Monday, March 31, 2014

YAck Attack: Reality Boy by A.S. King


From Goodreads
 Gerald Faust knows exactly when he started feeling angry: the day his mother invited a reality television crew into his five-year-old life. Twelve years later, he’s still haunted by his rage-filled youth—which the entire world got to watch from every imaginable angle—and his anger issues have resulted in violent outbursts, zero friends, and clueless adults dumping him in the special education room at school.

Nothing is ever going to change. No one cares that he’s tried to learn to control himself, and the girl he likes has no idea who he really is. Everyone’s just waiting for him to snap…and he’s starting to feel dangerously close to doing just that.

In this fearless portrayal of a boy on the edge, highly acclaimed Printz Honor author A.S. King explores the desperate reality of a former child “star” who finally breaks free of his anger by creating possibilities he never knew he deserved.
Otherwise known as: the one where everyone besides the protagonist was a shitbag and we all ranted about it.

Heidi: Are we talking Reality Boy? 'Cause I got thoughts! '

Sya: Erm, I haven't started it yet. I will do so tonight.

Donna: It's one of those books that made me irrationally angry because his parents were such shit bags.

 Maureen: Share the thoughts! Yes! That's part of the reason I wanted to YACK this because I had oh so many thoughts and feels after finishing it.

Heidi: Yes! I don't know that I've ever been so angry at parents in a YA novel before. BOTH of them were just freaking terrible. At least usually it's only one. How is it possible that NO adult in these kid's lives ever stepped in though? How incredibly messed up is that? Not just the parents, the real or fake nanny (who both knew what was going on), but not even a single teacher or counselor from school. I realize they were sick of dealing with Gerald, but no one ever took him seriously enough to ask why? His other sister never said anything to anyone? I don't know, this book made me extremely disappointed in adults in general. I really liked the whole 'aftermath of a reality show' take, as it's something that is certainly starting to happen and is one of those interesting socially constructed issues. Adults who choose to do these shows are responsible for their own choices, but what about the kids? I guess there's a reason there aren't many shows that involve them--I mean, would John and Kate still be together if they hadn't decided to plaster their adorable horde on screen? I like to think I wouldn't have watched Gerald's show (any reality shows I watch are competition based like Top Chef), but I suppose if one was taking place in my own neighborhood I probably would out of interest, no matter what it was. I also failed to really connect with this one, which is kind of a reminder to me as to why I don't do much contemp. I rarely connect with them on a level that makes me love them, or I just appreciate them objectively. Though again maybe this is a more cultural/generational based one? Maybe I just don't GET it because I grew up slightly before the 'anyone and everyone can be famous' bit? Maybe it's just because it was a male narrator? I did really click with Ask the Passengers (the only other A.S. King book I've read to date).

Maureen: I've binged on A.S. King lately, after staying away for awhile. (Full disclosure; I met her at last year's Tucson Festival of Books.) Adults are rarely worth their weight in turds in her books, and usually the kids are left floundering around on their own. I think this was a case of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Gerald was set up as "the bad kid," so everything was filtered through that. What horrified me was how clearly messed up Tasha was and nobody was stepping in on that either.

Maureen: And somehow the whole, "Yep, she's just a sociopath" didn't satisfy me either. I was ready, nay, waiting for something to come out that she'd been abused, because that level of lashing out, that level of vitriol for no reason except what, power play? was a huge red flag for me. Of course, it's Gerald's story and not Tasha's, but. Still.

Donna: On one side I have a very hard time believing NO ONE sought to help him, not his dad who knew very well what was going on, not Lisi, who went off and saved herself when she KNEW Tasha was trying to actually kill them both, not any teachers or his anger management counselor, and see the forest for the trees. On the other than I believe it completely. School personnel are overwhelmed and unless Gerald went to school with visible bruises no one will probably know since he put out a lot of effort to appear normal in school. It seemed like his family fractured around his mom and Tasha in order to save themselves because no one was coming to help any of them. What I don't understand is Fake Nanny's abrupt 180. She saw exactly what was going on, knew EXACTLY what Tasha was doing to them and how dangerous she really was. And all of the sudden instead of seeing that punch as a manifestation of a serious problem that wasn't fixed she turns on a child. I don't understand why, not when she exhibited such empathy before. That one seemed contrived for the sake of the plot. But I think the whole 'every man for himself' thing rings pretty true. People watch reality TV to see how fucked up other people are and thank their stars that's not them. We have a society where people will turn to their video phones first when something's about to happen instead of stepping in to help. People go out of their way in order to not get involved. I don't think this situation's any different and it's evident that a lot of people lack compassion for their fellow man. And common sense to realize that what they see on TV isn't actually real. I watched maybe three episodes of some TV show where "problem" children were sent away to the world's toughest parents (was that the name?) because their biological parents didn't know what else to do. I think a lot of people are immediately drawn to the "fucked up kid" and OMG look how awful they are but I saw them being a product of their parents. The adults are the fucked up ones in that relationship. Toddlers and Tiaras? OMG look how spoiled those children are! What brats! No. Look how shitty the parenting is that enables that kind of behavior. It flabbergasts me that no one thought to reach around the pooping child and take a look at the parents and what they were doing to enable that behavior. Why was Gerald the only one with the shitty nickname, pun intended? I would have liked to have seen the deserved greater repercussions the parents should have received from that show, more than just their marriage crumbling because Tasha's a psychopath and Mommy's Mrs. Bates and Dad doesn't have the sack to do anything about it. Blech. I felt like I was reading a reality TV show. I was hooked but it was a disgusted distance that kept me at arm's length from it. I didn't connect with anyone and I thought Hannah was kind of all over the place (pretty par for the course with teenage girls, it sounded rather familiar) but there was so much drama I couldn't look away.

