Thursday, August 28, 2014

Red Rising - Pierce Brown

So, I read this. But it took me weeks and I read, like, four other books in that time. Literally anything that came into my hands that looked halfway good, I'd put Red Rising down in favor of. There came a point about halfway through when I realized I probably WAS going to finish it, but I was so...ehhhh.

So. Darrow is a Red, which means he goes into the pits of Mars to mine [element I'm too lazy to look up] to help terraform Mars' surface, so that all the weaker colors (currently wasting away on Earth) can come live there. In the spirit of dystopian literature, that is totally all a lie, the government is corrupt, Mars is terraformed already, and everyone is just hanging around in space-gardens and dashing about in space-cars while the poor Reds die in the mines.

Not to make her the subject of every discussion of YA dystopia ever, but Katniss Everdeen is abrasive, yes? It's kind of the schtick, that she's sort of rough around the edges. But she's not just a turd for no reason, you know? She's not all like, Oh, stupid elders thinking they know shit. They have slow reflexes, what do THEY know, with their old-person brains. Because that's Darrow. He is a jackass that I, at the not-ancient age of 32, want to punch in the teeth.

So there's that. And then, whichever team mines the most [element] wins the Hunger Games gets the Laurel, i.e. more food and things. Only the same team always wins, even after Darrow's sure he's collected the most [whatever], and he's like, That's how they do, rigging the game to keep us striving. And I'm like, Wait, what? Because if you knew it was fixed and you weren't going to win, why would you even? Part of the reason kids fight in the Hunger Games and don't just drown theyselves is because if they win, their families will Actually Get Stuff.


You'll be singing this for hours WHO IS YOUR DYSTOPIC OVERLORD NOW?

What were we? Ok. So Darrow and his wife get caught...sneaking into a space garden? I forget. And they get a bunch of lashes for this, only when the wife goes for her lashes she sings a Forbidden Song and so gets hanged instead. She does this on purpose because she believes in Revolution, but rather than just...I don't know, foment unrest among her fellow slaves, she MARTYRS herself so that her husband will rise up and revolt to avenge her. FEMININE WILES AND ALSO SACRIFICE. (Ugh.)

And it sort of works, because he does something to get HIMSELF hanged (I don't remember, steals her body or something) but instead of waking up dead, he wakes up on the surface of Mars, in the hands of Revolutionaries who want to re-make him as a Gold (the ruling power) so he can infiltrate their system and fuck shit up. It's...actually kind of an ok plan.

You don't really deserve Chris Traegar-level enthusiasm for this but I'm throwing you a bone, here.

Apparently he isn't the first person to undergo what they creepily call 'Carving,' where they Wolverine/The Swan him into a beautiful, unbreakable machine, outfit him with a fake family history, and send him off to subterfuge. I'm underplaying what a process this all is, and apparently the previous Carvees all died because body mods are a bitch.

So he applies to Gold School where, because he's secretly a Red and a badass miner and augmented to shit (and kind of a Mary Sue, to be honest) he's excellent at everything, including punching things. Which comes up sort of a lot, because once they've passed whatever tests, they're split into teams and dropped into an elaborate game of Capture the Flag.

And despite what seems like a majillion Resistance Dollars spent on his new look, and despite the CONSTANT surveillance both implied and explicitly described, and despite how deadly, deadly seriously the Golds take this shit, Darrow keeps doing stuff like weeping his dead (and kind of famous now) wife's name, or clutching his red headband that he brought from Below, or wearing a pendant of a flower that SEEMS to be native to the mines. It's like he's trying to get caught, is what I'm saying.

You get to NOT DIE, you unrepentant asshole.

Anyway, the whole point of the Hunger Games Capture the Flag contest is so that the Golds in power can watch their young people run around enslaving, raping, and occasionally murdering each other to see who they want to give jobs to. The games do become fairly compelling, even if they're full of Infiltrator Tropes like Darrow discovering that not all Golds are heartless monsters. WE HAVE SEEN THE ENEMY AND HE IS US.

But I just don't care enough to read the rest of what I'm sure is going to be at least a trilogy. I don't like Darrow, I don't like this edgy-poetic style of writing ('His face has become like a blood blossom') and I don't think sentences like 'It is weeks of physical therapy' should be allowed. WHAT is weeks of physical therapy?

It is, kitten.

Four caterpillars. Requisite ass-covering: book received from publisher.

Monday, August 4, 2014

How to Build a Girl readalong: In which I finally join the conversation


Or, sure, finger guns.

I joke, though. How to Build a Girl is its OWN gold star. So. Joanna begins having sex, and lots of it, and this brings up So Many Issues. Like female sexuality being primarily mediated through the male gaze. Or how Joanna has to address herself as 'massive slag' in order to feel better about feeling like a massive slag, or as a preventative measure against feeling bad when others will (inevitably) point out her massive slagness. Also, the word 'swashfuckler' is involved.

