Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

November 24, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★½

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. KingPlease Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King Published by Ember on October 12, 2012
Genres: Magical Realism, YA Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
two-half-stars
Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.

So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?

Edgy and gripping, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is an unforgettable novel: smart, funny, dramatic, and always surprising.

This being a Printz Honor book and coming to me via a recommendation from an intelligent friend made me think Please Ignore Vera Dietz was going to wow me, but such was not the case. To an extent, what makes so many people love this novel and the author’s works is clear, but what has made this such a darling of critics eludes me.

If it makes any sense, this novel is set apart from more typical friend/family member-dies books more by what it doesn’t do wrong than what it does right. More than a few books get overdramatic about the teen’s problems. “OMG MY BEST FRIEND/MOM/CAT DIIIIIED AND I’M SO SAAAAAD LIFE WILL NEVER BE OKAY AGAAAAAAAIN!” is how it turns out half the time. Vera’s problems are handled much more subtly through quick bites of sarcasm and flashbacks to how things were before Charlie’s death, back when they were still friends.

The relationship between Charlie and Vera is really well-written, and it amazes me that one relationship can be given so much shown support when another is completely and utterly told to us. Vera’s voice is so direct that it’s hard not to get with her sometimes. Occasionally, there are even some quotable bits. This came from page 44 after she explains how her father’s policy for problems is “just ignore it”:

“I’m sorry, but I don’t get it. If we’re supposed to ignore everything that’s wrong with our lives, then I can’t see how we’ll ever make things right.”

Moments like this happen on occasion and they are what makes me see a little of what my friends love so much. Still, I have more problems with this novel than good things to say.

Toward the two-thirds mark, the novel started to stall. I was no longer interested in the characters, the mean girl Jenny Flick is being demonized to hell and back (which made me pretty angry), and all the interesting bits that make the first part of the story fun to read seem to be gone. Eventually, I skipped to the last thirty pages.

Early in the novel, Vera slut-shames when she says Jenny looks like “a slutty linebacker raccoon” (p.55) because of how much eyeliner the girl wears. This is not the only instance by a long shot and each new one sent my blood pressure upward. Screw Vera. A pox on her house for that. Screw all the characters who were doing it, realistic or no.

Speaking of things that make me say “screw Vera,” the all-important night on which Charlie died is one on which she was a massive idiot. She deals with her mistake, but I absolutely cannot see why she made it in the first place when there was obvious something more she could do to stop the fire.

I hear a lot of good things about A.S. King’s books, but I doubt I will be reading more of them. Not my cup of tea.

Divider

The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress

November 22, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★★

The Friday Society by Adrienne KressThe Friday Society by Adrienne Kress Published by Dial on December 6, 2012
Genres: Steampunk, YA Historical
Pages: 448
Format: ARC
Source: Gifted
four-stars
An action-packed tale of gowns, guys, guns –and the heroines who use them all.

Set in turn of the century London, The Friday Society follows the stories of three very intelligent and talented young women, all of whom are assistants to powerful men: Cora, lab assistant; Michiko, Japanese fight assistant; and Nellie, magician's assistant. The three young women's lives become inexorably intertwined after a chance meeting at a ball that ends with the discovery of a murdered mystery man.

It's up to these three, in their own charming but bold way, to solve the murder–and the crimes they believe may be connected to it–without calling too much attention to themselves.

Set in the past but with a modern irreverent flare, this Steampunk whodunit introduces three unforgettable and very ladylike–well, relatively ladylike–heroines poised for more dangerous adventures.

And then there was an explosion.

No matter what kind of book it is, I am going to imagine “And then there was an explosion” is the first line and not what the first line actually is. That line starts off The Friday Society (and four of its chapters) with a literal bang and it works because this book is a bang. Finally, a girl-power book that is actually a book about how amazing women are! The novel has a few fatal flaws, but it’s still a roller-coaster-fun read from beginning to end.

