Fans are saying Ernest Cline’s Armada is a failure because it sticks too close to the source material. My argument is that it’s been marketed wrong. This is a young adult book that’s been marketed to adults. Why doesn’t anyone seem to get that?
Even School Library Journal put it under “Adult books for YA collections.” But why? Why is it not a YA book? It’s the story of a teen–who is about to graduate, but hasn’t yet–and his adventure fighting aliens. Readers have complained that it’s too much like The Last Starfighter, which it references, but the meta-narrative only works if you’re an adult and grew up watching The Last Starfighter. I mean, I did and all, but not over and over again like a lot of other movies from that time (I guess it wasn’t on cable for me to record), so I didn’t mind. Also, I thought when I was reading it that it was a teen book, so what did it matter? It stands as a teen book. If it’s too close to the source material, so what? That doesn’t matter for the audience it would do best with. Even if they’ve seen it, we’re talking about the generation that made Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and Carry On bestsellers. This isn’t a generation that thinks that meta-narratives don’t have their own worth.
So I’m ordering Armada today for my teen collection, and no one here will stop me. Nor should they. Armada is a teen book, and I’m going to put it where my teens can read it. Then we’ll see what they think. Dollars to donuts, they will enjoy it for what it is, not what they want it to be.
I sure did tank early on NaBlo this year. I’d done three or four posts in one day, and set them to publish 24 hours apart. Then I forgot what day it was and got bogged down in the last of our settlement paperwork, and then my husband and I bought a house and I stopped caring.
I do hate failing. I’m failing at NaNo too. I was doing great the first few days–ahead of schedule by about three thousand words, and then I realized I was writing to write and not taking any joy from it. The story had been told already in short form. Maybe I’d just picked the wrong thing. Maybe I needed to switch. I wrote another flash fiction (I like those) and began another…and then my brand-new laplet (tabtop?) needed to be reset to factory settings, and I saved my Scrivener file incorrectly. I lost about five thousand words.
I then spent the last week moving and dealing with having a cold/flu thing that’s been going around the town. I wrote a little last night and a few days ago, but nothing feels quite right. Everything feels like stress. How do people write? I wonder if you have to have no ego or too much ego, and I’m in that in-between place I can’t get out of.
Some repair guy is coming over and I have to be here until they’re done. How do you write during THAT?
Something something need a room of one’s own. I just gave mine up so we can bring in some extra cash. My library/office is going to be a guest room.
Repair guy is here. I can’t focus. Go figure.
Three stars on Goodreads for me is still a good review. These are the books I would likely reread on a cold day had I any time for rereading nowadays that doesn’t involve book clubs or my utter, absolute favorite books or nostalgia track-downs. They are usually fast, breezy books, but occasionally they are heavier reads that don’t quite hit the mark emotionally. They are, basically, serviceable.
Jennifer E. Smith is the kind of writer where I couldn’t tell you which of her books is about which characters or plot a year after the fact, but which pass the time well and I enjoy while I’m reading them. I even look forward to her next release. So I can’t tell you what The Geography of You and Me is about, but I can tell you I liked it! Isn’t that silly? She’s one of my go-to recs for teens who like realistic romance.
Lauren Oliver is never a five-star writer for me either. It always takes me too long to warm up to her books, which I then tend to give three or four stars to. It’s three stars for Panic, which I felt was one of her weaker works. Still worth reading but not if you’re looking for the depth of Before I Fall. It’s a book about teens who have a yearly dangerous game they play. I dunno, three stars: forgettable.
L.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle is a book about a young woman who has been oppressed her own life and decides “No more” when she’s given a diagnosis of a terminal illness. I don’t know why I didn’t love it, but I wonder if I reread it I would? It’s a book I’ll revisit in a few years, I think, it figure it all out.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout gets a lot of props for how great it is, and there are definitely great things about it, but it’s got a bit of pretension in it, capital-L Literary that I don’t love. There were times I ate the pages up, and times I wanted to put it down and not pick it back up. I’ve gotta watch the miniseries, for sure.
Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith isn’t half as good as Tipping the Velvet, but it’s still a good read about a female thief. Lots of tropes used quite well. It’s probably better if you’re familiar with that era’s source material. In short: Lesbian Dickens. How can you not want to read it?
