Saturday, December 29, 2012


Written By Scott Westerfeld
Original Publication Date: 2007
Rating: 4 Stars

Book Notes:
Seems that I don't write a lot of page-specific notes when I'm at my boyfriend's place (especially when I'm not on my Kindle).  My youngest sister bought me this book because I'd read her copies of the first three novels in the series, Uglies, Pretties, and Specials but she had lost this one!  I read those before I had this blog - see their review on my Goodreads Account.

I was very amused by the dedication of this novel: "To everyone who wrote to me to reveal the secret definition of the word 'trilogy'."

This takes place some years after Tally takes down society, and vows to protect the Earth.  

Aya is 15 in what is today's Japan.  Her parents won't allow her to start having surge until she is 16.  Aya thinks they wish that it were still the Prettytime.  Her rank in the city is far too low for her to afford any, anyway.  Her feed is read by almost nobody, so her facerank is too low to receive merits for the writing in it.  All she wants is to get famous and stop being a self-named-ugly.  She found a story to kick in a secret clique that despises fame and wants to stay off of the city feeds. Her story about a secret clique turns into a story about city-killing missiles and the end of the world.  Someone doesn't want her story to get out and Aya is forced to go on the run with the famous Tally Youngblood.

Basically, this is a city run by how many people follow your Twitter and Facebook feeds! Eek!  I don't know about you, but that sounds terrifying. We self-rank ourselves enough because of these twisted social networks, we don't need economy based on it as well!

It seems a common review of this series that people liked it less and less as the novels went on.  Somehow I found myself in the minority and enjoying these novels more and more.  They were all four star books, but were I  to rank them, I liked Extras more than Specials more than Pretties more than Uglies.  I think that for me it was the widening world more than anything else that did it for me.  While the stories were all fairly similar, it made me think of what each new division of the culture was doing in the previous book.  What were the Specials up to in Pretties and Uglies?  What were the Crims up to in Uglies?  What have Tally and friends been doing since Specials?  Yes, there's a formula, and yes, I can see how the books were predictable.  But you know what?  I thought they were fun to read.  I found the issues they addressed to be important enough, that the predictability was forgivable.  I found the writing flowed well enough that I simply didn't have time to be bored.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars

Written By John Green
Original Publication Date: 2012
Rating: 5 Stars Out of 5

Book Notes:
No notes in this book as there usually are. It only took me four hours to read, and I truly stopped for nothing. Not even to mull over points.

Of the four hours it took me to read this novel, I sobbed for two.  Curse you, John Green, for writing something so fucking beautifully depressing.

Hazel is a 16 year old girl who loves to read and watch bad reality television. She has loving, devoted, parents.  She doesn't see her best friend, Kaitlyn, as often as she'd like to because she doesn't attend high school.  She has, however, gotten her GED and takes a couple of classes at the local community college.  She's falling in love with her wonderful boyfriend, Augustus Waters, and they're on a mission to find their favorite author and have him follow up on his novel, which ends abruptly.

They'd be average, normal, though overly articulate and self-aware (John Green tends to do that with all his characters), teenagers except they met in a cancer survivor support group.  Hazel has aggressive thyroid cancer that spread to her lungs, but the mets' growth is slowed by an experimental drug; she could live "a long time," like this as long as she keeps her oxygen tank and has her lungs drained every so often.  Augustus has lost a leg to someformofcancerI'veneverheardofbefore, but he's been in remission ever since.

This is a love story both in spite of cancer and because of cancer.  The love story is beautiful, and obviously doomed.  I started sniffling barely 30% into the novel, by the time I was at 60%, I was all out sobbing, highlighting favorite passages when the crying got so bad I could barely see the page.  I want you to understand something.   I. Do. Not. Cry. At. Books.  I just don't.  So, even warned as I was that it was a tragedy, I didn't realize how much this novel was going to tear my heart into itty bitty paper pieces.  

My only real problem with the novel was Augustus.  And at that, he was only a problem when he was first introduced.  He was this broody, muscly, pretentious, douchenozzle; and that puts it mildly.  I outright hated him for a while.  He obviously knew that he was smart and thoughtful and he tried so damned hard to sound smarter than other people.

