Friday, December 31, 2010

This Book Will Have You Humming Beatles' Songs

I just finished The Girl Who Became the Beatles, a clever, fast-paced YA novel written by Greg Taylor.

Released February 2011, TGWBAB is a very fun read. It relates the story of Regina Bloomsbury, a teenage musican whose band The Caverns is on the verge of breaking up when the novel begins. When a member of the band very publicly & embarrassingly & definitively does break up the band, Regina makes a wish that she was as famous as The Beatles.

And it comes true. Sort of.

She wakes up in an alternate, wish-world universe where her band The Caverns has replaced The Beatles (though The Monkeys still exist, oddly enough), because, as it turns out, it's impossible to be as famous as The Beatles without being credited with having created their music.

Despite the wish-come-true cliche that the book revolves around, the book avoids, for the most part, feeling too cliched.

Regina is an interesting person to be around, rather than an annoying twit like many of the YA heroines, &, as I mentioned previously, the book is geniunely fun to read.

I was humming a Beatles tune in the shower (which has been happening, nonstop, since I began reading this book) & didn't even know it until my fiance told me it woke him up (whoops).

I highly recommend this book as a frivolous, fun read, for teenagers or for adults.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Love Letter to NYC

Hello. *waving arms frantically* Today, I am going to be reviewing Susane Colasanti's So Much Closer, a young adult novel that will be released May 3, 2011.

This was my first Susane Colasanti book. I had heard of her before - she's a well-known YA author, and I had heard flattering things about her before. This book didn't seem that great to me.

Don't get me wrong - it wasn't that bad, either. It was somewhere in the middle.

The story is narrated by this girl named Brooke who's super smart - kind of. By super smart, I mean that she's really great at picking up concepts. She can do homework at the drop of a hat, without really trying. So she's a genius.

But she's a genius who does really, really stupid things - like intentionally get mediocre grades so that she'll "fit in." There's also some half-assed bullshit excuse for her reserved attitude - that when you get close to a guy, he dumps you. The backstory for that isn't fleshed out, but b/c the attitude towards the reader is somewhat reserved, as well, we don't really feel much impact from the few lines to such effect that Brooke tells us.

She doesn't have life figured out, and that's okay - she's in high school. Some people never figure their life out. It happens.

What's not so okay is that, at the beginning of the story, she lives in New Jersey with her bitter, single mother. & near the beginning of the story, she moves to New York City with the father she hasn't spoken to since he left her mom... because she's got a crush on a guy who has to move to New York b/c his dad got relocated.


You're a fucking genius who has been in a not-s0-healthy relationship before, and you think it's totally okay to move to a new city for a guy who barely knows you exist?

So it's kind of like the TV show "Felicity," but on cocaine, b/c this chick is in high school, and like that freaky obsessive chick in Twilight that everyone likes - what's her name? Bellows?


Because protagonist Brooke is so freakin' pretty & has that stand-off attitude, of course, everyone loves her. & she does succeed in getting her supposed "soulmate" whom she hardly knows to notice & date her.

So the novel involves finding herself, figuring out what she wants from life & that it was completely retarded for her NOT to take advantage of her intelligence to help her get to where she wants to be.

But mostly, the novel feels like a large love letter to the city of New York. There are descriptions of what parts of New York look like & how cool it is. Descriptions of why New York is obviously SO much better than New Jersey. The book is dedicated to the city of New York, because the author loves it & so created a character to portray that love.

The novel is a quick read, and if you don't get easily annoyed with the protagonist when he or she is a dumb ass, go ahead & give it a try. Otherwise, I recommend you pass on reading So Much Closer.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I recently received an uncorrected proof, special ARE of Lisa Genova's LEFT neglected. Lisa Genova wrote the bestselling novel Still Alice. Her new novel LEFT neglected will be released January 2011.

This book is....interesting. The cynic inside of me secretly thinks that it's entirely possible this novel was solicited by the police in an attempt to get drivers to stop using cell phones while they're driving.

