Thursday, November 28, 2013

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

For some reason, it never struck me as embarrassing or odd to haul this book around in public with its flashy cover until one day, a virtual stranger came up to me and asked, 'Why are you reading that?' They'd never actually heard of the book, of course, which brings me back around to my book covers argument, which is a whole 'nother deal.

But this is a book review, so I'm going to try to keep it that way.

Apparently, the stars are lined against me when it comes to making actual book talk videos about things, and since my video editing program is refusing to cooperate with me, I thought I might as well jot down a few opinions on this book.

Libba Bray's pretty big in the book community right now. I can see part of the reason why, just by reading BEAUTY QUEENS. She's funny, she's loud, and she gets pretty up-in-your face with her opinions. It's hard to tell what this book was really trying to say: it's obviously meant to be satire, and it certainly doesn't take itself seriously, so it doesn't expect the reader to take it seriously. But it doesn't take a genius to see the social statement that Bray is trying to make in BEAUTY QUEENS.

Girls can act girly and still be badass. {Also a side note of 'gay and transsexual people are nothing to be afraid of!'}

This is a message I approve of wholeheartedly, but I feel like the book was so ridiculous in places that I couldn't enjoy it fully. I laughed at some points, and I definitely can see the charm in it: the little 'commercial breaks' and other creative extras were cute and fun. {I'm never against seeing a couple of spins on the old pen and paper print.} However, sometimes it was all... A bit too much. Also, the plot made no sense whatsoever and was extremely poorly constructed. This is clearly a character-driven book, but the storyline itself just took such a strange turn that I... God.
The basic idea has a lot of potential for humorous shenanigans on its own, but in addition to beauty queens stranded on a desert island, we also get a government conspiracy, Sarah Palin and Kim Jong Il in a heated, backstabbing political love affair, and a boat full of British rockstar pirates who literally appear out of nowhere and contribute basically nothing to the plot. {As you read on, you'll see that I got really pissed off about the British rockstar pirates. Seriously. The only one out of all of them who was just a little bit okay as a character was Sinjin, and yet still, so terrible. Do living people even say 'cor blimey' anymore? Maybe I'm too sensitive, but even in parody, I feel like racial and cultural stereotypes aren't something that people should be okay with.}

Obnoxious British stereotypes aside, the other stereotypes {of feminists, lesbians, etc.} were pretty bad, as well. Still keeping in mind that the book's a parody, I found them pretty obnoxious, and although I did end up liking most of the characters in the end, it was the sole non-stereotyped character that was my favourite throughout the book, so I honestly think they would've been better off without them. 

Speaking of my favourite character, Petra West and the whole transgender front was done spectacularly, in my opinion. Although with the whole princess and the frog thing, I just assumed she was really ugly and had some drastic plastic surgery done that she wanted to keep a secret. Anyway, yes, Petra was my favourite, hands down. She was by far the least ridiculous and easiest to handle. Also, since I don't think there are actual stereotypes for Rhode Islanders, there didn't seem to be any state-ish stereotypes for her character. {I was actually pretty surprised that there was no Miss New York, because that could've been a gold mine of stereotypes.}

The book does this weird thing of switching between arcs following the main characters' development and completely disregarding the rest. We get more development from the Kim Jong Il-clone than we do from Miss New Mexico. {Although I did love Miss NM in the end when she knocked a guy out with the tray in her head. I was concerned, though; what if the tray got pushed in more with the collision? Am I being ridiculous? Yes.}

I feel like I could write an entire essay splitting this book up into the good and the bad, but I might as well just make a list.

Good: Character development, lesson of acceptance, comedy, degradation of the shallow nature of American culture, occasional golden joke, great, consistent tone, creative formats and extras.

Bad: Offensive racial and cultural stereotypes, scattered plot, lots of poor jokes, some of the extras were unnecessary/distracting, uncertain themes, loads of seriously weird shit.

All in all, this is a book I would recommend for someone who's neither too critical nor easily offended and who's looking for a quick, humorous read. Basically, you need a really specific mindset to really appreciate this book, I think.



