Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Review: Hush, Hush

Hush, Hush (Hush, Hush, #1)Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The following review will contain screaming, yelling, griping, whining, and spoilers along with much ranting. You have been advised.

So, I decided to pick up this book at the library to do my occasional funny blog post where I rip on terrible YA books that are ridiculously popular. I zeroed in on this one after seeing much swooning over Patch when I worked on The Mortal Instruments. After trying to process what I just read, which left me with a blank face that no animated little picture can express, my reaction wavered between:


Dramatic? Yes. Most definitely, yes. I don't even want to return this book to the library so some teen girl can have her brain warped, but I know such an attempt would be futile since there are other books like this out there. But I'll get to that later. First I'll focus on the typical stuff like characterization, quality of research, and the writing in general. Shall we begin?

Oh, and I told myself I would stay away from GIFs this time after my review of Divergent, but I can't promise anything.

First, Nora Grey. Yes, Nora. She thinks she's not pretty, her hair is a horrible cloud of frizz, and she's flat chested. She has no assets that any man would want because being a studious young woman is not sexy. She's just like every gosh darn YA protagonist with a vagina in these last books I've bashed on. I'm sensing a pattern.

Anyway, Nora is supposed to be smart and she has good grades because she wants to attend an Ivy League school one day. I stopped believing she had a brain when she ended up being so dense. I'm relatively intelligent and can be a total space cadet who's so far out I'm orbiting one of Saturn's moons, but Nora is pushing it. A guy sexually harasses her in school and then she thinks he might be stalking her, and she doesn't deal with it. She hangs around him instead of running and getting the cops or going straight to the principle when her teacher wouldn't help her deal with Patch. Her life was in danger, and she handled it poorly.

No, worse than poorly. She knew her life was in danger, it scared her, but she didn't deal with it beyond telling her vapid friend who didn't believe her half the time. Nora makes me so mad I'm thinking in run-one sentences. My vocabulary is being reduced down into growls.

I'll give you an example. By the middle of the book, Nora has discovered that the "good boy" might have killed this chick and then made it look like a suicide. She freaks out and refuses to be around him. Whereas her stalker, Pushy Patch, has sexually harassed her and she thinks he might be stalking her, not to mention the whole incident with the car and the roller coaster, and she still hangs around him. Hell, she gets rides from him. She gets in his car and on his motorcycle. Just writing about this makes me so mad I almost broke my keyboard in half over my knee. I hate her so much I could just...

Yes, I went there and feel no shame.

And don't get me started on how nosey and self-righteous Nora is. The things she does to find out about people who might have committed murder only support my idea that she should have giant neon letters that say STUPID over her head.

Now, going back to Nora's characterization, there was the iron pill thing. She's supposed to be anemic. I'm a stickler for writers doing their research, so when I spot something that screams, "I totally didn't," I wonder why their editors were sleeping. Nora and her iron pills are one of those moments.

Anemia is a deficiency of iron in the blood. It's not fatal, but since iron is really important when it comes to the formation of erythrocytes, red blood cells, then not having enough is still bad. You basically feel very tired and weak. (AKA, complete crap.) Those with anemia take iron supplements, over the counter or prescribed, with food once or twice a day. Eating a diet with iron rich foods can help too. That's what I try to do since I have a disease where anemia is a possible side effect. I don't need supplements, but I've known those who did.

So, in other words, I'm calling Fitzpatrick and her editors out on complete bull. Nora's anemia is not in anyway represented properly. It's used as a device to make her seem more weak than she already is. Wanna call me out? I have proof.

"I considered explaining I was anemic and had to take iron a few times a day, especially when I was under stress, but I thought better. The anemia wasn't life threatening... as long as I took regular doses of iron. I wasn't paranoid to the the point that I thought Patch meant me harm, but somehow, my medical condition was a vulnerability that felt better kept secret." (p.33)

First off, that is not how you use ellipses. Second, I know that in a review I shouldn't call out the writer, but I know way too much about writing a novel to turn a blind eye to lazy research. And I mean really lazy research. Writers will never be perfect, but that is what editors are for.

Oh, and the real kicker, Fitzpatrick graduated college with a degree in health. Just check the book jacket.

Now onto Patch Cipriano. All the girls swoon over this dark and mysterious fallen angel. But I ask you, "Why?" Why would you want to be with a guy who taunts you in class with sexual references? Why, when you think he might be stalking you? Why, when he later admits that he had every intention of killing you? If he made you swoon, then you either have serious issues or subconsciously support assholes who think they're entitled to your body.

