Friday, February 28, 2014

Tommysaurus Rex

I have a funny relationship with Doug TenNapel's body of work.  Remember, in ye olden dayes, on ye olde Facebooke, when you could pick between a few types of relationship statuses, and one was "it's complicated"?  I'll check that box when it comes to TenNapel.

I really enjoyed Ghostopolis. Ghostopolis  Bad Island was fine ... good ... but not one of the best things I've ever read.  Cardboard, for which I think he might be best known among kids, I absolutely hated.  It felt like a trippy rip-off of Toy Story.  He recycles a lot of the same ideas and the bad characters are REALLY BLATANTLY BAD except for when they reform in which case YAY!

Anyway.  You see a lot of these ideas in Tommysaurus Rex as well.  Tommysaurus Rex
The loner kid.  He has ALL THE FEELINGS.  His parents don't understand him (actually, Ely's parents are real jerks!).  Ely loves his dog, Tommy (who is actually a girl, but Ely obviously doesn't care, so ... okay).  But then, one day, Tommy gets hit by a car and dies.  Ely is packed off to send the summer with his grandpa, who looks like one of those awesome canucks from Jeff Lemire's Essex County trilogy.  Actually, I thought I tripped and fell into a Lemire graphic novel from the sudden shift in character drawing.  Hmmm.

Grandpa makes Ely work really hard, but also treats him like an equal, which is pretty cool for Ely.  But then *cue the strings--vibrato* the Local Bully and His Goons arrive.  He's cruel, of course, unattractive (as all bullies are in TenNapel's stuff), but has a secret, soft heart made of puppies and unicorns.  It's just his Unfortunate Life that made him so mean.  *sigh*

Skipping ahead a bit, Ely finds a Tyrannosaurus Rex living in a cave.  We are just supposed to accept this, so let's just roll on ahead, eh?  Obviously, you can't keep something like that a secret, and the skeezy mayor running for reelection tells Ely that Tommy (part II) has to learn how to behave.  There's also some strange scheme to use Tommy to get himself (the mayor) reelected, but I didn't quite catch the "logic" of that part.

Tommy's not very good at doing tricks, but he is loyal and good and sweet (awwww) but deathly afraid of fire!  WARNING SPOILER AHEAD WARNING (you have been duly warned): in the end, Tommy rescues the bully from a fire but ends up with his SKIN ALL MELTED AND FUSED TOGETHER ARGH OH LORD I DIDN'T NEED TO SEE THAT THIS IS FOR KIDS!

He's meeelting...meeelting!

Ahem.  Sorry.  Run-on sentence of horror.  But THEN Ely gets the bully's dog as a "thank you" (seriously, who does that?) and Ely gives the bully Tommy's two eggs, so Ely has a dog, and the bully gets two T-Rexes.  Ely.  You're an idiot.

Yeah, so it's about friendship, and bullying=bad, and all that, but I just didn't see much originality in it.  I think this was one of TenNapel's earlier works (it was just reissued in color recently), so that might be part of it.  Evidently, you can also read it as an Easter story (I am not making this up) about resurrection/rebirth.  I find that too ecumenical for my tastes, but to each her own.

I'd probably read a new comic by TenNapel if it's anything like Ghostopolis, but I can't say I'm as enamored of his work as many people seem to be.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Infernal Devices and Hype

I marked this as did not finish a few nights ago, and then I looked at how many books I had marked "DNF." Shamed, I woke up my Kindle once more and attempted to keep going.

I should have listened to my gut.

For most of my life, even if I hated a book, I would read it. The whole goshdurned thing. Then I would say, "THAT WAS SO AWFUL WHAT A WASTE OF MY TIME NGHAAAH!" or some such incoherent gabbling indicative of anger. Strangely enough, when I started working in a library, I started abandoning books with abandon! Originally, it was almost a moral issue for me, i.e. "Well, I started it, so in order to be fair and just to the author, I must finish it." Then I saw how many new books we received every week (I worked at a branch library then), and I saw the plethora of books already on the shelves, and my strange compulsion to finish books slowly died away. I couldn't possibly read all of those books, and even if I tried, I wouldn't like many of them. Then, I went to library school, where we learned a bit of theory (yes, Virginia, there is Library Theory for us library folk). We learned S.R. Ranganathan's 5 Laws of Library Science:

1. Books are for use.
2. Every reader his [or her] book.
3. Every book its reader.
4. Save the time of the reader.
5. The library is a growing organism.
S.R. RanganathanRanganathan approves of my logic

So, 1-4 basically told me that I didn't have to like everything, because I wouldn't use what I didn't like, and I would be wasting time, because I was not the reader for the book, nor was the book for me. 

