be whining about that and this would be a completly different review. Thankfully, I have very little to rant about other then how amazing this novel is and how much I urge you--yes, you, with the face--to pick it up immediatley when it hits shelves this October. I assure you, it will not dissapoint.

For reference, here's a hilarious (at least to me) dialogue when Patch and Nora are in a movie theatre that does a lovely job of demenstrating Patch's power:

"Walk out," he repeated. "We need to talk."

"About how you need to sacrifice me to get a human body?" I asked, my tone light, my insides feeling leaden.

"That might be cute if you thought it was true."

"I do think it's true!" Sort of. But the same thouht kept returning--if Patch wanted to kill me, why hadn't he already?

"Shh!" said the guy next to me.

Patch said, "Walk out, or I'll carry you."

I flipped around. "Excuse me?"

"Shh!" the guy beside me hissed again.

"Blame him," I told the guy, pointing at Patch.

The guy crained his neck. "Listen," he said, "if you don't quiet down now, I'll get security."

"Fine, go get security, Tell them to take him away," I said, again signaling at Patch. "Tell them he wants to kill me."

"I want to kill you," hissed the guy's girlfriend, leaning around to address me.

"Who wants to kill you?" the guy asked. He was still looking over his shoulder, but his expression was puzzled.

"There's nobody there," the girlfriend told me.

"You're making them think they can't see you, aren't you?" I said to Patch, awed at his power even as I despised his use of it.


Rating: 8 out of 10

Also: Is it just me, or do Bob Dylan and Neil Gaimen look scarily alike?





Hm...?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Another award? My my...

...I'm proving to be a popular little bunny, aren't I?

I have recieved the BEAUTIFUL BLOG AWARD from Michelle at the BOOK ADDICT blog! Thank you so much, dude!



Here's the criteria:

This award means that this blog is:

B: Beautiful
I: Informative
N: Neighborly
G: Gorgeous
O: Outstanding


Here are MY nominees...

Oh, you know what? SAME AS LAST TIME! That's right. Whomever I awarded the ZOMBIE CHICKEN award to now has the BEAUTIFUL BLOG AWARD to put next to it :)

Again, thank you so much to Michelle and make sure to check out her blog on your way out =P

Till next time,

Danielle

Book Review: Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link

Title: Pretty Monsters

Author: Kelly Link

Pages: 389

Summary:

THIS BOOK CONTAINS
NINE SHORT STORIES

[and]

A phone booth in Las Vegas
Aliens
Unhelpful wizards
Possibly carnivorous sofas
A handbag with a village inside it
Tennessee Fainting Goats
Dueling librarians
A statue of George Washington
A boy named Onion
Pirates
An undead babysitter
A nationally-ranked soccer player
Shapeshifters
An unexpected campfire guest

And drawings by SHAUN TAN


I originally picked up Pretty Monsters because of the kick-ass cover, and I actually considered bying it because the inside cover was adorned with glowing blurbs from some of my favorite authors, such as Holly Black, Alice Sebold, Garth Nix and Libba Bray. The summary itself was what sold me. Nine odd, quirky, perhaps a bit morbid tales involving a kid named Onion? I never stood a chance.

Pretty Monsters consists of nine short stories by Hugo award winner Kelly Link. The reviews thus far for them have been glowing, making the actual product hard to live up to. Perhaps this was the reason I was a tad dissapointed, or maybe it was just the fact that Ms. Link is trying a bit too hard to be strange and wimsical (I know, how can anything be too wimsical? I'm getting there, no worries)

The first story, "The Wrong Grave", begins with an unnamed narrator begins discussing a "boy she once knew" named Miles and how he decided to dig up his girlfriends grave to retrieve a poem he had left in her casket. He wants to submit it to a contest, and it's the "best one" he's ever written.

Hold on, I'm flipping through it and found the cutest sentence ever:

"Carpe diem before you run out of diem"


Anyway.

