Thursday, April 26, 2012

Infernal lives

This post is in response to this, in which my friend and I are given completely opposite lives as characters in the Infernal Devices. My life is fantastic, her life sucks. But I CAN FIX THIS!

Best friend: Charlotte
First kiss: Gabriel
First love: Will
Enemy: Jessamine
Going to kill me: duck
Going to marry: Will
This is very exciting. 
So, this is going to be a very interesting story when I get the chance to write it. I mean, I kiss Gabriel, then marry Will, and then a duck kills me. Poor Will (even in fantasy situations, I'm saying "poor Will." It's not fair).
UPDATE: Here is the story. I'm not writing it like an actual short story or anything, more like an explanation of why these relationships are the way they are.
Charlotte is my best friend because basically, she is the opposite of Jessamine. Which explains why Jessamine is my enemy, because I can't stand her. Can anyone really stand her? I mean, there's a reason why people say "even bloody Jessamine" when they're talking about Will protecting people from himself. Because it's kind of shocking that anyone, especially Will, would mind if she were to spontaneously cease living. Come to think of it, that would have been a great test for Will's curse-- let Jessamine care about him, and see if she dies. A lot of problems could have been avoided just by realizing that she wasn't going to die.
Which brings me to my next point-- my "first love." It is perfectly believable that Will would be my first love and that, even though I am strongly anti-marriage, I would marry him. Honestly, who would actually say no if he were to propose to them? Someone with no soul, maybe. But my love for Will has been complicated by his belief that anyone who loves him will die, which obviously caused him to push me away. And this is why I went and kissed Gabriel-- to make Will jealous. It worked, even though he couldn't admit it until he found out the curse wasn't real. And nobody ever saw Gabriel Lightwood again (until, see below). And we lived happily ever after.
Until, of course, Will's long-lost nemesis, Fletcher the Duck, came back with revenge on his mind. I mean, if you found out someone forced you to eat one of your own species (thereby turning you into a cannibal), you'd go after them too, right? Only going after Will was not enough for Fletcher the Duck. He wants Will to suffer the way he did when he found out he ate his little duck cousin, so he set his sights on me. We still don't know how he did it, but one thing is for sure: you can never trust a duck.

Best friend: Henry
First kiss: Jessamine
First love: Jessamine
Enemy: Jem
Going to kill me: Gabriel
Going to marry: Sophie
Her response: I’m cool with being Henry’s best friend because he is absolutely awesome and we’d have so much fun together trying not to blow everything up (by accident)!  But really?!  Jessamine?!  I can’t stand her!!  I think there may have been one scene when I liked her snarky personality, but then it was quickly replaced by her being really obnoxious!  I don’t want to have any sort of relationship with a girl who needs to be with a boy (and one I really want to kill) to feel complete!  I don’t know how Jem can be anyone’s enemy.  Although I would probably be my own enemy if I was in love with Jessamine.  Or maybe we don’t get along because I ship Will and Tessa.  Gabriel is a formidable opponent and I wouldn’t be too surprised if he killed me.  He probably killed me because I was really stupid.  I don’t deserve to live if I loved Jessamine.  I am not sure how I end up marrying Sophie, because Gabriel will already have killed me for loving Jessamine, but we’ll pretend that it is in the afterlife.  I’m actually not too upset by this.  As much as I would have preferred to marry a guy (*COUGH*WILL*COUGH*), Sophie was pretty cool.  Although I’m pretty sure she’d rather marry Thomas.
Well, obviously you couldn't have Will, because he's marrying *me* and he's not a polygamist ("Still, there are always some men like that - just one woman for them, and only she will do, or nothing."). BUT you can always tell your wife Sophie that you had promised to marry Jem (who was only your fake enemy because let's face it, Jem is not anyone's real enemy), the eligible bachelor, and she will divorce you because she is so protective of his heart. She'd rather marry Gideon anyway. And then you can marry Jem-- and maybe Jessamine will find out that Nate is dead and kill herself. I mean, not that I'm encouraging her suicide or anything... But anyway, we can live happily ever after, my best friend married to your best friend, my husband best friends with your husband-- until Gabriel pops in one day seeking revenge on Will with a plan to kill Jem [Will seems to have a lot of vengeful enemies], and you go all Shadowhunter warrior on him and kill each other at the same time. The End.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Outpost Cover!