Victoria Holt’s On the Night of the Seventh Moon has a lot of that Victorian thriller feel to it as well. I don’t love Holt upon reread the way I did when I was a kid.
More three-star books tomorrow!
It’s easiest to forget the two-star books. The one-star books are unforgettable in their awfulness, and the three-star books are at least entertaining. The two-stars, however–they’re just meh.
Mary Kubica’s The Good Girl was heavily hyped at BEA and I was excited to read it. Unfortunately, all I got was a hot mess of a wannabe thriller, with poor use of chronology. That’s literally all I remember about the book. Possibly also that the “twists” were easily guessable. For fans of Lisa Scottoline, whose Think Twice suuuuper sucked.
I got a lot of #1 issues of comics at BEA last year and Pretty Deadly was one of them. I am usually a pretty big Kelly Sue DeConnick fan but I didn’t know what was going on, and wasn’t interested enough to pick up the first volume from the library until now–after which I decided not to read it because the interest wasn’t high enough to try to jam it in between NaNo write-ins.
I read Rick Remender’s Uncanny Avengers Vol. 1: The Red Shadow and I have no idea which book it was. The one where Red Skull does… something? Oh hey, Goodreads says I was right! Good for me. Yeah, I barely remember that one. Remender’s like that for me: hit or miss.
I called Michael Grant “Stephen King for kids” when I read his book Gone, but his newer series Messenger of Fear doesn’t live up to that. It sort of reminds me of my next 2-star book, R.L. Stine’s Party Games, which never hits any new ground and suffers from what feels like Fast-Writing Syndrome. (Aka “You have a deadline, popular author!” The thing which is going to kill the current J/YA popularity. Give them time to write, companies!) I could literally tell you more about Gone, which I read aaaages ago, than I can this newer one, because it was better.
Party Games is like someone put all the Fear Street books in a blender and let the chunks fall into a glass that says “New book! Nostalgia!” on it.
Finally, there was Tracy Hickman’s Wayne of Gotham. There’s never been a time that people have tried to flesh out the Waynes where it hasn’t been misguided at best, and this is no exception. It shares the Gotham trait of too much too soon when it comes to the weirdness of Gotham. It destroys the idea that Batman is at least partially the genesis of Gotham’s madness, which makes everything far less interesting.
So those were the two-stars from last year that I hadn’t already covered. Good on me!
Buuuut I can post today anyway.
I’ve read so many books this year and haven’t written about them. But I still have some of last year’s stuff that I didn’t write about either. So… that’s a good way to do NaBlo, IF I DO IT.
But I think I’ve blogged about this book before! Redshirts by John Scalzi is a weird little book. It’s a parody of Star Trek where the characters are aware they’re walking plot points. Even weirder is that the story finishes quickly and then there are three more sections, each in a different person-perspective (first, second, and third) and they all tie in. I really enjoyed each part, but some find it too odd. Those people don’t enjoy life.
Judith Krantz’s Scruples is the one book I was not allowed to read as a kid. Murderous evil twin and sexcapades through the generations in Sidney Sheldon’s Master of the Game? Sure. What the heck, I was about eight when I read that one. But Scruples was hidden in my mom’s drawer.
Of course I read it.
It’s the story of a woman who has everything good happen to her ever. And glory holes. But when I reread Scruples as an adult, I was shocked by how little the main character actually did. She wasn’t triumphantly succeeding–success kind of happened to her because she lost weight and got hot. What a lesson.
But that’s not the book I read in 2014. What I read was Scruples 2, a pile of crap even worse than the original book, so bad that I gave it the dreaded 1-star review on Goodreads. The book is set 15 years later, and is awful, and that’s mostly what I remember about it. Also that the main character’s creepy husband continued to be creepy, so I guess they break up and she ends up with the dude who ended up with the French chick at the end of the first one? Not sure why that happened, but it sucked, and the whole book sucked.
I also read some early Margaret Atwood: The Edible Woman and Lady Oracle. Both were good reads but didn’t have the impact her later stuff did. The time in which she grew up was so oppressive for women, it’s easy to see why even know it’s hard to find a sympathetic male character in her works–although, really, you could argue that it’s tough to find any sympathetic character in any of her works.