And what I love most about this book is its ability to address these things HEAD ON in a way that should feel overly teachy and messagey (didactic? Am I trying to say didactic?) but doesn't. Partially because it usually comes in the middle of a pile of hilarity, and is itself written with WIT and HUMOR, but also because the things she says feel simultaneously eternal and fresh. Like, I always knew this thing, but here is a way of articulating it that is so spot-on that I feel like I never knew what I meant.

Me, the entire book.

Like about how teenagers default to cynicism because 'it's a million times easier to be cynical and wield a sword, than it is to be open-hearted and stand there, holding a balloon and a birthday cake, with the infinite potential to look foolish.' Which makes me want to be nicer to teenagers even when they are making it sooooo difficult. But she also points out that 'when cynicism becomes the default language, playfulness and invention become impossible. Cynicism scours through a culture like bleach, wiping out millions of small, seedling ideas.'

GROOVE to that truthiness.

Every time anyone posts a quote I'm like, YESS. YES, THAT. Because every sentence in this book is crafted, and not, like, Booker Prize Shortlist crafted (shut up, you know what I mean), but JOYOUSLY crafted. Like, language is such FUN and you can make it do so many THINGS and it is evocative as HELL and BEHOLD MY POWER, AS I MAKE IT DANCE TO MY TUNE.

So I leave you with this: 'I haven't yet learned the simplest and most important thing of all: the world is difficult, and we are all breakable. So just be kind.'

And hey, how difficult was it to stop at the end of this week's section, because of THAT THING SHE SAYS? (Completely non-subtle attempt to get you to pre-order the book. But for real, good cliffhanger.)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

This Is Where I Leave You - Jonathan Tropper, and To Rise Again At A Decent Hour - Joshua Ferris

I never want to close down a line of books, to say Oh, I don't read books by X or about Y, but I am just so done with books by dudes in their 30s and 40s, about dudes in their 30s or 40s. ESPECIALLY if those dudes are having trouble in love. It just comes across as so...I cannot think of the word. But like these books were written to assuage some hurt or prove some point, I AM TOTALLY SPECULATING AND THAT IS THE WORST but when This Is Where I Leave You's Judd finds his wife screwing his alpha-male, sculpted-shoulder-having, square-toothed boss and GOES ON to ogle the bank teller's ass as he withdraws money from he and his wife's joint checking, and then is like, she (the bank teller) is probably dating an asshole, WHY DO ALL THE HOT GIRLS DATE ASSHOLES WHEN THE NICE GUYS ARE STANDING RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM and I'm am like, FIRSTLY, your wife is a you-proclaimed Hot Girl who dated you to your extreme incredulity and then married you, so there's that to counter your point, and secondly, GO FIND YOURSELF A NICE GIRL SHE'S PROBABLY RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU BUT DOESN'T HAVE THE BANK TELLER'S FINE ASS OR PLUMP LIPS.

All of us.

When that happens, I can't help feeling like Tropper has an axe to grind. Also, the Hot Girls Only Date Douchebags line of reasoning sets me on fire. WOE IS ME, THE PARTICULAR OBJECT OF MY AFFECTIONS DOES NOT RETURN THAT AFFECTION AND IT IS NOT BECAUSE I LACK HUMOR OR KINDNESS OR AMBITION OR INTEGRITY OR ANY OTHER QUALITIES A WOMAN MIGHT FIND ATTRACTIVE IN A MAN IT IS BECAUSE I LACK DELTOIDS. Give Hot Women a fucking bit of credit.

So that's when I put This Is Where I Leave You down, when Judd began making idle speculations about the bank teller's preference in romantic partner and also whether or not she went to college (he guesses probably not because LOL HOT SMART GIRLS) and who her friends are (hairdressers and tanning salon clerks, probably) and I'm done.

I've returned To Rise Again At A Decent Hour to the library already, so I don't have an exact quote for the moment I realized I was done with this asocial dentist who just doesn't get why people moisturize their hands I mean what's the appeal (the appeal is not having dry, cracked hands, which isn't a huge empathetic mountain to summit even if you don't, yourself, share that desire), but I noticed I wasn't enjoying the book, noticed I was on page 50, and shut that bitch without a qualm.


Monday, July 28, 2014

How To Build A Girl Readalong NOT ON SCHEDULE AT ALL

So, this is embarrassing. My replacement cable came in the mail and I whooped and charged up my ereader, only to find that my copy of HTBaG had expired because I had been extra-keen and downloaded it before they changed the settings to not expire on us. And THEN I was sent a link to a new copy, but THEN MY WIRELESS COLLAPSED. And then, and then, the guy came to fix the internet and I logged on and couldn't download the new copy because of Reasons.

