“If a girl is a slut, you don’t have to treat her like a human being.”

The S-WordSometimes the blurb about a book completely sucks me in. I don’t pre-read others’ reviews before I read a book. I like to go in unspoiled and without expectations, if at all possible. I think it’s an injustice to a book to enter in with expectations. Sometimes you can’t help it; you love the author, or you love the subject matter, or a friend highly recommended it. But if you can go in with no prior knowledge I think that’s best.

The S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher popped up on Netgalley (blah blah Netgalley gave me a copy in exchange for a fair and honest review blah blah) and the blurb sold me. It was a YA novel about suicide and slut-shaming in a high school. Um. Yes. OK. These are both topics I find interesting and timely and therefore I thought would make for an interesting book. (I ignored the fact that the title reminded me of that Saturday Night Live “Celebrity Jeopardy” sketch with Sean Connery: “I’ll take SWORDS for $200, Alex.” *sigh* “That’s S-Words, Mr. Connery.”)

You know how awesome movie trailers are? Like, you’ll go to a movie, and you’ll watch the trailers (and to me, the trailers are pretty much my favorite part of the movie experience, and my dad always laughs at how excited I get about trailers and then people always TALK during them and I have to glare all around at the talkers) and you’re all “I MUST SEE ALL OF THESE” and then you see them and they’re not good at ALL because you were bait-and-switched by the damn awesome trailer?

This blurb was totally a bait-and-switch. Because this book was…um…yeah. Not good.

The IDEA was good. At least it started out that way. There was a solid idea in place. Poor writing and a seeming lack of follow-through made it all fall, like a delicious, yet flat, soufflé. Dammit. WHY ARE YOU RUINING MY SOUFFLÉ.

You probably want some plot, right? OK, I can do that. Angie walked in on her best friend Lizzie having sex with her (Angie’s) boyfriend on prom night. Angie’s a pretty, popular cheerleader. The school immediately turned on quiet little Lizzie and started calling her a slut. Writing it on lockers. Whispering it to her. Shoving her in the halls. She commits suicide not long after.

Angie blames herself, and everyone else who drove Lizzie to suicide, so after someone writes “Suicide Slut” on the lockers in Lizzie’s handwriting after she dies and starts putting pages from Lizzie’s secret diary in people’s lockers, she decides to figure out exactly what happened to Lizzie.

See? That sounds kind of good, right?

It wasn’t.

The writing was at about an 8th-grade level. The characters were all cardboard cutouts that said things and did things no one would ever do. Motivations popped up out of nowhere that were completely out of line with the character we’d come to know. There was a big twist, I suppose, if you want to call it that, but it was SO OUT OF LEFT FIELD that it was more laughable than shocking.

I read this book and do you know what it made me? It made me angry.

If she was going to write about suicide, slut-shaming culture among teenagers, and teens struggling with their sexuality (that was a plot point, as well), which are all valid and important things that need to be written about and talked about and exposed and brought to light in our culture, then dammit, you almost have a RESPONSIBILITY to do it justice. These aren’t joke topics. These aren’t topics to be taken lightly. These are topics that actual people are struggling with every day, and to write poorly about them, when teens might come to this book looking for some damn understanding, for someone who might get them, even a little, even for a little while, and they’d get this book? This shoddily-written book where no one can be related to, where the topics are only being used for shock value, where the writing is circuitous and terrible and nothing is taken with the right amount of gravity?

No. This kind of infuriated me. No, not kind of. It did. It DID infuriate me.

Books are more than paper and glue (or e-ink on your e-reader.) They mean things. They should have some import, especially when they promise to be about serious topics. And when they only use those serious topics to pique interest, and hiding behind that is an author who can’t write well enough to pull it off, who, honestly, I think was exploiting the seriousness for in order to snake-oil people in?

No. Not allowed.

Sorry, Chelsea Pitcher. I won’t pick up a single other thing you ever write. This book is the literary equivalent of writing about whatever the hot-button topic of the day is in order to play the SEO game. I’m savvier than that. I hope your teen readers are, too.