Cora, Nellie, and Michiko are all fantastic characters. In quiet, sharp Michiko’s case, I was fully invested in her and her story by the third chapter told from her point of view, and it often takes me longer to get even marginally invested in a character’s story. Meanwhile, cheery, adventurous Nellie joins my glittering goddess pantheon alongside Ke$ha. Anyone who uses glitter as a weapon successfully is automatically promoted to goddess in my book. Cora is my least favorite of the three only by a little; if she’d had an outstanding quality, it would have been a three-way tie for my favorite.

The jacket copy doesn’t even begin to hint at all the twists and turns the well-paced plot makes. Bomb threats, a mysterious society, a man obsessed with eyes, the murder of flower girls, the murder of a bunch of men who seem to be connected to one another,… There is always something going on and there is rarely a chance to get bored. The resolution of the main plot line comes out of nowhere in the very best way, but one minor plot line can be quickly solved even though its solution comes at the very end of the book. Just pay attention to the clues and spot the red herring.

On the romance side of things (because it’s hard for a YA novel to have no romance in it anymore), it’s a bit disappointing. The two romantic relationships don’t get much development. Cora’s insta-love-tainted relationship with Andrew, the other assistant her boss hired, ends exactly the way it should: badly. I thought Andrew was a creep from the moment he made his intentions obvious and he only got worse from there. Good on Cora for figuring it out. Nellie’s romance does end well, but its development is only slightly better. Cute, but not entirely believable.

Kress also uses some anachronistic language in the narrative voice on purpose, so anyone who finds themselves annoyed when novels do that will want to be prepared for it. Nellie once says something gives her the heebie-jeebies when the term didn’t come about until ten to twenty years later in another country; another time, the narrative calls Cora “super hot” in a dress. I really do understand why she did it, but it still bothers me a little. As much personality and wit the voice came with, I prefer voices in historical novels to not use language from centuries in the future.

The jacket copy hints at the possibility of a series but my Google searches didn’t indicate this will be a series, so I don’t know what’s going on here. What I do know is that I enjoyed this novel and look forward to any other YA novels Kress may write.

Divider

Silent No More by Aaron Fisher with Michael Gillum and Dawn Daniels

November 18, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★★

Silent No More by Aaron Fisher with Michael Gillum and Dawn DanielsSilent No More: Victim 1's Fight for Justice Against Jerry Sandusky by Aaron Fisher with Michael Gillum and Dawn Daniels Published by Ballantine Books on October 23, 2012
Genres: Adult Memoir
Pages: 240
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
four-stars
Victim 1, at fourteen years of age, spoke up against Jerry Sandusky in the Penn State scandal, and now for the first time tells his story.

Aaron Fisher was an eager and spirited eleven-year-old when legendary Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky recruited him into his Second Mile children’s charity. Offering support at a critical time in Aaron’s life, Sandusky gave him gifts and attention, winning the boy’s trust even as he isolated him from his family and peers. Before long, Sandusky’s attention escalated into sexual assault. When Aaron summoned the courage to speak up, he found himself ostracized and harassed by the very people who were supposed to protect him. The investigation set off by his coming forward would drag on for three years—and would launch the biggest scandal in the history of sports.

In Silent No More, Aaron Fisher recounts his harrowing quest to bring Sandusky’s crimes to light—from the intense feelings of guilt that kept him from speaking up earlier and the fear he felt at accusing a man who was a pillar of the community and a hero to the largest alumni network in the world, to the infuriating delays in the arrest and conviction of his abuser. He catalogs the devastating personal toll the case took on him: the shattered relationships, panic attacks, and betrayal of trust that continued to haunt him even after the charges went public in the fall of 2011. But he also speaks of his mother’s desperate efforts to get him out of harm’s way, the invaluable help of psychologist Michael Gillum, and the vindication he felt at inspiring numerous other victims to step forward . . . and at knowing that, thanks to him, there would be no future victims of Jerry Sandusky.

In the end, Aaron Fisher won his fight to expose the truth, achieving some measure of closure. Told in the honest and unforgettable voices of Aaron; his mother, Dawn; and his psychologist, Mike, this inspiring book completes Aaron’s transformation from a nameless casualty into a resounding voice for change.