The book tells the story of Sarah Nickerson, a woman who lives in a nice neighborhood, has three children, and is a very successful businesswoman. She likes the challenges and power that comes with her job, she wants to be a great mom, and balancing things is a bit difficult, if not impossible some days. Basically, Ms. Nickerson tends to feel that she either isn't devoting enough time to her family, or that she isn't devoting enough time to her work, though she simply keeps going, trying harder, pushing herself further. All very cliched things that you've read plenty of times in fiction before.

While the book feels like it's going for a "& she had to re-prioritize when her husband Bob filed for divorce papers" or "& she had to re-prioritize when she was fired from her job due to recession cuts," the book ACTUALLY goes towards something completely different:

She had to re-prioritize b/c she was fumbling for her cell phone & ended up crashing her SUV on the side of the freeway, bumping her head & ending up with a condition called "Left Neglect."

Frighteningly, left neglect is an actual brain trauma injury where the person wakes up and forgets that the left side exists. To anything. Like, you're looking at your house & you only notice the right side of the house. But you also don't realize anything's missing. You think that's the way your house has always been.

This injury, of course, makes Ms. Nickerson pretty alarmed & frustrated & the majority of the book is about her recovering & realizing that her life is never going to be the same.

I would say this book is all right. It's not amazing, it's not particularly elegant, & Sarah can be pretty annoying. Most people, however, are annoying at one time or another, and waking up with a traumatic head injury is probably one of the best reasons for getting pissy.

I would recommend this book if you like books that revolve around the medical community or if you like chick lit or if you're really bored & can get your hands on it, for free. Otherwise... you might want to pass.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Are You Being HAUNTED?!

Or do you sit around pondering the philosophical implications of being haunted? And all of the ways that you can be haunted? Like, there's ghosts, but then there's also... being haunted by the guy/girl you're crushing on. What about being haunted by the future?

These are some of the initial reasons you might consider reading Andrew Taylor's The Anatomy of Ghosts.

Released January, 2011, this book is a great read to start off the new year.

It's not an amazing read. But it's easy to read without being mindless. It's fun, and intriguing, and filled with a cast of interesting characters. It has lots of inappropriate behavior. It even has a secret society.

Like Dan Brown, but, you know, good.

And the protagonist not insanely obsessed with not ruining his pair of loafers.

The protagonist is, instead, the financially handicapped John Holdsworth. After his son and wife tragically drown, Holdsworth finds that his business soon suffers, as well. Having little money, living in his former house with a friend and that friend's wife (the latter of whom makes it clear she doesn't want him in her new house), Holdsworth is kind of losing at life.

Then, a condescending rich old lady who wears too much white powder on her face says that since he's a bookseller, she will hire him to evaluate and distribute her library - if he also agrees to save her son, who is in an asylum b/c he thinks he's seen a ghost.

Her son, like many college boys, has been drinking, gambling, and copulating. Very shortly before he went insane, he joined one of those secret societies, & it was... so wrong.

Andrew Taylor specializes in historical fiction, and The Anatomy of Ghosts is no exception. This novel takes place in the late eighteenth century.

Overall, it's a mystery story. What happened on the night that Frank, rich powdery-white bitch's possibly insane son, was inducted into the secret society? On that same night, two women died. Were they killed? If so, who killed them? Why does Frank think he saw a ghost?

Or is it possible that he actually did see one?

(I know, but I'm not going to tell you. You'll have to read the book to find out.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

What You MEAN to Say vs. What You ACTUALLY Say

Like most young Americans these days, I have an at least mild case of ADD, which makes me an epic channel flipper (& completely annoying to people who actually want to watch a show in its' entirety). As such, I don't watch a lot of commercials.

And then I watched a commercial the other day, and got a writing lesson, so I guess they're good for something other than making us want things we don't need except in a meaningless attempt to fill the gaping black hole created by American marketing that continually demands more THINGS. It was the family photo "cloud" commercial:

There is... so much wrong with this commercial. Yet the thing that irks me most about it is when the mother says: "Windows gives me the family nature never could."

Wait... WHAT?!

Seriously - who releases something like this around the holidays? Who greenlighted this commercial? Who WROTE THAT LINE?

It's horrible. It's Lois Griffin horrible.