This novel is going directly on my list of favorite books of all time.  I still have a head(heart)ache from all the crying I just did.  I'd like to both Thank and Curse John Green for this novel.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Last Myth: What the Rise of Apocalyptic Thinking Tells Us About America

Written By Mathew Barrett Gross and Mel Gilles
Original Publication Date: 2011
Rating: 2 Out of Five Stars

Book Notes:
Page 23
We really did delude ourselves, as a culture, in the 90s that we were living in a never-ending Golden Age.

Page 67
The apocalypse is new to our era; the nature of Endings that were in other cultures were also Beginnings.  The cycle of living was important.  It's our understanding of history as linear and unique, rather than cyclical and mythologically repetitive that created the idea of the END.

First of all, I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway, back in ...March?  I kept trying to pick it up, I swear!  For some reason it just sat on my bedside table, totally ignored.  I'd put it on my bedside table, ignore it, put it away, rinse and repeat.

Turns out my instincts were right.  It's not really worth reading.  The first couple of chapters are very interesting.  Those chapters are a conversation of when apocalyptic thinking first existed.  In very early history, there was no history as we understand it today.  Everything was cyclical and a re-creation of a myth. Nothing ever truly ended, because it was always reborn as a beginning.  It was when humanity started thinking of history as linear, as we do today, that apocalyptic thinking was even possible.  When history was cyclical, apocalypse as was understand it today wasn't possible, but when history became a straight (random) line, we wanted to know when that line would end.

For many hundreds of years, the apocalypse-thought-process didn't even focus so much on the end, but on what came after.  Isrealites lost their homes over and over and over again, but because they believed that after the judgement day came, they'd have everything - more than they could ever have imagined - this is why they never lost hope.  The apocalyptic thought was actually a positive!

From those two points, we can very clearly see how the advent of science created an apocalyptic thought process that focuses more on the end, than on what comes after the end.

Alright, that was interesting - it really was.  I enjoyed the first 100 pages or so.  Then all of a sudden, it got repetitive.  The sentence structures felt like they'd simply been transplanted from earlier in the book.  They couldn't even bother to write new sentences!?  Copy Pasta is not how to make an interesting book.  Maybe if they'd simply focused on the history, or hell, even ended the book after those 100 pages, it would have gotten a higher rating.  But once it hit the 100 page mark, I felt like I was re-reading what had already been said.

Truth be told, I skimmed the last 50 pages or so.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Elegy Beach

Written By Stephen Boyett
Original Publication Date: 2009
Sequel to: Ariel
Rating: 3 Stars Out Of 5

Book Notes:
Page 13
Ariel came out in 1983, and takes place 6 years after the Change.  Elegy Beach takes place some 27 years after the first book, but it was also written almost 30 years later.  They're learning about the Internet in history class?  Me thinks that when the lights went out in 1983 the internet didn't exist.  Continuity fail.

Page 24
Pete from book one named his sword "Fred," in the first novel.  The second book focuses on his son... also named Fred?!

Page 79
Questions: they require question marks.  Boyett seems to have forgotten that question marks aren't optional. Did anyone actually edit this book?

Page 145
The smart ass unicorn is by far my favorite character in this series.

Fred has grown up in a post-Change world.  Magic has become a new tool for protection as well as for trinkets - but no one really understands the way it works.  It's all part of the trading world that has become the commerce industry.  He is 17 and apprenticed out to the resident caster, but he feels as though he has more talent than PayPay is allowing him to use.  His best friend, Yan, is learning casting from Fred, but they're also going further and faster than PayPay would have allowed.   They have a theory that magic is the science of the post-Change world. that it's similar to programming a computer, in that there is a language that the universe understands.

I really like the way magic is approached in this novel.  It makes the very vague Change from the first book make a little bit more sense.  They explain that somewhere in the world at 4:30 on the day of the Change, something - we don't know what - happened that changed the laws of physics.  As the world rotated into that spot in the universe, the whole of the world changed.  Some of the old rules of the world still applied, like gravity, but for the laws of physics just changed in such a way that magic became the new science.  It became the new reality.  I really like this approach.  The author gets big props for this after how randomly vague the first book was.  This was still vague, but in a more thoughtful, thought out approach.

Yan at one point in the novel is offended by what PayPay says, and burns down his shop.  Finding this out, Fred kicks him out of town.  This is when Ariel, the unicorn, returns.  She has a story of caster who killed her mate, which from the kind of magic that was done, Fred assumes it was Yan.  With Pete, Yan's father, and of course Ariel they head out to find and stop Yan.  Finding his grimoire, Fred learns that what Yan really wants to do with the power that he has discovered is reverse the Change, in effect killing Ariel and all the supernatural creatures that came with her.