And, if there are any teens reading? If you want a better book about any of these issues, you contact me. I’ll steer you in the right direction, to an author who actually gives a shit and has the prowess to back that up. That is absolutely my promise to you. You deserve better, and I can send you to books that have that. I’d be happy to, if to just give you a moment’s peace from whatever teenage hell you’re going through. No snake-oil here, promise. Some things need to be taken seriously. I get that. Man, do I get that. And you deserve an author who does, too.

Book Review – Delirium

 

Gah. So shiny. It burns!

Book Blurb: Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love — the deliria — blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

I feel the need to state once again that I really had zero interest in ever reading this book. I completely heart post-apocalyptic/dystopian stories, but usually hate them once TRUE LOVE is thrown into the mix. I read this because I got a stupid java update popup on my computer when I was voting for Book of the Year in the GoodReads Choice Awards and when I went to close it, I accidentally voted for this book (I’m sure you’re all thinking that’s a likely story, but I hope that people who actually know me can accept that this really isn’t my thang at all). I was consumed with guilt by voting for a book I hadn’t actually read, so forced myself to wade through it. Luckily, it wasn’t intellectually taxing at all and it took less than two days.

On to the review!

I wish I could say that the premise of this book was highly original, but while I was reading it I took a look at my recommendations based on my Currently Reading shelf. There were at least 10 books there with almost exactly the same blurb. Change the location, change the name of the main protagonist and why exactly she can’t be with her One True Love and you have the other books it was suggested I check out. In this one, love has been determined to be a fatal disease. Nearly all of humanity’s ills and woes are brought on by this terrible affliction and since scientists came up with ‘the Cure’ (essentially a partial lobotomy) things are pretty damn close to perfect.

We follow the story of Lena, a girl approaching her 18th birthday who is eagerly anticipating her procedure date, the one that will remove from her brain the ability to love. The population is required to wait until they’re 18 because I guess it doesn’t always take if it’s performed on someone younger than that. At first we’re told that it’s never performed on minors, but later the author backpedals and tells us that sometimes (in extreme cases of deliria) it’s okay to perform the procedure on those that haven’t reached the age of majority. Lena is an orphan, whose father died when she was young and her mother committed suicide when she was small because she was one of the few the operation didn’t work on. Her mother had the procedure three times and it never took, so instead of letting them strap her down to the table the fourth time, she walked off of a cliff.

I’m not going to recap the whole plot, because it was super predictable and just the little bit I’ve mentioned above should give you a pretty good idea of how things go – I’ll just get straight to bitching about the stuff that was really horrible.

(Do I need to tell you that there will be SPOILERS ahead?)

Every single bit of this story was completely banal. Of course Lena meets a boy shortly before she turns 18. Of course he turns out to be one of the wild people from beyond the borders of the city. Of course she falls truly, madly, deeply in love with him. Of course her mother isn’t really dead, and of course she escaped from the prison where those who won’t submit are held. That is (of course!) the final straw in Lena’s decision that she can’t – nay, won’t – go through with the lobotomy and she must escape to reunite with her mother again. The book ends on a supposed cliffhanger where Lena escapes from the hordes of police that are chasing her and her OTL, but he’s left behind and she’s on her own.

[sigh]

No explanation is really given as to how amor deliria nervosa came to be thought of as a disease, nor how the scientific procedure actually works to remove a feeling from the brain of those that undergo it. We get little bits from textbooks and government documents at the beginning of each chapter, but no real insight. Those book blurbs were the most interesting part of the story for me because I kept thinking some clarification was on its way. Nope.

The uncured wildlings are referred to as ‘Invalids,’ which I found pretty confusing for the majority of the book – unsure which pronunciation and definition was being used for the word. Were they non-valid since they refused to conform or were they crippled/disabled because they hadn’t submitted? I chose to believe the latter since it seemed to fit with the general tone of the rest of the book…only to find out near the end that I was wrong when it’s mentioned that “their entire existence would be invalidated.” OH! Ooops!

