February 28, 2010

Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Date Started: Feb 27
Date Finished:
Feb 28

Summary: Micah is a liar. That is the only truth she has ever told. When her secret boyfriend, Zach, is found dead, the lies start to unravel and the truth is uncovered. As Micah tells more lies, a dangerous family secret threatens to be revealed.

Likes: When I read about this book online, I was intrigued. I'm also intrigued by books by unreliable narrators and Micah is as unreliable as they come. It takes a lot of craft to write a novel like this. First of all, you have to be a good liar to know when to lie and when not to lie and in a novel, you have to get inside your character's head to know why they lie. This is something the author does very well. She gets inside Micah's head and makes up the lies, contradicts the lies, and lies again. By the end of the novel, you wonder if this is all true or just some made up story.

The twist was unexpected, but the author knew that we'd be at this conclusion and lampshades it. About the middle of the first part, I figured out the twist and I wondered how it was going to play out in the rest of the book. The book is told between before and after, family history, and the history of me, and weaves the past and the present, lies and truth. We finally learn the truth, or what we believe to be the truth, and all the evidence points to Micah. She finds a way to clear her name, but the stakes are high. The ending was tied up a bit too neatly, and normally that would go under my dislikes, but since the narrator was unreliable, it makes you wonder whether that was the true ending or not.

Dislikes: Micah was frustrating to read about when she revealed lies that we thought to be truths. I didn't really believe her most of the time and it was hard to separate from the truth unless the character says it's a lie and exposes the truth.

Overall: I liked this book, though it vaguely reminds me of another story with a similar premise. It was an engaging read and I really didn't want to put it down. I can see what the fuss was all about. I highly recommend this book for people who like unreliable narrators, but if you don't, I'd still read it anyway for it's craft in weaving between past and present, fact and fiction.

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Date Started: Feb 14
Date Finished: Feb 26

Summary: Cameron Smith was a slacker with a penchant for marijuana, ditching class, and working a dead-end job (that he subsequently gets fired from). Then after some violent spasms and involuntarily punching a jock in the gut (his twin sister's boyfriend no less), Cameron finds out that he is dying from mad cow disease. He meets a punk rock angel named Dulcie who encourages him to find Dr. X, save the universe, and most importantly get a cure. Cameron travels the South with a slightly neurotic little person named Gonzo and a viking yard gnome named Balder.

Likes: The story was beautifully written and very different than Bray's other work the Gemma Doyle Trilogy. Cameron's voice was clear and fun to read. The author doesn't hold back. The characters cuss, drink, smoke, but yet they do not come off as the typical teenager or for Cameron, the stereotypical slacker. All of the characters, even the minor ones, are fully rounded, flawed, but ultimately three dimensional. They are easy to relate to, despite their differences between the reader and the characters themselves. We've all had those moments when we have to grieve, whether it be the loss of a friend or coming to grips with your own life and ultimately your own death.

The whole story is tragic. As a reader, you don't know whether this is reality or a exaggerated hallucination. You get glimpses of the hospital, the family standing vigil over his bed, then you get this over-the-top roadtrip. The author doesn't make you feel sorry for the character. Instead you feel Cameron's emotions, his anger, his uncertainty, and ultimately his acceptance of the inevitable. This is a coming-of-age story about a boy learning to live and celebrate life.

Dislikes: It was long. I almost gave up because it was due back to the library, but I didn't want any more library fines (I am notorious for racking up some hefty fines). I'm glad I kept with it though. There are parts that were dragging, but once all the pieces come together, the story picks up and takes off. I will gladly pay what ever fines I have to pay for turning this book in late.

Overall: This is such a huge "deviation" from the Gemma Doyle series. It's like Bray decided to do the complete opposite for her next book. It's obvious that she has the skills do this. This is such a great book with a great male protagonist. Read it and you will not be disappointed.