Patch does nothing but intimidate Nora. He stands close to her and smiles down on her with a predatory smile. He makes inappropriate comments. He pins her against things. He even has a strange obsession with human bodies. He was thrown out of Heaven for trying to possess one so he could get it on with some girl. And then there is the mental violation. If those aren't enormous red flags surrounded by flaming GET OUT NOW signs, I don't know what is. Just because he has smexy abs and dark eyes full or mystery does not mean that you should bat your eye lashes at him. Saying this dude has boundary issues is putting it mildly.

You know what, I have to stop talking about Patch. Just read this review. If I go on, I will break something. Nora falling for Patch's abhorrent behavior just makes me furious.

To lighten the mood, I will now tell you that Patch is what we call my grandma's shih tzu. He is an awesome dog and super adorable. I will now take deep breaths and imagine him instead.

There, now I feel a bit better.

Honestly, the side characters weren't much better. Vee was a vapid stereotype. There is no other way to say it. If anything, Nora should hate her by the end of this book. Patch's ex Dabria is every bit the stalker he is, and manages to be more violent. The Coach is a disgusting human being that should never be allowed to teach again. Biology is not the place for sex ed, let alone his kind of sex ed. Elliot assaults Nora at her home. No excuse there.

And Jules. I don't have any excuses for him either, but I can understand why he'd hate Patch so much. This book has an underlying theme of violation, which I find ironic and hilarious in a way the author didn't intend.

Jules wants to hurt Patch because the angel has possessed him every year for over two hundred years. Basically, Patch uses Jules as a giant meat puppet for two weeks and Jules is along for the ride say or not. Jules can't kill himself because Nephilim are immortal, and he can't kill Patch because he's an angel. If Patch kills Nora (she's supposed to be a descendant of Jules) Jules would die. So, Jules wants to kill Nora to hurt him and possibly kill himself, and then Patch would basically be screwed. They're stuck in this cycle of hate; Patch because he's reliant on Jules for the human experience and Jules because Patch uses him. Both of them are bad people, and yet I understood Jules' motivations better. Patch didn't let him have a choice, and he wanted to be free from that.

That aside, I still don't get why Nora jumped. She was going to die anyway with the same outcome. Did she really think she could live or that Patch could catch her? I'm just going to stop thinking about that one before I get a headache.

For the plot, there was a bit of over stuffing to on. If Nora had to only deal with Jules, then the story would have been tighter. It is the main plot after all. But Fitzpatrick had the need to squeeze in Dabria. She didn't really feel like she belonged to the story except in the visions Nora had. There was just too much going on.

The writing was also passible aside from some bad dialogue and a few sentences that made me blink to see if they would change. It was nothing a good edit couldn't fix if you focus on just the sentences themselves. (The characterization needs overhauled entirely.) So, to help lighten the mood again, I will throw in some of these and hope I get a giggle or two.

"The air resonated with the boy's low laughter." (p.5) It is never specified whether it is low in tone or volume. Considering Patch's personality, I'm guessing volume, but either way I doubt the air "resonated" with it.

"Patch's eyes were black orbs." (p.19) I kept imagining those contacts used to black out the whole eye. Can you say creepy?

"By seven o'clock, the sky had glowered into an inky blue..." (p. 40) glowered: Verb. To look or stare with sullen dislike, discontent, or anger. Yup, her editors were asleep if they missed a word usage error this bad.

"A boom of thunder sent us flying through the doors." (p.133) I asked my husband what he thought this meant when I read the sentence out loud to him. He thought multiple people were thrown through doors by someone throwing lightning. It actually refers to Vee and Nora running into Victoria's Secret when they hear thunder during a storm. I told him his answer was much cooler.

"Something cold flushed through me, like a blush, only the opposite." (p.152) My real reaction: Um, what?

"His eyes looked like they didn't play by the rules." (p.214) This sentence made me cringe just typing it.

"My voice was strewn with cobwebs." (p.249) This is one of those sentences where I get what she's referring to, but it's still a bad metaphor.

"She laughed, and it sounded like ice cubes tinkling in a glass." (p. 321) This refers to Dabria's laugh. I kept testing the sound with different glasses, and it's really hard to imagine that sound coming out of anyone's mouth. If it did, it would be really annoying.