Another new cover to fangirl over! Sometimes I feel like the only person who even knows this series exists... but I like it. And look, a creepy zombie hand!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Cover Reveal: The Evolution of Mara Dyer

I love this cover. I love that Mara is the one reaching for Noah, because at the end of the first book, let's just say... Noah is the one doing the reaching. I mean, Mara feels like she's putting him in danger by being with him, so she pushes him away, but THIS cover does two things on that front: 1) Maybe confirms that Noah is in danger, and 2) Suggests that Mara can be the one to save him. At the same time, there's the image of them being just out of each other's reach...

There's also an official synopsis out for the book:
Two days after Mara walks into a police station in Miami at the close of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, she is committed for psychiatric treatment for what her parents believe is a mental breakdown. But what seems like a hallucination to everyone else is a chilling reality for Mara. Someone from her past has discovered her strange, disturbing secret and that someone wants her to pay. But she's about to discover that the price is more than she can bear.

Dark and thrilling, suspenseful and passionate, The Evolution of Mara Dyer will have readers breathlessly turning pages to find out what will become of Mara Dyer next.
On Twitter, Michelle Hodkin hinted that the treatment center is an outpatient facility, which certainly would help with, you know, keeping the other characters in the book. But what the frick is Jude's problem? Does he seriously blame Mara for what happened to his sister and their friend? Because, last I checked, it was his fault. Also, I want to know if there are going to be any Jude/Noah interactions, because I'd love to see what Noah would do to that creep if they ever crossed paths. 

So basically, if anyone comes across an ARC of this book, feel free to send it my way when you're done. I want it now.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

It's a FARSE.

Okay, it's going to seem weird to any casual reader of my blog that I'm about to write about American Idol, but...
I just can't get over what happened tonight.
Bottom 3 several times^^... bottom 3 never^^... seriously, ^^she's still here?
I don't know what America is doing with their votes, but they certainly aren't giving them to the people who deserve them the most. This year's talent on Idol is not particularly great, contrary to what everyone else seems to think, but none of them are bad either. This is one of the few years I can honestly say I like every single one of the people who are left. Which, yes, makes it hard to decide who has to go home each week. But that is no excuse to vote based on anything but talent.
Last week, the best voice (in my opinion) was almost kicked off the show. She had never been in the bottom 3 before, and BAM, she was almost gone, just like that. The only logical explanation for this is that people got lazy, or comfortable, and thought they could get away with not voting for the most talented person. And last week, they were right. Because the judges saved that person.
This week, not so much.
Here are the four people who I think should be the top four, in no particular order:
-Jessica Sanchez- that voice, and the things she can do with it, are reason alone to win the whole thing.
-Phillip Phillips- okay, I confess, I might be a little bit in love with Phillip Phillips. Dude's got a killer smile and a killer attitude ("Oh, you don't want me to wear gray? Okay, I'll wear a gray t-shirt with a gray button-up over it."), but he can also sing. Or, as Matt Giraud would say, saaaang. There's argument out there that he sounds the same every week, but even if I thought that were true, why is it a bad thing? There's a difference between sounding the same because you don't know how to change things up, and sounding the same because you don't want to change things up. Phillip knows who he is and what he wants to do, and he's not going to change it for anyone. I can respect that. He's not a one-trick pony, he's frickin' Seabiscuit. Yeah, I went there. Horse analogies for the win. You keep on wearin' gray, Phillip Phillips.
-Skylar Laine- I haven't always liked Skylar very much. The nasaly voice kind of irritated me at the beginning, but these days I just love watching this chick perform. She's one of the most charismatic people I've ever seen on the show, and she's got the talent to go with it. She's like an even more spunky version of Lauren Alaina, if that's possible, and I'm jumping on board. Excellent hair, also. 
-Colton Dixon- I loved Colton last year. I love Colton even more this year. He knows how to change up a song and Colton-ify it, and THOSE PIPES. And THAT FACE. He's like Chris Daughtry, if Chris Daughtry were young, had a faux-hawk, and knew how to look good while he was singing. Personally, the songs that make me love Colton are the more ballad-like ones, because he makes them so deliciously dark and angsty. I love me some angst.

To me, nobody else in the competition is doing anything that hasn't been done before. Hollie has a nice voice, and this week she finally, finally learned how to loosen up and show it off, but she just sings songs. She doesn't create anything on the stage. She doesn't perform. Joshua is the same way, and Elise just kind of annoys me. Her performances always have a slight cheese factor to them, and her voice isn't anything to die for. Any of these people could have been kicked off tonight and I wouldn't have cared much. 