I suppose I could have forgiven the terrible plot and awful predictability if I had enjoyed the author’s style at all, but she lost me fairly early on. In one of the first chapters, Lena opens a window, and the humidity is described as the air feeling “as thick and heavy as a tongue.” No, I’m not kidding. That was the point for me where I realized there wasn’t any way possible I would take pleasure in this book. Ugh. I guess lots of people are bumping this book up an additional star because of Lauren Oliver’s ‘beautiful, brilliant, elegant’ prose, but I’m not one of those people.

1/5 stars. Truly terrible…but I will probably read the sequel, just so I can mock it further.

Book Review – Inheritance

Book Blurb: Not so very long ago, Eragon—Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider—was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest. Now the fate of an entire civilization rests on their shoulders.

Long months of training and battle have brought victories and hope, but they have also brought heartbreaking loss. And still, the real battle lies ahead: they must confront Galbatorix. When they do, they will have to be strong enough to defeat him. And if they cannot, no one can. There will be no second chances.

The Rider and his dragon have come further than anyone dared to hope. But can they topple the evil king and restore justice to Alagaësia? And if so, at what cost?

This is the much-anticipated, astonishing conclusion to the worldwide bestselling Inheritance cycle.

Non –spoilery thoughts: What a complete and utter disappointment. I really don’t know what I was expecting from this book, but it surely was not this. I am amazed I finally finished it, because it was really just that bad. I sighed every time I picked it up, and couldn’t bring myself to read more than 50 pages at a stretch.

I noticed that in the acknowledgements, the author thanked no less than FIVE editors. I feel like each and every one of those editors should be fired and never allowed to work in the publishing industry again. Harsh? Perhaps. Unfortunately, this is a book where the run-ons run on and on, the punctuation is atrocious and there are so many misspelled and misused words it will make any lover of the English language want to weep. There were so many extraneous parts of the story – I feel like the book could have been half the size and still managed to tell the same tale. If it had been half the size, it might actually have been enjoyable. Here’s an example of one of the worst sentences in the book: “Of warmth and growth they sang, of muscle and sinew and pulsing blood they sang, and of other, more arcane subjects.” First of all, you can see how it just goes on and on. Secondly, you can also see where he loses interest in what he’s writing about at the end and just…finishes. I feel like he had no idea what else they could possibly be singing about, so he gave up. If any of his (FIVE) editors were remotely competent, they could have fixed that for him. There were moments where he used the same word five times (hey, same as the number of editors he had!) in about 7 lines. Of course…those 7 lines were really only two sentences, so…

On to the plot. Blech. I suppose I should be grateful for the recap of the first three books at the beginning because reading it made me feel like I hadn’t read them at all. I realize it’s been a few years since the last one came out, but c’mon! I know I’m not that forgetful! Many, many pages of battles that could have been more succinctly described. I swear, there was one instance where they were trapped in a storm over the sea for at least 20 pages. TWENTY PAGES! OF FOG! What the…?! [sigh]

Closure for characters? I guess-ish. We revisit most of the important people we met throughout the series, but I have a feeling that Eragon/Arya shippers are going to be sorely disappointed (I say this, assuming that there are such shippers, even though I’ve never visited an Inheritance message board). Just…dissatisfying to the nth degree.

I’m warning you right now, if you have not read this book (or have any intentions of reading this book) you should probably skip the rest of this review. Things are about to get spoileriffic.

Okay, I made five pages of notes on this crap while I was reading it, but I’m gonna ignore those for now and just wing it – I’ll talk about the stuff that bothered me the most.

Nasuada – at the beginning of the book, we spend forever talking about her stupid scars. Yes, I get that she did the whole battle of the knives thingy to prove how badass and worthy of leading the Rebel Allia…er, Varden she was. Seriously, though? Do we really need to lovingly describe the blemishes on the “belly of her forearms” (for realsies, that’s where they are) for two pages? TWO PAGES!