Melissa: Just finished this last night. And.... wow. I think y'all have expressed what I was feeling pretty nicely, though. This struck me, Maureen: "What horrified me was how clearly messed up Tasha was and nobody was stepping in on that either." I suppose that's realistic, but I wonder why no one realized that the problem child wasn't Gerald. Honestly. That girl needs some serious meds/therapy. And you're right about the parents. BOTH are just beyond horrible, but not for the normal reasons. I found it interesting that the horribleness came from inaction rather than some sort of horrible action. I also found it interesting that it was the child who was doing the abusing, rather than the dad/man/boyfriend. I don't know how common it is, to have a psychopath for a kid, but it made it hard to read. I don't watch reality TV (okay, I do watch Master Chef, but I don't consider it "reality"), but I though this was perfect, Donna: "I felt like I was reading a reality TV show. I was hooked but it was a disgusted distance that kept me at arm's length from it." I, too, read it more clinically than emotionally. I haven't read any other A. S. King. If they're all like this, though, I may not.

Heidi: So...I just spent like 10 minutes responding to everyone and then my computer decided to auto-restart on me so I lost it all. NOT AMUSED. /emoquit (for now)

Maureen: I think some people did realize Tasha was the problem, but those people were so invested in the narrative of Gerald as the root of all the evil in that family, instead of the symptom. Fake Nanny, for instance, always struck me as someone who would eat her own young, never mind someone else's. Even though she did have sympathy for him, if she'd gone to the producers and said, "Hey, Tasha's a demon from hell," they more than likely would have gone, "No, that's not the direction we're going, dear and oh by the way, we're the ones who sign your paycheck." Reality shows do have a script and they do have characters/types marked out and a particular narrative to tell. If Mom or Dad had ever admitted to themselves that their daughter was messed up beyond all redemption, they would have had to admit how epically they'd failed as parents.

Melissa: True, Maureen, except I wanted Mom to realize that the reason she's epically failed as a parent was because Tasha was abusing her -- both emotionally and physically -- and that she was ENABLING Tasha's abuse. Dad, on the other hand, had no excuse to not leave.Or at the very least get that girl on some meds.

Maureen: Or an exorcism.

Sya: I've just finished part one and have jumped down here without reading any comments as I don't want to know what happens. But I had to come and express how utterly terrifying Tasha is... I am assuming that she's an out and out sociopath and the combination of her behaviour and writing that so completely illustrates how trapped Gerard is in his parents denial makes for an intense reading experience.

Maureen: I actually hesitate to call her a straight-up sociopath because some of the crap she was pulling, especially early on, smacked of, "STOP ME. Pay attention to me like you're paying attention to Gerald. Set boundaries." She kept pushing in order to get the attention focused on her. Yes, she's still self-centered like a neutron star, but I feel like she might have been redeemable.

Holly: Yes - I am alive - and I actually tried reading this one although I wasn't feeling like it would be my thing. I read about fifty pages but I have no interest in reading more about Gerald's sucky life and the reality show flashbacks. Sorry guys. But now that my life is a little less crazy I am going to try and be more active on here. I've missed the ranting and the fangirling. And I hope my number comes up soon so I can force you to read one of my picks.

Nicole: I started reading and then spring crept up and I wasn't interested enough from where I ended to continue. Which I guess says something about how I liked the book, but I also might not have been in the mood. ... so I guess it says nothing at all. I'm useless to this conversation, aren't I?

Sya: Maureen, I see what you're saying but I disagree. While the family was focussed on Gerald's behaviour, he was only acting out because of Tasha. She had been trying to kill him for at least a year by the time he was five and had tried to drown Lisi prior to that, also. Perhaps her very first actions were attention seeking but they quickly escalated to the point of sociopathy - rather than a cry for help, her more audacious acts seemed to be designed to make people uncomfortable. I read the book almost in one sitting and found it fascinating. I liked the whole running away to the circus solution that Gerald has in his head throughout and how that tied into his past. It would be easy to wonder why he/Lisi never went for help but I kind of liked the idea that they had at one point had the whole world watching them and no one had helped then. This, to me, explained Gerald's utter belief that no-one would do anything and made his realisation that HE could do something really compelling to read. Saying that, I don't think the book is without flaws - Tasha is frightening but one dimensional and Hannah almost a cliche (which may be the entire point, I'm not sure). I've not read any AS King before but will certainly look up her other stuff. Although not if I want to be happy because this was, if nothing else, utterly depressing.

Melissa: Though this begs the question, I think: how does a 10-year-old (or younger) become a sociopath? Are some kids just inherently THAT cruel? And how did her mother get to be an enabler?

Sya: I watched an interesting documentary where they interviewed diagnosed sociopaths that had been that way since birth. It was fascinating. Most if them lived fairly normal lives but the way they talked about other people was the way we might talk about insects. I think her mother enabled her by the deep denial that there was anything wrong with her daughter at all, therefore allowing her behaviour to continue unchecked and go on to escalate.

Nicole: Sya, what's the name of that documentary? I wanna watch.

Sya: I will look it up. It was part of a whole evening on psychopathy that a British channel did.

Donna: What Sya said. Also see: Dexter. I've only watched the first episode but the conundrum posed between Dexter and his father is fascinating. There his father recognized that his son was a sociopath and he knew there was no cure so what does he do? Is the better path to have him committed and be confined to a cell for the rest of his natural life, possibly only escalating the issue? Or was it better to do what he did and nurture the illness but have him alter it in a way where Dexter is actually a contributing and beneficial member of society? Yes, Dexter is a murder. Of other murderers, pedophiles, rapists. What kind of dad does Dexter have? Tasha is what happens when neither of those two options are chosen and now that I think about it, I wonder if she truly was sociopathic. Her killing animals would have been telltale and would have added an additional element to the story. I think if she really wanted to kill Gerald she certainly could have done it AND gotten away with it with how her mom was. But she didn't. She preferred to terrorize. I'm more inclined to believe she's just a particularly nasty bully simply for the fact that she never followed through on any of her death threats despite ample opportunity to and she's in her early 20s with no blood on her hands that we know of. Surely an unchecked psychopath would have some bodies in her wake by then.

Melissa: So, when Sherlock says he's a "high functioning sociopath" does that mean he's got blood on his hands?