What's all this drivel got to do with Infernal Devices? Well, for one thing, you've just experienced the basic plot device of the novel, which generally consists of: What plot? Oh, that thing over there? *pokes with stick* Gee, it's pretty thin. Um, hey, look, it's a fish person!

Secondly, it's my personal justification for not finishing this.

As we all know by now, Jeter coined the term "steampunk." Hooray. Give the man a cigar! Elements that we've come to identify with steampunk--icons, if you will--are either absent or only very slightly present. For example, steampunk goggles are popular for various activities (riding in airships being the most practical use), and indeed one character I encountered (as far as I read) did have distinctive eyewear, but they were blue-tinted glasses. This is really more of a trippy quasi-Victorian mashup of detective story and Lovecraft. I mean, seriously, the inhabitants of Wetwick (Wetwickians???) come flopping straight out of "The Shadow over Innsmouth." The main character/narrator (whose name I already forget, except that he's a junior) is a bit of a Gary Stu. Things just happen to him, man! Like strange women from the future attempting the sexytimes! Like getting thrown into a river but somehow reviving! George! His name is George!

There were, I admit, some amusing parts. The whole scandal with the church (although I didn't read far enough to get the whole story), was pretty funny in a slapstick sort of way.

Um, I think that was actually the only funny part. George is pretty hopeless at everything. He has a job for which he's not qualified, he's kept on a man of questionable sanity as his valet/butlet/assistant, and he bestows exceptionally prosy monikers upon people he's met. For example, his first client, who has dark brown skin, becomes Brown Leather Man. What are you, like, two? Also: racism. Also, as noted in another review, the BLM speaks in anastrophe (i.e. Yoda-speak) which is not cool unless it's Yoda! George must repair a clockwork mechanism of his father's, but he has no skills in this area (I'm cutting to the chase, here), receives a strange coin from Brown Leather Man, is subsequently approached and then robbed by two ne'er-do-wells who are well versed in American slang, one of whom is a woman with a BOSOM (as women are wont to have) and who is determined to have the sexytimes with the main character.

NOTE: Let it be noted that I here went and read the Wikipedia entry on this novel and WOW that explains a LOT. Kind of. Go over there to read if you want to see what I mean.

Okay, back to the "story." I love madcap. I love it a lot. Bertie and Jeeves, anything by Jasper Fforde, screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s--those are all awesome! However, they also have plots and consistent humor. 

NOTE: I felt guilty. Again. So I went back to the book and skipped to the end. I have no words. I also now have no regrets about not finishing the whole thing. 

This is a case where the reputation of the book (first steampunk, etc.) is better than the actual book. For a much better steampunk, try the book of the same name (Infernal Devices) by Phillip Reeve. Actually the whole Hungry City Chronicles is worth a read--even though it's typically labeled YA. It's very mature and dark.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The One Hundred and One Dalmatians

I grew up watching the Disney film based on this book.  Now, I certainly didn't watch it as much as I did The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast, but I did enjoy it very much, and I think that if I were to watch it today, I'd still enjoy it.  It has quite a few more "adult" themes in it, to wit: the idea of skinning puppies for coats, a woman who's completely mad and named de Vil, and the line when she howls, "[Kill them] anyway you like!  Poison them!  Drown them!  Bash them in the head!  You got any chloroform?" One Hundred and One Dalmatians

However, in Dodie Smith's original book, The One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Cruella really isn't present much.  Her specter hovers over the escaping dogs, and they dread hearing her car horn (described as the loudest horn in all England!), but the book is really more about the hardships that parents bear for children--even children not their own.

Now, if you've seen the movie before reading the book, as I think many people have, there's a bit to clear up.  In the film, the married canine couple is Pongo and Perdita.  In the book, it's Pongo and Missis (Pongo).  After having so many puppies (15!), the Dearlys and the veterinarian find a sort of nursemaid dog to help feed the puppies.  Poor Missis only has so much milk, the dear.  When Mrs. Dearly is out driving, she finds a half-starved, liver-spotted Dalmatian who recently had puppies, but whose puppies were taken away from her.  She was also forcibly separated from her husband, Prince. Mrs. Dearly names this dog Perdita, and she becomes one of the family.  Pongo and Missis regard her as a sort of younger sister, and there's no weirdness at all of having two mom dogs raise the puppies, since dogs are practical creatures.

