Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Fifty Shades Phenomenon

Today, the train conductor was sitting down and reading the last installment of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy instead of paying attention to train stuff. I don't mind. Books beat out working 100 to 0, and it's not like she was the one driving. Then I saw two other women reading them while they were standing in the aisle waiting to get off. I overhear (loud) conversations when I would rather be sleeping, and see a huddle of women standing around the display at the bookstore. So what is it getting everyone all hot and bothered? Easy. SEX.

And not just "Mommy and Daddy love each other very much" sex, but "I want to tie you up and finger-fuck you" sex. And it's right then you realize.... all these people don't give a shit about the book. They're only in it for the sex. Socially acceptable sex that they can carry around with them and read in public.

Now, if you saw a guy sitting on a park bench--beautiful, hideous, use your imagination--reading a Playboy, would you go up to talk to him? Or would you immediately peg him for a pedophile or crazy stalker and rush quickly by or even turn around and avoid him altogether? No matter what your reaction, the point is you just don't do that in public. Playboys are left firmly in the bedroom, possibly between the mattresses, and consumed in secret/shame/joy.

Americans are known for being stuffy and shy when it comes to sex. I never had Sex Ed in high school--a public, liberal school with a big budget and unique location that fed it students from trailer-park to Major League Baseball families. I had Don't Have Sex Ed. Please.We deny teenagers condoms thinking that solves our problem, and instead end up with a whole bunch of pregnant teenagers and no values or respect about sex.

I don't really know what I wanted to say when I set out to write this post. I read the Nook sample of Fifty Shades and it was terrible. Grade school writing with horrendous characters and full of contradictions and I didn't even get to read any of the fun parts. I just discovered this blog: MommyPornAndMe, and I'm much more interested in reading his funny commentary than I am the book. I guess that's what I wanted to say. It's hypocritical that this book is a bestseller in a country that can't even educate kids about sex. I have nothing against the book, I definitely don't have anything against sex, but the whole thing just makes me sad. I want a good book to be a bestseller, and not a book that inspires this.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Looking For Alaska

Is it better to write a review immediately after finishing a book, while you're still all emotionally torn-up from it? Or should you wait a few hours or a day until you can make a objective point? Either way, I finished this about 30 seconds ago. Looking for Alaska is the Printz award-winning book by John Green. I can see why it won the award. But it didn't rip me apart like The Fault in our Stars.

A synopsis, from BN:
BEFORE. Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole life has been one big non-event. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into a new life, and steals his heart. AFTER. Nothing is ever the same.

This book is a charming-but-serious coming of age story. It's also John Green's first published book, and I can see the differences right away from his newest release, The Fault in Our Stars. I don't want to make this a comparison between the two, but needless to say, TFIOS made me bawl my eyes out and piss myself laughing, and this book didn't have that kind of emotional range. The characters were hilarious, and they acted exactly like teenagers. They were funny and naive and stupid.

To be honest, I thought the story was comparable to any other really-good-but-not-amazing contemporary YA. What makes this book really great is the quotability of it. Practically ever page has a tattoo-worthy declaration. Read it with a pencil so you can underline the good ones.

When adults say, "Teenagers think they are invincible" with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don't know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But the part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail. (Page 220)

And that's not even the quote I wanted to share with you, but I couldn't find the one I wanted.

All in all, everyone should be reading John Green. It doesn't have to be Looking for Alaska, it should definitely include The Fault in Our Stars, and just revel in his awesome.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Poetry, come to life

I don't read poetry. It's like reading the dictionary. I was a science kid through all of high school and half of college, and when I finally switched into English and started taking poetry classes (required, might I add), I was utterly lost. Here I was with all my classmates, the dunce. To them, a ten-line poem about a leaf told them about the epic struggle of good vs. evil, the inevitability of death, the beauty in the quiet, but to me it was just a goddamn leaf. (Ok, I wasn't quite that dense, but I was close.)

But I loved the discussions. We'd spend an entire period talking about one poem, and these talkative, emo, moody English majors (who I'd previously want nothing to do with) gave me stories to put to the poems, and then I saw them in a whole new light and loved them. (The poems, not the people.)

In any case, here is Invictus by William Ernest Henley, presented to you by Gavin Aung Than of Zen Pencils. It's a three part story, and the links to the following two parts are below the cartoon. And I highly recommened reading and following all of Zen Pencils. (Thanks to Beth Revis for sharing this first.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Blackout

Blackout by Mira Grant is the last volume in the Newsflesh Trilogy. I'm not really a fan of zombie stories, but I love this series. Why? Because the zombies are part of the setting, part of life. It's past the initial survival of the Rising and is all about how life has evolved. This series has the most fascinating backstory I've read. The first book, Feed, followed a group of bloggers through a presidential campaign. The second book, Deadline, followed them as they unearthed the conspiracy. In Blackout, everything collapses.

A synopsis, from BN:
The year was 2014. The year we cured cancer. The year we cured the common cold. And the year the dead started to walk. The year of the Rising.
       The year was 2039. The world didn't end when the zombies came, it just got worse. Georgia and Shaun Mason set out on the biggest story of their generation. The uncovered the biggest conspiracy since the Rising and realized that to tell the truth, sacrifices have to be made.
       Now, the year is 2041, and the investigation that began with the election of President Ryman is much bigger than anyone had assumed. With too much left to do and not much time left to do it in, the surviving staff of After the End Times must face mad scientists, zombie bears, rogue government agencies-and if there's one thing they know is true in post-zombie America, it's this:
       Things can always get worse.

