Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Review of Beta, by Rachel Cohn

This book came out about two weeks ago. I got an ARC through a giveaway at Live to Read. Thanks again, Krystal!

From the minimal research I did on Rachel Cohn, it sounds like all of her other books are contemporaries. This doesn't come as any surprise. Beta reads like a science fiction book written by someone who, quite honestly, half-assed all the science fictional elements. This is very clear from the world-building. In order to design a unique, futuristic world, you have to be able to think outside your own boundaries. How would growing technology and mass-scale wars and disasters change cultural mindsets? How would the world be different?

The world of Beta isn't that different from ours. This book is only two steps away from being futuristic Gossip Girl or Desperate Housewives. The rich people have the same hobbies, problems, and mindsets as they do in most contemporary literature. When I hear about an island paradise where people are practically drugged into relaxation, I think about people lounging around by the pool all day, not people studying to get into top universities or training for the military. And how is it that this world's views on gender are nearly identical to our own? Then there are the little things. Does the author really expect me to believe that people in post-polar meltdown dystopia eat the same food and use the same slang and idioms as I do? Language is supposed to evolve, dammit!

Now, that's not meant to diss the book as a whole. There were parts where I actually liked this book. The characters all started out very well-rounded and interesting. I liked the 'whiny teenager' aspect of Mother's personality, and how Greer, as the archetypical slut, still seemed far more intelligent and observant than most of the other characters. Unfortunately, the subtleties in their characterizations fully disintegrated by the end of the book. Greer and her interesting complexities all but vanished off the page, and Ivan's seeming 'meathead with a heart' demeanor descended straight into, well, just plain meathead.

There was, however, one aspect of the plot that stayed successful throughout: Tahir. I don't want to spoil anything, but his arc was both brilliant and unexpected, and I loved his family.

Elysia's own character development was excellent. I loved seeing her coming into her own as a person and beginning to assert her own identity and freedom. But, once again, I found myself disappointed at the end.

And this is where the spoilers begin:

Elysia's journey to asserting control over her own body and her own destiny was completely undermined by the decision not to abort the pregnancy. Note that I'm not criticizing a woman's choice to keep a baby who was conceived through rape; that decision is the woman's to make, and I respect it. However, the decision to keep the baby was never Elysia's. It was the Aquine and M-X who made that decision for her, and Elysia merely accepted it. The fact that Elysia never rebelled or even displayed open resentfulness at that decision completely went against her new-found strength. I did some research on the author, and it doesn't seem like she's anti-abortion in any way. I don't think she meant this book to have a contradictory message, but unfortunately, that's what came out.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

An Announcement

To those who are following me for writing and book-related reasons, this probably won't mean a whole lot, but it's a big announcement nonetheless:

I got into medical school.

I don't want to say too much about where I got in, since it's still very early in the process. I'm still waiting to hear back about a particular program at this school, and then there are other interviews and another school that might get back to me within the next several weeks. Suffice to say, I will have a more definite decision sometime in March.

But I can say the following:

1. I loved this school, and I'm very happy about getting in here.

2. This school is not in New Jersey--and that's a good thing.

3. I will start medical school sometime next summer.

So that's my news! I hope everyone else has had an awesome day, too!

ETA 3/27/2013: This is where I'm going to medical school.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Overdue Bloggerversary Post

So it's been (over a) year since I started this blog, and that probably merits a post. Actually, that probably merited a post back in September, but I didn't have the time/motivation to do it until now.*

*Actually, the real reason I am blogging right now is that I came across an article about TV Tropes and rape, and I suddenly had the urge to scroll through that list myself. But as everyone knows, TV Tropes is the black hole of the internet, and I still have to make my room look presentable before my friend comes into town. So this post is, more than anything, a way to get my mind on something other than "I will not go on TV Tropes. I will not go on TV Tropes."

Anyway, I don't have very much to brag about blog-wise, as I only have 37 followers, and I suspect that most of them haven't looked at this blog since they clicked the "Follow via GFC" button all those months ago. But honestly, I'm okay with that. I'm not nearly at the point in my writing career where I need to start advertising myself.

