Quick Reviews from the Underpaid

There is a simple reason why I have not been posting more often folks, and it is this. I currently am working two jobs, retail no less, throughout the holidays. Perhaps longer. I am also planning a wedding in January which means that I have to do things like fill out invitations, apartment hunt, make doctor appointments, and about a million other things.

With all that being said, my reading habit is still chugging away nicely, or at least I am reading more books in a month than most people do in a year. Because I cannot do the full length reviews that I would like to do because of my limited time, I am going to provide you with an abbreviated review for all the books I have read recently in one post.

 Life Happens Next by Terry Trueman
A sequel to Stuck in Neutral, this book picks up right were the first left off. After surviving his father's mercy killing because of simple phone call, Shawn prepares himself for his life ahead. But what kind of life can a guy have when everyone thinks he is a vegetable? Stuck within his own body, unable to tell anyone how smart and funny and annoyed his is, Shawn must accept the life he has and live it as best he can. A tiny book, just like the first, this book still left me with many questions. Shawn has a really great family, his siblings basically acting as if he can understand and interact with him. I wanted more than that though, and definitely more from a sequel. I desperately wanted someone to take Shawn somewhere and for someone to figure out that he is locked in his own body. That some kind of medical science would have figured out a way to make his twitching finger be able to interact with the world. I know this is possible because we wouldn't have The Diving Bell and the Butterfly without such knowledge. Not a bad book, but I didn't really see the point in reading it if nothing new happens.

 Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Set in the future, everyone lives, works, and plays in the virtual reality world called the Oasis. When the creator dies, leaving behind a fortune and a hidden Easter Egg within the Oasis, the game is on. But there are some who will do anything to win the game, and Wade Watts quickly learns that some virtual worlds can become very real. Despite a rough first chapter, which is full of authorial intrusions, this is one awesome book. It is perfect for geeks, sci-fi freaks, and anyone who grew up in the 80's.

The Navigator and City of Time by Eion McNamee
One day the world around Owen shifts oddly: Time begins to flow backwards, and the world and family he knew disappear. Time can only be set right when the Resisters vanquish their ancient enemies, the Harsh. Time travel is a difficult subject to tackle, and sadly this series really struggled with the concept. Full of holes and logical fallacies, I was left feeling confused, as if the author had simply skipped a couple of sentences. Owen, the main character, is wholly forgettable and flat, and despite some nice action scenes, I was never fully engrossed in the story.

 The Diviners by Libba Bray
Evie O'Neill has been shipped off to New York City to live with her boring Uncle (Unc to Evie), who runs The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult"--also known by locals as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies." NYC is one glamor filled thrill from the speakeasies to the movies, that is until a string of occult-based murders comes to light and Evie and her Unc begin to investigate. Evie may be able to help find the killer, but how do you catch a ghost? Set against the backdrop of 1920's New York, The Diviners is a well told, terribly creepy, and poetically spun tale. Libba Bray, although a bit wordy at times, can craft a sentence so that it reads like a song. But beware, not only is this book occultish in the extreme, but it also sometimes reads like a history lesson. I promise you will walk away from this one with a chill and a firm grasp on 1920s vernacular.

 Let's Go For a Drive by Mo Willems
I love this book! This is my favorite Elephant and Piggie book yet! Mo Willems does so much with so few words and these two characters are so expressive. Seriously, buy this one for the child in your life...or the child within.

Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson
When T-Boom introduces Laurel Daneau to meth, she immediately falls under its spell. Calling it her moon, Laurel quickly sinks into a spiral of addiction in which death seems like the only out. With the help of an artist named Moses and her friend Kaylee, Laurel is able to see beyond the moon, to a place where her ghosts will no longer haunt her. Deeply moving, Woodson immerses her reader into the world of addiction that is so terribly awful and brilliantly hopeful. Never feeling didactic, Kaylee's story impacts on a level that demands understanding and a new way of looking at those suffering from addiction.

Common Trope Traps: A Reader's Guide for Writers

So the title of this post is a little misleading since I am not simply a reader, but also a writer. Yet, it is from the many books I have read over the past few months that fueled the need for such a post. There are, of course, a plethora of cliches and overly misused tropes in all fiction, however the literature for children's books, specifically books geared toward the middle grade and teen crowd have a set all their own. So without further ado, I present:

Seven Overused Tropes in Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction: (in no special order):

1. Redheads
We all know the ever famous redhead, Anne of Green Gables, but what about these fiery beauties (I'm a readhead so I can say that), makes for such an interesting character trait? My theory is this. Redheads only make  4% of the American population. Therefore if an author wants to create a character that stands out, one who is different, but doesn't want an ethnic minority, they can always use a redhead. Who are the most recent additions to this classification? There is Clary (City of Bones), Amy (Across the Universe), Fire (Fire), Quincie Morris (Tantalize), Bianca Piper (The Duff), Ellie (Angelfire), Eve (Eve). I think you get the point. Interesting note,  besides Ron Weasley, famous wizarding friend of a certain Harry Potter, ginger males are rather rare.

