I just finished reading QUEENS OF GEEK, so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself jumping from a book about conventions to a book about - gasp - LARPing (or "live action roleplaying"). The premise is a strange, but intriguing one. Adrianna "Andy" Bottom is forced to move from Seattle to Beverly Hills after her father's line of bathroom accessories (think: Buddy Bowls) make it big. Worse: she's forced to be a part of her family's latest money making scheme. A reality TV show called Bathroom Barons.
I can't even say that with a straight face. You should see my smirk.
Everyone wants to be Adrianna's friend because she's rich and basically a minor celebrity, but Adrianna finds herself attracted to the nerdy kid in school named Kevin, who is into comic books and LARPing. But Adrianna's friend, Harper, warns her against this and tells her that befriending Kevin will result in her being ostracized by the entire school. After a catastrophic misunderstanding turns Kevin against her, Adrianna decides that the only way to get close to him is to don a mask and LARP.
This was light and fun, and reads like a knock-off version of a Meg Cabot story, where the temperamental and awkward popular girl realizes that the boy she wanted was the one who was there beside her all along. Also like Meg Cabot, it reads about ten years out of date and as though it were written by someone who really has no idea what geek culture is actually like. Even though I enjoyed SECRETS OF A RELUCTANT PRINCESS, I have a few hangups about it:
**WARNING: SPOILERS TO FOLLOW**
1. Lennox later says that the reason he bullied Kevin and his friends was because Corbin, the Bathroom Barons TV producer, bribed him to. But this doesn't make sense because Adrianna later finds out that he's the Mac Attacker who throws food at Kevin and his friends when they LARP in the park and that he was doing that well before Adrianna hopped on the scene from what I remember.
2. Lennox's behavior is basically sexual assault. Unwanted touches, unwanted kisses, lol-your-yes-means-no-type behavior. This is never dealt with in a satisfactory manner. Again, Lennox says that much of this was bribed by Corbin (which would make him complicit in arranging sexual assault against a minor?) and that he only did it because he wanted Harper back. Ooookay. Well, you're still not a nice guy, and I don't think you deserve a happily-ever-after for doing all that BS, thank you.
3. I'm so tired of stories where the girl makes a minor mistake and then has to scale Mt. Everest to get the guy back. It was so, so painfully clear that her slight against Kevin was a misunderstanding and he doesn't forgive her for it until she organizes a LARP competition/fashion show, makes him a fancy new costume, and saves his park from being bulldozed (and at the cost of her father's business). What more do you want? You're no prize, either. Even though Andy and Adrianna were the same person, he didn't really know that, and you could argue that he was stringing both of them along. Jerk.
4. The whole "geeks are major losers who get bullied by the whole school" stereotype is right out of the 90s/early 2000s. It was like that when I was in high school, but it definitely isn't like that now. Geek culture has entered the mainstream, and with anime being turned into movies, Marvel superheroes in theaters, and conventions becoming an adolescent rite of passage, this felt super inaccurate. LARPing is kind of the last bastion of weirdness, which is probably why the author chose it as Kevin's hobby, but I doubt that you would get ridiculed for it to the point of bullying/assault.
5. What the hell is wrong with the adult figures in this book? Why didn't Adrianna's parents fire that utterly corrupt production manager, and why didn't the teachers do something about the bullying??
Apart from those hang-ups, though, SECRETS OF A RELUCTANT PRINCESS was just the light read I needed to get me between some heavier books. I'd read another book by this author.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
Oh, Sarah Andersen. I love you the way Californians love avocados.
I've been purposely putting off reading my ARC of this book. Not because I thought it was going to be bad, mind, but because I enjoyed ADULTHOOD IS A MYTH so much that I wanted to savor the anticipation of reading this book because I knew it would be at least another year or more until Andersen published a new one. That can't be too weird, right? Surely I'm not the only person who avoids reading books they're excited about...right?
Like ADULTHOOD IS A MYTH and HYPERBOLE AND A HALF, BIG MUSHY HAPPY LUMP explores many common problems that introverts, millennials, women, and book lovers will be able to relate to.