But Miles comes into some trouble when, upon pulling a grave out of the ground exactly eleven months after it had been burried, he discovers that it is, in fact, the titular "wrong grave".

This is a perfect introduction to the strange, oddly humurous stories that lay ahead in Pretty Monsters. If Kelly Link can do anything, it is make you wonder how anyone could come up with these things. Strange, strange stories about sporatic television shows and inherited phone booths on the Vegas Strip rule the day in this collection. Some of them are fun, even hilarious stories that force you into a subdued appreciation for the possibilities of a human's imagination. Others, on the other hand...

Okay, I'll say it. Some of them were just boring.

Like I said before, it seems Ms. Link tried a bit too hard to capture a strange quirkiness that's incredibly difficult to pull off. While she does have a beautiful writing style, and some very...interesting ideas (for lack of a better word), her execution is desperatly lacking in that factor that grabs the reader's attention. The first thing most people look for while reading any kind of story is something interesting, something that holds that interest without lagging. Most of her stories left me scratching my head, staring at the page and thinking, "...what...the...hell...?" in a daze. Now, this is not to say I don't enjoy the strange, because I do. But sometimes, there is a fine line between strange and whack. A lot of it is so strange, I couldn't even focus on the story. It got to the point where I was bored with the prose and the odd characters and the WTF??? plotlines. If your going to be weird, keep in mind not everyone is in your head, and not everyone can see what your seeing, so you have to figure out a way to convey your thoughts in a way that us average folk can understand.

Ms. Link is not lacking in imagination, that's for sure. Again, while some of the stories were a bit weird, many of them were hilarious, morbid, odd tales that gave me a fuzzy feeling inside. You know, the one you get when a book just makes you feel good? I don't know if you know what I'm talking about, but that's what this book gave me.

Don't get me wrong, it did have it's flaws. In fact, I can see a lot of people hating it. It's a type of story where you either love it or hate it, burn it or cherish it. Those who like traditional story telling, clear plots and in-depth characters will simply hate it. But anyone who likes humor, parody or satire, or even any Tim Burton movies, will definetly love it.

Despite overkill on the oddity and some poorly executed plotlines (making it lag at times), Pretty Monsters was definetly a fun, different read that I completley enjoyed.

Rating: 6 out of 10--very good.

Also: You can read the first story of Pretty monsters on Ms. Link's website here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

You Like Me! You Really, Really Like Me!

One and a half week into my blog and I already have an award!

Now I know how Jennifer Hudson felt!

Thanks so much to my girl at Book Blabs! I didn't even know blog awards existed!

It's the ZOMBIE CHICKEN AWARD! HELL YES!



Here's the description:

The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all.


My 5 nominations are...(keep in mind I don't really know anyone in blogland)

Ramblings of a Teenage Bookworm

Random Thoughts of a Crazy Liberal

Melencholy Musings

Library Lounge Lizard

Padfoot and Prongs

So enjoy, and thanks again!

Book Review: Youth in Revolt by C.D. Payne (The Journals of Nick Twisp)

Title: Youth in Revolt

Author: C.D. Payne

Pages: 499

Summary:

SIX MONTHS IN THE LIFE OF THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS TEENAGER

Youth in Revolt is the journals of Nick Twisp, California's most precocious diarist, whose ongoing struggles to make sense out of high school, deal with his divorced parents, and lose his virginity result in his transformation from an unassuming fourteen year old to a modern youth in open revolt. As his family splinters, worlds collide, and the police block all routes out of town, Nick must cope with economic deprivation, homelessness, the gulag of the public schools, a competitive Type-A pather, murderous canines (in triplicate), and an inconvienent hair trigger on his erectile response--all while vying ardently for the affections of the beauteous Sheeni Saunders, teenage goddess and ultimate intellectual goad.


If there is one thing--ONE THING--that you can take away from this book, it is this:

BOYS WILL LITERALLY GO TO ANY LENGTHS TO GET IN YOUR PANTS.

We are talking federal laws here, people.