"His eyes were all over me. And they showed every sign of wanting to rattle me to death." (p.336) This is just bad writing, period. If the character is going to say that she's rattled or intimidated, then just say it.

So there you have it. My scatter brained review where I had to stop commenting on certain subjects before I put my fist through something. Or before I started swearing profusely. Or before I destroyed a library book.

And if you're one of those people who want to yell at me from the safety of your computer, I don't care. Never has a book made me rethink what is going into YA so much. Young Adult fiction is very important in that it gives teenagers, especially teenage girls, characters they can look up to and identify with. Because the demographic these books are targeted to are in a formative time in their life, content like I've described above disturbs me. It's not healthy to let girls think that it's okay for a boy or man to show you attention in that way. I was lucky to be have parents that taught me it isn't, but not everyone is.

The worst part is that she's a female writer. There are so many female writers out there that put out material that is worth the attention. Female writers deserve more respect, and books like this don't help. JK Rowling should be able to use her full name, if you catch my drift.

Sorry I got a bit preachy there at the end, but as a woman who wants to be a part of the published fantasy and scifi writers community, I've learned I have to be aware of what I put down. Words and ideas are more powerful than people think.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Book Review: The Blue Blazes

The Blue Blazes (Mookie Pearl, #1)The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Before I begin, first the disclaimer. I don't know if this review would spoil anything for you people looking to read this book, but think of this as a warning just in case something comes up you don't want see.

I'm going to confess my undying love here. I love this man's work. LOVE with caps and italics, even in my voice. I hardly get excited over things that are released: movies, television, video games, and most books. But when Wendig announces that he has a new book hitting shelves in a couple of weeks (and he releases a lot of them) my reaction is often, "Now! Give it to me! I fling my cash at you! I demand you move faster, Time! No wonder people say you're old." My enthusiasm could even drown out the enthusiasm of my SuperWhoLock friends, and those fangirls smack you in the face with their fandom. (But I usually play it down. Being that devoted to people you don't even know is weird. Especially when you have their faces plastered all over the wall, digital and real.)

That said, I'm not afraid to point out the flaws of things I love. I see no point in being unrealistic if it still isn't going to change how you feel about something. This is where I admit that there isn't one thing I didn't love about Blue Blazes. It's very hard to find urban fantasy these days that isn't strong chick falls in love with vampire/werewolf/monster/human-male-with-personality-disorder. Face it, you know I'm right. It's like trying to shake a stick and not hit a bra or panties in a lingerie store. After reading books by genre-benders like Wendig and Lawrence (who I also worship by gushing over his books and recommending them often) I'm always looking for more.

Mookie Pearl is a thug for the Organization. They keep everything in line between the gangs and anything that wanders up from the Great Below, especially when it comes to Cerulean. Cerulean, most commonly known as Blue Blazes, is a drug created from veins found in the Underworld. It lets you see the true nature of the creepy-crawlies, makes you faster, stronger, and can lead to addiction like all substances. Mookie is a Blazer because he has to be. He needs to see these other things so he can crack their skulls. That's his job. Then his daughter Nora, whom he is not on good terms with, tells him that his Boss has cancer. And naturally, everything starts to spiral down.

Wendig does something not seen in his other novels, he world builds. He has made his own type of hell, and doesn't just borrow from other lore. It certainly influenced him, but this is all him. The most distinct thing is that there are three pigments: Blue Blazes, Red Rage, Golden Gate, Green Grave, and Violet Void. Blue is common, it does as described. Red is Hulking Out, going Super Saiyan. Muscles bulge like you're some roid-raging freak and anger takes over. Yellow takes you to the very heart of the Great Below. Green we never see. And Purple, well, let me just say that I don't want to spoil it.

Then there are the different layers of the Great Below. The first level is the Shallows. It's the more accessible part. It's where the town of the dead, Daisypusher, is located. (I recommend reading Bait Dog and his Miriam Black books so you can spot the easter eggs.) After the Shallows is the Tangle, a place of twisting catacombs where anyone can get lost. At the bottom of it all is the Expanse. Worm-like gods wallow in perpetual hunger in the Expanse. They're just the right amount of unsettling to make them ominous. I loved it.

Mookie himself is a great rounded out character. He's the loyal lug-head, but you don't want to get on his bad side. Scarred head to toe both inside and outside, he'll do anything for people he loves and anything to people who screw him over. Mookie is solid and predictable in the way you want your character to be. You know he'll fight tooth and nail, even if he looses in the end. Giving up isn't in his DNA.