February 23, 2010

A Little Late to the Cookout

I am a little slow on things, not because I don't know about what's going on in the world, but I tend to try to stay neutral and not get caught up in the "hype" of certain things (Like I still haven't gone to see Avatar and probably never will). It also takes me a while to get upset about things too because I like to stay neutral, so I'm trying to override my natural defense mechanism of being quiet and instead speaking out. I'm a week late, but at least I'm saying something. Hopefully I'll be more involved in what's going on if things like this happen.

The "Compton Cookout" (I'm not posting a link because the race-fail is just terrible) debacle is week-old news by now. I knew what the "Compton Cookout" was and for those who don't know, several fraternities at UC San Diego thought it would be a cool idea to have a party that made fun of Black stereotypes in the spirit of Black History Month.

I wonder what these people were thinking when they came up with this concept. It sounds like a good idea if you're an ignorant dumb ass. Let's have a party to dress up like ghetto Black people and be stereotypical with ghetto clothes, grills, and all the stereotypes of being a Black person. I quote the suggestions for girls, since it's more relevant (at least to me) and longer.

For girls: For those of you who are unfamiliar with ghetto chicks-Ghetto chicks usually have gold teeth, start fights and drama, and wear cheap clothes - they consider Baby Phat to be high class and expensive couture. They also have short, nappy hair, and usually wear cheap weave, usually in bad colors, such as purple or bright red. They look and act similar to Shenaynay, and speak very loudly, while rolling their neck, and waving their finger in your face. Ghetto chicks have a very limited vocabulary, and attempt to make up for it, by forming new words, such as "constipulated", or simply cursing persistently, or using other types of vulgarities, and making noises, such as "hmmg!", or smacking their lips, and making other angry noises,grunts, and faces. The objective is for all you lovely ladies to look, act, and essentially take on these "respectable" qualities throughout the day.

WTF? What. The. Fuck. Seriously, I don't know where this person is getting their information from. They aren't many Black people living in San Diego and those that probably do don't fit this stereotype. In fact, many Black people I know personally don't fit this stereotype. Believe it or not but very few Black people fit this stereotype. Even the people the appear to fit the stereotype don't act like that all the time. The stereotype is bastardizing certain aspects of the African-American culture and it's sad. Besides, as a woman of any race, whether Black, White or anything inbetween, why would I flaunt myself around like a fucking idiot making fun of Black people? Why would you walk around like an idiot making fun of any particular ethnicity. That shit's not funny. It's stupid, especially when you know that Black people don't act like this.

I'm so perplexed I can't even feel offended (like that time my roommate asked me if I liked watermelon). I'm so surprised at the level of stupidity that is in the world. It is a mockery of Black History Month that is justified by stating We virtually make fun of everyone, we're equal opportunity. No one is discriminated when we decide to discriminate and use stereotypes. Now they are trying to state that their freedom of speech is being violated. Things like this do not work in reverse. You can't hit someone first, then punish them for telling on you. It just shouldn't work this way, but it does. 

This would have been a perfect opportunity to uplift a community. How cool would it have been if someone came dressed as a Black person who has done something positive? It might have been lame, but it couldn't been any lamer than the idea they came up with. I mean, people probably don't know about Benjamin Banneker or the ancient civilizations(Kmt- google it) in Egypt that were far more advanced than we've been taught to believe. At the very least, people could have people dressed up as Jay-Z or Diddy or even Tupac or Biggie. Wouldn't it be a little bit cool and a little less offensive(but still offensive in a way) if girls were told to dress up like Oprah, Halle Berry, Tyra, and countless other Black females that make a difference in the world(I'm ashamed that I can't name more), not the Shenaynay stereotype?

Or better yet, just apologize instead of getting defensive. People make some seriously stupid mistakes and this was a HUGE mistake. Some people are ignorant idiots who just need to be taught a lesson. I'm not saying to go butt fucking crazy and beat these people down, but to try and get a dialogue going where people just talk about the issue, people explaining why they were offended, people thinking why they don't think it's a big deal, and maybe hearing a little bit of what these people were thinking when they came up with this stupid idea.