And I loved every second of it.

We first get a glimpse of Nick's dry, at times wicked humor, from the opening sentence:

WEDNESDAY, July 18--My name is Nick. Someday, if I grow up to be a gangster, perhaps I will be known as Nick the Prick. This may cause some embarrassment to my family, but when your don gives you your mafia sobriquet you don't ask questions.


Assuming that that paragraph alone did not convince you to go out and purchase Youth in Revolt, I shall continue.

Nick introduces himself quiet plainly, leaving nothing sacred, unabashedly saying what every other boy in the world is thinking--he hates his name, he hates his family, and he is obsessed with sex.

Now, I'm going to get it out there right now. Youth in Revolt is not for everyone--in fact, most people will find it a revolting (excuse the pun), raunchy, Judd Apatow-movie gone awry collection of paper and words that doesn't deserve the title of 'book'. Most people will grimace and toss it into the fireplace and try to erase it from their virgin minds. Some. Not all.

So, if you have no been frightened off, let's continue.

This begins with typical teen ranting--it is a diary, after all--with Nick generally introducing himself, his family, and his interests. It's hilarious right from the starts, from Nick coming home from his father's house to find his mother has painted his bedroom pink to help "calm" him--"she said she had read this color was widely used in hospitals to help calm mental patients. I told her I wasn't mentally ill, I was just a teenager"--to his vocal disdain for Jerry, his obese step father. Youth in Revolt is basically the extreme side of white trash, told through the eyes of a kid destined for greater things.

Nick is positive that he will remain a virgin forever, until an unexpected trip to a trailer park up in Lakeport sends him head-first into the Greater Then Thou Sheeni Saunders. Beautiful, intellegent and a tad mamnipulative, she takes Nick's heart in a deadly chokehold and refuses to let go. While it's hard to imagine as you get deeper into the novel, she really is the reason Nick does anything. He has literally broken near every law in the country beside first degree murder (notice I don't say murder--I say first degree murder) just to get some. While some would argue that this cannot suffice as a plot, it most certainly can. And it does.

So, as Nick leaves with Sheeni's promise of you-know-what still fresh in his mind, he resolves to bring her to him and lose his ever-loving virginity before his freshman year is up.

So, without giving anything away, I will just declare my undivided love of YOUTH IN REVOLT and how GODDAMN HILARIOUS IT IS.

The writing, as I can describe it, is the way I'd imagine a hyper-intellegent, hyper-sexual, and hyper-neurotic teenager would write. Big words rule the day in this satirical look on modern youth as Nick attempts to understand why the fuck everyone is SO DAMN CRAZY and how he managed to be counted among them.

In a period of six months, Nick goes from a meak, bookish virgin to a crossdressing stud with a bit of a complex. Hell yes.



Nick is not a hero--he's an anti-hero. He's a bit of a jerk, crude, just plain nasty at times, but you there's a feeling of devotion to him that few authors could pull off--you HAVE to cheer for him, you HAVE to sympathize with him, you HAVE to wish him well, because there is simply no one else to root for. He is literally the only boat of sanity in a crazy, mixed up world and, no matter how he reacts to the world around him, he is simply the only one we, the reader, can root for because he's the one telling the story.

As for the other characters, they're all described basically as morons--except for Sheeni--and this may be a sign of an unreliable narrator. That's another thing--we don't know if this is true, we don't know if Nick's telling the truth about anything, or just lying to convince himself there's a legit reason he ends up where he is. We just have to trust him.

Mr. Payne does a perfect job in dramatizing modern youth and making fun of the lengths some boys will go too to get what they want. He lightens up what could be a heavy situation, pokes fun very discreetly at modern youth and sex, and just flat-out rocks my world. A must-read for anyone with a sense of humor.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Also: Michael Cera has been cast to star in the movie adaption of Youth in Revolt:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Book Review: My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent

Title: My Soul To Take

Author: Rachel Vincent

Pages: 279

Summary (from rachelvincent.com):

SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH
KAYLEE CAVANAUGH

She doesn't see dead people, but...