Melissa: Though I think, Donna, you raise some interesting points. The only other fictional sociopath I can think of, right now, is Peter from Ender's Game, and he (at least) tortured animals. Maybe Tasha would be better categorized as a terrorist than a sociopath.

Donna: I've never seen Sherlock so I have no idea. I mean it's highly possible. I'm assuming he had to have some positive influence in his life to be able to get it together enough to not turn into a Charles Manson or something.

Holly: Did I hear someone say Dexter, and someone else say Sherlock? Sigh. I guess I have a thing for sociopaths. Don't mind my tangent. Carry on.

Maureen: There's been some interesting books/articles published lately about functioning sociopaths/psychopaths, and the gist seems to be they aren't always murderous. They just see other people as things. Obstacles, toys, minions, whatever.

Maureen: Interesting how the whole conversation went right to Tasha. Wouldn't she love that.

Melissa: Well, she IS the real problem (to say the least) in the book. I feel bad though and will try and come up with something interesting to say about Gerald.

Melissa: As a side note, as friends of hockey fans, I loved the Hockey Mom. She was awesome.

Sya: Firstly, here is a link to that documentary on a site that I think you will be able to watch it on in the US.

Sya: Secondly, I wanted to mention the portrayal of the kids in Gerald's Spec Ed class, which I thought was brilliant. Particularly Jenny who really stood out as a real person rather than a token girl-in-wheelchair.

Heidi: Oh Sherlock Holmes is definitely the most famous fictional sociopath of all time. I've actually been meaning to read The Sociopath Next Door for a couple of years now, but it probably won't get read any faster than most of the other non-fic I intend to read. But yes, it's another that falls into that niche of pointing out that the majority of sociopaths aren't things like serial killers, but the majority of serial killers are sociopaths. Turns out, a lot of CEOs and the like are sociopaths. Easy to rise to power when you have no loved ones/don't care who you crush to get there. But yeah, I wonder what (if anything) could have been done to curb Tasha, a born sociopath, away from being freaking evil. I def agree that Lisi and Gerald never sought help because their whole lives were on TV and no one ever helped them--why would anyone? Also YES to loving the hockey mom.

Heidi: Also I think RA should be someone from the circus. Like Gerald's friend's dad. Because I like to think of him as boisterous and loud and with a big crazy hate/love family. Every other male adult kind of pissed me off in this book--even the special ed teacher. I like the mental image of RA in a Ringmaster outfit. Just sayin'.

Melissa: Heidi, that's brilliant.

Sya: Heidi, that almost makes up for your Jane Eyre comment.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

In Which we Discuss how JK Rowling Writes ALL THE BOOKS.

A week or so ago, the attention of us Lady YAckers was brought to a now somewhat infamous article in the Huffington Post in which an author ascertained that JK Rowling, should she really care about writing and literature and all that stuff, should just STOP WRITING.  Because basically there is only so much space in bookstores and libraries and shelves in everyone's houses and she was TAKING IT ALL UP.  You can read that article here.


NEWSFLASH: Books unable to fight vicious onslaught of Casual Vacancy.  As witnessed in a bookstore near you.

As is our want, we discussed this article deeply and seriously, making many salient points.  Or at least our blessed Queens Laura and Sya did.  They made some truly intelligent and well worded assertions, delving into not only the practicalities of JK's obvious monopoly but also the philosophical depths of, well, life the universe and everything.  Later, some other Lady YAcks come along with some silliness (or, you know, actual cohesive arguments). Anyway, the whole discussion so obviously puts the debate around this article to bed that we thought it rather unfair not to share it with the world at large.  So, er, here it is:


Laura: Wow.

Laura: Just.

Laura: Wow.

Laura: Jealous much?

Laura:  “I’ve never read a word (or seen a minute) so I can’t comment on whether the books were good, bad or indifferent. I did think it a shame that adults were reading them (rather than just reading them to their children, which is another thing altogether), mainly because there’s so many other books out there that are surely more stimulating for grown-up minds".

Laura: I’m so sorry that we have to disband our book club on the basis that we are all stupid and have been wasting our time reading kid’s stories. Had we all been reading books that were “more simulating for grown-up minds” we surely would have seen how pointless this whole thing was, a lot sooner.

Laura: And JK so totally needs to stop writing to save what LITTLE ROOM THERE IS LEFT IN PUBLISHING to showcase the fine works of the disgruntled masses that have only made it to self-pub on amazon due solely to the fact that JK STILL WRITES BOOKS.

Sya:  “Dear JK, due to the fact that you are successful for writing children’s books that we all know aren’t really worth reading, crime books that are, like, totally easy to write and some other crap I - unpublished writer - am not successful at all. Your fault. Not mine. So piss off. KTHXBY.”.

Laura: Sorry to my writer friends. Sucks so much that you can’t get published or strike it big because JK already has. THAT’S THE REASON. RIGHT THERE. OBVIOUSLY. YOU SHOULD HAVE CONSIDERED THAT WHEN YOU CHOSE TO GO DOWN THAT PATH. I guess publishers and booksellers should just hang up No Vacancy signs because THERE CAN’T BE ANY MORE BOOKS UNTIL JK ROWLING STOPS WRITING.

Sya: Laura, I think you are onto something. As we are all more than aware, it is nigh on IMPOSSIBLE to buy anything that ISN’T by JK Rowling. Really, it’s time the monopoly commission GOT ON THAT SHIT.

Laura: WHY THE FUCK IS BARNES AND NOBLE SELLING FAKE BOOKS? I went in there a week or so ago and the store was FULL OF BOOKS. Thank GOD I read that article to see how mistaken I was for thinking that. OBVIOUSLY ALL THOSE EMPTY SHELLS are just a marketing tool to get you in to buy JK ROWLING’S BOOKS because they are the ONLY BOOKS IN EXISTENCE.

Sya: Yes. She has a BAZILLION pseudonyms. She can think of so many names because she is a WRITER. She is, of course, THE writer.

Laura: I have such an empty, hollow, sad feeling. My favorite books....they don’t exist. But yet I still feel like I read them. I’m so lost.

Sya: I’m sure old JK has written some self help books that will aid us in our confusion.