Dear Aaron,

Before I say anything else, I want to thank you for having the courage to go public with your identity and story. I followed the scandal from the moment your abuser was arrested in November 2011 to the trial in June 2012 to now, when I found out about this book and knew I had to read it despite it being far from what I usually read. I knew a little about what you’d been through, but after reading Silent No More, I feel like I know so much more.

Honestly, you’re much stronger than I am despite only being two months older than me. I feel like I understand you in some small way because when I was twelve, my brother’s best friend sexually abused me. It was only one night compared to your months of hell, and I am constantly thankful it wasn’t any worse than it was. Still, it took me six months to tell my family. My parents never considered calling the police or talking to someone who could get him arrested. I didn’t think about it either. I never saw a therapist until I got to college and that was for an unrelated issue.

To this day, he walks free and has a military career, wife, and newborn son. April 2013 will be seven years since I woke up in the middle of the night to his hands crawling all over me, grabbing me in places he wasn’t supposed to. At this very moment, he’s visiting my family and considered another son. Apparently, I said it was okay for him to come back into our home when I was fourteen, but I don’t remember this conversation. Even if I did, I was fourteen and they pressured me into saying he could come back into our home. If I could be pressured into letting a total creep stay in our house for six months when I was seventeen, I was definitely pressured into letting him back into our home.

The point is, you’re not alone. I’m sure you know that, especially after the trial, but I also said all that to get across the point that eventually, it may get better. I can think about it and talk about it without wanting to cry or vomit. Hopefully, you’ll be able to one day too.

Of course, it may not. It depends on the person. I think you’re strong enough to make it.

Your story is so raw and so painful. Even if I weren’t already so invested in what will probably go down as one of the biggest scandals in college football history, I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to put your book down any more easily. I always try not to judge and think in dimensions, but after reading about what you went through and the hellish legal process that led up to Sandusky’s arrest and trial, I feel like the even-handed thoughts I had during the trial are just shallow and as judgmental as all the people who called your mother horrible for not realizing what was going on sooner.

I’m a little disappointed most of the book is narrated by Mike, but I understand why. He has more professional experience in these matters, he was more involved in the legal wranglings that make up most of the second third of this book, and you weren’t able to put parts of your years-long nightmare into words yourself. Still, hearing Mike tell me how you felt during such-and-such time lacks the impact of you telling me that yourself. This book is supposed to be your story and your hell and when he’s telling most of it, it loses some of the power it needs to have. He’s also very conspiratorial when a lot of his conspiracies and speculations have no base or support.

I wish I could meet you in person and tell you this myself, if that doesn’t sound too creepy. The way they had you posed on the cover and the look in your eyes makes you seem so vulnerable and I’d like to be your friend even though the posing was quite purposeful. We’d never have to talk about what happened to us unless we wanted to either; we could talk about our dreams and stupid things that happen in our lives and just be who we are. People like us need friends who understand.

I hope you’ll be able to become a state trooper one day like you want to, and I hope your book will be able to open the eyes of at least one person. There may be very little in your book that I haven’t found out during my research and while watching trial coverage, but hearing it in your own words makes it that much more powerful. Our experiences, unfortunately, have made us who we are, but they will never define us.

All the best,

Ashleigh Paige

Divider

An… Interesting Cassandra Clare Bookish Link

November 16, 2012 Links and Silliness 1

I felt like I needed to post today because NaNoWriMo and real life have caused my blogging to decrease pretty dramatically this month and I found the perfect thing to post about: Cassandra Clare (who will be henceforth referred to as CC because her name is too long). Just as a warning, some of the links can be long. If you don’t care enough to read a few lengthy texts, I’m sorry.

She’s everywhere. In the last few days especially, her name has been all over the place because the teaser trailer for the City of Bones movie was released. When my mom goes to see Breaking Dawn Part II on Sunday, she’ll probably see that teaser trailer, but she’ll know better. She’ll know that woman is a plagiarist, liar, and cyberbully who conveniently forgets her own behavior and attempts to control the Internet by getting anyone who talks about her past shut down.

Have I got links to support all those claims? You bet your ass I do.