BUT WAIT! Colton Dixon got kicked off tonight.
Colton Dixon. Got... 7th place? Why, this is worse than what happened to Chris Daughtry! This is Pia Toscano all over again!
Colton fans, you got too confident. I know you're out there, because he has never even been in the bottom 3 before. Everyone was sure he'd make it far. Seventh. Place.
You should be ashamed of yourselves. I hope Colton's swan song broke your hearts as much as it broke mine.
Gloomy Colton is gloomy.
So here is my open letter to American Idol voters:
If you love someone, set them free.
NO. DO NOT DO THIS. Pick up your phone and dial the number until your FINGERS HURT.
Do not think to yourself, "Oh, a bunch of other people love him, so he doesn't need my love." IT WILL NOT WORK. Trust me, I have been there. The flashbacks to season 7 are all too vivid right now. *voted for David Archuleta dozens of times but still hangs head in shame*
But this is not my most important advice to you, dear voters. The real advice is this: vote based on talent. Just because Colton has a pretty face doesn't mean that's the only reason you're voting for him. Don't let anyone tell you someone doesn't deserve to be there because they're better-looking than the others, or funnier, or whatever. If they've got a voice like Colton's, they deserve to be there. Even if they're pretty. Even if they're funny (not the case with Heejun, but it was the case with Michael Johns). While all the cynics are complaining and acting superior, here is what you do: CALL THE NUMBER. Vote some more. It is the only way.
Because if you do not, things like this happen.
And I have season 7 finale flashbacks.
And I get very upset.
Thank you.

The bright side: it's looking like a girl might actually win this year. But I have no idea who's going to be in the finale. Ideas?
I'm pulling for a Phillip/Jessica or Jessica/Skylar or Phillip/Skylar finale. Yeah?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

LOOK at her FACE.

Okay, I never thought I'd have to use my blog to defend Taylor Swift. Or her songs. Because usually I just dismiss criticisms of them as ridiculous or nitpicky or just plain stupid.
But this argument actually kind of... makes sense. And I hate that it makes sense, so I'm going to try to knock the sense out of it. That is how much I love Taylor Swift.

Someone on Goodreads reviewed a book with 1 star saying it suffered from "Taylor Swift Syndrome," i.e. one girl thinking another girl is out to steal her guy from her, thus making girls hate each other because of guys.

I can see this in exactly three of Taylor Swift's songs. You Belong With Me. Better Than Revenge. Should've Said No. That's right, only three songs. One on each of her albums.
THAT IS ONE OUT OF EVERY THIRTEEN OF HER SONGS. Give the girl a break. And even so, these songs aren't only about girl-bashing. Taylor Swift does not write songs about the way people should feel, she writes them about the way she does feel. Herself. It's not right to criticize someone for the way they feel about things that happened in their own life, or to assume you know anything about it. Maybe those girls really did steal her boyfriends. Maybe she just needs someone besides the ex-boyfriend to blame, because otherwise she'd be blaming herself. And that wouldn't be healthy. "He doesn't want me because I'm not good enough" Syndrome is worse than so-called Taylor Swift Syndrome.
That does not look like animosity to me.
Let's start with "You Belong With Me":
This is not a song in which Taylor Swift sits there and hates this other girl for no reason, thinking that she's purposely attempting to steal a guy from her. She doesn't even have the guy. The song is not about the other girl-- it's about the guy, who is her best friend, who she's in love with, who she thinks deserves someone like her instead of someone who doesn't get his jokes or appreciate him the way she does. Is that so horrible? She's not telling little girls, "That girl who's dating the guy you have a crush on? Yeah, you should hate her just for the fun of it." She's saying that sometimes two people just aren't right together, and if you see it, you shouldn't just sit by and watch one of them destroy the other. It's not fair to anyone. [This could also apply to "Speak Now," now that I think of it]

Now for "Better Than Revenge":
This is the epitome of girl-hate-because-of-a-guy. But this is on the album Speak Now. It's about speaking your mind, and this is what Taylor Swift was thinking about when she wrote the song. She felt betrayed, and hurt, and she couldn't understand why she had been dumped for a girl with an ever-present frown. The song is meant to make you feel what she was feeling. It's not promoting anti-girl sentiments from other girls; it's promoting standing up for yourself when you've been wronged. Calling out the person who wronged you, and telling them not that they're going to regret it, but that they should regret it. Because the kind of person who doesn't regret being the reason for someone else's heartbreak? That's the kind of person who needs a song like this written about them. The song doesn't say that it's not the guy's fault too, and you can't assume that the other girl didn't mean any harm. You weren't there. Taylor Swift was.

Aaaand "Should've Said No":
Honestly, this one isn't even worth explaining. It's Taylor telling the guy who cheated on her that he shouldn't have done it. Not Taylor telling the girl he cheated with that it's all her fault, or that she hates her, or that she doesn't deserve to live. It barely even mentions her.