Laura: So, religious text....should those people GIVE UP NOW TOO?

Sya: Obviously. She’s got it covered. ALL OF THE BOOKS ALL OF THE TIME.  It’s SO UNFAIR.

Heidi: I bow to this conversation.

Laura: So............JK IS GOD.

Laura: SPREAD THE WORD.

Sya: Gosh. It’s all quite world changing. But I think that is EXACTLY what the article was leading to.

Sya:  Although perhaps she only wrote the Bible, rather than all that let there be light stuff.

Laura: I’m so upset. I have to go work on my book shelves. I have to file everything under R now.

Sya: Oh God. I work in a library. That’s the rest of the week wrecked work wise.

Before...
...after.
Laura: You’re probably out of a job. They only need one person since there’s only one author.

Laura: If you or someone you know has been dismissed from your place of employment because all books have been consolidated under JK Rowling’s name, call this number. You may be entitled to compensation. Class action lawsuit. I called it first.

Sya: Yeah. No need for alphabetising skillz no more.

Janice: I just read it. The first word that came to my mind was “Idiot”, second thing was.. what was that saying, about how people who don’t know much about something, really should think first before speaking on that subject?

Nicole: Oh, I stopped reading after the second paragraph. I have better things to do than read her nonsense.

Sya: I find it highly ironic that she was advised not to write it because it might sound bitter. Which, of course, it does. But what do I know - I only read books by JK Rowling, as (as Laura has so clearly articulated) do all the rest of us. Because they are the only books. Therefore, none of us are remotely qualified to have an opinion.

Janice: I couldn’t tear my eyes away because it was such a ridiculous argument: you are TOO successful, therefore instead of other writers rising to the challenge put forth and engaging in the competition that is part of a free market, you should just stop. Then other writers don’t have to try so hard and everyone wins...except the readers...and probably publishing as a whole.

Melissa: My thought? Sour Grapes. (Which is what her friend said. She should have listened.) And how come we’re bitching about JK and not, say, JAMES PATTERSON WHO TAKES UP 10 FREAKING SHELVES IN THE MYSTERY SECTION?

Melissa: But you all said it so much better.

Nicole:  JAMES PATTERSON. PUTTING HIS BOOKS AWAY WHEN I WORKED IN A LIBRARY WAS THE WORST. Second only to Nora Roberts.

Yeah, Huff Post - WHY NOT PATTERSON??

Sandy: Why would HuffPost even allow that nonsense to be published? It’s extremely petty and the argument IS RIDICULOUS. What irks me even more is that it’s another woman talking crap about JK Rowling. What happened to solidarity and girl power?!?

Melissa: Jealousy, Sandy, beats out solidarity any time.

Melissa: In all seriousness, you’re right, though. It’s hard enough to become a writer in the publishing world, we don’t need to be crapping on the ones that are successful.

Sandy: It’s just depressing that people have to crap on other people’s success. It’s not like JK Rowling isn’t deserving of it. Seriously. And don’t get me started on how children’s books are not worth the time. OAJDOSIHFJSKDHF SANDY SMASH.

Sya: James Patterson and Nora Roberts are the bane of my soul. He takes up almost the entire P section. JK HAS CLEARLY OVERUSED THAT PARTICULAR PSEUDONYM. Her agent needs to get on that before people become suspicious.

Donna: OMG guyz, you totes don’t understand. Lyke when sum1 gets rely bud at sumthing and there all lyke at the top and otherz r lyke tryin to use the football bat two cuz we all wants goals two than they shuld all lyke walk away and giv the rest ov us a chance bcuz its totes NOT FAIR that JK is always teh captain and im alwayz picked last and i want my turn! Fuk u i take my ball and go home.

Donna: My autocorrect now hates me.

Donna: Maybe if she didn’t keep kicking the ball into her own face she’d get somewhere. But, you know, so much for being good at something. Welcome to the world of participation trophies and EVERYONE DESERVES A CHANCE SO LETS HOLD BACK THE PEOPLE THAT ARE GOOD FOR THE SAKE OF WATCHING THE PEOPLE THAT SUCK FOUNDER.

Sya: Amen. As JK once wrote.  Probably.



Saturday, March 1, 2014

YAck Attack: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Published: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.  (goodreads.com)
Donna was the Keeper of the Book this month and it appears she chose a winner.

Sya: Also, when are we talking about the Diviners?

Heidi: Oh oh, can it be now? I really wish she's finish the second one already. There are supposed to be 4 and I'm not sure I have the patience to wait a decade to read them all.

I've read all of her books, but Diviners was the first one that I something close to loved. I think she finally got the balance right between her characters/humor/story.

Oh hey! Pub date August. Yay! That may be worth going to BEA again for.

Sya: I hated A Great and Terrible Beauty and initially didn't like the idea of The Diviners. I ended up listening to the audio which has the most phenomenal narration.

Donna: Now. I'm only 50 pages in and the SETTING and the creepy. *sigh*

Sya: I was actually on pretty strong painkillers for my back for the first few nights I listened to this. I had a few deeply scary waking dreams in which I wasn't entirely sure that Naughty John was not in my house. Really.

Also, that opening passage about the wind is as close to perfect atmospheric writing as I have ever read. Just gorgeous.

Donna: *squee*

Laura: OMG WORDS. I -LOVE- WORDS.

Sya: This one certainly has words.

Chachic: Just started reading this, about 5% in and I really like the writing so far. It feels authentic for the setting - not that I know much about the 1920's. I remember reading A Great and Terrible Beauty and the sequel years ago and didn't really like them. This one seems promising.

Donna: THIS BOOK. Although I'm getting a little annoyed by Evie's constant slang but that's the only complaint I have. It's not constant so it's easier to get past.

But the book is SO CREEPY. I love it. *clutches book to chest and smiles goofily* The setting and the mood and the ambiance. I LOVE old New York anyway and Bray just nails it. She's got my head movies going good.