She senses when someone near her is about to die. And when that happens, a force beyond her control compels her to scream bloody murder. Literally.

Kaylee just wants to enjoy having caught the attention of the hottest guy in school. But a normal date is hard to come by when Nash seems to know more about the need to scream than she does. And when classmates start dropping dead for no apparent reason, only Kaylee knows who'll be next...

SOUL SCREAMERS
The last thing you hear before you die...


Kaylee is average.

Not beautiful, not surrounded by boys vying for her affections, nor walking around with A+'s hanging from her backpack. She is, as far as she knows, completly uninteresting.

Except for the panic attacks.

Unsure of how they or when they started, at a loss to what causes them, Kaylee can only hope that the horrible, overwhelming melencholy doesn't return--at least, not when she's in public. But that's exactly what happens when, while clubbing with her best friend Emma and chatting with the hottest guy in school, she spots a girl. Beautiful and blond, there is seemingly nothing wrong with her. Except the darkness.

Suddenly, Kaylee has to scream. She can't talk, can't even breath. She doesn't know why, but she knows she has to scream.

The boy in question, Nash, a known player, helps her from the building along with Emma and meraculously does what no one else can by calming her down. But, after the initial panic wears off, Kaylee begins to wonder...why would the most sought-after boy in school go out of his way to help her? Does he have an agenda?

But Kaylee quickly learns that Nash is probably the most honest person in her life after the girl that triggered her attack shows up dead for no reason. On the verge of a breakdown, Nash is the one who tells her she is a bean sidhe, pronouned Banshee. Traditionally, bean sidhes are Irish fairies who's mourning cries are seen as high-pitched shrieks to everyone but the spirits of the dead or the 'male' bean sidhes.

The best parf of My Soul To Take is definetly the way Ms. Vincent takes an old, nearly forgotten myth and makes it her own. Everyone has heard the phrase "scream like a banshee", but no one really knows where it originates. My father, born and raised in Ireland, had spent many hours when I was younger talking his mouth off about the banshee legend, which was partly the reason I picked up this novel. Vincent is true to the original myth, while adding her own spin to it that appeals to the younger generations who might no be familiar with banshees. She has a lovely writing style that captures the typical 'teen angst' aspect of most YA literature, but also lays out this entire world-beneath-a-world that's both horrifying and mesmorizing. I love the love/hate relationship the author creates for Kaylee's family, and I LOVE Kaylee and Nash's relationship. It's all too often I read a book with a couple that A-DORE each other but no one really knows why (*ahem* Twilight *ahem*), but Kaylee and Nash just work. Though my only gripe would have to be that the transition between Kaylee being paranoid of Nash and being in lurv with Nash is a bit rushed, you can still feel their chemestry leaping off the page.

The main reason I read supernatural YA books is because I like the thought of a coming-of-age tale where the protagonist has to 'discover who she/he is" while battling otherworldly creatures. My Soul To Take delivers wonderfully in that aspect, having Kaylee try to seperate herself from both her snotty cousin and beautiful best friend while trying to deal with her new-found powers. Very, very angsty. I love it.

An issue I had, however, mostly stems from the summary--"when classmates start dropping dead for no apparent reason"--being a bit misleading. It makes it sound like every five minutes one of Kaylee's school friends are dropping dead in the middle fo biology when, in fact, only three girls die, only one of which Kaylee actually knows, and one doesn't even go to her school. This may be the publisher's doing, but I found it a bit irritating how subtle the book is compared to the summary.

Other then that, My Soul To Take was a enjoyable, fun read that I'd defintly suggest to any fans of the supernatural and re-tellings of ancient myths.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Also: In honor of the upcoming release of the latest in the Dexter series, Dexter By Design, I'll be having a Dexter week, in which I'll review the entire series thus far, PLUS the hit television series. So...look out for that...=]

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Collaboration Review: Who Killed Amanda Palmer (With Stories by Neil Gaimen)



Title: Who Killed Amanda Palmer

Plotline: A Collection of Photgraphic Evidence

Author (s): Neil Gaimen (short stories)

Photography: Kyle Cassidy, Beth Hommel and many more.