I know a lot of people treat their blog like a second job. They blog regularly, and make sure all of their posts are neat and polished, and have rating systems and cutesy signatures. And that's a big part of what makes them good bloggers. But I didn't come into this wanting to be a "good blogger." I just wanted to have a place where I could share my thoughts and maybe meet some other people with a similar interest in books and writing.

On several occasions, I thought about creating a blog schedule or running a book giveaway to gain more followers. But I don't want the kind of followers who only subscribe to my blog because of the possibility of getting free stuff. I will admit, there are some blogs that I follow for no reason other than the fact that I can win free books--and that's something I'm not ashamed to admit. Those also aren't the blogs that I read. Occasionally I'll skim a post or two, but I usually just scroll through them on my RSS feed.

The blogs that I do consistently read are the ones that are more than book reviews and repetitive writing advice--they're the ones where the bloggers have opinions and ideas, and who occasionally let pieces of their own lives slip into their posts. The bloggers I enjoy are the ones with whom I would like to have a conversation.

And that's really what a blog should be: a forum for discussion (or at least that's what I want my blog to be.) If I have any goals as a blogger (other than to post more often, and be better about checking spelling and grammar before I hit 'publish'), it's to receive more comments. I love hearing what other people have to say, whether or not they agree with me. To all of you lurkers: if you have something to say, feel free to say it! I promise I won't judge you or wonder "who are you and why are you talking to me?"

(Not that I'm begging for comments in any way. If you don't have anything to say, that's okay. The best comments are the insightful ones, not the ones that were just put there for the sake of stroking a blogger's ego.)


Anyway, now that I've given you my whole shpiel on blogger philosophy, here's my checklist for the reviews I need to finish:

-Beta, by Rachel Cohn (ARC)
-Keturah and Lord Death, by Martine Leavitt (audio)
-The Sound of Blue, by Holly Payne (New Adult)
-Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
-Blame It on Paris, by Laura Florand (New Adult)
-Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo
-A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin

Sunday, October 7, 2012

ARC Review: "Time Between Us," by Tamara Ireland Stone

Goodreads Summary:

Anna and Bennett were never supposed to meet: she lives in 1995 Chicago and he lives in 2012 San Francisco. But Bennett has the unique ability to travel through time and space, which brings him into Anna’s life, and with him a new world of adventure and possibility.

As their relationship deepens, the two face the reality that time may knock Bennett back to where he belongs, even as a devastating crisis throws everything they believe into question. Against a ticking clock, Anna and Bennett are forced to ask themselves how far they can push the bounds of fate, what consequences they can bear in order to stay together, and whether their love can stand the test of time.


This is another ARC I won through a giveaway at Live to Read. (Thanks, Krystal!)

For the most part, I enjoyed this book. It started out rather dull, but Anna was a great character, and her relationships to the other characters were very well-realized. I usually don't like romance-heavy books, but the date scenes were more than just steamy and romantic--they actually sounded fun.

One thing I especially loved was how Bennett was more than just a love interest for Anna--he was a chance for her to experience the adventure she always craved. And even more than that, I loved the book's message: you can't depend on another person to make your life an adventure. One of the big problems with YA paranormal romance (and yes, this book would count as PNR) is that many female protagonists are so boring that they might as well not even exist without their Sexy Supernatural Boyfriends. This book refuses to take that route.

Unfortunately, I felt that the last chapter of the book somewhat undermined the message of self-reliance. (Not to mention the fact that I don't understand how he 'fixed' his time travel rut in the first place.) There was also an occasion where Bennett passionately argued for something that I had trouble believing would matter to him. Also, I was disappointed that I never found out what happened to his sister.

But I still recommend this book. And I'm very excited to see what other books Tamara Ireland Stone has to offer.


Time Between Us comes out October 9th.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Imagine my hilarity when I came across this

Yesterday, YA Highway's weekly link roundup directed me to this page:

Apparently, it's a new travesty that writers aren't #1 on the list of coffee drinkers.

Oh, writers. Sometimes you guys just remind me of those thirteen-year-olds who think they're so sophisticated when they order frappaccinos at Starbucks. It's just so...adorable.