Sya: I think that Evie's annoying slang is grating, but intensionally so - it suits her slightly try-too-hard-wannabe-partygirl persona really well. And yes - the CREEPY! Seriously, it's horribly dark in places. The audio has the Naughty John refrain sung and it still runs round my head when thinking of the book. Eek, indeed.

Donna: Agreed. It's definitely HER and if she were a real person I'd find her incredibly annoying but I'm at a point in the story where she's kind of leveling out because Mabel just put her in her place and her focus is shifting more towards finding a murderer than partying.

Can I just say how much I love it when an author can write a haunted house story? I LOVE HAUNTED HOUSE STORIES.

Chachic: This book is REALLY creepy! I don't mind Evie's slang, I actually find it charming.

Maureen: Yeah, after gritting my teeth through about half the book on Evie's slang, I realized that it's part of her putting on a big show for the world about how cool and hip she is. Are those anachronistic terms for this book? I don't entirely like Evie, but she feels very real to me.

Oddly enough, while I appreciate the depth of the historical setting, after awhile I started to feel like Bray was showing off her research just a little too much. "LOOK. LOOK at all my research. I can state specific stores and streets from the 20s. LOOOOOOK."

Donna: Yes, Evie definitely comes off as some kind of wannabe I'M SO COOL LOOK AT ME I USE ALL THE RIGHT WORDS AND WEAR JUST THE RIGHT CLOTHES and she just wants to do what's cool now, although I feel it's a bit more than a front. She seems to actually enjoy the life she's aiming to live being a flapper and drinking. I just think her insecurities come through and she takes it to the next level with her commitment to the cause. In Ohio it was her life's mission to live like a flapper because it's what she enjoys. In New York things start to level off, especially once the bigger problem comes into play and you get to see Evie leave those things behind because she's caught up in something more than drinking and parties.

See, I LOVE old New York (Pete Hamill, anyone?) so the detail doesn't get to me at all although I can definitely see how it could get grating. Bray is VERY detailed, I think mores with the fashion of the time as opposed to New York itself. If anything that's where my hang-up is with Evie; she just uses every bit of 20s slang imaginable and while it fits her character I'm wondering how much of it is Bray showing her work. Memphis, Theta and Mabel, who are in that same scene, are much more level about it all (again, a testament to Evie's personality but the line between that and research is thin).

Maureen: Yeah, the other characters were definitely not as prone to it as Evie; probably one of the reasons I realized how it was working in the character. She kind of reminds me of Cher from Clueless. Definitely the gorgeous sparkling party girl with a good heart and slightly wonky priorities.

Melissa: I *finally* picked it up last night. And yeah: wow. It reminds me of Great and Terrible Beauty, but it's supposed to, right?

Donna: I'm not in love with the ending. The overall story arc was resolved but there are more strings left hanging than tied up. A lot was introduced throughout the course of the story and not resolved and for such a long book that's kind of aggravating. I'm such a hypocrite for saying that but at the same time I loved the book so it doesn't bother me as much as it would have if I wasn't impressed with what I was reading. I'm looking forward to reading the next one and I don't feel coerced into it.

I never read GaTB.

Heidi: Yes, I couldn't stand Evie at all, but I think the fact that there were so many other good characters in this one kind of distilled her for me in a way that made it more palatable than say Gemma Doyle? I think that Evie is really a very Libba Bray type character, but that she finally realized that those characters annoy a lot of us. Libba Bray herself has always come off as very LOOK AT ME AND HOW COOL AND HIP I AM in real life to me.

Though I'll admit I think I did enjoy the GaTB trilogy more than most people. I read it very early in my YA days, and I wonder if I read it now if I would stomach it the same way?

Love the creep factor in Diviners though. I simply devoured this one, not even noticing how long it was because omg couldn't stop.

Sandy: Jumping in briefly to say that the end to the GaTB trilogy gutted me and it took me a long time to even think about reading another Libba Bray book. KARTIK. JUST WHY.

Melissa: I never made it through the third GaTB book. I can only do so much creepy, and it was over the line for me.

Donna: If I eat the flesh of The Diviners, will I absorb it's creepy power?

Maureen: I think I read the first GATB book but gave up on the rest of the series. Was reluctant to read her others (the Printz winner, Beauty Queens, etc) because of that first experience, but wound up loving them.

Angie: I enjoyed the first GaTB book, thought the second was creeptastically fun, and then the third one went right out to lunch in the most ridiculous way possible. Still a letdown whenever I think about it. Haven't read any of hers since, though I know I probably should.

Melissa: I actually really loved both Going Bovine and Beauty Queens. Bray does creepy really well, but she also does brilliant satire and wacked out weird excellently too. She deserved the Printz she won for Going Bovine.

Nicole: Oh, oh, oh, I LOVE Beauty Queens. (I'm working my way through the Diviners slowly, I swear! I just haven't commented yet because y'all are saying much more interesting things than I.)

Chachic: I finished Diviners last night. Looks like I'm the only one who didn't like it as much as I was expecting? It had a good start but then I really didn't connect with any of the characters and I felt like the different strands of the story (Evie, Sam, Theta, Memphis, Blind Bill, etc.) weren't brought together. And like Donna said, there were some loose ends. As a result, I just wanted to finish reading the book to get to the end but I don't think I'll be picking up the sequel.

Donna: There definitely were a few story lines that weren't brought together and it was one of the reasons why I wasn't thrilled with the ending. Like Blind Bill. He was barely in the story but has one of the biggest cliffhangers. And James who's effectively a non-entity until the very end. I think she strikes a good balance and I'm able to keep track of all the characters and they're all very different from one another so I don't have a blending issue but there's A LOT going on and for as long as the book was, to have so much hanging out there at the end is a little peevish.

Chachic: Exactly. I wasn't confused by the number of the characters, I just found it annoying that there was so much at the end that wasn't explained. It felt like the book/series was trying to keep its air of mystery so readers will be left wanting more. It didn't work for me.

Sya: Y'know, I can't really remember how it ended. Hmmm. I can remember the vague gist of it and certainly how the whole creepy house climax bit worked out but as for the stuff with Jericho etc, it's all a bit fuzzy. Certainly, I had forgotten all about Blind Bill. I am clearly going to have to read it again before book two appears.