Tuesday, November 26, 2013


So, today I got this gem in the mail.
Since I ordered four books from betterworldbooks earlier this month, I was obviously expecting my ordered books, and not this one. You can see my reaction in the unboxing video that I'm posting later tonight. {Don't worry, I don't embarrass myself or anything, it's just kind of funny to see my expression instantly change to confusion.}

After doing a subsequent amount of investigation, I realized that this book was actually won by me in a giveaway! {Sorry, BWB.} It's set to be released TOMORROW, so I wanted to make this blog post to brag before other people owned it.
I have a paperback edition that's absolutely lovely and new, and the words inside has that glossy ink that comes with newly printed books. Also, it smells wonderful. 

To be honest, this is the first new book I've owned for a while, so I'm super excited! Thanks so much to the person who sent it to me; I'm definitely going to have to crack this one open over break. <3
{Maybe I should start doing my hauls at the end of each month instead of after each big acquisition of books? Idk.}

Also, as a sidenote, I've been having some weird iMovie problems: When going to play and edit clips, the preview screen will show black, or the frozen part of another clip while the audio is still going. Despite all of the clips being in one video, there's a separate clip at the end of the video that plays just fine, and it's stills from this one that invades the other clips. Does that make sense? I don't know how to explain it; it's really weird and annoying due to the fact that I can't see what I'm editing.
If anyone has a solution for this, that would be lovely.

Library Trip: 1

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Quick backstory time: I just got out of a long reading slump {as in several years long} and during that time, I visited the library frequently, always got more books than I could chew without dying of gastritis, and never read any of them. So, as my delight with the literary was rekindled, I made myself a solemn promise: No more hoarding, no more late fees, no more library abuse. Seeing as I have a ton of books that I actually own that still need to be read, I've limited myself to five library books a month. 

Anyway, as you can probably tell, I went to the library today! I'll be making a Library Grabs video later today to showcase them properly, but I'll just list the titles quickly:

1. BEAUTY QUEENS by Libba Bray
2. EON; DRAGONEYE REBORN by Alison Goodman
3. ENCHANTED by Alethea Kontis
4. BEASTLY by Alex Flinn
5. HUSH, HUSH by Becca Fitzpatrick

All of these books are due for return on December 18, 2013. Don't forget!

Anyway, as you can tell, these are all YA titles. This is a personal first for me; I usually scattered my hauls with adult and childrens' books. Again, out of fear of encountering people I know at the library. {I don't know why, but I have an intense fear of seeing people I know in public places. For example, I saw a kid from my school on the library computers today and I literally did everything I could to avoid him. It sounds rude, but I couldn't help it. People terrify me.} Anyway, since I'm forcing myself to try to read YA without my snooty English professor attitude, I snatched up some tidbits that I'd heard a little bit about and left within ten minutes.
All in all, a pretty good library run for me. If you'd like the see the full video of me awkwardly trying to explain the books, I'll link it below:

Judging a Book by Its Cover

Monday, November 18, 2013

It's the time-old saying, right? Never judge a book by its cover. We've used this term so often that it's actually become a creed to dictate not only our literary picks but our first impressions of other human beings. Basically, don't make assumptions based on appearances, because you never know what you'll find inside.
Screw that. I'm going to make all of my first impressions based on looks, because, shallow as that sounds, aesthetics are super important to me. I'll be more inclined to be near attractive people, and I'll certainly be more inclined to pick up books with beautiful, artistic, creative covers.
It's pretty simple: I'm a book cover whore. Pretty covers are my greatest weakness. It doesn't matter if I don't know shit about the book inside, or have heard nothing but bad things. If it catches my eye, I'll make a grab for it. Hell, I have an entire shelf on my goodreads dedicated to books with beautiful covers. {I've never even heard of most of them.} Beautiful book covers make me happy. Therefore, I love them.
But for me and people who are like me in this respect, this sort of book-cover bias doesn't necessarily make us evil ugly stepsisters, in my opinion. Some people just like pretty things. Nothing wrong with that.
Than again, it could get in the way of a lot of things, like passing over a potential favourite just because of its poorly designed and unappealing cover. And that kind of sucks.
{On the other hand, however, if I hear a lot of good things about a book, ugly cover or no, I'll eventually want to read it, so I suppose it's not as terrible of an affliction as it could be.}


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

This book, like many others in my life, was recommended to me by my mother. It's a historical fiction novel that doesn't feel like a historical fiction novel in the least. The story follows the lives of two sisters, and the narrator is the elder of the duo, Pearl Chin.