Brian K. Vaughan’s The Escapists is the story of the people who try to bring back the comic that is part of the focus in Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which is an awesome book and this comic doesn’t quite reach that awesomeness, but it’s a fun read with interesting characters. It wasn’t what I expected, but that’s okay too.
The problem with reading a lot of books and being a busy and sleep-deprived person is that very little sticks a year later, which is why I always want to try to blog more, but then I’m like “I’M SO TIRED I literally can’t even get out of this bed even though I should go eat/pee/do my back stretches/et cetera.”
So, tomorrow, there will be a lot of books I barely remember because they were just meh.
Do I care? I doubt it, but ask me again tomorrow after I get some sleep. I’ve about hit 5k for NaNo and I need a ten-hour nap.
I can’t hear you over how awesome I am.
[Contains spoilers for Justice League: Gods & Monsters]
I am not an Elseworlds kind of gal. Give me the 616, the Earth-One or whatever. Except…I really love the Ultimate universe. So maybe I’m lying to myself. The kind of gal I really am is the kind who loves consistency.
Justice League: Gods & Monsters is a world not our own, with heroes not like ours. The world is amazing in its consistency, and the more I think about it, the more I see how logically everything was followed through.
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
So now I’m going to use this post to figure out for myself how everything in this world works.
Because Zod slightly delayed the launch of the baby’s ship, it didn’t crash in Kansas to be found by the Kents. Instead it ended up closer to the West Coast, in a more populated area, to be found first by a migrant couple and then by the military. Because the Kents don’t hide the ship and the military gets there quickly, young Lex Luthor becomes more interested in science than business. He becomes a professor, the professor of many young talents, which in some cases accelerates their research. That academic bubble also creates the deep friendship between Kurt Langstrom and Will Magnus, which ends up turning Kurt into Batman.
Meanwhile, Superman is raised by America-loving migrants. Rather than having the opportunities that he might have had in Kansas, he does not go to college, does not become a journalist, and doesn’t go to the Daily Planet. Instead, he sees the harsh reality of how some people are treated better than others. He becomes a harder man for it. (Meanwhile, Lois Lane, suspicious of this version of Superman, ends up working on the web rather than for a traditional newspaper. Maybe because Lois & Clark’s articles weren’t causing the kinds of sales that would keep it in print?) He becomes the kind of powerful symbol that Bekka is drawn to when she’s left her own world and is looking for another.So Bekka comes and stays on Earth (maybe?).
Because Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman have such a tight, almost scary grip on everything, people are not rushing to be them. So we have scientists instead of science heroes, like Ray Palmer, Ryan Choi, Karen Beecher, etc.
So that’s our set-up, really. And it’s awesome, and you don’t really see almost any of it on the screen. It’s all in the background: not “world building,” but world built.
I love Bruce Timm.
I’m going to go in order of how much I liked them.
First off, the McGarry. It’s called Nowhere But Here and it’s about a girl whose biological father is a biker. She ends up falling for one of the teen bikers who want to join his “club” and discovers seeeecrets about her family. Did not finish (or DNF, among booklovers). I made it to around page 150. Yes, I’d like to know what the big deal is about Emily’s childhood, but not if it means reading page after page of men, teen and adult, not telling her things because We’re Manly Bikers with a Club; We Only Tell Things to Other Manly Bikers in Our Club. Seriously, it makes biker gangs look like a bunch of boys in a treehouse yelling at everyone below that they’re not included. Do Not Want. Also, can’t read the word “hot” one more time. It’s a Harlequin, in both publication and spirit. It’s only that the ages are younger. Meh.
Before you think Harlequin Teen is only putting out Teen Harlequins, let me present to you Adi Alsaid’s Never Sometimes Always. This poor young man, who I’ve met twice at BEA and found to be very nice, will suffer terribly from John Green comparisons, but I feel like that’s fair. This is a good book to read between Green publications. It’s about two besties, and the guy’s in love with the girl. They have a list of high school cliches they’ve decided to never ever do, and then senior year they decide to try all of them. And it changes them. Like Paper Towns, there’s a sense that you need to get a life to have a life, and that mooning for someone does you little favors. This was a quick, solid read that I’d recommend to any almost fan of realistic YA. Just not the ones who need dark, dark books to read all the time.
Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti have given us Zeroes, a book about a group of kids who have oddly similar superpowers, except when they don’t, and even then they feel kind of similar? What is it about Australian writers that I can’t bring myself to straight-up love? Zeroes is a really good book, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something missing it from it. I say that a lot when it comes to Australian writers. The book follows the Zeroes, a group of powered kids who all found each other and started training together like a superteam, but then had a falling out thanks to one kid’s shitty power of having a “voice” that somehow knows things about other people and always tries to give the kid what he wants, even if what he wants is stupid and destructive. The kid gets in trouble thanks to his power and they rally to help him even though they’re still pissed from that time his voice told them all off saying things that hurt them to the core. And there’s a girl who controls the emotions of groups, or the emotions control her, who knows. Some of the powers are a bit vague, but it goes with the “we have no idea what we’re doing” vibe of the book, and most of the time it works. Sometimes, we’re left following characters that are spinning their wheels, or having rather sudden life-changing epiphanies, and I think the book could’ve been cut down a little, but probably at the expense of one or more of the writers, so I can see why that didn’t happen. But it’s a good book. Did I mention it’s a good book? I feel like I’m criticizing it more than it deserves. Wait, did I mention it also sometimes feels like they just wrote down a gaming session? (Villains & Vigilantes or Champions, guys?) And the guy in charge never gels for me. But it was a good book! Like, really good! I immediately put it on my order list for the library! Flicker and Anon are awesome! Read this book!
Last but totally best is David Levithan’s Another Day. A companion book to Every Day, it’s the perfect example of why companion books don’t always suck and in fact sometimes absolutely shine. Another Day follows Rhiannon through her life during the period of Every Day, but the thing about Rhiannon is that she is her own person with her own decisions to make. It’s not just that we get to see her making those decisions, but that we really do get into her head and see the why. We see the difficulty of the situations: first, the relationship that isn’t quite bad enough to leave (very common with teenagers; very common with me when I was a teenager and even in my 20s), and then the relationship that readers might blow off as “*I* could handle it” until they see it from her perspective. This was a completely engrossing book, and could probably be read as a standalone. I mean, I wouldn’t. I’d read them in order. But I read almost everything in order.
Another immediate order for the library, and possibly one of the best books I’ll be reading all year.
This graphic novel is a good one to suggest for women who’ve never tried a graphic novel before. It’s a quick read, funny at times, sad at times, and a memoir to boot. (For those who have problems wrapping their heads around “comics aren’t just for kids.”)
Jennifer Hayden is like any other young girl past puberty: worried about how her body defines her. In her case, it’s a lack of breasts. A late bloomer, Jennifer takes a long time to come to terms with the beauty of her body, meanwhile living a life where she’s the only one letting breast size define her. Meanwhile, her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, her dad has a mistress, life always moves forward, and finally, at 43, she finds herself repeating history with a breast cancer diagnosis of her very own.
This book covers a huge chunk of Hayden’s life, from her teen years to middle age, and yet it moves smoothly along. There are times when her breasts take a backseat to life: that magical time in life where you’ve accepted your body as it is, only to have it continue to change on you and keep you forever off-balance. The art is consistent–not beautiful, not the best–and Hayden, like most memoir writers, is another privileged person obsessed with themselves and their past and their past enough for an eyeroll or two. There’s also religious epiphany at the end but I thought it was extra interesting because, unlike most American narratives, it’s not about Christianity.
The Story of My Tits is a good read, and I enjoyed it. As I get older, I’m looking for more narratives that include older women and women’s health experiences, so while this isn’t my usual teen-and/or-superhero fare, I’m glad I picked it up, both at BEA and once it was here in my home.
Disclosure: I received a free copy at this book at BookExpo America 2015. This has no bearing on the honesty of the review. See more about my feelings on ARCs and galleys on my About page.
The book came up three times in conversation and Facebook in a week period. I knew then that this was The Hot New Book, and we should order it at my library. So maybe I should check it out from a library that already had it. After all, I like cleaning and tidying and organizing–mostly that last thing–and I like methods of doing those things. When I clean, I usually clean to UnFuck Your Habitat’s 20/10 timer and I really like that, but it didn’t MOTIVATE me. So hey, I’d flip through the book and then return it fast, because it has a long hold list in the county.