Read my (premature) review of Feed here, and the ending of Feed. My review of Deadline. Don't worry, the reviews are spoiler free. Mira Grant is the open pseudonym for Seanan McGuire, find her at her blog and twitter. And I thought I was going to be missing out reading the book instead of listening to the audio, but the character's voices are so ingrained in my head from the last two books that I don't even see a difference. Feed and Deadline landed great narrators.

This is going to be really hard to talk about without giving away major things about the endings of the previous two books. Lets just say, science keeps getting re-written, and yet it all makes perfect sense. No one can be trusted, and yet the hints were there all along when the crew is betrayed. The characters all have reasons to act the way they do, and they continue to act that way even when we don't want them too. Each book in the trilogy furthers the story and reveals more about the characters and the world. Information from the first and second books get even deeper meaning in the third book.

The romance in this book is exactly how I wish more books handled romance. With tact. It's there, and it's a powerful motivator for the characters, but we're not smothered with false affection and sex. When the characters get together it's a huge payoff and the little bit of affection we do get to see is heart-squeezing and happy-making. And I'm not going to tell you who gets together with who. But it was perfect, and couldn't have happened any other way, and Grant handled it respectfully and perfectly.

Lastly, and I will probably get all kinds of hell for saying this, I want to see Kristen Stewart play Georgia in the must-happen Feed movie. She looks exactly how I imagined Georgia to look (except we'd have to cut off all that beautiful hair of hers) and she has the proper balance of humility, "don't touch me"-ness, and strength. And she's enough of a not-good actor to make the character a real person. And while we're at it, let's get a Mark Gatiss-David Fincher collaboration going.

Do yourself a favor and read these books. I can't say that enough. A couple times during Blackout I stopped and thought I can't believe a person wrote this. It's a level of storytelling that hasn't been matched for me since J. K. Rowling, the way everything fits together to just blow your mind. I may be fangirling at this point. I don't care. You need to read these books.

Update 5/23/12: I just discovered, via Seanan McGuire's blog, an alternate ending to Feed. It's called Fed. (Clever.) You have to like the FB page to read it—which, to anyone listening, I find super annoying. I have ignored things I would have normally done because it involved a FB step. But this story I wanted to read too much, so I jumped through your damn hoops. You're welcome. Now, go read Fed, but only if you've finished Feed (spoilers ahoy).

RISE UP WHILE YOU CAN.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Around the Interwebs

Maurice Sendak, 83, died from complications from a stroke. In case you didn't know, he was pretty fantastic. And hilarious (here's part 2). And he did cool things, and said cool things. Here are some extra scenes from the Colbert interview. "Childhood is a period of great torment." -MS

I just discovered these podcasts from the Odyssey Writing Workshops. Finally, something to listen to each week after Writing Excuses! They update once or twice a month.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Irrepressible Library

So what's everybody been up to lately? For me, I proofread a friend's master's thesis, cleaned my room and did my laundry (simple, but daunting), and have been slowly but surely working through 90 Days to Your Novel. I spent an entire week on day three, and then the thesis pushed back day four several days, and I have a little to finish in day five's assignment before moving on to six. I know this means nothing to you, but you should know that I like working through something structured, and I am finding out a lot about my characters by really sitting down with them. This book forces patience. I like it. I also like the bite-sized chunks. Focus only on the task at hand, and I don't have to think about how daunting and impossible an entire novel seems. I recommend it. The first three weeks are all brainstorming, and I'm already excited for the actual novel-writing part of it. I wonder how it is going to be structured?

And as for Red Seas Under Red Skies... I don't know. The questions went around today for the second week's read along, but I just haven't done any of the reading. It's not that I'm not interested in it, I'm just more interested in other things. Which I guess is telling me something. I hope to still read it... but we'll see when it happens. Life is too short to read books I'm not in the mood for.

I am currently reading The Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson, the first book in the Malazan series. There are a bazillion books in the series, and they are supposed to be really freaking good, so I'm excited to get into it. It's a hefty story, and I'm really enjoying it so far. This is actually my second attempt at it. I first tried right after college and I didn't have enough brainspace left over to comprehend it, so I gave it up for a bad job and read a slew of frilly teen books for about a year. The cover on the left is the version I have, but the one on the right is so much better I had to post it as well. Not sure if it's the UK version or a revamped US version.

This is my compromise between reading A Clash of Kings and not reading A Clash of Kings. You see, I'm watching the show, and it's amazing, and it makes me want to read those books again. But the last thing I want to do is read those books again. They're massive, and not that much happens, and that would just be years of my life I'll never be able to get back. Don't read them, Gina!

The first book of N. K. Jemisin's series The Dreamblood just came out on Tuesday, and I am super excited to read it! (Also, here is a really good article by Jemisin: The Unexotic Exotic.) The setting is based on ancient Egypt, and after reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, I am really excited for more work by her and also more work in another series. The second book comes out in a month or two, and I'd like to read both of them close to their release dates. But what am i to do since I am in the middle of Gardens of the Moon? #firstworldproblems. In any case, Googling "The Killing Moon" to get the cover image brings up a whole bunch of hot women with tattoos. Not sure how the two are linked, but I am not opposed.

Some linky-links from the Twitter world today: an interesting new blog on international scifi, and an essay on villains by Marie Lu on Pub Crawl. I need to work on my villains. As of now, I don't even have a villain, it's just an amorphous "baddie." Since the story is about a war, I'm not sure if that's okay or if I should really give the baddies a face. Still working on it.

 Update: How could I forget these? Both are on reserve at my library. Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear, an epic fantasy with an eastern-inspired setting, and The List by Siobhan Vivian, about the eight girls listed as prettiest or ugliest in their year. Every once in a while a YA book comes along that just sounds fascinating. The List is one of those books.