Indeed, much of the charm of the book comes from Dodie Smith's understanding of the animal world.  She points out that humans are quite mistaken in calling themselves the owners--it is the dog who owns the human, and the human is the dog's "pet."  Pongo and Missis take Mr. and Mrs. Dearly for a walk (NOT the other way around, if you please).  The dogs regard their pets as simple creatures, but with fondness.  Everyone loves each other very much, and it's a fantastic story for animal lovers all the way around.  We've got dogs, cats, and horses who help Pongo and Missis rescue their puppies (and many more, too!).

I also loved how Dodie Smith portrayed cats.  Often, the trope is to set dogs and cats against one another.  Here, Sergeant Tib (who in the film is a male orange tabby, but in the book is a sleek ladycat named Pussy Willow), does her darndest to help the frantic parents, and in the climactic attack on Cruella de Vil's house, Cruella's poor, set upon Persian cat (who's had forty-four of her kittens drowned by Cruella!) romps with the dogs in destroying everything Cruella holds dear. She subsequently adopts the Dearlys, and becomes lovable and sweet, for "kindness makes kind cats" (184).

The only very small quibble I have with the book is Smith's portrayal of Missis, who is a bit dim, and not much like the smart Perdita of the film.  Missis isn't as smart as her husband, and enjoys being told how pretty she is.  Perdita (of the book) is much more sensible.  So, I suppose it's not a gender thing, but a character choice.

The book and the film are really perfect companions, as Smith felt that Disney actually improved upon her work (unlike what Disney did to poor Mary Poppins), and the two together make for one dog-filled romp through the happiness of the human-animal relationship.

Highly, highly recommended.  This would also make a lovely read-aloud to little ones.

Image courtesy of Disney Wikia.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sweet, Strange Song (Mostly Strange)

I would recommend this to music lovers who also like YA. It also helps if you're not cynical and jaded like I am. Sigh.

Okay, so I did really want to like this one. I like boarding school stories, I like that this was not a vampire/werewolf/zombie story, and, okay, let's face it, the cover is pretty sweet (ha ha! A pun!). I tried very hard to push my way through, but it was a bit like swimming through molasses. I do like ponderous, slowly-unfurling narratives, but this one was a bit too ponderous for me. The main thing, however, is that I didn't care about the main character and whether her hopes and dreams were realized or not. 

I can only comment on what I actually read, which I think was 17% in. Chapter 15. 

So. As you can see from the synopsis, our main character's name is Sing da Navelli. The author goes to great pains to assure us that her name is totally intentional and embarrassing to the MC, so we should feel sorry for her instead of pointing and saying, "Ha ha!" à la Nelson, in the Simpsons. Sing says that her parents meant it as a command, and wanted to map her future by naming her thusly. Okaayyy, but then, a few pages later, we learn that Sing's mother, a world-famous soprano, didn't want her daughter to sing, but rather be a pianist. She seemed vehemently opposed to Sing's singing (which is so inane to write that I can't even). But then! In a cruel twist of fate (dun dun dunnnnn), Sing's mother dies performing in Sing's favorite opera! Sing, being rather a nasty human specimen, goes on to complain that her mother ruined and tainted her favorite opera by have the bad taste to die while performing it. Geez, mom, couldn't you have picked the one I didn't like so much? God. *hair flip*

Can you see why I got frustrated with this? SO. Being down one soprano in the family, Sing's father, a famous Italian maestro (conductor) decides that NOW Sing must become a ... world-famous soprano. Shades of Donkeyskin, no? Sing is happy to do what she loves but hates being trotted out like her dad's pet pony. BUT she's accepted into a prestigious Conservatory thathappens to have been founded by the composer who wrote her favorite opera (which was then sullied by her mother's very rude death). How convenient. 

And THEN! There is a mystery in the woods surrounding the conservatory. Don't go in the woods ... you might never come out. Woooo woooooooo!

This also involves a celestial/godlike being who's trapped in the form of a cat, and a raven who turned into a guy. For a good raven-as-guy story, please see Tamora Pierce's Trickster Duet. I skimmed ahead to the end and honestly didn't feel like I missed anything.