This book in some ways is leaps and bounds better than Ariel, in that it had a much juicier plot and it was less skittish about sex.  It seemed like a much more grounded novel, even though it wasn't any less fantasy-driven.  However, do you have any idea how difficult it is to read a book when the author doesn't always use question marks.  It's hard to tell what is a question, versus a statement.  Isn't it.  He used them sometimes, but damn it was difficult to read other times.

A fun read, for sure, better than Ariel, but not really anything special at the same time.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Written By Stephen Boyett
Original Publication Date: 1983

Rating: 2.5 Stars Out of 5

Book Notes:
Page 84
"Fred"?  He named his new sword "Fred"?

Page 134
"You moved around a lot in your sleep.  You kept ...rubbing yourself.  You know, on your ... crotch.  It bothered [her]."


Page 143
He categorizes his sex dreams as "bad dreams."  Whatnow?

Page 224
Ugh.  A Twin Towers: Two Towers reference.  I remember when the movie came out I had to explain to numerous people that no, they didn't need to change the name of the movie out of respect for those who were lost on 9/11, because the Twin Towers didn't exist when Tolkien wrote The Two Towers.  Pet Peeve of DOOOOM.

Page 272
"A bit Tolkien-ish, isn't it?  Washington going to war with New York."

If by Tolkien-ish, we mean that there's a necromancer, like there is in The Hobbit?  Then sure it's Tolkien-ish.  Otherwise, no, not really.  This author seems to like to compare himself to Tolkien.  It is inaccurate and cocky as hell.

I'd recommend this book for mature-ish 15/16 year old boys.  It's gory and sex-filled.  However, it reads better if you think of Pete as a 16 year old boy rather than a 20 year old.  It doesn't quite qualify as Young Adult, but it comes close.  Pete is a good Young Adult hero, what doesn't make it Young Adult is the length, sex and gore.  The writing style even puts it at borderline Young Adult.

I'm pretty sure I just read a 400 page metaphor for a boy going through puberty; either that or it's a 400 page metaphor for a boy losing his virginity.  Five or six years is a really long time to go through the worst of puberty.  The lights, cars, and guns stopping working is even called The Change! 

The fact that guns stopped working was pretty damned arbitrary, by the way.

When The Change happened, Pete was 14 or 15, just a normal nerdy teenage boy.  He went to his debate event and even when the lights went out, at 4:30, they opened a window shade and kept going.  He walked his girlfriend home in the dark, and when her folks weren't home, they walked to his place with the plan to go back the next day.  They'd spend opposite nights in each others' houses until one set of parents made it home.  Surprisingly enough, that plan didn't work, and that night Pete headed out on his own.

Two years after The Change, Pete was bathing in a clean stream musing on how quickly the waters cleaned up after technology stopped working.  When he looked up, there was a unicorn standing amongst his clothing.  When he got out of the stream, Pete could tell that the creature had a broken leg, and it spoke!  After the Change, mythological creatures started cropping up everywhere.  Unicorns, however, only show themselves and allow them to befriend the purest, the virgins.  Pete names it Ariel.

The sex thing in this novel is so weird.  Pete is so afraid of his own sexuality.  He is so afraid of his sex dreams and when he masturbates in his sleep he really bugs out.  I know he's afraid of losing Ariel, but dear Gods, he's supposed to be 20 or so.  I know the world is different, but it's not so different that men and boys stop physically maturing.  Even though it may have been weird having no one to talk him through puberty, he clearly knows what sex is from the way he describes his dreams.  But he's so goddamned afraid of it and every time someone comes onto him or admits to have had sex, he gets nasty.

Five or six years after The Change is when the bulk of the novel takes place.  (In the novel it says six years, but on the blurb, it says five.  Consistency fail.)  Ariel and Pete have been wandering from town to town, when they meet men on the road who will do anything to posses Ariel, especially her horn.  These men are led by an evil necromancer, who lives in New York City.  They go on a quest, to defeat him, walk to New York where Ariel is taken.  Making a few friends along the way, Pete is able to free Ariel, but only after it is too late for his innocence.

Oh, he wants to kill us with his powerful magics?  We should walk right into his lair!  HERP DERP!