SHANGHAI GIRLS begins in the beautifully captured setting of pre-WWII Shanghai, referred to fondly as the 'Paris of Asia.' The two main characters are introduced as vain, petty creatures who consider themselves to be a representation of the 'modern' Chinese woman. However, their languid, lazy, indulgent lives are disrupted when they discover that they're being pulled into arranged marriages with a couple of Chinese-American sons. And then World War II really hits Shanghai, the Japanese invade, and everything goes to hell from there.

See weaves a marvelously detailed life story with her words, but although I truly enjoyed the book, I found something a bit... Lacking. Pearl, the narrator, recites everything, even her own emotions, in a detached, documentary-style voice. Although I understand why this might contribute to making a point, it made for some flat parts in the book that seemed to ramble on and on in a monotone, and were therefore hard to push through.

The girls go through a lot of shit, and you can really see their characters evolve and develop through the novel, which is excellent, if it weren't for the fact that their lives are constantly being ruined/in a state of ruin. When I read the first few pages, I was certain that I was going to hate May, but she grew on me quite a bit. All of the characters, actually, had true-to-life personalities and were distinctly relatable, although their melodrama seemed slightly exaggerated at times. {I mean, Sam?? Sam?? You were my favourite character, why the fuck did that happen oh god.}

On the other side of the characterization scale, however, Joy's a stupid little bitch. DREAMS OF JOY is the sequel to this book, but I literally hated Joy so much that I don't think I'll be able to force myself to pick up a book named after her.

Stupid characters aside, the thing that blew me away the most about this was probably the fact that I learned so much from it. See opened my eyes–no, actually, she wrenched them open with pliers–to a dark part of America's rich ethnic history that I had always sort of known was there, but had never really wanted to think about. The blatant racism showed against all of the Chinese people in this book, throughout many occasions and spanning over several decades, was disgusting. But I feel like the little things were worse. Of course, the persecution was terrible, but small things like a Chinese person being unable to secure a job in Chinatown, of all places, really hit you.

This book is emotionally striking, sets a vivid setting, and is truly a solid lesson on life and its ups and downs. Mostly its downs, though.

On a final note, there are some extremely sensitive situations mentioned in this book, so while I would recommend it to anyone interested in culture, life, or really, reading in general, I would strongly caution against it for those who are triggered by rape, violence, suicide, and a few others that I will list after looking through the book again. If you're not particularly bothered by these kinds of situations, then by all means, go for it!


Oh No

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I just ordered four books impulsively online because they were on sale. 
It was a good deal, but really, I just went to the discount bookstore last week and emptied my wallet. What the heck is wrong with me.
You guys, this is a problem. A book-buying problem. I mean, I seriously need a restraint order or something. Or an actual job, you know?
What do I have against libraries? Well, I know what I have against library books, but why? Why do I have this deep, insatiable desire to own as many books as possible? I'm like a bottomless pit of book-lust. It's horrifying.
{This is basically my version of teen angst.}


Uglies by Scott Westerfield

   Okay, so this is a really old book.