Why does puberty suck for women so much more than it does for men?
Why are periods so damn inconvenient, not to mention inconsiderate?
Why is talking to people so hard?
Why do we all love cats so obsessively?
Why do we throw so much money away on books?
Why are we cold all the time, even with a sweater?
Why do we like this thing?
There isn't a lot to say. I liked ADULTHOOD IS A MYTH and I liked BIG MUSHY HAPPY LUMP. My fear was that LUMP might be nothing more than a reprisal of ADULTHOOD and I am happy to say that my fears were misguided. LUMP stands on its own, and it is both endearing and hilarious.
Thanks to the publisher/Netgalley for the review copy!
Women are held to more rigorous standards when it comes to their appearance, and it's a losing battle. We all get older: it's an inevitable by-product of growing up & gaining maturity - so why are women the ones who are punished for it; the ones who are mocked for either not trying or trying too hard; the ones who are criticized, debased, sexualized, and dehumanized?
It occurred to me recently that I hadn't read any poetry since I picked up Edna St. Vincent Millay's THE HARP WEAVER. When I saw this on Netgalley, I rejoiced inwardly because it seemed like such a relatable, tongue-in-cheek concept. A book that mocks the concept of growing older as a woman and light-heartedly pokes fun at double-standards? I could not wait.
Now, having read it, I am of two minds. On the one hand, I feel obligated to point out that this is a collection of poetry and not an original work of new, fresh poetry. The contributors to this effort are diverse and range in style and period, from Amy Poehler to Shakespeare, and do not mesh particularly well - especially not if you went into this book as I did expecting something else.
The tone of this book felt off to me. It is divided into various sections, depicting different attitudes regarding one's descent (or ascent) into old age. Each section has a forward, which is very sarcastic in a pop-culture-laden Cosmopolitan op-ed sort of way. This is at odds with the poems themselves, many of which are serious in tone. Some of my favorites in here - Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, Margaret Atwood - are almost morose, and I feel like the tongue-in-cheek intros act at odds with the sober, speculative content of the poetry.
I've said this many times: one of the problems with many anthologies is that it is difficult to find content that manages to stand out without contrasting in a jarring way. There are always going to be some additions that outshine the others, and some that drag down the rest. I understand the difficulty of being an editor for such a collection. The way HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? was curated definitely falls prey to this tendency. The poems are so different in tone that they clash, and there's no rhyme or reason to them, apart from the motif of growing older and feeling sad or insecure or accepting of this.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
Remember when TWILIGHT was at the height of its popularity, and people began opening up Wikipedia to search for paranormal creatures to have fall in love with some ditzy teenage girl so they could write the Next Big YA Paranormal Romance, too? Yeah. I think we all remember the "girls in prom dresses" period of YA fiction. Those were dark times, my friends. Dark, dark times.
I feel like ASHES ON THE WAVES is definitely influenced by TWILIGHT. The male love interest speaks in an archaic way and seems a bit too naive. He also tries and fails to convince the heroine to stay away from him because he's dangerous, although in this case it's because he might be a demon instead of a vampire. The heroine, by contrast, is a pretty girl without a lot of substance. She moves from a big city to a dreary, isolated small town - except instead of the Olympic Peninsula, it's an island sandwiched between Scotland and Ireland and entrenched in Celtic folklore.
Liam, the hero, is regarded by everyone on Dorcha with suspicion because they think he killed his mom at birth (like, legit killed her, with scratch marks and gushing blood and everything). He's drop-dead gorgeous, has a paralyzed arm, and has absolutely zero knowledge about the world. He's so sheltered and naive that when he gets jealous over a girl, he thinks his anger is a result of a demon possessing him. Everyone on Dorcha wants him dead, and most of them try.
Anna, the heroine, is a rich heiress who lives in the big mansion on the island. She's being exiled because of some racy behavior she displayed in her parents' ritzy circles. She doesn't really have much of a personality. Her two conflicts in this book are 1. fall in love with Liam and 2. act out because her parents don't love her enough. She and Liam even meet when he stops her from jumping off a cliff. Ashes on the Waves? More like Ashes on the New Moon. *tips wineglass*
The paranormal element in this book is interesting, but not utilized very well. Here you have creatures like Na Fir Ghorm, the Cailleach, the Bean Sidhe, and Selkies - and what do they spend their time doing? Making bets on the purity of the love between two teenagers. I am not kidding. We're talking Shipping Wars. Mary Lindsey turned the Fae into a crude facsimile of Tumblr.