THEN after a bunch of pages where nothing happens, she gets kidnapped by the big baddie of the series. His über-ridiculous name is Galbatorix and he’s kidnapped Princess Leia in order to force her to swear fealty to him in the old language. She refuses. He tortures her. There are many, many pages where nothing much happens. Hot irons are applied. Her jailer/guy who feeds her and takes her to the bathroom has nice fingernails (at least 500 words are spent describing this dude’s fingernails – he’s never given a name, but he has really well manicured hands). More hot irons are applied, still she refuses. You go, girlfriend. Galby brings out a box. Whatever is in the box is making some skree-skree, skree-ska! noise. At this point, I had a feeling I knew what was in the box and if it went in her ear and wrapped itself around her cerebral cortex, I was going to throw a freaking fit. Luckily, it didn’t. Look, Christopher Paolini – you can call it a stupid Burrow Grub all you want, but I freaking know it’s a Ceti Eel!

Ceti Eel

So, while she’s being tortured, Eragon takes off to find the soopersekrit Vault of Souls. This is where we encountered the endless fog I mentioned earlier. BlahblahFOGblahblahWINDblahblahblah. We finally get to the island where the aforementioned vault is, but Eragon can’t get in because he doesn’t know his true name. He spends, like, fifty pages meditating on the subject and WE NEVER GET TO FIND OUT WHAT IT IS! Oh, and the Vault is guarded by GIANT ATTACK SNAILS and some kind of creepy shadow bird…I think there were more Ceti Eels hiding in the forest, too. He gets into the vault to find a ton of hidden dragon eggs and some souls of dragons that are no longer with us. They’re going to lend him their strength so he can take on the evil tyrant king and (maybe) vanquish him. Okay, I will admit it. This part wasn’t so bad. Just the entire book leading up to it…and everything that came after.

Eragon takes off back to the Varden and carries a bunch of the former-dragons in this magic hyperdimensional pocket thingy that follows him around. No one else can see it, no one else knows it’s there. To make sure he doesn’t blab to everyone about the egg clutch, they wipe his memory. He will somehow remember they’re there if/when he defeats Galbatorix, but not before. Eragon returns, the peasants rejoice, and they lay siege to the city in the morning.

There’s a lot of fighting, most of it is just gratuitous violence that I really wanted to skip. I didn’t, though, just on the off chance that something might actually happen that I needed to know. There was this one character that I wanted to know more about – she saved Roran (Eragon’s brother/cousin/whatever) from being killed. She referred to herself as a helpful stranger, but we never found out any more about her. She was in the book for about a paragraph and I liked her more than the majority of the characters we spent hundreds of pages on.

Eragon and friends head deep into the fortress to face off against the big bad evil tyrant king who has held the land with an iron fist for over 100 years, but OH NOES he has learned THE NAME OF THE ANCIENT LANGUAGE, which somehow makes him able to stop other people from using magic with that language. So, he’s trying to get into Eragon’s mind and our hero finds that his only defense is to use all of his force (and the powers of all the dead dragons he’s got hanging out in his pocket) to send back a feeling of all of the death and destruction he’s caused during his rule.
He cries out NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO a few times, realizes he’s a complete tool…and spontaneously combusts. End of big evil baddy. Yes. Really. They hurt his feelings and he exploded.

I wish that was where the book ended, but it went on for another hundred pages. Really, though – nothing else happened.

1.5/5 stars. He finished the series, so he gets a star for that. The half star is for allowing me to take five pages of notes on this crap. I do enjoy note-taking.

Next up: Delirium by Lauren Oliver I really don’t even want to read this book, but I accidentally voted for it in the Goodreads Choice Awards semi-finals, so I feel kind of obligated.

Things That Annoy Me (part 1)

1.   People with no children who think they’ll be the best parents ever so feel qualified to give parenting advice – or look down on those who actually have children because they’re “doing it wrong.”

“Oh, I took a class/read a book/watched this movie. You shouldn’t do that, that will warp your children for LIFE!”