I've lost track of all the writer/book blogger accounts where the title or "about me" section mentions something about loving coffee.* Bragging about your caffeine addiction is such a writer thing to do, and it's not hard to see why. After all, the cafe is the center of the 'intellectual lifestyle.' You're not a 'real writer' unless you hang around in cafes with your laptop. And you're not a 'real writer' unless you have internal struggles and addictions--but alas, the days of bohemian writers are long gone. Nowadays, writers want to make art while simultaneously managing stable, loving families, which means that an addiction to anything more serious than caffeine is a big no-no. (Also, it is now considered unprofessional to brag about your drug use on your blog. Unless you're a really obscure visual artist, and then it's only okay if you're using said drugs as 'inspiration.') In other words, caffeine addiction proves that you're a 'real writer.' (Even though, in actuality, all caffeine addiction proves is that you're an average American.)

Now scientists. Scientists don't brag about their caffeine addictions. Why? Because it won't impress anyone. If you work in a lab, your caffeine addiction is already assumed.

*That's not saying I'm judging those writers who talk about coffee in their profile. I know you're not doing it to impress anyone--you really do just love coffee. (Some of my favorite bloggers do this, actually.)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Book Recommendation: Living Dead Girl, by Elizabeth Scott (audiobook)

I'm sick today, and oddly excited for the chance to blog again, which just goes to show how off my priorities are. (I swear, my SAT classes end on Thursday and then I'll be here more often!)

This was another book I read on audio during my summer road trip. I don't even know why it took me so long to get this review together, as I loved this book.

A little while before reading this book, I was speaking to a friend* who used to do therapy work with sex offenders. He has a theory that there is a difference between child molesters and pedophiles. Child molesters know what they're doing is bad. Oftentimes, they resort to alcohol or drugs to get past the conscience barrier that prevents them from carrying out their urges. But pedophiles? They don't think they're doing anything wrong. They actually believe that their actions are an expression of love towards the children.  And out of the two groups, pedophiles are the really scary ones.

As I was listening to Living Dead Girl, I couldn't help but repeat this conversation in my head. Ray, without a doubt, is a pedophile. He actually believes he is in love with Alice--that he is taking care of her, teaching her to act the way she should, doing anything in his power to maintain her youth. Of course, there is no tenderness in this care--there is only threats, violence, and domination. But while you never sympathize with Ray, you can never stop seeing him as human.

Alice is even more well-realized. You can see the way her five years with Ray have warped her mind.  She sees Ray as an all-powerful, all-knowing figure, and even when she does overcome her own feelings of helplessness and plans to escape, her thoughts and priorities never veer from "fucked up." It's even more disturbing in the way she views other people: she barely feels sympathy for the girl she plans to help Ray kidnap, and even though she wants to protect her family, she never thinks about the possibility of returning to them after escaping. Instead, she hopes that she will be locked in prison, where she will be safe and be allowed to grow fat enough that no one will want to touch her again. Even in her moments of strength, she never stops being a victim. There is no heroism here, and that's what makes this book so real. Alice's potential "saviors" are a drug-addled teenage boy and a cop who knows something is wrong, but still hasn't put the whole picture together yet. (Some people might take issue with Alice's immoral decisions or the way she sometimes implies that her kidnapping was "deserved", but honestly, I think Elizabeth Scott does a very good job with the nuances of Alice's mentality. To present Alice's situation as something that could be easily overcome by a virtuous protagonist would be nothing short of offensive towards those who still suffer the scars of kidnapping and pedophilia.)

Another thing I noticed about this book is the way it sometimes seemed to touch upon our own society's obsession with youth. I don't think the author was going so far as to suggest that pedophilia is a result of this obsession, but as someone who is afraid of growing older (I just turned twenty-four and am only now beginning to see myself as an adult), this book hit a little too close to home.

Stylistically, this book was beautifully written, and Kate Reinders was the perfect choice of audiobook narrator.

Needless to say, I highly recommend this book.

*I really should give credit where credit is due. My friend is John Minus, whose writings can be found here:
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