Another one just popped into my head, which is "Teardrops on My Guitar"/"Invisible" (I suspect they're about the same guy), but puh-lease. She's in love with this guy who doesn't even notice her. This was back when Taylor mainly wrote about high school angst, and this is that all the way. "Teardrops" even says "I'll bet she's beautiful." She compliments the other girl! No girl-hate here.

Now let's focus on what Taylor Swift Syndrome really is.
-Believing in the underdog ("Long Live," "Change," "Mean")
-Expressing/standing up for yourself ("Tell Me Why," "Enchanted," "Dear John," "Mean," "Picture to Burn")
-Heartbreak ("Tim McGraw," "Forever & Always," "Last Kiss," "White Horse")
-Happily ever after ("Love Story," "Mine," )
-Lessons you wish someone had given you ("Fifteen," "Never Grow Up," "The Best Day")
-Forgiveness ("Innocent," "Back to December")
-Not caring what everyone else thinks ("Ours," "Long Live")
-Seeing the good in people ("Stay Beautiful," "Tied Together with a Smile")
-Going after what you want ("Speak Now," "Hey Stephen")
And these are only a few examples. Taylor Swift cannot be boxed into one type of song, because her songs are songs anyone can relate to. Labeling it a Syndrome is just as bad as labeling another girl "enemy" because she stole your guy. You're turning someone else into something they're not, because it's convenient for you, and that's what is not okay.

How about I come up with my own Syndrome, entitled Goodreads Syndrome? People who suffer from Goodreads Syndrome think they can criticize anything and everything in attempt to show how clever they can be in a review, without actually successfully reviewing a book. How about that?

Oh, by the way...

To some extent, I saw this coming. But I also really expected to be Ravenclaw, because the in-depth psychoanalysis of Ravenclaw described me almost perfectly. But these questionnaire things tend to focus on dormant qualities I never really noticed I have.

So, let's get this straight. I'm District 12 and Gryffindor on
I'm District 12 on
and I'm Gryffindor on Pottermore.

So like, if Katniss Everdeen and Harry Potter-- no, Katniss and Neville Longbottom-- had a kid, it would be me. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Book Review: A Long, Long Sleep

A Long, Long Sleep

My rating: ★★☆☆☆

I don't generally write reviews of books I didn't absolutely love or absolutely hate, but this one is on both ends of the spectrum for me. I'll start with the things I hated:

The main character: Okay, I realize that a lot of the things Rose feels and the way she deals with situations can be chalked up to things that are entirely not her fault, but I can't help wanting to smack her in the face a little bit. For at least the first 150 pages she's a whiny, self-loathing ninny. She literally falls for the first boy she sets her eyes on. I guess all of this could stem from the fact that this is sort of a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, but really? Of all the things about a fairy tale that could've been changed, you chose to retain the meek, passive heroine?
The "science fiction": I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the author is not by any means a scientist. I had a lot of trouble getting past all the new technology, as it seemed to arise with convenience rather than with the setting, and the whole entire concept of the "Dark Times." It would have made sense to leave the "Dark Times" as merely an economic phenomenon, but it also included the resurrection of the Bubonic Plague and tuberculosis? If the science in this future society is so advanced, why are they even less capable than we are of containing diseases? I mean, the Plague is nothing by today's standards. Isolate, treat, prevent. I rolled my eyes and began skimming the pages at every mention of the Dark Times.
Overdescription: I skimmed so much of this book, and I don't feel like I've missed anything. There are pages upon pages of Rose considering her life, her options, and explaining her exact thought processes. This slowed down the most action-intense moments of the book and made me completely uninterested in what was happening.

Now on to what I actually liked:

The other characters: Namely, Xavier, Bren, and Otto. Although I feel like Bren and Otto could have been combined into one person, they still stick out to me as characters all their own. Xavier was a consistent character who I was always rooting for, even when I got to the bittersweet end of the story. I loved his passion, how he was the only person who knew about Rose's life and how screwed up her parents were, and he actually fought for her. He wanted better for her than she thought she deserved, and he was the one who turned her into someone willing to fight for herself. And the thing was, he didn't stop after they "broke up," or when they couldn't be together again. He was still the same person 62 years later, except the life he wanted for himself had been taken away, so he was a more hardened version of the Xavier Rose knew before. Believable. Heartbreaking. Necessary.
The ending: I know the ending scheeved a lot of people out and, yes, it certainly left me thinking "What in the world did I just experience?!" But at the same time, I really enjoyed it. Rose finally gives herself a little credit, and the repetition of "for now" at the end is the perfect way to set up for the next book. I may actually check the sequel out even though I didn't particularly like this book, just because finally I can deal with the main character. And I'd like to see where things are going.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Okay, while my blog is still ruminating on my fear of change, I'm going to run with that thought. And talk about my fear of my favorite books becoming movies, which I'm pretty sure stems from my fear of change.
When I really like a book, I like it the way it is. I like my experience of it, and don't want it to be tainted by seeing other people experience it differently. Do I get happy to find out that certain books are going to become movies? Yes! Like, for instance, If I Stay. The whole time I was reading that book, I wanted it to be a movie. The Sky is Everywhere? Sure, why not! These are books that I know aren't going to become big, huge, blockbuster movies. They're also books that don't involve a lot of picturing of the characters-- like, I honestly couldn't tell you what the physical description of Adam is, or what Joe Fontaine looks like other than that galaxy-brightening smile. So my versions of the characters can't really be changed by the casts of the movies.
But say, like, Anna and the French Kiss were to become a movie. I know that Nickelodeon has bought the rights to it, and that totally freaks me out. Not only because Nickelodeon is for little kids and so they'd have to change a larger fraction of the content than you'd think, or because Nickelodeon could turn it into a crappy half-hour television show or a crappy hour-and-a-half television movie, but because I know in my head who these characters are to me. I don't want everyone else to see them differently; I want people to see them as they are in the book. It terrifies me to no end to think that Anna Oliphant and Etienne St. Clair could become household names to teenybopping Nickelodeon-watchers or scowling know-it-all television/movie critics. Or, even if that didn't happen and viewers and critics alike loved Anna, I'd still hate it because I'd feel like these people don't know, you know? They just wouldn't get it. Plus the characters would look different and the story would feel different and just, agh, I can't.
And now I'm starting to make no sense. Let me backtrack and explain what brought on this panic attack:
Apparently, Delirium is in the process of becoming a movie. As in, the script has been written and there are people working to make it happen, including Lauren Oliver, who has been "brainstorming" cast ideas. I'm even more afraid for this series to become movies than I was for The Hunger Games, because deep down I knew that The Hunger Games couldn't really be interpreted as "another Twilight" (yep, that again). I'm not so sure with Delirium. Personally I don't think it is another Twilight-- by which I mean it's not all about a swoony nonsense romance. It's about a society that has outlawed love, where they do procedures on your 18th birthday to make sure you can never love anything or anyone. It's actually really twisted! The main character starts out a passive 17-year-old who's afraid of getting the "disease" (amor delirium nervosa), but she ends up a totally kick-butt character who's dared to defy everything she has been taught to accept, and adore everything she's been taught to reject.
I don't want this to become a movie because, okay, I have a fear of narrow-minded people. The people who will watch the movie and label it as "this thing that's been done before" or "that thing that's been done before," just because of the romance. The romance in this story is actually necessary to the character and plot development; without it, nothing would happen. Yet I'm afraid that people will criticize it for the focus on Lena and Alex's relationship-- how Alex watched her from afar until she noticed him and they fell in love, how Lena ends up willing to leave everything she knows behind because of him. They won't see that Alex helped her find the fault in life inside the fence, or that Lena isn't only willing to leave so she can be with Alex, but so she can be without the wrongness of forcing people to live without love. They'll hone in on "girl sees mysterious boy, mysterious boy shows up again, mysterious boy gives her a mysterious amount of attention, girl and mysterious boy fall in love, plan to run away together." Which is wrong.
There's also the problem of movies changing the characters, even in the slightest ways. If I'm attached to a character in a book, I want to be attached to that character just as much in the movie, but it doesn't tend to happen that way. Here comes an example you probably didn't see coming: Peeta Mellark. Don't get me wrong, I loved The Hunger Games movie. I'm seeing it a fifth time this weekend. But... Peeta. Josh Hutcherson does a wonderful job with the role, but I felt like he wasn't given enough of Peeta's material to work with. A lot of the dialogue in the cave scene was cut out, as were a lot of Peeta's funniest moments that made him seem like more of a real person to me. Movie Peeta just isn't the same as book Peeta, and I always fear that happening with my favorite characters.
Not to mention, if they make Delirium a movie, they'll have to make Pandemonium a movie. Which is going to SUCK A LOT (Julian, ugh) but I'll have to see it. And also they'll have to find a way to get whoever plays Alex to be okay with a lot less screen time in the second movie.
And then there's the whole phenomenon where a book series that becomes a movie series eventually becomes, to most people, only a movie series. People think Twilight, they don't think of the books-- they think of KStew and RPattz and Taylor Lautner's abs. Which is a big change, if you ask me. And have I mentioned I hate change?