Shut up. You don’t know. Please don’t talk to me ever again.

2.  Uninformed rantings.  I don’t care if you fly off the handle, seriously.  Please make sure you know what you’re talking about before you begin.  I’d hate to see you make an ass of yourself…or maybe I’d prefer that because then I know to avoid you in the future.

3. Poor punctuation. I am also annoyed by improper use of you’re/your, to/too/two, they’re/there/their, etc – but punctuation is a biggie.

3a. I was recently sent this gif (I’m a sucker for Star Wars funnies), but my enjoyment was severely hampered by the atrocious punctuation errors. FYI, punctuation goes inside the quotation marks. INSIDE.

3b. Apostrophes. Look, I know they seem cool. The thing is, you don’t need them as often as you think. Really. If you use an apostrophe to pluralize a word, I will smack you. Maybe I won’t. Do you really want to find out, though?

3c. Semicolons. I don’t really hate them so much, but how they’re used. I’ve noticed a trend lately with authors who think use of semicolons will distract the reader from noticing that all they’ve really managed to put together is the hugest run-on in the history of the written word. Kurt Vonnegut said “Don’t use semicolons. They stand for absolutely nothing. They are transvestite hermaphrodites. They are just a way of showing off.” Yeah. That.

4. Forgetting my iPod at home. What? You mean I’m going to be forced to listen to the radio or horrible waiting music?! I will usually go back home for it, because that’s just unacceptable.

5. Finishing the book I’m reading while I’m in bed…or the tub. Both of these annoy me equally.

6. Eliza Dushku, Hagrid, Dylan McDermott, Julie Chen.

/rant

Harry Potter Rant (the first)

So, maybe I don’t hate everything – just most things.  I do love me some Harry Potter.  Well, I love most of Harry Potter. There were many things that bugged me, but as a whole I thought it was a very solid series.

I used to belong to this awesome HP fansite for adults that has recently self-destructed. I posted many, many rants there about the things that I hated. [sad face, tips 40 for Diagon Alley] This means I get to recreate my rants here and find all new things to complain about!

Look, this post is going to contain spoilers for the series. If you haven’t read them (or at the very least – watched the movies) do yourself a favour and skive off right now.

I had many crazy theories about how the series was going to end, but my favourite was the thought that Ms Rowling had planned the deaths that would happen throughout the series far in advance. Maybe it’s morbid, but I knew who I wanted to die and I was positive that I’d figured it all out. You see, (supposedly) in creating the Philosopher’s Stone, the alchemical process goes through stages of black, white and red.

(I only say supposedly because [to my knowledge] no one has successfully created the Philosopher’s Stone yet, so really everything is hypothetical. I know – this is a series about a school for wizards and I’m concerned about that? I might have problems, but those really aren’t your concern.)

My brilliant idea was that this meant we knew who was going to die as early as the first book – even if we didn’t know all of the characters yet – but I’m pretty sure I didn’t start demanding people pay attention to me until sometime between Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince.

In order for Harry to be successful in his battle against Voldemort, he’d have to go into it alone – with none of the parental figures he’d come to rely on to aid him. So…OotP – Sirius Black dies. HBP – Albus Dumbledore dies (if you didn’t already know that Albus=white, I kind of hate you – please stop reading my blog). Once Dumbles was out of the picture, I knew I was onto something and that Rubeus Hagrid was going to eat it sometime in the last volume…if not Hagrid, then at the very least Arthur had to go.  The whole Weasley family was just full of red and (being the dad) he was the obvious choice.

Yeah. Let that sink in for a minute.

How wrong was I?!  So super ridiculously wrong.  [insert another sad face here]

I’m still sad that Hagger lived. I’ve tried and tried to console myself with the fact that Fred died (see what I did there?) and he could technically sit in for the red aspect…but as awesome as “Rapier” is, he was never a father-figure to Mr Potter.

I’m also still bummed about the fact that Harry lived, and don’t even get me started on the stupid epilogue, but those are rants for another day.