The other major problem I had with this is that it was like reading in a secret code. The author clearly wants verisimilitude in her musical world, but that same precision also makes it sound pretentious, not to mention making it also rather dull. When people get all het up about trilling a B flat, well, I kind of tune out. 8 years of piano did it for me with that, thanks. 

I do think that the author has talent, and I wish that some of the stranger elements had been removed and the more stock characters (evil diva, her hot BF, mysterious hot guy) had been fleshed out and/or changed to be more like, I don't know, real people? I do like a good boarding school mystery, but this one was a bit too niche.

I received a copy of this title from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

On King Arthur

Whoa there.  Big topic.  BIG TOPIC.  I mean, King Arthur.  This in-all-probability-fictional-and/or-mythologized King of the Britons ("The who?") appears in loads of books.  Tons of them, probably literally so.  And here I am, a wee librarian and sub-par blogger, writing about Arthur.

Well, ha HA!  I am not writing about King Arthur.  I'm writing about Gerald Morris writing about King Arthur, which is much better than nattering on about the historicity of Merrie Olde Artie. 

If you haven't read any of Morris' titles in The Squire's Tales series, drop what you're doing (unless it's a baby or a glass of wine) and go find one.  They're utterly genius.  Morris takes Arthurian legend, prunes away all the flowery-language bits, and uses the root of the story to build a book.  The reason I don't like the original King Arthur stuff is that it's so serious and Hamletian.  I mean, everybody pretty much gets a rotten ending.  Here I could make a remark about something being rotten in Camelot, but I ... oh, I just did.  Sorry.  Can't help it.

On top of the Arthurian root, Morris grafts on interesting characters, fae, a lot of humor, and a lot of sense.  Characters realize the ridiculousness of their situations.  The love affairs discussed in the original Mallory are present, but not in a way that would offend parents.  It's mostly a mockery of the bad decisions these people made in being unfaithful.

Morris also does absolutely fantastic female characters.  Lynet and Sarah are two of my favorites.  They kick serious butt.  Sarah's line at the end of her book, The Princess, The Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight, is pretty amazing: "I am my own d*mn princess."

I just finished book seven, The Lioness and Her Knight, featuring Lynet's spunky daughter, her cousin, and a fool.  Luneta, the main female character has a tendency to meddle in other people's affairs, feeling that she has a knack for doing so.  You might have guessed that she causes a bit more trouble than she thinks she does.  She also fights with her mom constantly, considering her boring, old, and out of the loop.  So she's like pretty much any teenage girl ever.  Luneta gets to go visit a family friend--but this being Arthur tales, of course there's lots of questing involved.  One of her traveling companions, the fool Rhience, is completely hysterical and his jesting is of the first order.

Overall, highly, highly recommended.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Last President

After a very, very, very long time, I've finally finished The Last President, third in the Daybreak series by John Barnes (I think it was originally going to be a trilogy, but then there was a kerfuffle with the publisher, and then the 3rd book got delayed, and now there will be more books--I'm assuming with a different publisher/self-published).

I'm not a runner.  If my life depended on running, I'd be dead.  In fact, I probably wouldn't even try to run.  I'd just curl up and wait for the end.  That's how bad of a runner I am.  I'm not in horrible shape (she says totally subjectively).  I mean, I hike in the Rockies.  I just.  Can't.  Run.  Therefore, I cannot fathom the concept of running a marathon.  I have the most respect for people who do it.  Heck, I wanna high five the people jogging on the treadmills at the gym (I stay over in free weights, where no one will make me run anywhere).

I have just run a mental marathon.  That marathon is called the Daybreak Marathon.  At times, I wanted to quit.  I really, really, really wanted to quit.  At other points, I found myself enjoying the journey.  But now?  I'm just exhausted.  And a bit cranky.  And hungry, which has nothing to do with any of this, but you all should know that I love to snack.

Okay.  *cracks knuckles*  The Last President.  I read Directive 51 when it first came out, and I had a lot of problems with the structure of the novel.  The author did not make it clear what year it was until quite a ways into the narrative, so you're kind of floundering around with all these made up cultural and political events.  Nothing had a date, so everything just jumped all over the place.  Plus, there were scads of pages devoted solely to people bickering about who should be the next president. Personally, I think that if a crazy mind-altering viral meme (which is what Daybreak is explained to be...yeah, keep scratching your head.  It doesn't help) caused millions of people to revolt against technology and society and create a nanoswarm that eats all metal and plastic, then, well, why the heck is priority numero uno having a president?