I just want to read this book, you guys.

ALL THAT TO SAY, I just got a new copy today, and am woefully behind. OTHER PEOPLE'S POSTS ARE SPOILERING ME.

But let's talk about what I remember of what I've actually read, shall we? Caitlin/Joanna (Caitlanna) has found a job as a music writer and it's going well. She's a few years older than I am, so I missed the Riot Grrrl movement by a hair (but totally benefitted from it with Hole and Veruca Salt and the general idea that girls could be rockers, nbd), but I remember VIVIDLY the thrill and noise and sheer physicality of my first mosh pit. I've never been into sports, and as a teenager I didn't even run or anything, so concert-going was the only thing I did that used my whole body, and left me all sweaty and feeling like a PART of something.

But in a friendly fashion.

What I love most about this section is that Joanna's concert reviews are good. For the first bit of this book I was worried she was going to be one of those girls for whom nothing goes right, who is ALWAYS bursting into spontaneous Scooby Doo impressions in front of a studio audience. So hooray for success, and hooray for this next bit, where I hear she meets a boy.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

If I Stay - Gayle Forman

Why didn't anyone tell me If I Stay was so booooooooring? Girl is in car accident, girl's spirit hovers above girl's comatose body, girl thinks about run-of-the-mill family life and relationship with boyfriend (he's a rocker! She's into cello! His band is making it big, she got accepted into Julliard! WHATEVER WILL THEY DO!) and tries to decide if she will return to said comatose body.

The book is, like, 117 pages, which is probably why nothing happens. I wanted Mia to float around town for a few weeks, see what life would be like for everyone without her, It's A Wonderful Life-style.

With more violent lovemaking.

There's a SEQUEL to this? I can't even...Mia and Adam, having been estranged, now reunited in New York for 'one life-changing night.' AWESOME.

(Not awesome. Boring.)

Five caterpillars for not being a hopeless train wreck but not really being much of anything else, either.

Monday, July 14, 2014

How To Build a Girl [Or: How To Embarrass Yourself In A Readalong]

Ughhhh you guys. I was going to try to muddle along until my replacement cable came but this is where me not having a copy of the book really topples my penguin.

Just making up gif-based colloquialisms, here.

I feel like I've read this book before. Not in a, like, Oh, we've seen this a thousand times, but in a literal, that-time-I-unknowingly-re-read-American-Gods-and-got-to-that-part-at-the-beginning-where-she-eats-him-with-her-vagina-and-I'm-like-Oh-yeah-I-remember-this-bit way. Either Moranthology or How to Be a Woman talks about Moran's own childhood, from which I think she draws heavily.

All the best story lines do.

I MEAN ALL THIS IN THE BEST WAY, though. Young girl with delusional father becomes obsessed with rock music as a way out of her small-town existence and I forget at which point I come into spoilertown because I've read ahead, but OTHER THINGS HAPPEN THAT ALSO HAPPENED TO MORAN.

And even though I don't have my copy in front of me, I remember the topic of chapter one, page one, paragraph one, because it is young teenage girl wanking, which is something I haven't met in a book since, like, Deanie. Everyone in the readalong is talking about this because OTHER BOOKS DO NOT TALK ABOUT THIS.

They clutch their pearls instead.

Everyone else is quoting the book as well, which I OBVIOUSLY CANNOT DO so go check out some of those links and LAUGH AND LAUGH and also cringe because there's a Scooby Doo incident that gave me severe Second-Hand Embarrassment.

I am this kitten.

HOPEFULLY MY CABLE COMES THIS WEEK and I can charge my ereader and access all the notes I took when I totally read ahead into this coming week's section.

Monday, July 7, 2014

How To Build A Girl Readalong

I'M DOING ANOTHER READALONG because that's all I blog about these days (aaaaaaand about taking my 7-week-old baby camping, but that's a different blog entirely). Unlike every other readalong I've done ever, this is for a book coming out on 2014, not, like, 1814. Way to be current, me.

Nailing it.

Caitlin Moran's How to Build a Girl comes out in September (pre-order it, cause you'll forget), and I've read How to Be a Woman and Moranthology and I'm STILL LAUGHING. Also, I have cheated on this readalong and started the book weeks ago because I am a toddler about waiting for stuff.

Or I'm like nine but also filthy rich. They amount to the same thing.

That gif and the assurance that at least the first third of the book is clever and heartbreaking may be all I end up contributing to this readalong (hosted by the brilliant Emily over at As the Crowe) because I've lost the cable for charging my nook and the battery is dead. I AM DISTRAUGHT. But I ordered a new cable today, and it should get here in the next two weeks, which means I should find my original charger in about nine days.

Until then, check out the other participants in the readalong (the usual suspects, mostly) and I'll just be over here.

Doing this.