Last month, Sinéad of the Tumblr blog An American in Britain posted about CC, her well-received post about cyberbullying (which a blog dedicated to making people aware of CC’s past indiscretions deconstructed very well, but she got them deleted over copyright infringement; that link also includes a good deal of information about what kind of person CC is), and how CC attempted to get her kicked out of her university by framing her as a hacker. The attempt failed and Sinéad actually had a strong case if she wanted to sue CC and the relevant fan board for harrassment. She didn’t only because she was so tired of that bull.

Some people are going to immediately say Sinéad is lying, but I believe her. Why? Well, CC has already proven herself to be a plagiarist, which makes her a liar by proxy. Will I believe the wolf who has already proven herself untrustworthy many times over or the person who braved the fear of CC’s rabid fanbase to put this out there? Fiddle around on Goodreads for as long as I have and you’ll see how bad CC fans can get if you besmirch her name and how ardently they’ll deny her status as a plagiarist.

She was a major feature on Fandom Wank back when she was still a Harry Potter fanfic writer and in case someone doesn’t know what Fandom Wank is, it’s a place for pointing and mocking at stupid people in fandom. CC even has her own page on the site’s wiki that details some of her biggest wanks. The pages are biased, true, but the wiki is meant to be funny and entertaining. This ain’t Wikipedia, people.

Her most famous wank is the plagiarism scandal, which got her kicked off Fanfiction.net in 2001 and resulted in her move to FictoinAlley, where she continued to post her fanfics until 2006, when she went pro and removed all her fics from the Internet. This link and this link give specific examples of what she plagiarized from where.

So how does society reward this woman after she plagiarized a published novel (which is not okay whether you’re writing a fanfic, an original novel, or a poem about ducks and rainbows and she should have known better as someone working as a reporter), lied about it all, acted like a hypocrite, and tried to frame someone for hacking just to get her kicked out of her school? Bestseller status, a fanbase that has plenty of sane people in it but also has a great deal of batshit people in it, multimillion dollar pulishing deals, and an upcoming movie adaptation of her books.

Nice going, world.

I have known about her behavior for years. It feels only right to make others aware of it so they can make their own decisions about whether or not they should support her, especially considering recent revelations.

Total time taken to put all this together? Half an hour.

If anything happens to this post anytime soon or it goes down, assume I was forced to take it down or it was deleted by someone else. If it’s my choice, I’m not taking this down.

Divider

Lying Season by Karina Halle

November 13, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★

Lying Season by Karina HalleThe Lying Season by Karina Halle Published by Self-published on Decmber 13, 2011
Genres: Adult Horror, Adult Paranormal
Pages: 348
Format: eBook
Source: finished copy from the author
three-stars
Ama­teur ghost-hunter Perry Palomino has bat­tled ghosts, fought off skin­walk­ers and skirted the fine line between life and death. But can she sur­vive bunk­ing down in Seat­tle for a week with her partner (and man she secretly loves) Dex and his perfect girl­friend, Jennifer? And can she do so while being tor­mented by a mali­cious spirit from Dex’s increas­ingly shady past? With love and life in the bal­ance, Perry must dis­cover the truth among the lies or risk los­ing every­thing she's ever cared about.

Same song and dance as usual: the author is one of my friends and this did not influence my rating or my review in any way.

-bites lip- My. God. I can’t… There aren’t words for some things, and I think one of those things is any short reaction to how I feel about Lying Season. Excuse me while I throw some words on the computer like I’m a pitcher throwing baseballs and hope they get across my feelings.

Perry and Dex are both imperfect people. That’s part of what makes them so interesting and fun to read about, and I accept them as imperfect people. Perry is still very insecure, refers to dressing sexily as slutting it up (which I get is contemporary speech, but it still annoys the piss out of me), and can be oblivious; Dex has been through a lot, isn’t the nicest guy on the block, and is scared of change now that he has found some sort of balance in his life. Still, my frustration with these characters bubbled over the top and I just about blew up.

Perry messing with Dex’s medication was beyond wrong and though she admits it was wrong, that it occurred to her and she did it at all was too much. Dex is not the first fictional man to have “I’m scared of change” keep him from getting with the person he likes/loves, but he is no less irritating with it. I’m normally kinder to his issues because his complexity explains it, but this is one issue I found myself unable to be merciful with him for. In general, the will-they-won’t-they vibe Perry and Dex having going on is one of the appeals of this series, but in Lying Season, it was simply too much. Forced, I think I want to say.