Lyrics: Amanda Palmer (of the Dresdon Dolls)

Summary: Since I'm at a loss for words as to how to describe this book, I'll leave it to Neil Gaimen (also about how he became involved:

She had sent me her then-forthcoming CD WHO KILLED AMANDA PALMER, which I'd loved, and I'd agreed to write the back cover "liner notes". And then Amanda sent me an email telling me that she had been taking photographs of herself dead for about 14 years, that the original idea had been to use some of those photos for the CD sleeve, but that would not happen, and she was making it into a book, and asking if I'd be interested in writing some words to go along with them.

She sent me many of the photos. I was intrigued. Nobody had ever asked me to do anything like that before, and the photos were small frozen stories, so I said yes. I went out to Boston in August and spent a few long-but-good days with Amanda and with photographer Kyle Cassidy, who is astonishing, with Amanda's then-boyfriend Michael and with Beth Hommel, her assistant. It was like a combination of mad improv theatre and instant film-making as we created scenarios and Kyle shot them. Mostly I was somewhere off to the side, scribbling in a notebook while everything happened around me, but occasionally I was dragooned into helping, or even being part of a shot. (There was one night where I staggered back and forth down an alley at 2.00am, with a dead Amanda over my shoulder, while nearby my friend Kira made imaginary cell-phone calls, and I waited for a squad car to pull up and find out what was going on. No squad cars turned up. People in Boston are very blase about dead people in alleys. The photo made it into the book, I think.)

I loved trying to turn the photos into stories. Some big stories, some very small stories, even a new-old fairy tale, each story odd, each story fun to write, and each story, invariably, fatal.

The most fun I think were the ones where the photo created more questions than it answered (a dead woman on some waste ground, her head crushed by a manual typewriter, apparently dropped from a very high place just left me going WHY? and produced one of my favourite stories as I got to explain...)

I've said it before on this blog: Writing is (like death) a lonely business, and it was enormously fun for me writing surrounded by creative people busy creating. I wrote several of the stories sitting in a corner of a room while Amanda practiced for her upcoming tour, tuning in and out of reality while songs were being played. It was fun.

There are about a dozen stories altogether, and a few shorter things by me in there. And there are lyrics by Amanda. And photographs. So many photographs.


Who Killed Amanda Palmer is, at first glance, a book of photographs. A companion to the epinonimous Amanda Palmer's forthcoming album of the same name, consisting of photographs of Amanda dead, maimed, or killed in variously odd ways. These pictures are accomponied by small tidbits of stories by Neil Gaimen, which is what sold me in the first place (seeing as I'm a hopeless heap of Gaimen Fangirl) as well as lyrics from songs in the album, "Who Killed Amanda Palmer" by...erm...Amanda Palmer.

So.

I think the part that will draw readers in is the strange, unique ways Amanda Palmer is "killed" and the ways Neil Gaimen executes each explanation. The range from surreal tidbits that let the photo elaborate for them, such as "The Two of Them" to simple phone conversations that can be taken into whatever context the reader sees fit, such as "The Boys Room". There is no doubt that "Who Killed Amanda Palmer" is an art piece, meant for those who are fans of Amanda Palmer's music, or just the strange and morbid in general. There is some very tasteful nudity (not like Playboy tasteful--just plain tasteful). The photos themselves are very, very odd, ranging from limbs flying though the air, to simple bodies floating down a murky river. The pictures, lyrics, and stories all weave together so perfectly it's hard to imagine any of them without the other.