Racism still exists because people don't own up to their mistakes and get defensive, instead of seriously trying to learn what they did wrong. Another reason why racism continues is because people are afraid to talk about it because of the tension. Maybe these people clearly didn't think they were doing anything wrong or rather, they knew but didn't think anyone would mind or even notice.I think outrage is an appropriate reaction to this. Nothing is going to get solved with dismissal. People seem to think that we live in post-racial society because we don't talk about race. Racism depends on the fact that people don't say anything and that those who fuck up don't take responsibility and say "Hey, you know, we fucked up. We're sorry. What can we do to make this better somehow?"

February 15, 2010

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees-Brennan

Summary: Brothers Nick and Alan are on the run from a dark magician who is after their mother. Mae and Jamie, a brother and sister pair, are looking for help to remove a mysterious mark from Jamie's leg. Their worlds collide when Mae looks to Alan and Nick (by default since he'd do anything for his brother) for help in removing the demon mark from her brother's leg.

Likes: The writing is the best aspect of the story, in my opinion. SRB has a really fresh writing style that is full of wit and cleverness. The dialogue between the character is superb. The characters are three dimensional and unique. The story utilizes some fantasy tropes but SRB takes that trope, changes it up, and adds a twist that throws the reader for a loop. SRB's worldbuilding was spectacular and weaves between world building, action, and backstory without enormous amounts of info-dumps.The writing takes some getting used to because it isn't as chatty as some other YA fantasy novels.

Dislikes: It's clear that this story is supposed to be a trilogy. There were many loose ends that I wish could have been tied up in this book(I want go in detail without giving some spoilers), but since there are other books I expect the loose ends to be tied up quite concisely, but I also suspect that they will lead to more complications as well.

Overall: I can't wait for the second and third books to come out. SRB has a fun and refreshing writing style that makes her story much more than the average YA fantasy novel.

February 14, 2010

Notes from the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick

Summary: Alex is an idiot. After getting angry over his parents impending divorce, he decides to get drunk and drive to his father's house. Instead he crashes into someone's lawn and cracks their lawn gnome. As a sentence, Alex is given community service to keep company to a cantankerous old man named Soloman Lewis.

Likes: The story was sweet. I chuckled a little, I had a tear coming from my eye, but it didn't cause any overwhelming emotions. The character Alex is unsympathetic but grows over time. He seems like the archetype of the typical teen, confused, angry, and a bit self-centered. It was interesting to see him grow more sympathetic the more he learned from Soloman. The story takes the "Wise Old Man" trope and runs with it, in a way that doesn't seem overly sentimental, condescending, or preachy. Soloman is a lovable old man who at first doesn't seem to have a reason to be angry until you learn about his back story, which ties the whole story together. 

Dislikes:  It was highly predictable and the ending was a little corny. I was curious about the Judge and her backstory. Without giving too much away, the judge seemed unbelievable and it was strange how she randomly came back into the story when she was partly the one to blame. Alex got off really really easy in terms of his sentencing, which seemed a little bit too unrealistic (but it was easy to suspend one's disbelief for the sake of the story, in my opinion) as well.
Overall: I liked this book. It was an entertaining read as an older student looking back on experiences that I had. I probably would have liked it if I were still in high school while I was going through the same experiences instead of looking back on them. 

February 13, 2010

The Girl that Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow

Date Started: February 12, 2010
Date Finished: February 13, 2010

Summary: Rachel is the daughter of a Black GI and a Danish mother. After a terrible accident, she goes to live with her Black grandmother in a racially divided area. As she grows older, she learns how to survive in her racialized world and learns the truth of her family's tragic accident that claimed their lives. 