But who knows? Harry Potter and The Hunger Games have certainly done well enough to vouch for books-turned-movies. But they're in the smallest section of the Venn-diagram:

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that sometimes, Hollywood needs to learn to leave well enough alone. Or make sure that not leaving it alone is the best choice for everyone.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Ebook Debacle

This post is in response to Maureen Johnson's amusing and informational explanation of what is currently going on with the Department of Justice filing a suit against Apple for collusion to set ebook prices.
I just thought this would be a funny picture to use.

I'm telling you, ebooks are nothing but trouble.

Let me just point out, I'm not anti-ebook because I think "real readers" read "real books." It could have something to do with the fear of change thing, like MJ said, because I like my books the way they are. I like that they all look and smell different and I can carry one around and feel like I'm carrying that book, dedicated solely to it, rather than hundreds of others at the same time. MJ's right; fear of change is a useless and endless fear, but that doesn't mean I can just get rid of it. If I don't want an ebook because I'm afraid of change, I'm not going to tell myself "well, that's not a good excuse," and go out and buy one. That's just not how it works.

But this isn't about whether or not ebooks themselves are good or bad; it's about whether what Amazon is doing to their prices is good or bad. As a college student with dwindling book-buying funds, I have to say I don't see what's wrong with Amazon's low prices. From my experience, the company isn't just about giving the lowest prices-- they also have great customer service and a comprehensive system for recommendations and ratings that are helpful when deciding what to buy. Monopolies are bad, yes, but sometimes they're just bad, not Evil Companies of Doom. I understand the problem with having one bookseller in the world-- if that did happen-- because they could get there and then decide to jack up the prices, or make their own rules, or whatever else monopolies have done in that past that led to all these anti-trust laws and such. However, I think there is something to be said for a good business and a good company, which I believe Amazon is (note that "good" is not synonymous with "moral"). It's the other ones that are the problem, because they haven't yet found a way to successfully compete without defying the law.

So yeah, I wish I could buy books from anywhere but Amazon, but I can't. I can't afford to drop $16.99 at Barnes & Noble for a book that could cost me $10.52 on Amazon. Also, Amazon buys my textbooks back from me and gives me gift cards in return, which I use to buy more books. I realize that this is just another tactic to monopolize the industry, but I'm okay with it. It benefits me. Maybe that's selfish, but I don't really need the weight of every non-Amazon bookseller on my shoulders either. Amazon has found its gimmick and I think now it's time for others to find theirs. Tough love, baby.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Book Review: Saving June