Maureen: My hold for the audio version has come in at the library. I wonder if it'll be different the second time around?

Donna: I think you'll need to re-read the ending just to see where all the various plots got left off. There are a lot of them. And it leads into finding more out the second read around because there's SO MUCH going on that I think the more subtle details will make their way through the second or third time around.

Maureen: Listening to it, I also realized that Evie is a pathological liar. Just for the hell of it. I do like her a little better this time around though. She's just arrived in the city.

Melissa: I actually didn't mind Evie. I thought she had spunk. And I was able to get past her constant slang. And you have to admit that she really came into her own at the end. (You go, girl!) But you all are also right that the ending ending dragged out and left too much unwrapped. I felt like the book should have ended a good 30 pages before it actually did. That said, it was a good creepy read. Don't know if I'll read the others, though.

Heidi: Oooh, I'll totally do the audio for a reread before I read the second book when it comes out. I don't think I would have made it through Beauty Queens in text tbqh, but I thought the audio was fantastic.

Sya: The audio is extraordinarily good. Like I said before, I couldn't get into the text at all. I also had the same issue with Beauty Queens so might give the audio a go. I kind of wonder what that says about Bray's style that two of us have struggled with her written word. Not that that is a negative thing per se, but interesting.

Heidi: It IS interesting. I think I would have enjoyed Going Bovine much more on audio as well. She does do her own narration for Beauty Queens, but she does such a great job with it. I'd be interested to hear what you think if you do give it a go!

Donna: I'm going to slap this up on the website this weekend. Any more words, say them now.

Melissa: One more thing: I totally shipped Evie and Sam. When she ended up with (spoiler) Jericho, I was actually disappointed.

Heidi: Psh, see, I LIKED Sam. I did NOT like Evie. Therefore happy. Though I like Jericho too so I suppose that doesn't add up. Also didn't want to see nice ol' what's-her-butt brokenhearted.

Melissa: LOL, Heidi. I didn't mind Evie. But Jericho fell flat. And there was NO chemistry between them (unlike with Sam). Which makes me wonder what Bray's going to do with them later.

Chachic: I thought Evie would end up with Sam too! Oh well, I wouldn't be surprised if the next book has a love triangle.

Melissa: ARGH! NOT THAT!

:)

Maureen: I didn't read that as "ending up" with Jericho. I haven't reached that part in the audiobook yet, but my impression was that she was kissing him for the hell of it, just to see what it was like. And I was Very Disappointed in her for Mabel's sake. Totally broke the Girl Code. There's much more spark with Sam, if only because they're so perfectly alike.

Donna: Agreed on the Mabel front. Evie isn't too great of a friend by the end of the book. And please, no love triangles.

Sya: Surely there won't be a love triangle. I didn't mind Jericho but he was a bit flat. Certainly, I didn't particularly care if Evie ended up with anyone. I was too busy being creeped out.

Heidi: MABEL that's what good ol' what's her butt's name was. But yeah, Evie was a real crap friend to her and I liked her. I do agree it's too early in the series to say what way any connections will go. Hopefully no love triangles. LB hasn't done it before so I trust!

Donna: You all fail. How is it that the one person that doesn't give a flying dick about RA reminds the court to name a role for the king? The post is on hold until you all come to your senses and get your jobs done.

Maureen: !

Will. Maybe it's the voice the narrator is using, but DAYUM. So Uncle Will is RA.

Melissa: You only remembered, Donna, because you're posting it. :) I second Maureen's suggestion.

Donna: You're right. My amount of caring otherwise would have been nil. Do we have a third? Say?

Sya: I concur.

Heidi: I'm really going to have to listen to this audio as my mental image of Will has just been VASTLY changed.

Donna: Yeah, pretty much. Not what I considered Will to look like at all. Naughty John, maybe . . .

Sya: DONNA! Don't be mean.

Maureen: Well, that's downright unsettling. Also possibly valid . . .

Sya: MAUREEN! Don't encourage her.

Maureen: Am I a troublemaker now? Excellent!

Donna: So RA can never be a villain?

Nicole: RA makes the best villains. Have you seen BBC's Robin Hood? He's the only good part - a villain clad in all leather.

Donna: You're asking me if I've seen anything with RA in it . . .

I think he'd be a better fit for Naughty John. A charismatic, sociopathic, homicidal ghost bent on turning people to his flock and ruling the world. Or stodgy Uncle Will.

Maureen: Stodgy, maybe, but with the tragic past. Man can rock a tragic past.

Sya: Ok. Donna wins this one largely because I think that Knight of our Realm, Tom Hiddleston is a better fit for Uncle Will.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Bonus YAck Attack 1: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Published: September 17, 2013
Scholastic
Our YAck of The Raven Boys

From Goodreads:
Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same.
Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life.
Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after...

[We started this thread WAY back in August, when a couple of us were lucky enough to get ARCs. We finished it up this past month when no one really wanted to read The Rosie Project. Which is entirely understandable.]

Sya: I propose that we YAck The Dream Thieves. It was the last book I read before descending into the most HORRENDOUS reading slump - I think it has ruined me for all others. We must discuss.

I'm not saying now...just at some point before Christmas.

You all have to read it soon because I can't read anything else and there is the PERFECT part for RA. It's like it was written for him.

Angie: Ooooh, Sya. That IS the perfect part for RA. *daydreams*

Sya: Right??

Holly: Sya?! THAT IS THE BEST RA CASTING EVVERRR. I love both of them so much.

Heidi: I concur on the casting. And on the need to YAck this.


Chachic: I just started reading this and I'm glad we YAcked The Raven Boys because I couldn't remember the details in that book anymore so I went back to our discussion. I'm about 20% into The Dream Thieves.

Melissa: So: those of us who finished it (now or back when it came out), what did you think? (And I don't remember: what's RA's role? Tell me it's Mr. Gray, please.) For me: THE WORDS. I never, EVER get excited about words, but I did for this one. I SWOONED over the words.