Likes: I like all the point of views that came together to tell Rachel's story. Durrow stated at her reading that she is marketing this book as a mystery, love, and coming-of-age story and it is just that. There is the mystery behind the accident that claimed Rachel's family and the mystery of whether the other characters, Laronne (Nella's friend) and Brick (a boy who saw the accident) will be able to solve the truth about that fateful day. There is the love between Roger and Nella, Rachel's black father and Danish mother, a mother's love for her children, and ultimately Rachel's love and acceptance of herself. This novel is honest, with Rachel wondering what side of the racial divide does she belong to. Sometimes she appears to be stuck up and at other times she appears to be confused. I believe that Durrow captured all the aspects of Rachel's personality.

I understood Rachel and her struggles, even though I am not biracial. The story speaks to me because Rachel could be any girl-- a girl like me who spent her most of her life being alienated by people of her own ethnicity, be accepted by another culture, and coming to a place where it either wasn't accepted or it was actually embraced. And yet, Rachel is Rachel with her own unique background and set of circumstances that make her who she is. The novel is about not being defined by others but by the person you make yourself to be. This story, in my opinion, will speak to anyone who just felt like they didn't belong whether they be Black, White, or in Rachel's case "other."   

Dislikes: I want to know what happens next. I believe Durrow chose a good spot to stop the story at and I feel that the ending is appropriate, but I still want to know what happens to Rachel at the overall end of the story.

Overall: I heard a lot of buzz about this novel through the blogosphere and I did some research on the novel. I found out that the author was coming to Writer's Week at UC Riverside, I was ecstatic. I bought an advanced copy a week before it came out and I got the book signed. One of these days I'm going to give away copies of books like the big time bloggers, but not this one. I love this book. It's great.

Another strange thing that I want to confirm with the author if I ever get the chance is the newspaper article that she got the idea for the story from. I was telling my mom what the book was about and she told me that she heard a story about that when she lived in Long Beach. My mom mentioned that she saw the woman once or twice in church before the incident and she told me that only the daughter survived. It's really interesting.

February 12, 2010

The First Part Last by Angela Johnson

Summary: Bobby is just an average fun loving teen who likes to hang out with his friends and party. Bobby is a good kid overall, but things take a turn for the worse when he realizes that his girlfriend, Nya, is pregnant. After a horrible ordeal during the delivery of their daughter, Bobby decides to raise Feather on his on as a single teenage father.

Likes: The best aspect of this story in my opinion was that as a reader, I didn't ever feel sorry for Bobby. The author envoked the old adage of Empathy not Sympathy with the character of Bobby and his care for his daughter, Feather. Sometimes Bobby did stupid things like get in trouble or leave his daughter asleep while he went to play basketball (thankfully he did notice and came back) and sometimes Bobby did incredible things like understanding his parent struggle and the tender moments shared with his daughter when she slept on his chest. As a reader, I was with Bobby, I understood how he felt but I never felt sorry for him and I also love how no one else in the book felt sorry for Bobby. They were willing to help him out when he needed it (and sometimes when he didn't).

The book was incredibly short and its brevity is one of its greatest strengths as well. I read the whole thing in about an hour or so and I was quite happy that it was short. Any longer and it might have bordered on sugary and overly sentimental. The writing was poetic without being overdone. Johnson writes the story in two different times "Now" (the past) and "Then" (the present). I believe that poetry of the writing and the length makes the narrative more cohesive and causes the theme and the emotions to resonate.

Dislikes: The story felt unfinished, as if the last part of the chapter was the beginning of something else. It is mention that this story is a prequel to another novel, written after the current novel. I would like to seek out this story entitled Heaven and see how the two books tie together. I wanted to know just a bit more about Nya as well. Her role in the story is important and while we do get a lot about her, I feel like there was just something missing, like how Bobby and Nya met.  

Overall: I loved this book. It was short, sweet and to the point. I look forward to reading the sequel/companion novel. It is interesting to hear teen pregnancy from the father's point of view, especially when he is put into the role of taking care of the child on his own. Johnson effectively captured Bobby's voice making his authentic and genuine.