Likewise, the Edgar Allan Poe connection is also tenuous. I liked the snippets of poetry at the beginning of each chapter and the book itself is supposed to be a retelling of Annabel Lee, but it feels kind of weird to base a book on a song...especially when you have all the Fae stuff thrown in as well. The author had some creative ideas but she ended up throwing them all together in the hopes that they would fit, and they really didn't. It was not a cohesive effort by any means, in my opinion.
"Just go with it" me enjoyed how easy it was to read this book. "Feminist" me was annoyed by the instant love, the lack of development of the female character, and the fact that a fourteen-year-old is engaged to and then almost raped by a man twice her age, because on this island, due to the shortage of men, it's apparently okay to marry children to adults. Even though this takes place in the twenty-first century. "Amateur critic" me was annoyed by all the other things, like the characterization, the cheesy plot, and that bizarro ending.
Seriously, what was that ending. I looked to see if there was a sequel because I thought I was missing something important, but nope; I guess that's how it ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper.
I have to admit to a certain amount of fascination with stories revolving around high school drama. I was on the fringe of my high school social scene & didn't really get mixed up in any of the "he said, she said..." nonsense, so whenever I read books like these I feel like a scientist discovering a fancy new phenomenon. "What is this?" I ask myself. "What does this mean?"
#SCANDAL is a bizarre YA contemporary that revolves around many different topics. Lucy is the sister of a famous celebrity (although nobody is aware of the connection). She's also hopelessly in love with her best friend Ellie's boyfriend, Cole. Since Ellie gets sick on the night of their school dance, she asks Lucy to essentially babysit her boyfriend for her. Alcohol gets involved. The party gets knocked up a notch. And then somebody decides to take pictures and post them on social media.
There's a Gossip Girl-like angle in the form of Miss Demeanor, a high school gossip Facebook fanpage where a mysterious individual posts gossip about the student body in a snarky, tongue-in-cheek tone. It's a bit savage but mostly harmless - until Lucy's pictures get leaked on her Facebook profile & tagged, and somebody creates a site called "Juicy Lucy." Suddenly, Lucy - the stereotypical geek/hipster/alt-girl - is branded a slut, catcalled in the halls, and ostracized by her friends, all because of a few pictures being pasted on her social media.
The story then branches out as Lucy not only tries to navigate her complex relationships with her new boyfriend, estranged celebrity sister, and newly ex-best-friends, but also figure out who took the compromising pictures of her and set up the petty website and also who the identity of Miss Demeanor really is.
I was disappointed with how the bullying is handled in this book. I didn't feel like the principal took it seriously. I didn't even feel like Lucy took it seriously. People were throwing things at her in class and pasting stuff on her locker and chanting the word "slut" at her in the hallways. And yet, Lucy doesn't really react to any of it in a believable way and neither do the authority figures - in fact, they suggest it's Lucy's fault. I know blaming the victim is a real issue and I would not fault the book for that, except that by the end of the book, we're led to believe that it is, in fact, partly Lucy's fault. Lucy also feels very distant from the bullying and doesn't have a lot of emotional depth as a character.
Despite its many faults, I enjoyed this book. It had a wide array of characters and while they were all a bit too quirky and affected to be truly believable, I enjoyed the banter between them. There was just the right amount of drama to keep things interesting and Ockler is a good enough writer that I kept turning the pages in a secure state of suspension of disbelief. If you're looking for something light for purely entertainment, #SCANDAL is not a bad choice.
Don't even care what it's about. I have to have it because of the dramatic Fabio angel on the cover treating his wings like they're a cape & he thDon't even care what it's about. I have to have it because of the dramatic Fabio angel on the cover treating his wings like they're a cape & he thinks he's the Batman....more