In his post on John Scalzi's Whatever, Barnes discusses this.  I can acknowledge what he was trying to do, but that doesn't mean that I think it was executed particularly well, nor do I have to like the idea itself.  So, Barnes said that he wanted to do a bit of a political procedural (hence the line of succession) but also this sort of wild, chaotic narrative that reflected the environment depicted in the novel.  Confusing.  Prone to sudden change.  Merciless.  I think he accomplished that.  However, just because a person wants to write something a certain way doesn't mean it's the best choice for the type of book being written.

In one post on his own blog, John Barnes discusses fiction that he doesn't like (perfectly fair--we are all entitled to our opinions) and cites, as an example of fiction he does like, A Confederacy of Dunces.  Yes, that does have the sort of disjointed, jumpy narrative that we have in The Last President.  However, the two books are about radically different topics.  I think that a book that describes military maneuvering, political jockeying, memes-as-mind-control, secession of states, and various other technical doodahs should have a more linear narrative.  That's just me, though.  Maybe I'm not *smart enough* to get what the author was trying to accomplish.

To be fair, I have read that there were issues with the publisher changing substantial parts of the first two books, which can cramp someone's artistic vision.  But.

I was thisclose to not finishing The Last President more times than I can count.  I would get so frustrated with these endless descriptions of army marches with weapons I forgot existed from the first two books.  I was pulling my hair out trying to remember who all these people were, and when I did remember, then Barnes just left them out of the rest of the book.  I guess this is supposed to mimic real life, where stuff happens randomly.  BUT!  In real life, people also talk about bad things after the event.  They are not mindless drones who just carry on with life as if nothing ever happened.

Heather O'Grainne, who was a Big Deal in the first two books, sort of drifts around in this one.  Leo, her son, is like a stage prop that the director tosses up there to make everything look more homey.  I honestly couldn't connect with any of the characters because they were so darn flat.  I could drag race a car on their flatness.  Characters that we spent two full novels following are killed off at an alarming rate, leaving us with ... uh, very few people.  This small group then decides that what they've been doing for the past almost-three-novels is, in fact, a Bad Idea and they run away to someplace warm.  Also: aliens!

I can't completely hate this book.  In fact, I don't even strongly dislike it.  I mildly dislike it.  I do like the scenario presented, and I would consider (tortuously) dragging myself through further novels just to see what happens.  It's a chancy thing, though.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The 39 Clues--Is It Over Yet?

Answer: No.

And I'm not even talking about the franchise as a whole.  I figured that since I'm a children's librarian, and kids are still really into The 39 Clues series from Scholastic, I should probably read it to see what all the brouhaha is about.  I just finished book 8 of the original series: The Emperor's Code by Gordon Korman.

As usual, Dan and Amy Cahill, members of a family that's basically responsible for everything that happened, ever, from 1600 to today, zip off to another country to find one of the eponymous clues.  This time it's China!

Actually, I think therein lies some of the appeal.  Kids can "travel" by reading a book (okay, obviously you can do that with any book, but this is a bit more straightforward).  So far Dan and Amy have been to France, Australia, Egypt, Austria, Russia, and various other places.  Krakatoa, I think.  They must Be On Their Guard against other family members, because all of their relatives are evil and scheming and ... just like your relatives!

The series is generally pretty fun, but this particular entry was one of the weaker ones I've read.  You expect a certain level of ridiculousness with this type of book.  Here, it's completely over the top.  Not only does Dan train with Shaolin monks, but he also busts up some terracotta soldiers and, with Amy, flies in a helicopter to the top of Mount Everest in a completely futile and pointless plot ... thing.  I don't even know what to call it.

I'll probably finish out the original series, but I refuse to do the myriad spinoff series.  Milk that money cow.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Book Title Bingo

It's (relatively) easy to self-publish these days.  Amazon offers a service that's pretty well-priced, and in my hunting for new YA offerings, I've come across loads of start-up publishers that seem to accept anyone and everyone and put them in print.  I'm not against self-publishing.  Maybe it's the only way for you to get your work out there.  You can't stop people from publishing their own work.  If you don't like it, don't buy it.  Maybe, one day, I'll write a book.  It won't make me a lot of money.  Maybe I'll publish it myself.  Maybe I won't.  That's a lot of maybes.  But without the explosion in the self-publishing industry, I wouldn't even have those options.