I ended up reading every page of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and implementing its method immediately (even though I can’t do it fully yet as I’m in the middle of transitioning to a new place). After two hours, I had a bag and a half of trash and two bags of giveaways.
I feel great.
Ultimately, Marie Kondo’s method of cleaning boils down to this: care. Care about what you own. When you care about what you own, you take care of it, and when you’re surrounded by things that you care about, you care about yourself too. According to Kondo, she’s never had a client fall back into untidiness. I really do see why.
To some, Kondo’s method seems silly, especially in America. Touch everything you own. Does it bring you joy? If not, get rid of it. Thank it for its service, but move it along. For some of the people I’ve spoken to, it makes them feel silly. It’s not a far leap for me, because I talk to everything already. I name everything. My mouth guard thingy that’s supposed to keep me from grinding my teeth in my sleep is named Dwayne. I don’t know the name of the frog in Candy Crush, so I’ve named him Blorf. All my stuffed animals have names. If something doesn’t have a name, it gets called by what it is. “Let’s go, Pan. Time to make some [mock] pepper steak.”
But no, I’m still not going to thank every sock and pair of underwear I got rid of for its service. For one thing, I do not ascribe to the same religion as Kondo. Her Shinto beliefs dictate that everything has a spirit or energy. That’s why thanking things makes sense to her. It makes sense to me, but I’m not doing it one by one. I am thankful, though, and that is very close.
But back to the touching. It really is genius. It forces you to look at everything individually, to feel textures and give yourself time for memories. It’s one thing to look at your closet and say, “I’m getting rid of this, this, and this–this I was on the fence about anyway, this was a hand-me-down I didn’t really want, and this I haven’t worn in a year or two.” It’s another to separate each article of clothing and focus. Then you realize, there were a LOT of things you were on the fence about. That shirt doesn’t fit right even though it’s pretty. That thing is ugly and I keep it in case it’s laundry day and I haven’t done my laundry in like two weeks. I even tried some things on. I got rid of a suit that I kept because it’s beautiful. It was from my mom when she retired. But I’m a children’s librarian. There is literally no time I need to wear a suit. I’ve had it for five years. Why not give it to someone who’s going to wear it?
This was the LEAST amount of removal I’ve done so far, with the closet items. And the reason for that is that I just moved so I already got rid of a bunch of things. I wish I could show you some of the more dramatic changes, but I either didn’t record them or I’m not showing them to you (like my underwear drawer). My drawers all gained at last a quarter to a half of their space back, between the touching everything and figuring out whether it sparks joy, and Kondo’s suggestion that everything be folded.
She’s right about that too, by the way. Everything does have kind of a sweet spot of folding. I had a good time folding for the first time in ages. I don’t think I did it right every time, but I didn’t slog through, and that was a huge change as well.
The life-changing aspect of this is that at the end of the day, you feel really good and, more importantly, really decisive, about what makes you happy. After an hour of the KonMari method, I was skipping songs on Pandora left and right, and I finally, FINALLY started looking at my giant pile of books like something I could part with. Kondo gives you permission to let go of everything, no matter what it is. She said something that hit me hard: If you have a book you bought but you haven’t read it in years, the point of that book was to give you the joy of acquiring it. If you’re not reading it, it’s fulfilled its purpose. It’s done. Time to move it along.
That’s going to be a little more difficult with ARCs because I can’t just resell them, and many of them are signed to me, but I work at a library. I have a ton of book-reading friends. I have a blog where I can do book giveaways. This can happen.
Kondo believes you only have to do one big tidy in your life, and then everything will fall into place: you will have “enough.” This doesn’t mean you’ll never acquire anything else, but it does mean you’ll know exactly what you have and where things will go and what you have room for, and what you can make room for. A friend of mine questioned this belief. She cleans based on usage, buys based on usage. I told her, “You’d be surprised.” And you will be, if you use the KonMari method.
So, the Life-Changing Magic of Drinking the Kool-Aid, I know. I can’t shut up about this book. I apologize to anyone I’ve spoken to this week about it, because that’s like my ONE topic of conversation. But I’m sad I don’t have the long-term home where doing this will make sense (we’re moving soon again, I think, hopefully into a house of our own). In the meantime, I can keep piling up the giveaways.
And choosing joy.