Saturday, 27 July 2013

Velveteen by Daniel Marks

Published:October 9 2012
Publisher:Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Website: Author's Website

            Velveteen was murdered by a ruthless serial killer named Bonesaw when she was 16. Now she haunts him. The real problem is that she is stuck in Purgatory, and she has a job: to bring back souls that are “stuck” in the daylight.

            From the blurb you’ll find on the dust jacket, you’ll think that this is about Velvet’s revenge against the serial killer who murdered her and others. That would have been awesome, but it isn’t what this book is ultimately about. Let me save you some confusion and tell you to pay attention to the parts with the Departurists.

            There is a profound inability to explain the world in this book. There are a lot of unknowns, such as the concept of heaven, hell, and purgatory, etc, and that is alright. Can you imagine just arriving there with a biblical or other belief of an afterlife? And no one has the answers, just speculations. They just go with it. You fulfill some mysterious criteria-such as personal growth-and you fade away into ash. Fine. But the explanation of how souls arrive is vague, as is how the other team gets stuff back into purgatory, especially when you can’t take things, including your own clothes, into the daylight.  
            What is explained isn’t explained very well. Then Velvet and others explain everything again to the newcomer, Nick. Let me fix this, Mr. Author. The team explained the basics to Nick. He constantly questioned everything, Velvet was rude and ordered him to listen, belittling him in the process. Do you know how many pages could be cut if this was done?    
            In an early action part of the book, suddenly they become the A Team and it’s all, “Btw, we all basically have super powers.” Ok, that was extremely lame. Why do they, who are ghosts, all have different abilities? Is it how they died? How they lived? Don’t ask me; it wasn’t explained.
            The writing in this is muddy and erratic. The action scenes are so jumbled I hated reading them. The main conflict isn’t about Bonesaw, it’s about the Departurists, who come in about midway through the book. The characters are all obvious clichés. Has the author ever seen a group of young people sit around at a bar-like setting and heard them speak? The dialogue at the first salon is so forced I was bored to tears. Pro Tip: If you’re going to write about young people, have a clue about them.     

            The cover can’t be true to the book. In Purgatory, it seems that people wear mostly drab clothes-stuff that can be brought back can’t be that appealing or else it wouldn’t be “lost”. They also smear themselves with ash. There is Nick on the cover, crisp white shirt and black vest. Nothing like his outfit when he died. Velvet is there with a million earrings. So…who went out and got all those earrings to bring back? The whole thing just looks dumb. I almost put the book down without reading it, but I read the blurb first and decided to ignore the stupid cover.

            Velvet is supposed to be the bad-ass, in-charge, snarky one. She seems so inconsistent it’s ridiculous. I understand where the author is trying to go, but I don’t think he is a very convincible writer of real women. She comes off as selfish and annoying. I believe the author wanted us to look at her and think that she is so tough and cool. But she isn’t. She’s unrealistic and cliché and she needs a slap in the face most of the time.
            Nick is simply bland, or annoying. I know he is new, but he doesn’t seem to have a personality aside from liking Velvet, and that’s a quality, not a personality trait. Oh, wait, he’s a hawt boy, that’s something. No, wait, it isn’t a personality trait.
            Mostly, everyone else is terribly flat. I liked Manny, the Station Agent. She has an appearance that is different, and she has a personality and back story from when she was alive. Why wasn’t everyone else so interesting? Common, author, I know you have it in you!  

Love Story
            The love story is inconsistent because Velvet as a character is inconsistent and Nick feeds off her inconsistencies. She pretty much goes like this: Wow he’s so hawt I can’t stop staring at him. But OMG I can’t love him. He’s so hawt I hate him just for that. And he’s wearing a basketball uniform so I assume he’s a jerk and I’m a goth so I have to hate him. Wait, let’s make out. BTW, I still don’t know you, so don’t get any ideas. Oh, shit, I do like you. Never mind, I don’t want a relationship. It’s against the rules. Oh, rules be damned, lets make out! You know what? F-off. I don’t know you.
            Hey, you know what this is called? Inconsistent and bad writing.       

Degradation of My Name
            Page 45 of the hardcover has the following sentences: “It’s possible that Bart hadn’t heard the slur against his vocal prowess. He was busy chocking his girlfriend, Courtney, with his tongue. He seriously looked like he was going to eat her.”
            -10 points from Mr. Marks’s House.

The Ending
            The ending was so forced. I still can’t wrap my head about how absurdly obvious some aspects are, yet the why Velvet question, for me, remains unanswered. I’d really like someone to explain it more. The big battle and how it ends is also a bit jumbled in my head. I’d like to know how they got from point A, the battlefield, to point B, safety.  