And that brings me to his daughter, Nora. Nora still harbors teenage vitriol towards daddy for not being around. While she's mostly hot air, we know she's not afraid to put a bullet in someone if she so desires. Nora guards her hurt close, like her father, making them more alike than just as people I wouldn't want to wrong. Oh, and she's written just as well.

And then there's Skelly. She's a tough as nails former derby girl turned gang leader. I loved her character development. There was something refreshing about it. You don't see many tough chicks, a urban fantasy staple, question the image they give to people. What Skelly goes through makes her discover what she's made of and not made of. I want to see more of her.

Face it, Wendig can write a female character. He can write just about any character really. They all come out well done with their own distinctions. Even his side characters. Hell, even his made up gangs all have personality just in their descriptions. (The Get-Em Girls rock my socks.) Every part of Wendig's little world in Blue Blazes has a well finished touch, and I know we're going to be seeing more of it in the future.

Sorry if I did nothing but gush again, but what can you do when faced with good writing?

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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Book Review: Emperor of Thorns

Emperor of Thorns (The Broken Empire, #3)Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've never done this before. I've never gotten a book ahead of its publication date. You can't leak the ending. You can't spoil it. So, what do you say? What do I say? In my previous reviews of Prince of Thorns and King of Thorns I brought up scenes I liked and wrote about Lawrence's use of modern science to make these books more than a fantasy. I even wrote about the chronological structure, but I'm not going to do that now.

I'm going to tell a story instead.

When I was sent a DM over twitter asking if I wanted a copy, I naturally said yes. Then I ordered book two because I needed to catch up. King showed up before I left on vacation and I finished it before I got back. There, squished between the screen and front door, was a white shipping bag of bubble wrap and plastic. I couldn't get it open fast enough, and the damn package was impossible when I tried to use my fingers. So I resorted to scissors.

My face lit up when I held the pretty green proof copy of Emperor in my hands. Sure, the release cover is nice looking, but it's always the story that matters. I couldn't wait to crack it open, but I did. I wanted time to devour it. The next day I sat down with it after work and ate it up.

But then a curious thing happened. Over the course of the next few days, I read less and less. Then, about half way through, I set it down. It sat unread for a few days on my dining table. I walked by it every day, but didn't pick it up. Why did I stop reading? I was loving it to death.

The truth was that I didn't want to get to the end. This is a strange feeling for me. I'm the kind of person who finished awful books because I have to know what happens next. I understand that a good thing must end because all things should end before they wear out their welcome. I'm the kind of person that would like more Firefly, but I'm happy it died while good so that fans didn't have to see it decay, a former shadow of its glory. I knew this was it for Jorg's story. I follow Lawrence on Twitter. He's already working on a new series.

You see, we - the audience - has seen Jorg grow up. We haven't just seen a single moment in his life punctuated with memories. We know his thoughts and fears. We've seen him go from brash teenager who is way too smart, to a mature young man who recognizes all the wrong he has committed. A young man who recognizes the importance of having those you love in your life and why you should save them. Lawrence has managed to squeeze the life of a person into three books while at the same time analyze the role technological advances play in our world. It comes down to Jorg, the boy who defies fate and thumbs his nose at "No," to fix the mistakes that people made a thousand years ago. A boy-turned-man that is just like them, all desire, to fix modern man's drive to play god.

Now, for those of you who don't like these books because Jorg is a deplorable personality, you miss the point. You put it down at Prince of Thorns and missed one of the best things about this character. He is self aware. He grew up and knows he is a terrible human being. He doesn't try to justify it or spout excuses. He knows. That is one of the best things about this character. As much as he tries to be a better person, he knows that he is impulsive, quick to anger, and contrary. He knows that people deserve better than him, yet he is the perfect hero for a story like this. And he knows that too. He is greedy, lustful, stubborn, and profane. He is human. You aren't supposed to like him, just understand him.

So, in my own self awareness, I finished the book. The ending snuck up much faster than I imagined. At one moment I had one hundred pages, and then forty. And then there were no more. That left me staring at the back of a flimsy paper cover. I didn't want that to be it. Even with a favorite TV show, I don't think I've never been this attached. I cherish what I got and leave it at that. After all, all good things must end.

But there was something stunningly beautiful about the ending. I wouldn't change a thing. And for that, I respect you Mark Lawrence.

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