Neil Gaimen, once again, proves that he is a master of stories, creating an entire scenerio with just a few shrot sentences. Amanda Palmer's lyrics are fantastic (though this could just be because I'm a HUGE fan of her and the Dresdon Dolls), as is the photography (I'm sounding like a broken record, aren't I?). Again, it's difficult to explain this book without actually holding it up for you to see. There is a short introduction of shorts in the front, accompanied by the cover photo of the CD of which this book is based:



...explaining the reason multiple 'Amanda Palmers' have been turning up dead all over the world. Here's the last paragraph:

(...) If you see Amanda Palmer on the street, kill her, said the graffiti under the bridge in Boston. And beneath that somebody else wrote, That way she'll live forever.


I'm not entirely sure how to explain this, because it's such a visual thing...I can't do it justice by writing a review for it. There is simply nothing I can say that can capture the bizzare genius of Who Killed Amanda Plamer. All I can suggest is to go and get it.

Rating: 10 out of 10

Also: Here are some lyrics written by Palmer for one of the photgraphs called "Astronaut"

Is it enough to have some love
small enough to slip inside a book
small enough to cover with your hand
because everyone around you wants to look

it is enough to have some love
small enough to slip inside the cracks
the pieces don’t fit together so good
with all the breaking and all the gluing back

and i am still not getting what i want
i want to touch the back of your right arm
i wish you could remind me who i was
because every day I’m a little further off

but you are, my love, the astronaut
flying in the face of science
i will gladly stay an afterthought
just bring back some nice reminders

and is it getting harder to pretend
that life goes on without you in the wake
and can you see the means without the end
in the random frantic action that we take

and is it getting easy not to care
despite the many rings around your name
it isn’t funny and it isn’t fair
you’ve traveled all this way and it’s the same

but you are, my love, the astronaut
flying in the face of science
i will gladly stay an afterthought
just bring back some nice reminders
and i would tell them anything to see you split the evening
but as you see i do not have an awful lot to tell
everybody’s sick for something that they can find fascinating
everyone but you and even you aren’t feeling well

but you are, my love, the astronaut
flying in the face of science
i will gladly stay an afterthought
just bring back some nice reminders

yes you are, my love, the astronaut
crashing in the name of science
just my luck they sent your upper half
it’s a very nice reminder
it’s a very nice reminder

and you may be acquainted with the night
but I have seen the darkness in the day
and you must know it is a terrifying sight
because you and i are living the same way

I Tweet, Therefore I Am

Hello, all. I've decided to get with the the times and make a TWITTER!



So, follow me at twitter.com/opinionatedme12 and I'll follow you!

Yay!

Time to go do something productive!

Monday, August 17, 2009

What Makes My Wallet Hurt (1)

This is a new meme I'm starting, though I'm sure it's not original. You book bloggers are breaking my heart, with all your reviews of killer books that I can't afford. I just thought I'd write them down. So, I present you with the first ever edition of WHAT MAKES MY WALLET HURT!

Going Bovine by Libba Bray



A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson (which I SHOULD be able to get because its $0.77 on Amazon but, alas, I am but a lowly fourteen year old with a stifling mother whose darn protective of her credit cards....damn.)



Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate) - Gail Carriger



Lockdown: Escape from Furnace - Alexander Gordon Smith



Clockwork Heart - Dru Pagliassotti



A Curse Dark as Gold - Elizabeth C. Bunce



Molloy - Samuel Beckett (pretty old, but I'm in a Samuel Beckett kick lately, so...)



Leviathan - Scott Westerfeld. God, it hurts to think that it's not coming out til October.



The Tear Collector - Patrick Jones



Rampant - Diana Peterfreund (it's Killer Unicorns...come on.)



Dull Boy - Sarah Cross



Pastworld by Ian Beck



Icelander - Dustin Long (I'm trying to get all the books in this new McSweeney's Publishing House.)



Hush, Hush - Becca Fitzpatrick



Crazy Beautiful - Lauren Baratz-Logsted
A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Wilcomb (which I was SO DAMN CLOSE TO GETTING!)
Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog


And...SLEEPLESS! WANT! NEED! GAHH!

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