Also, what is it with these characters crying all the fucking time?  After The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I thought I was done with the sobbing main male characters for a while.  I picked up a post apocalyptic book, for Godssake.  But no, Pete cries at everything.  Come on!  Every time he's over tired, scared, confused, angry, etc. etc. etc.  He's been living in this world for 5 or six years, by himself.  Why hasn't he grown up a little more?  At the end of the book Pete finally grows up.  There's an event that forces Ariel to turn away from him.  He couldn't stay a child forever.  Thank Gods.

Two and a half stars because, regardless of how weird and unsettling and arbitrary the sex, gore, and world was, it was actually a fun read.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Perks of Being A Wallflower

Written by Stephen Chbosky
Original Publication Date: 1999

Rating: 2 Stars Out Of 5

There's a certain kind of “coming of age” novel that I simply cannot relate to.  Books like The Catcher in the Rye, Hairstyles of the Damned, and this one.  I'm not sure what differentiates these books from other coming of age stories – I read a fuckload of YA, and 90% of those are coming of age stories.  It has something to do with the “I'm so gifted and weird and punk and cannot communicate with other people so I'm not going to try,” stream of consciousness.  At least I think that's it.  Believe me, I was a weirdo in high school.  I was the wallflower that saw everything and only rarely spoke of it.  I read everything I could get my hands on.  But for some reason these books don't resonate, even a little bit.  They read like bullshit or pretentious fantasy to me.  I don't understand what is so special about those novels.  Maybe I'm just too old for this kind of coming of age story, and when I was the right age, I was too busy coming of age myself, to appreciate them.

What I Disliked About This Book
No fifteen year old boy talks like this, even in writing.  The writing style is that of a seven year old boy.  I think it would have done better if the narrator were in 7th grade, and his friends were all going away to high school at the end of the novel.  A middle school student with that level of writing skill is far more believable.

Even with a learning disability, some form of autism, a trauma, etc. I felt he was too much a weird mishmosh of youth and self-awareness.  Children with autism and learning disabilities think differently, not just younger - it's why I find the brain of those with autism and various other quirks so fascinating.

His ignorance of sex is monumentally ridiculous.  Just because he's gone through a lot and may or may not have some sort of mental special need, doesn't mean he'd be that unaware of himself.  I worked at a camp for kids with special needs, we had to have 'masturbation stations' for kids that had hit puberty, because what kids do understand is that when they do something that feels good, they should keep doing it.

I had the “twist” ending of the novel figured out in the first 50 pages or so.  On top of that, the last 30 pages of a 230 page book were dedicated to spelling out the twist.  I feel like I was bashed over the head a few times with a dictionary, in order to get the “twist” to sink in.  I thought Life of Pi bashed me over the head with its ending; this felt way worse.

What My Inner English Major Thinks
Charlie's maturity level, along with his understanding of sex, froze at the age of 7 when his Aunt Helen died in a car accident.  He wasn't able to move beyond the screwiness of the first 7 years of his life.  That was the first time he was in a mental hospital and his grief and pain froze his maturity level.  It makes the style in which this book was written make a lot more sense.  It was more of a regression than a disorder.

What I Liked About This Book
There was a reason, no matter how thin, for Charlie's maturity level.

The fact that he read a lot, in order to escape the real world.  I was able to relate to this well.  I was very good at disappearing into books when I was a kid.

Sam and Patrick.  They seemed a lot less cookie-cutter than all of Charlies other friends.  There's a formula for the weird kid's friends and most of Charlie's friends sat right on that line.

The drug usage.  As weird as it sounds, I really liked the way that Charlie expressed himself when he was high or on LSD – even though it was a bad trip.

Something That Drove Me A Little Crazy
He obviously disliked abbreviations, such as MASH or e.e. Cummings, but for some reason he was constantly abbreviating “girlfriend” to “girlfr.”  I liked the touch that he didn't enjoy abbreviations, but the “girlfr” thing made me rage.  Charlie didn't strike me as a character that would have liked any kind of textspeak, even his own created textspeak.

Long Story Short
I don't understand what makes this book so special.  However, I believe that the movie may be worth seeing.  I can see most of my annoyances becoming part of the background when it is on film rather than on paper.

I had a hard time picking a rating for this novel, in the end I went with two stars, but it could have been one or three just as easily.