The focus is more on the characters than anything Perry and Dex have to film for the show, but that doesn’t mean the book is short of scares and sexy scenes. There are plenty of both. The descriptions of the main ghost haunting them in particular are well-written. Oh God, the image of that ghost… -shiver- I don’t wanna see it. I don’t wanna! There’s also a minor plot line involving a copycat show, and though what we see of it is good, it doesn’t have a large presence in the story.

The ending is a category all its own. We think everything is going to be awesome from here on out, but NOPE! Cliffhanger of utter pain and agony. Number of f-bombs dropped during it by me: dozens. The focus on the human characters meant a greater emphasis on the human drama and after a book full of it, I wasn’t prepared for an extra-large bomb of it to be dropped in my brain with the detonator about to go off.

This book sent me to bed frustrated (not like that, all the perverts reading this!) and I need a small break before I read On Demon Wings, the fifth book in the series.

Divider

Dark Star by Bethany Frenette

November 10, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★½

Dark Star by Bethany FrenetteDark Star by Bethany Frenette Published by Disney-Hyperion on October 23, 2012
Genres: YA Paranormal
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from a swap
three-half-stars
Audrey Whitticomb has nothing to fear. Her mother is the superhero Morning Star, the most deadly crime-fighter in the Twin Cities, so it's hard for Audrey not to feel safe. That is, until she's lured into the sweet night air by something human and not human--something with talons and teeth, and a wide, scarlet smile.

Now Audrey knows the truth: her mom doesn't fight crime at night. She fights Harrowers--livid, merciless beings who were trapped Beneath eons ago. Yet some have managed to escape. And they want Audrey dead, just because of who she is: one of the Kin.

To survive, Audrey will need to sharpen the powers she has always had. When she gets close to someone, dark corners of the person's memories become her own, and she sometimes even glimpses the future. If Audrey could only get close to Patrick Tigue, a powerful Harrower masquerading as human, she could use her Knowing to discover the Harrowers' next move. But Leon, her mother's bossy, infuriatingly attractive sidekick, has other ideas. Lately, he won't let Audrey out of his sight.

When an unthinkable betrayal puts Minneapolis in terrible danger, Audrey discovers a wild, untamed power within herself. It may be the key to saving her herself, her family, and her city. Or it may be the force that destroys everything--and everyone--she loves.

Before I even had the chance to read this novel, everyone and their French poodle made it clear that it was best to not let my expectations hold me back while reading this novel. Many people went into it expecting a superhero novel and got something completely different. The jacket copy really does make this sound like a superhero novel, but it turns into a book about demons and the people who fight them. Demon books! Yay! There are never enough demon books to please me. Demons > superheroes.

Frenette’s worldbuilding is fantastic and despite some issues with staying interested (I’ll get to those in a minute), there was never a time I didn’t want to keep reading and leave all my questions about the Kin, the Harrowers, and how their world works unanswered. The prose has some pretty good moments (I want to quote some, but I forgot to mark then; darn it!) and the fight scenes are well-written most of the time.

For a little while, I worried I knew what the big twist of the novel was and that I’d yet again found a predictable novel. A streak of horrible and/or easily predictable novels lately had me wondering if I was getting too smart for YA or if YA was getting dumbed down. It turned out my prediction was wrong and a red herring got me. I came out of the book feeling happier and more satisfied than when I went in. Perhaps I’m being kinder because the last few books I’ve read were horrible and should not be spoken of, but that’s good for Dark Star.

The biggest issue the novel has is its inability to keep readers hooked from beginning to end. Some scenes, like the cake fight and when Iris uses her amplification powers to enhance Audrey’s Knowing, grabbed me by the throat and squeezed as hard as they could. Those are scenes to go back and reread. Most of the novel, unfortunately, is difficult to get swept up in. It’s like there’s a wall between reader and book that keeps me from being able to connect to Audrey and get invested in what she’s going through. For some books, this can be a deadly flaw, but Dark Star has enough good overall to just barely save it and keep me from DNFing it due to lack of interest.