So, I've been meaning to write a review of this book almost since the moment I finished it, but at that moment all I really wanted to do was go back and read my favorite parts again. This book immediately went to the shelf on which I keep all of my favorites, like John Green and Stephanie Perkins and, yes, The Hunger Games.
Not that Saving June is really anything like those (especially The Hunger Games). But still, I find it somewhat shocking that a debut author-- with a publisher too small to even put out a hardcover version of the book-- could manage to get on that bookshelf. Especially with a basic concept that's been done so many times before-- the death of a family member. Namely, the sister of the main character.
This book could have ended up just like The Sky is Everywhere. Except for the fact that Harper and her sister never really "got" each other. They weren't best friends. Their last conversation was a bickering match. June's boyfriend was a jerk, and OH, June committed suicide. There's the notion in Jandy Nelson's book, which you'll recall I gave 4 stars, that Bailey's death was unfair because she was full of life (literally, she was pregnant) and wanted to be here. It's unfair because everyone who loved her wanted to be a part of who she became. In Hannah Harrington's book, the questions are somewhat more complex. Is someone's death still unfair to them if they choose it? Or is it more unfair to the people they left behind? Are you allowed to be angry with someone when they end their life and put you through the pain of dealing with it? Should you feel guilty for not having seen the signs? Whose fault is it?
“I've never been good at emotional stuff. Except anger. Anger, I'm good at.” 
And yet, this grief book is only a little about grief. The main character, Harper, has a knack for pushing things down and not letting anyone in. At first I didn't really believe the things Harper tells us about herself-- that she's a delinquent, that nobody is proud of her the way they were of June, that even before June's death she always wore black on black on black. I kind of felt like she was showing more than telling. But as the book progresses, you learn that that's part of Harper's defense mechanism. She wants people to believe she is someone she's not, so that nobody really knows who she is. But at the same time, all she wants is for someone to care enough to get to know who she really is.
Enter, Jacob Tolan. Jake, the mysterious and disrespectful guy at June's wake, who eavesdrops on a conversation Harper has with her best friend, Laney (who we'll get to later-- heads up: she's awesome), and demands to go with them on the road trip to California they have planned to scatter June's ashes in the ocean. It's the one thing Harper can think of to give June the ending she deserved, rather than the ending she gave herself: in the back of her car with a bottle of pills and a lot of exhaust, her ashes split between their divorced parents' houses. June was Jake's tutor while she was alive, the only person who encouraged him to make something of himself ("don't let the bastards grind you down"), and he wants to go to California because he appreciated that. And also he's got a secret.
This is where the book detours from the typical-grief-book outline. A road trip! I love road trip books, especially when they've got pit stops that actually 1) Help the storyline along, and 2) Are fun, entertaining, heartbreaking, or all of the above. This one's got the goods. 
Which include Laney, Harper's charismatic, flighty best friend who has an obsession with old movie stars and wants to be Marilyn Monroe. She and Jake bicker a lot because one accuses the other of living in the past and then the other points out that they're not the only one-- Jake listens to old music and Laney likes old movie stars. They judge each other and at times are really mean, but that's what makes it so much more rewarding when you see them actually come to care about each other. There's a high-drama storyline with Laney that I won't spoil you about, but let's just say Jake kind of becomes the unexpected knight in shining armor.
Throughout the trip, the three of them don't sit around wallowing in their own problems. Jake's music becomes a soundtrack to everything that happens to them, from the crazy drunken philosophical contemplations to the tourist traps to the emotional breakdowns. Harper and Jake's relationship doesn't develop out of nowhere-- half the time they can't stand each other, half the time Harper expects more of him than she's ever let herself expect of anyone, and that scares her. She's suspicious of his real motivation for coming with them (did he have a thing with her sister? If so, how could he like her when she's nothing like June?), and he's hiding something, but they both still manage to be exactly what the other needs. Without, of course, admitting it. Which makes for a highly entertaining dynamic in which last names are used a lot and games of Truth or Dare don't go very well. And an offer from Harper for Jake to sleep in the same bed as her (instead of on the floor) is attributed to a temporary psychotic break of which he must take advantage if he wants to sleep at all.
“You're nothing like your sister," he tells me. "She meant a lot to me, okay? It's true. But the things I like about you have nothing to do with her. You - you are so strong and stubborn it drives me crazy. You're the one going through all this and you still put Laney first every time, instead of throwing yourself the pity party we both know you deserve. You call me out on my shit, and I like that, because sometimes I need someone to call me out on my shit. And you get Johnny Cash, and you take these incredible photos, and everything about you makes me hurt, in a good way, and it blows my mind that someone can be so amazing and not even see it.” 
Sometimes there are male love interests in books that are intended to make readers swoon and want for themselves. Jake Tolan is not that guy. True, I love him. He's supposed to be drop-dead gorgeous, but no, he doesn't really make me swoon. I don't want him for myself-- I want him for Harper. Which is more important.

There's a lot about this book that would satisfy someone who is only looking for a romance, but to that person I'd say they're missing out on a lot if they focus solely on romance. Laney is an extremely well-developed character and, believe it or not, so is June-- who isn't even there anymore. The questions Harper has to ask and answer about her sister's death are thought-provoking, and at the same time it never becomes one of those soggy, bawl-your-eyes-out-and-get-crushed-by-the-weight-of-sorrow novels. It's believably plotted in a way that's not predictable or boring, and the emotional ride is somewhere between floating on waves and riding a rollercoaster. It's heartbreaking at times, yes, and you'll never hear "Let It Be" the same way again, but you come out of it without feeling like you've sunken two feet into the ground. Heck, you'll probably feel a little bit lighter.
“I gaze out at the glittering sea, the breathtaking sky above it, and think of birds and the moment before the fall, and how my sister as a child had been strong enough for the both of us, and I wonder when exactly that changed. I don't know when, but it did. Jake was right - I'm strong in a way June never was. Because I know that I want to be here. Even with the pain. Even with the ugliness. I've seen the other side - marching side by side down city streets with people who all believe they can change the world and the view of the sunset from Fridgehenge and Tom Waits lyrics and doing the waltz and kisses so hot they melt into each other and best friends who hold your hand and stretching out underneath a sky draped with stars and everything else. 

There is so much beauty in just existing. In being alive. I don't want to miss a second.” 
Recommended for: Anyone. Specifically fans of John Green, Gayle Forman, Lauren Oliver, Jennifer E. Smith, and yes, The Sky is Everywhere

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Let's just pretend it ended at 6 seasons.