Sya: Well OF COURSE it was Mr Gray - it's like the part was written just for him. Also, in my head Maura is totally Mary Louise Parker. I'm half way through listening to the audio book as a refresher and agree about The Words. It's incredibly lyrical.

Angie: I ship Ronan & Adam so hard right now.
Ronan & Adam
Maureen: I felt lost a lot of the time; wish I'd had TRB on hand to re-read before starting.

Chachic: Maureen, I know what you mean. I wish I reread The Raven Boys before going into the sequel. I had forgotten most of what happened in the first book.

Angie, I love Ronan! He's such a great character. I liked that we got to know him better in this book.

Yes to RA as Mr. Gray.

Found here
Sya: About half way through and while Kavinsky IS an abhorrent creature, the line "wake up, fuckweasel, it's your girlfriend!" has a great deal of charm. In fact,the cursing throughout the book is endlessly satisfying.

Melissa: Agreed re: the cursing. It is quite satisfying. And used so very well.

Sya: Illustrates how all words can be used oddly beautifully.

Thought I would just share this Maggie creation now.

Donna: I'm still trying to process everything. I love the book but I also seem to be hyper aware of bridge books and with how far off course TDT brought the story I can't help but think of this one as an aside. At the same time it focused on two characters as they tried to get a hold of what they bring to the table in the Glendower game so in that respect the brief pause in the over-arching plot to dissect two broken people is fully rendered.

Kavinsky was a one dimensional character but ultimately necessary in order for Ronan to realize his full potential since his dad wasn't there to help him. Not the greatest teacher but sometimes people need to learn something by watching how not to do it.
Found here
Melissa: Good points, Donna. Amazing points.

Sya: They are excellent points. And I certainly agreed with most of them on my first reading of TDT. However, I read it twice and have to admit this is my second listen of the (rather excellently narrated) audio and my thoughts have changed. Firstly, while this book largely focuses on Ronan and Adam the underlying beat of it is always Glendower, Glendower, Glendower - by which I mean, Gansey, Gansey, Gansey. Neither might feature in it predominantly but both are the driving force behind the two focal points. In terms of Kavinsky - yes, he's fairly one dimensional but I kind of read that as intentional. He's Ronan's dark mirror, the horrible place that Ronan could so easily go without the whole Glendower/Gansey thing. Also, I think Kavinsky represents Ronan's general shame and confusion about not only about his ability but about his sexuality. That dream he has about Adam tracing his tattoo only for Kavinsky to swallow it is not only very homoerotic but rather beautifully written in terms of confusion and shame and want.

Additionally, I have many thoughts on Helen and particularly on the depiction of adults as Real And Actual Characters. Particularly about Maura and Mr. Gray. But I'm still thinking these thoughts and will get back to you.

Finally, I also felt the same about this being a bridge book (which I often have problems with - see Insurgent, or Catching Fire, for instance) but then realised that this is book two of four which makes a lot more sense in terms of the story telling.

Melissa: Of four? I thought it was only three?? (Not that I'm complaining. More of these boys is NOT a bad thing.)

Sya: Nope, I'm pretty sure it's four... although I may be wrong... I hope not, though.

Melissa: There's also been very little talk of Blue. One of my favorite scenes is the one on the lake where she dismisses Olga (was that her name?) in her orange bikini and dives into the lake. I haven't read it in months, and I still smile at that.

Sya: Definately four books, just checked. And yes, that scene with Orla (I only remember the name because Mila was so very nearly an Orla) is awesome. For such a serious and quite sad book there are a lot of laugh out loud moments. I'm about to head to bed but can I just throw out for discussion THE SADDEST FIRST KISS EVER. Goodnight.

Maureen: Does that then mean each book will focus on a different person of the quad? I felt like TRB was Blue's book, and this is Ronan's book.

Angie: I love quartets So. Much. Could be we'll get an Adam and a Gansey book to round it out. The last one has to be Gansey's! And I agree his role in TDT totally expanded. It ensured I was on his side, when up till now I was sort of intrigued but not sold. Now, thanks to Ronan, I'm sold on Gansey. Their friendship...just killed me.

And Sya, it had TWO of the best kisses ever. Adorable and gutting.

Chachic: Like Angie said, I'm hoping for a Gansey final book as well! And I agree with both Sya and Angie on the kisses - those were wonderfully written scenes. My complaint about The Dream Thieves being a bridge book is the waiting time in between books, I keep wishing that I have the whole series in my hands so I can read all the books together.

Melissa: Ah, Chachic, that's ALWAYS my complaint with getting involved with series at the beginning. I don't want to wait. I WANT IT ALL NOW. Though I have decided that any author who can't wrap up a series in three (or maybe four depending on the author) books can't write.

Donna:  *ahem*harrypotter*cough*

Melissa: Harry Potter is the exception that proves the rule. Just because JK was able to make a series go seven books (not always well, I might add) doesn't mean that EVERY SINGLE BLOODY AUTHOR needs to 1) write a series and 2) make it go 80 bajillion books long. (John Flannagan, I'm looking at you.)

Rick Riordan is another exception. He's strung Percy and Annabeth out for nearly 10 books.

Donna: I liked Mari Mancusi's Blood Coven series but those are SUPPOSED to be silly and a little ridiculous. I think there are 8 titles in that one. And, of course, Fear Street.

Maureen: Somebody mentioned the grown-ups' characterization (this is how you know I work with little'uns, I always say grown-ups instead of adults) and I have to say, that stood out to me while reading. You don't get that a lot. My question now is, why? Are they going to be super-important later? We got a lot from Mr. Gray's POV and a lot of his background.

And while I don't really agree with the prevailing thinking that YA's and kids won't identify with a grown-up's perspective, it is a rare choice in this genre, especially in a book with so many other things going on and so many plot threads to follow.

Donna: I would imagine it wouldn't have been dwelled upon if it didn't have weight later on in the series. I really liked Mr. Gray and I hope we get to see more of him. Blue's family has pretty much settled into the story and I couldn't imagine it without them. I don't think the boys would have gotten to where they are without them.