February 8, 2010

Uhopping Adventure: Secret Son

Author's Notes: Sorry for the late post. There was a mini crisis at work, but now, crisis adverted and on to some more baby snatching adventures. . At any rate, some notes about this story. This story takes place long before our current heroes were ever thought of. For this U-hopping segment, I decide to go way back to the beginning with Vincent, the ultimate evil and villain in the current It's All Relative storyline. (definitely a candidate for the Evil Baby Orphanage, even if he is fictional). I feel really guilty for not being able to write a web fiction so this idea prompted a series of short vignettes about our characters, with the first being Vincent Akukami. So I hope you enjoy this post and if you want more U-hopping action go to the Strange Little Band LJ community and join and read all the baby stealing craziness (and read SLB  and all the other contributing authors work, you will not be disappointed).

Now without further adieu, I present "Secret Son".  

Secret Son

    The carriage ride from Idriova castle to Hirotaka's was pretty uneventful. The countryside was beautiful, but she had already seen it when she came to Idriova castle nearly a year ago to "seek refuge from the world" as her father put it. Everyone in their little town knew that she had been kicked out for being seventeen getting knocked up. It wasn't her fault, but she heard the mumblings and murmurings of the city folk. She had asked for it. She got what was coming to her.  
    Now Hirotaka wanted to see his son and Iracine couldn't deny him, lest she be beheaded or hung. 
    Vincent yanked the strands of her black hair and whined for her to continue bouncing him on her knee. She had been doing for the past hour. Before then she was rocking him, and before that she was tickling him, and before that she was singing to him. She knees were killing her, he was quite heavy for a nine month old, but every time she'd stop for just a moment, he'd start protesting. She already several scratches and bite marks from his fits.

    "You're spoiling him, Ira," her lover, Oliver, said. "Don't give him the power."

    Iracine chuckled at the thought of having a power struggle with a baby, but she knew Oliver was right. She couldn't bare to see her son in discomfort though. He was just a baby, but he was a cursed wolf and life was would be difficult. She could afford to indulge her son for just a little while longer.

    "This is a good workout," Iracine said. "If I can keep this up, I can have this baby bulge under control in a few hours time." 

    Oliver sighed and stretched out his arms. "Come to me, Vincent."

    The child looked confused and gave an apprehensive whine. "Come on, Vincent. Go to Rem." The child, thankfully went to Oliver and Iracine sighed with relief. She looked at the pair; Oliver with his brown hair and blue eyes and Vincent with his snow white hair and lime green eyes. Oliver certainly wasn't obligated to be in Vincent's life, but she hoped that he would be regardless. Oliver was more of a father to Vincent than Hirotaka was.

    Iracine wondered why Hirotaka suddenly wanted to see Vincent. Was it a publicity move? She heard that Hirotaka's wife was unable to produce a male heir, maybe he wanted some way of showing that it wasn't his fault. His seventeen year old mistress was able to have a son, aside from the white hair, freaky green eyes, and dangerously sharp teeth, a perfectly healthy son.

    "Mr. Remmington, Ms. Andwendyl, we have arrived at your destination," the driver said.

    Oliver spoke up. "Thank you... er..."

    "Anderson." Iracine filled in. Oliver's face was bright red. Iracine turned to face Hirotaka's castle. It appeared to jut out from the earth like a black blemish.

    Iracine took a deep breath. She felt Oliver slip his hand into hers, while carrying Vincent with his other arm. Together they walked towards the castle.
            *        *        *

    Hirotaka saw Iracine from the window and narrowed his eyes. She was with another man and that man was holding a child that was clearly not his. Hirotaka knew that was his son he could tell from the boy's white hair--maybe the only thing they shared. Hirotaka sent his wife out to be pampered for the day, she had been so depressed with the last miscarriage and all. He honestly didn't care about that, but that was the story he would tell the press if they ever asked. He needed her out of the way so he could talk to Iracine, the woman that should have been his wife, the mother of his son. 

    "Is that him?" a woman said from the shadows. "Do you even know the boy's name?"

    "Does it matter? You'll have him soon enough," Hirotaka said to the woman.

    "You can't do this on your own," she said. There was a tap on the door. "So I've enlisted in some help."


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