This is only the first book of a series and there are plenty of places for Frenette to go with book two. As much fun as I had, I think I’ll come back, but I hope book two will be easier to connect to.

Divider

Undeadly by Michele Vail

November 6, 2012 Reviews 0

Undeadly by Michele VailUndeadly by Michele Vail Published by Harlequin Teen on November 20, 2012
Genres: YA Paranormal
Pages: 272
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
zero-stars
The day I turned 16, my boyfriend-to-be died. I brought him back to life. Then things got a little weird...

Molly Bartolucci wants to blend in, date hottie Rick and keep her zombie-raising abilities on the down-low. Then the god Anubis chooses her to become a reaper-and she accidentally undoes the work of another reaper, Rath. Within days, she’s shipped off to the Nekyia Academy, an elite school that trains the best necromancers in the world. And her personal reaping tutor? Rath. Who seems to hate her guts.

Rath will be watching closely to be sure she completes her first assignment-reaping Rick, the boy who should have died. The boy she still wants to be with. To make matters worse, students at the academy start turning up catatonic, and accusations fly-against Molly. The only way out of this mess? To go through hell. Literally.

Undeadly reminds me a lot of the House of Night series. This is not a good thing. At all.

This novel is still leagues and leagues better than the bestselling vampire series, but there are a few similarities between them. An annoying, judgmental heroine who has been chosen as special beyond all others by her kind’s deity, mean girls and cliches galore, and failed attempts at teenspeak are just a few of the similarities.

To begin with, I originally quit reading the novel sixty percent of the way in because I wasn’t enjoying myself, but I came back to it a few days later and finished it because I wanted to give it the fair shot it eventually showed it did not deserve. The first few chapters and our introduction to Molly’s world are filled with inelegant exposition of how necromancers are an everyday thing and everyone goes to them for their zombie needs. This includes bringing zombies to life, suppressing their massive appetites, and reattaching their arms when they fall off. Though I disliked the artless way in which the world was built, the world itself has a lot of potential. Potential that goes unfulfilled, sadly.

Molly’s narrative voice is one of the most forced teen voices I have ever found in young adult literature and it fails badly at seeming even slightly realistic. She uses outdated slang like “it was a mondo ick mess” (80s/90s slang, mind you) and “major suckitude” is at least as old as 2003. One bit of slang, “gigging up my ju-ju”, doesn’t even use gigging right! Gigging is typically associated with dancing, excitement, or moving from music gig to music gig as if one were clubbing. I believe this takes place in the present day, albeit in an alternate universe, not in the past.

Tolerating her for more than a chapter or two at a time was difficult. Looking down on her fourteen-year-old sister for being passionate about zombie rights? Ugh. Having the cliche-of-all-cliches freakout when she learns something about her family early in the book? Worse. Abbreviations like WTH and BTW in her narrative? I can’t. If there is one thing I want from a book, it’s that there are no abbreviations in the narrative itself. It’s irritating and makes the narrator seem dumb and brings down the quality of the novel.

The side characters were unremarkable. There are the cardboard friends, the jerky new love interest and “old” love interest, the mean girls making Molly’s life suck, and all the other requisite elements of paranormal YA. After reading it for so many years, stories like this that indulge in the tropes without doing anything new or deeper with them tire me. I also had a niggle with a character’s name; Russian character Irina Derinski’s name should be Irina Derinska, as per Russian naming traditions. The character herself? Let’s not talk about how transparent she is in her motivations.

There simply isn’t any depth here to make Molly and her world interesting enough. There are no questions about how ghouls and ghosts feel about being bound to the living world, as if they have no feelings at all. Molly never thinks about how Henry must feel to be bound to everyone of her family line that comes to Nekyia Academy and being forced to stay around if there is no one of her family there. There could have been so many great questions about what life and death really mean, but they are all passed over for melodrama.

Warning: Undeadly ends on a strong cliffhanger and there’s no telling exactly when Unchosen, book two of the Reaper Diaries, will be in stores next year.All I know is that I will not be reading it.

Divider