            Do I recommend it? If you’re bored. The Bonesaw bits were the most interesting, but she keeps leaving! Hey, you know all the stuff you want to do? Like save the girl in the barn? Why don’t you do it? Nope, she keeps going back to Purgatory. The world isn’t explained very well. The characters are only half-realized. Something good? Velveteen is an awesome name. If teens like paranormal books about the afterlife spiced up with some good action, I’d recommend this in a pinch, especially if they have read all the books in the library already. Better for older teens in high school, as the world is a bit hard to follow most of the time.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

The Chemical Garden Reviews
Wither, Fever, and Sever

Published: March 22 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Website: Author's Website
Author's Youtube

            The First Generation was genetically modified to improve the human condition. The unexpected consequence lurked in their children; the children have a “virus” that terminates males at 25-years-old and females at 20-years-old. From perfection came disaster. With the population in decline, scientists are scrambling for a cure. Girls are being snatched off the streets by wealthy families to procreate and extend the family lineage. Rhine, a girl with heterochromia eyes, has been stolen from her life to be a sister wife to Linden. The mansion is a gilded cage, and with only four years left to her life, she plans on escaping the sinister family.

            I usually hate it when covers use faces. It stops the reader from imagining the appearance of a character. It is also worse when the cover looks nothing like how the author describes their character.
            In this case, I love the image. It has beautiful symbolism: the ring, the cage, the decadence. I hate the hair and the dress because #1 both are high-fashion messy and #2 nowhere in the book is Rhine in such a dress and has teased hair that looks a few strokes from a rat’s nest.
            With this explanation, I say that I love the image, but not as a cover. It’d be passable if the image was cut off at her neck to exclude her face and hair. In fact, it would add to the symbolism presented in the story about women being degraded.

            When I began reading, Wither immediately struck me as a stripped-down version of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale for teens. Not that it is bad or unoriginal. I recommend all older teens to read The Handmaid’s Tale and Wither (if the concept of forced procreation is something they can handle).
            This novel is an excellent “what if” scenario in regards to the possibility of population decline and women becoming “baby factories” to maintain the human race and to find a cure. There are other dystopian elements as well: a large social divide, generational divides, gender oppression, and mass poverty and the associated lack of security and chaos. Unfortunately, the world of the story is very confined; she is trapped in the mansion and only recalls what the real world is like. I suspect we will see more of it in the next two books.

            I tried to like Rhine. She is like how most girls would picture themselves in her situation: rebellious. The heterochromia eyes and her name are interesting facts, but the book fails to make Rhine unique. She assesses situations and chooses her words wisely, but she does less of this as the story progresses. She becomes less hard, and I do not feel like the author meant for this to happen, just that the writing took the author there and she forgot that Rhine is supposed to be much more capable than she is at the end.

Supporting Characters
            The cast of characters for this novel is exceptional. There are the obviously evil characters, the not-so-evil, the victims, the willing, the unwilling, the blind. The main characters evolve as the story progresses and I am thoroughly impressed by the ensemble and their interactions with one another.
            As I tried to like Rhine, I fell in love with Jenna. She has a tragic backstory, and I understand her acknowledgement of the situation. She decides what to do, she makes the best of the circumstances, and she is humorous at times. Downside: her name is Jenna.
            At first I hated Linden. He’s complacent, weak, and oblivious to the suffering he is causing to his sister wives. As the novel progresses, I became more sympathetic to the character. Making me sympathetic to a character I once despised is not an easy feat, and it is a testament to the writing.
            Cecily, the youngest sister wife, brings life into the house in more ways than one. She is a willing wife, though she is an orphan and the mansion offers joys she could never imagine. Cecily is a fine example of how distorted the world has become: a willing captive, an eager mother, ignorant of freedom or the way the world was before the dystopia set in. Without spoiling anything, it is through her that the reader finds out about the babies sister wives bear in this world, and how cruel the process is.

            Luckily, I was intrigued by the overall concept and I didn’t just read the first few pages, because I probably would have walked away. I found the beginning to be overly written. I understand that Rhine has just been ripped from her world, shoved into a van, and brought to the mansion. Her mind is scattered, but I think the author couldn’t decide where to go either. She brings up too much in the beginning without dealing with the issues at hand. And she dwells and details too much when reminiscing about the setting-social values and her past and the history of the world-at inappropriate times.
            As mentioned, the characters are excellent. Each serves a purpose and the main ones evolve. You’ll hate certain characters at the beginning and by the end, you’ll change your mind.
            Other than the characters, the writing is nothing special. No particular voice or prose was burned into my mind, but it serves its purpose.

            A fulfilling dystopian teen novel with a little romance (of course). I suggest this to slightly older/mature teens because of the sexual content (we are talking about making babies against your will). If the teen likes dystopia or other kinds of speculative (non-paranormal) fiction, I recommend it highly. The characters are vivid and dynamic, but it is the setting of the world and how it came to be that makes the novel truly special.

Goodreads: What Makes You Put Down a Book?

Originally from a post on Goodreads. To see the whole pic, follow the link and enjoy. I had to modify the graphic because it simply wouldn't fit on my template, and resizing was making the text illegible.

I tried to find one example that I point at and exclaim, "That is sooooo true!" but they all are. Expectations, comparison to the movie/musical, slow beginnings, etc, all contribute. What I found interesting is that only 0.5% of people asked cited "immoral" as a reason why they put a book down. That's interesting, as we can been seen as a more relaxed society, or we research the book beforehand, or we read the dust jacket or blurb and make our own considerations. 

Note: More posts are scheduled (if the scheduling on Blogger feels like working) to appear. I'm still editing my MS and I have started job #2.