But here's the thing.  I can often spot a self-published book by the title.  By which I mean that the title is decidedly odd.  Not funny odd, like those pink large-print romance books whose title formula goes something like "member of royalty + synonym for dastardly + virgin/governess."  Bonus points for use of "secret baby."  No, no.

I like to browse the Goodreads giveaways section (disclaimer: not affiliated, not a paid mention, etc.).  Sometimes I find some neat books on there--things I wouldn't have found on my own.  And other times I find ... interesting titles.  Titles that might benefit from a professional publisher.  Then again, people are requesting these titles, so evidently there's an audience.  Somewhere.

My all-time favorite is a sci-fi/action/thriller book entitled Speculum.  Yes, it was written by a man.  I have no idea if any women in his life actually looked at the title of the book.  Gosh, just reading the word "speculum" makes me cringe and curl up a bit to protect myself.

*NOTE* I considered adding a photo here for full-on horror, but I could barely look at the image search for two seconds without having a complete meltdown.  You're welcome.

I was entering some more giveaways today and found this interesting title: Zombie Versus Fairy Featuring Albinos.  I honestly don't know how to parse that.  I assume it's the story of a zombie fighting a fairy, featuring a group of albinos.  An albino what?  Is the author insinuating that albinos are monsters or supernatural creatures?  Because that is just a great big NO.  Who is the Albino Whatever siding with?  It's got really great ratings, though, so maybe I am just too dense to understand the humor.

The title of this next one, Simple Steps on How to Prevent and Cure Many Types of Cancer, isn't awful, but it sure is wordy.  The description, though, is one of the best I've read in a while: "WARNING: JUST LIKE HOUSEHOLD ELECTRICITY, THERE IS DANGER IN TAKING TOO MUCH SHITAKE MUSHROOMS."  Firstly, it should be "too many shitake mushrooms."  Secondly, I don't think using electricity is the best comparison here.  Most people don't "take too much household electricity," which is the parallel set up here.  Also, what do shitake mushrooms have to do with cancer?

And my final choice for the day, a run-on of the highest order, Your Manners and Their Effect on Dating, Becoming Engaged and Getting Married: Learn How to Make Sure He's Just That Into You by Using Etiquette Class and Style in the Bedroom. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hit me. Not really. But could you at least remove the memory of reading this book from my consciousness?

I've never read anything by Burgess before, and I don't think I ever will. Smack and Doing It are the most recognizable titles (i.e. they're in my YA collection), but if they're anything like this one ...

This was probably one of the more misogynistic novels I've ever read. Seriously. I tried to reason on what was going on--thinking perhaps that Burgess was creating the characters this way on purpose, and that the reader was somehow supposed to realize that what was going on was very, very wrong, and thus Learn Another Lesson. Yes, this is a book about Problems. Like, Life, and stuff. Also sex. A lot of sex. Which is sad sex. But I'm getting ahead of myself--hang on.

Manchester. Near future UK. Adam thought he was good at football, until he failed at tryouts for Manchester U and the City. And pretty much everything else. His parents are pretty loathsome. His dad is rather inexplicably "an invalid" because he hurt his hand at his masonry job and can thus NEVER WORK AGAIN, and snipes at everyone about everything. In his dad's eyes, Adam is like this extra sack of flesh that happens to be his child. The other child, Adam's older brother Jess, is the Golden Boy--working hard as a chemist so the family can eat, etc. etc. Mum works third-shift doing ... something. Never mind what. Parents come and go in this book. One of the messages is that The Olds ruined everything, so, hey, let's have a revolution! Uh. I'm not convinced. 

Okay, let's try this: in this near future, there's a drug called Death. Very creatively named, that drug. Originally created for terminally ill patients, Death has gained popularity as an underground drug. You get seven days of awesomeness (super strength, heightened senses, lowered inhibitions) followed by your heart going *boom*. OF COURSE all these people want to do it--right??? Life sucks so much that they'd rather die in seven days of insanity than just live. Ooh, wait, that's another Lesson We Learn. Life is worth living. Thanks. Let me needlepoint that on a scented sachet. 