   I've actually read this one once before, way back in grade school. {That's how freakin' old it is.} It's part of a series, which I'm fairly certain I got at least halfway through, seeing as I own the first two books in paperback. Anyway, I decided to give it another go this month to try to ease myself back into the YA genre, mostly because I recalled it to be a decent read.
   UGLIES is a YA dystopian novel, but it was published before YA dystopian novels became cool in the teen-sphere. The basic premise is set in a world where looking normal makes you 'Ugly.' As an Ugly, you live with other Uglies in Uglyville. {Or something like that. You know, something with 'ville' or 'town' as a suffix.} However, once you hit sixteen, you're carted off for a long and complicated cosmetic surgery ordeal, and when that's done, your entire face changes. You're gorgeous. And it's off across the river and into New Prettyville you go.
   The book is centered around an Ugly named Tally Youngblood. I'm going to lay it out straight for you: she's a fucking moron. But she's not as big of a moron as many of YA literature's heroines, seeing as she has some common sense and is actually somewhat clever and funny. It's just that whole sequence where she tries to decide whether or not the Smoke sucks that kind of ruined her for me. Plus, why the fuck would you throw the necklace in the fire? Obviously there's some kind of fail safe in case you get hurt or killed so the Specials can swoop in and pick up your mangled corpse from whatever pit it fell into. Stupid impulsive teens.
   Anyway, although Tally was all kinds of frustrating, she wasn't a bad character. Overall, I found her to be pretty relatable and very human. There's a noticeable difference between realistically flawed and too stupid to live, after all. However, she didn't really stick out to me: she wasn't very interesting or unique. In fact, most of the cast seemed pretty... Bland. It was mostly world-building that kept me going, which sucks, because, personally, getting immersed in the characters is what really hooks me into a book.
   The plot itself was decent. Not too action-packed, though, and the twists weren't that surprising. Then again, I've read this before, so maybe somewhere, in the back of my subconscious, I was able to see everything coming. Like déja vu.
   I think the romantic elements were handled well, but since I wasn't all that attached to the characters, I couldn't really immerse myself in the romance and love triangle and all of that. Mostly I just sat there, thinking, 'okay, well that happened,' which I don't think is ideal for any romance. However, it wasn't insta-love, and it wasn't forced; you could actually kind of see the characters falling in love, and it was pretty much adorable.
   I don't have a lot more to say about this book, but I might read the sequel, PRETTIES, as part of my Winter Break reading cluster. It should be fun! 



Sunday, November 10, 2013

Hey, guys!
So, I was just wondering if anyone else was participating in NaNoWriMo this year. If you are, please comment! I'd love to hear about your ideas for your writing, or even tips and tricks about getting motivated to keep up.
I might actually make a post about my project for this year, but to be honest, I'm not all that enthusiastic about it. {I'm mostly just pleased that I've been able to keep up with NaNo so far this year–that's definitely got to be a first for me!}
Anyway, I've also started a bunch of other side projects besides my NaNo piece, but of course they're progressing pretty slowly in comparison. I could also make a post explaining some of my other projects for this year and the next, as well, if anyone were to be interested in that.
Peace out, and good night! Happy writing!


Saturday, November 9, 2013

By the way, guys, I totally have a Goodreads account. And I'm totally obsessed with it. So, while I try to decide between books to finish, check it out! Stalk me! Add me as a friend, and I'll be sure to spend at least an hour hunting your shelves for new reads.

Insert Appropriate Introduction Here

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Hey there!
This will be my first post ever on this blog, which is mostly going to be for personal use and reference, since no one uses blogger anyway.
But for those of you who are wandering around in this desolate wasteland of cook blogs and pregnancy blogs, welcome! As you can probably tell already, this is a book blog. And if you're clever, you'll probably have deduced by now that I am a book-lover.
At this point, I think that's all you really need to know about me as an individual. I mean, I do have a vlog. It's currently video-less, but that should change eventually. Maybe. (If you're more interested in watching people talk about books than reading about people reading books, then I'd suggest some gentle peer pressure in my direction.)
Anyway, I'll be using this blog for the primary purpose of discussing and reviewing books. That means that anyone who's interested will have to step up and participate: don't be shy! I hate that feeling that you get when you're talking to yourself. It's all lonesome and cat-lady like.
On a similar note, book suggestions are always welcome. In fact, they're strongly encouraged. So are goodread friend requests, which I always accept. whispers Always.
I guess that's all I can ramble about for now, so see you next time!