Maureen: Good points. I also wonder if some of that is to contrast with the boys' various family situations. Blue is part of a large and loving family who all have each others' backs, whereas the boys . . . aren't.

Sya: I think that the concentration on adults is really interesting - particularly as Stiefvater's portrayal of absent parents was criticised (unfairly, I thought) in her Shiver series. I think that it gives the book a more rounded, fuller feeling. I loved Mr. Gray - he's so ambiguously, er, ambiguous. And it was nice to see adults portrayed as real people, with real personalities and feelings and lives. I also liked the characterisation of Gansey's sister, Helen who as a bit part, could have been glossed over but who actually adds to Gansey's characterisation by being so well written herself. Also, Persephone - what on earth is going on there? The way she talks to Adam makes me assume that she also had something happen in Cabeswater? Their growing relationship is actually quite lovely, BTW - it's nice to see Adam find someone who cares about him and seems to truly understand his, er, issues.

Donna: It's actually refreshing to see adults come into play in books as something other than the Big Bad or second tier to the teens' quest.

Laura: It took me a really long time to finish this book. The main reason being, the fact that I couldn't read it in the bathtub because it's signed and I can't stay awake if I read in the bed and there are only uncomfortable, hard spots in my house right now. The other reason being that it was such a BUSY BOOK. It was fabulous, mind you, more than fabulous but it was so terribly full that I kept getting distracted. As soon as I'd get all snuggled in with Maggie's words (She's Maggie to us now, right? We can be on a first name basis with her because we all sorta have a relationship with her at this point), she'd change tunes and sing about another person or thing for awhile. And it was all so detailed, and so engrossing and so FULL that I kept putting it down to process. We got so many stories in this one and she so NICELY FLESHED THINGS OUT BECAUSE OUR MAGGIE DOESN'T FORGET THE DETAILS, but I was TIRED. What else? The KISSES. Both of them. My heart. Just torn. The non kiss, Gansey kiss. The non kiss for so many reasons: Adam and the fact that HE KNEW and HE BELIEVED. He's so magnetic, I can understand how he draws in people, even people who have proven to have more pull than he does, even when I can't understand how he does it. I would follow him anywhere. Kavinsky was rather Moriarty, was he not? That's a compliment. Sorry for the wall of text, but this is how my mind is working right now...Motion to award this book a special award for having actually written our lord and king into the story so effortlessly. I really did love the book, as well as like it, but as good as it was, it didn't move in. It might have possibly had I read it at some other time than now. Pay no attention to me "Your work is ingenious. It's quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that's all."

Melissa: And since no one can top that, I think I'll put this post up .

Sya:  Amen. Though we should quickly note the non stereotypical in the closet struggle, the phenomenal cliff hanger and the field of 100 disturbing Mitshubishis. And the racing pigeons. Ok. We are done.

Janice: Crap. I'm only halfway through this thing, so missing the Yack. *bows head*.

Angie: You likin' it so far, Janice?

Janice: Yep. The Gray Man is an interesting development. And what DOES Declan know? And I think Blue is playing a dangerous game. The rest of it I'm not sure my opinion is formed yet. *waves hands*, I will have to catch up on what everyone else thought of this one after I finish and it's up on the YAcker's site.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

YAck Attack: The Rose Project by Graeme Simsion

YAck: January 2014
Published: October 1, 2013
Simon & Schuster

Add it: Goodreads

From Goodreads:
An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.
Maureen: [She's new this month! Say hi!] So, um, I have read The Rosie Project and I have The Dream Thieves back on hand to refer to. How exactly will we YAck?

Chachic: Are we discussing both for this month? I've read The Dream Thieves but haven't started on The Rosie Project. We usually just create a thread here on Facebook to talk about the books.

Melissa: We're discussing either. Or both. I think I might dig up the Dream Thieves thread Sya and I started way back when.

But this is a fine place to start Rosie Project. Which I read, and liked well enough, but didn't LOVE.

What did you think, Maureen?

Maureen: My overall impression was: cute. Funny, sweet, cute, and somewhat fluffy. It ramped up for me, some of which was the learning curve getting used to Don and his worldview. I liked his arc and how he came to the conclusion that it was possible for him to love someone. I was glad Rosie wasn't a MPDG, but felt like her arc was less fleshed out, particularly when we realized how much she was at fault in her relationship with her stepfather, and that never got resolved to my satisfaction. I predicted the secret of her bio-dad from about the middle of the book. So, not the best ever, but it made me happy overall.

Angie: Same, Melissa. Liked well enough. Never really crossed over into impressive for me. I kept waiting for it to, especially given some of the rather rabidly glowing reviews that came out early on. But like Maureen says, Rosie was never fleshed out enough for me for that.
January 10 at 2:05pm · Like

Melissa:The only time I thought: WTH was the brief moment when I thought Gene might be her bio-father. That kind of made me pissed. Actually, Gene, overall, I could do without. He was a dick. I kind of want Sya to weigh in on the AS side of this, because I thought Simison did okay. Unlike Sheldon on BBT (who I kept comparing to Don), I never thought we were invited to laugh AT Don. But rather at the situations he found himself in.

Sya: I'm still waiting for my library copy but it sounds positive.

Chachic  I finished reading this the other day and Don really reminded me of Sheldon in Big Bang Theory. I found myself smiling in some scenes and even laughing out loud at some of them. It was a pretty quick read for me, I had fun getting to know Don. While I can see Maureen and Angie's point about Rosie's character not being fully developed, it didn't really bother me when I was reading it. But yeah, more like than love for this. I'd recommend it to someone who would want to read something light and funny but isn't into contemporary romance.

Oh and Melissa, I agree about Gene. I didn't like him at all and couldn't see why Claudia put up with him. For a while there, I thought Claudia had no idea that Gene slept around. I liked Don's friendship with Daphne, I thought that was really sweet.

We obviously didn't have much to say about this one. Primarily because we'd much rather talk about the boys in The Dream Thief (who can blame us)? And then we got sidetracked into Divergent territory (posts coming).  But it wasn't a bad read, overall.