Adam and his girlfriend Lizzie (who is VERY RICH (this is evidently an important plot point) and also beautiful and did I mention VERY VERY RICH) go to a concert. The rock star, Jimmy Earle, supposedly took Death and will die sometime during the concert. No one really knows if it's a hoax or not--until *boom* goes Jimmy's heart. Manchester rather inexplicably turns into the looting scene out of a disaster movie (just because some rocker died???) and Adam and Lizzie run around like complete idiots, being like, "Whoa, look at all the fires and looting! This is so cool! It's the best night of my life!" Until they get caught and Lizzie's VERY RICH parents forbid her from seeing Adam, because he is a Poor. *tiny violin*

More stuff happens, and thinking that he has nothing to live for, Adam takes Death. He then decides that the rest of his life should be spent having sex and killing people, and probably driving fast cars. One of the items on his bucket list is to get Lizzie pregnant so that part of him will "live on." 

Let's process this for a moment.

Ready? Okay, continuing on.

The absolute worst part about this book (discarding the boring writing style, the absolutely bonkers "villains," and the preachy mcpreachiness) is the way Burgess portrays women. Women are things that guys who take Death have sex with. Preferably, you have sex with as many women as possible (after all, they are only there to make your final days the Best Evar, guyz!) and probably impregnate a few, just for kicks. That's exactly what Adam does to Lizzie, and she GOES ALONG WITH IT. She feels some sort of obligation to be his sex doll for one week because it's his last week to live. Never mind that he chose to take the drug. Never mind that she is not in any way "obligated" to fulfill his fantasies. Here is how Lizzie feels after Day One of Adam on Death: "Today, she had run away from home, had sex for the first time with her boyfriend who had taken Death, was being hunted down by a pervert gangster--she hadn't even bothered telling that to Adam--and here she was, committing a major crime with a prison sentence hanging over her if she got caught." Oh, by the way, that was after she agreed to rob a liquor store to make Adam happy. It's allll about making Adam happy.

Then (dun dun dun) she figures out a way to get Adam the antidote to Death, but this involves having sex with a psychotic (literally) man-child who gets his jollies from paralyzing people by cutting into their vertebrae. Hooray! Lizzie reasons thusly: "What sort of a b*tch would she be to let Adam die, just because of sex? It was the old story. Boys went to the rescue with a gun in their hands, girls with their knickers in their pockets. So which was worse? This way, she thought, at least no one was going to get hurt."

So, let's sum up the reasoning so far. Being raped is no big as long as you are saving your boyfriend, who is a colossal *insert insult here*. Actually, you'd be a horrible person if you didn't sell your body. You prude. Plus, the only way girls get anything done is by having sex. Guys just shoot stuff. Besides, being raped doesn't hurt anybody. 


I am so full of rage at this book. The ending is predictable. If Burgess really wanted to shock, he would have done the realistic thing instead of the idealistic thing. But this book can die a thousand million fiery deaths for the way it portrays women.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

You can also find this review on GoodReads

Back to Blogging

Once upon a time, I had a blog.  It was probably awful.  Actually, let me just throw myself under the bus (it's just easier to do it yourself than to have someone else do it to you) and say it was bad.

In a few days, I will have been a Real Librarian for one whole year.  I work with kids, and I do a ton of research on young adult literature, because I'm responsible for that collection at my library.  Somehow, the department managed to shanghai me into doing two preschool storytimes.  If you'd asked me, even five years ago, if I ever saw myself singing and dancing in front of a roomful of people, I would have died laughing in disbelief.  Now I do it every week.

I didn't say I did it well.  But I will say I enjoy it.  Kids are hilarious.

Anyway, I read a lot of YA books, because if I'm buying it, I don't want to be wasting money on something that's, well, worthless.  Obviously, I don't love every book I buy.  I buy Twilight copycats and mushy romances and football novels because teens read them.  That is the really important thing. I want them to read and enjoy reading.

However, that doesn't mean I don't have my own opinions about what I preview.  Take that, English teacher who forbade the double negative!

And so (double take that, English teacher who said I couldn't start a sentence with "and" or "but"!), here are my thoughts on what I've read, as well as snippets of life as a Youth Services Librarian.  Trust me.  I don't just "sit around and read books all day," nor do I have a "quiet job."  After the second vomit incident, things get a lot easier, and I get more blasée about "accidents."