So after four solid seasons, two decent ones and three unnecessary and indulgent ones, One Tree Hill is finally over.
I expected the series finale to make me bawl like a little baby, honestly. Because that's how series finales are supposed to go-- they are the last time you're ever going to see these characters you've loved for X number of years. In real time, at least. You'll get to watch reruns, but you never again wonder what's going to happen to them. You never get to learn with them or experience things with them again, because you've learned these things and experienced these things before, and it's not the same if you're just watching them do it all over again.
But the thing is, the One Tree Hill finale didn't make me cry. Not once. The only time I got teary-eyed was when Gavin DeGraw was singing "I Don't Want to Be" ...and I don't even think that was because it was the end of One Tree Hill. I think it was because that was Lucas's song, and Lucas wasn't even there. It was like the finale completely ignored the fact that the show was originally about the other Scott brother. The one who walked across the bridge dribbling a basketball in the opening credits, while Gav went on singing about how he's tired of wondering who he's supposed to be when all he wants to be is himself. The show was about the broody blond kid who was traded by his jerkwad father in favor of the Good Life. Who met the broody blond girl who drove a Comet and had an awesome 'tude, and happened to be dating said jerkwad's other son, who ended up falling in love with broody blond kid's best friend.
I'm sorry. I am just freaking sick to death of Brooke Davis. This show is not and never was about her. I am so angry that they basically made the last season about her-- cutting Nathan out of half of the episodes and focusing on Brooke's issues with Xavier and her parents and her rival and her children and GAH. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike Brooke. I even liked her for most of the seasons. But these days she is just so annoying and it seems like she thinks everything that comes out of her mouth has to be profound or something and I'm tired of it. I wanted the finale to be about the same people the pilot was about, and I was severely disappointed.
Oh, and the Julian-buying-Brooke's-old-house thing. How did he do that without her knowing? He's got like magical credit powers or something. The whole thing was just a little ridiculous for me. Talk about living in the past, BDavis. You're so intent on not being high school-Brooke, and yet you go and live in her house? Really?
Speaking of living in the past: Nathan with the Cracker Jack bracelet, Haley with the secret box of wishes, Naley with the making out in the rain, Mouth with the Edwards-Scott (should have been Scott-Edwards) Scholarship Fund, Julian making a TV show out of his wife's high school years... Move along, people. We all realize those seasons of OTH were better, but we can watch old episodes if we want. Give us something new to work with.
Another thing that bothered me about the finale was that all of the characters seemed to know the show was ending. Which is funny because they're not even supposed to know they're on a show. They were all making these big conclusive statements and decisions and acting like they were getting their happily ever after, but when has anyone on One Tree Hill really even believed in happily ever after? It was like they were all saying, "It's really over now, so I'm suddenly going to become obsessed with talking about life." Give me a break.
Also, the thing at the end? SO. NOT. BUYING. IT. So you expect me to believe that all of these people look exactly the same approximately 7 years later, when Jamie is about 17? Um, no. Putting extensions in Haley's hair does not make her look older. And that was the only effort they made! And Millie is pregnant NOW?? Nathan and Haley have a 17-year-old son and Mouth, who is the same age as them, is only having a kid now?! THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS FIRST, PEOPLE. It does not add up. Not to mention, Quinn and Clay never had a kid of their own? What?
I won't get into how cheesy the whole basketball-cheering-yay-Jamie-woohoo crap was.

There were three redeeming things in the whole episode: 1. Clay's son calling Quinn "Mom" and them getting married and being a-freaking-dorable. 2. SKILLS AND BEVIN REUNITED AND IT FEELS SO GOOD! HALLELUJAH! and 3. Chris. Keller.
A quick letter to Chris Keller:
Dear Chris Keller,
Thank you for always being Chris Keller. Even if nobody else likes it. Even if people don't understand it. Thank you for not changing. Thank you for being the best character on the entire show and, well, knowing it. Thank you for talking in the third person and being an egomaniac, but also for doing the right thing 100 percent of the time. Thank you for fixing things when nobody else tried, when everyone was too caught up in their own drama to see the simple solutions. Thank you for not caring how anyone but Chris Keller feels about Chris Keller. Thank you for being a big softy with a prickly, repellent exterior. Thank you for being the guy who helps the people who think they hate him. Your work here is done.

So basically, this was not an episode of One Tree Hill. Nothing bad happened, the characters acted more like fortune cookies than themselves, and it was cheesy. And I don't completely believe that one second after they all walked out of Jamie's basketball game, someone didn't get shot or hit by a car or attacked by a psycho stalker.
I'm having fun imagining the possibilities.