To begin with, that woman has no place to criticize anyone when she's making her family wear those horrible matching plaid shirts. *shudder*

Second, as I've already mentioned, young America is known (and always has been) for the "fidget factor." We're impatient, and the "get it now" imperative that culture has been shoving down people's throats is only making it worse. So how can you reasonably expect your kids to remain perfectly positioned for numerous photos if you don't tranquilize them first?

Obviously, someone's parenting skills are nonexistent.

Now, I know that the holidays are hectic & crazy and that people get overwhelmed sometimes. But there's no sense of that in this commercial. Her family continues to sit on the couch while she tells them they're not good enough.

I'm going to assume that this impression is not what Windows meant to get across.

Because while the holidays are hectic & crazy, that's one of the things that makes them so fun & wonderful. You put effort into them to show the people you care about how much they mean to you - not so you can force them to wear hideous clothing & make them feel bad about themselves.

So while you're writing, keep in mind what your words are ACTUALLY saying.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Memoir About Loss

Let me preface this book review by saying that I don't ordinarily read very much non-fiction anymore & that I had never read a Joyce Carol Oates book before. I was curious, and I wanted to experience how the well-known Oates writes. So I requested, and was lucky enough to receive, her memoir A Widow's Story, which will be released March 2011.

My feelings towards this book are ambivalent.

I can see a lot of great things in it and about it, but I didn't really enjoy reading it.

The memoir details what the author went through and experienced just before, during and after her husband died.

The first thing I would say about this memoir, is that you immediately notice that Oates writes well, and is very intelligent.

It's clear that Oates is a literary person, both due to the way that she writes, as well as the references that she makes. She quotes and alludes to people and concepts that make it obviuos Oates has spent a lot of time in the world of academia. It's a little intimidating, but it also makes you feel good about your own seeming intelligence - the way she so blithely discusses the people/concepts/etc., it somehow seems implied that she thinks you will know who/what she is talking about - particularly when you actually do know who/what she's referencing.

The second thing I would say about this memoir - far too much use of stream-of-consciousness (for my tastes).

I can understand the use for stream-of-consciousness writing/rambling. Really. I have read it in great works of literature; I have used it myself, both in personal essays, and works of fiction. I understand that sometimes, a writer has to use it.

I can also understand why Oates uses it so consistently in her memoir. Suddenly, her brain is moving a mile a minute, repetitively - she's not thinking in complete sentences. Often, her brain may not even be coherently registering a complete thought, let alone think in complete sentences. It's all fragments and confusion - and stream-of-consciousness perfectly portrays that.

Just as it is difficult to live in a state where you're constantly overwhelmed with thoughts that are vague, unclear, and half-stated, however, it is also difficult for me to READ something that is written in such a manner, if it occurs for more than a few paragraphs. Oates used it a lot in the galley which I received, and after a few chapters utilizing it, my attention span began to wane. Dramatically.

The memoir also necessarily repeats - usually stated in slightly different ways, after awhile, it was glaringly obvious that Oates was repeating the same material. This means, of course, that she was also GOING THROUGH the same things numerous times - which is a true-to-life sentiment. It also means, however, that much of the memoir, if you're not interested in reading repetition, feels unnecessary.

The concept of the memoir is interesting, and I feel that if you like non-fiction, this book is probably something that you should check out. If you're generally a strict fiction fan, however, avoid this book, as it will probably not hold your interest for very long.

I will finish by talking about my least favorite aspect of this book - the omniscient writing.

Oates wrote a lot of passages that began with something along the lines of: "To the widow...," "The widow feels...," "The widow thinks..."

I guess this was so that widows reading the novel will feel like they're not alone.

To me, however, it felt pompous.

I mean, isn't every widowing experience going to be different? I felt like some of the things Oates claims "the widow" goes through were a bit specific.

Her book is entitled A Widow's Story - meaning, what SHE, specifically went through. As she's only one widow, it just didn't sit well with me, that she decided to be the spokesperson for all widows.

For those who have read Oates' work before - is her fiction different from her non-fiction? If I didn't like this memoir, is it unlikely that I will like any of her work, or was my dislike probably with regards to this book in particular? (I have a BURNING DESIRE to know the answer - it is as if my pants are on fire, and your answer is the bucket of water, poised to put that fire out - so please, be my fireman/firewoman, and toss some water/answers on me!)

A Widow's Story goes on sale March, 2011.