2. Self-Examination by Mirror
When was the last time you stood in front of the mirror and, in your head, began describing yourself? Your eyes, your nose, hair color, face shape. Anyone? This speaks to me of lazy writing. There are so many deft ways to insert such information, creative and beautiful ways that reveal more than just looks. "When she was little, Lana had wished she could just tell people she was adopted, for everyone in her family had soft honey colored hair, except her. Instead, Lana's jet black hair screamed to the world, my mom had an affair." An example that I hope makes a point.

3. The Awkward Uncoordinated Kid
I guess the cool kid would be a boring story, right? I mean, every single kid out there can relate to being the awkward uncoordinated kid. The trouble with this is that, although not everyone can be cool and coordinated, they can't all be awkward either. This may be a case of writers writing what they know, because to be honest, of all the writers I know (you guys correct me if I am wrong) many admit to being the socially awkward teenager that has become the staple of every teen flick out there. I myself was the bookworm, and it wasn't until my college years that I discovered rock climbing and hiking. Perhaps for my next book I should consider writing a character who is actually considered cool.

4. Realizing You Are Crying
What is this wet stuff upon my face? Why does water leak from my eyes? Unless you are a robot or a child who has never cried before, it is biologically strange for a person not to realize they are crying. Yes, the occasional allergy or sneezing fit does hit you unexectadly, but in the middle of a great disaster in which someone dies, would you truly be surprised by tears?

5. The Smile That Doesn't Quite Reach the Eyes
This is how we know that people are bad or lying, right? Admittedly, I am not the most observant person on the whole, however I wouldn't even know how to go about noticing if someones smile didn't reach their eyes. How can you tell if their eyes aren't smiling? Tyra Banks always goes on and on about this very thing with would-be models, but honestly, I can't tell the different between her "smiling with her eyes" and without. They look the same to me. Also, I would assume that a psychopath would be somewhat good at hiding the fact that they are in fact bad.

6. The Didactic Authorial Intrusion
I am aware that this has always been an issue, but bear with me here. I am not talking about the authorial intrusion in which the author wants children to learn how to share or not be a bully. No, the didactic authorial insutrusions I refer to go on a much deeper, sometimes even spiritual level. I get that sometimes it is difficult for an author to separate out their political, religious, or philosophical viewpoints from those of their characters, but it is important that the author question their decision to insert a four paragraph mantra about how the character is an atheist, when it has absolutely nothing to do with the story and never comes up again. If a character spends any length of time ruminating on something then one should only hope that this may be important information for the reader to know. If it is important to the story and the character, add it. If not, use facebook for your rantings. That's what everyone else does.

7. The Terribly Abused Child With No Psychological Damage
Kids are resiliant and human beings are often able to overcome some very terrible ordeals. The more realistic fiction, those dealing with things like death, cancer, war, and disasters never shy away from the knowledge of how terrible those things can be. Yet in the more fantastical worlds, the fact that a character would probably suffer from some serious PTSD due to the life they have lived, is ignored. After seven years of constant death threats, being abused by his relatives, and watching friends die, Harry Potter would definitely be in need of some serious help. On the lighter side, think of it this way. Ariel from The Little Mermaid would probably be considered a hoarder. Charlie Brown is clearly clinically depressed. The story doesn't have to be about mental illness issues, but it wouldn't it be interesting if more authors acknowledged that their characters may need someone to talk to. And for goodness sake...stop sending Harry Potter back to his abusive relatives.

Every Day Book Review

Every Day by David Levithan

Every day for as long as A can remember, it has woken up as a different person, hijacking that persons body and life for 24 hours. A doesn't mind so much anymore, having developed a series of rules in order to not disrupt the lives of the other teens too much. Content to live on as this thing, an it with no true past or future, A meets Rhiannon. One day with Rhiannon though and A can't get enough, willing to break its own rules in order to be with her. But what will happen when A tells her the truth. How can you love someone who is a different person every day?

I admit that I resisted this book. Not being a huge fan of romance and given that the main crux of this story is this girl Rhiannon, I was sure I would hate it. Due to the fascinating concept, I fond the story engaging while I was reading up, however it doesn't stand up under to much scrutiny, especially since the author offered so few answers.

The lives that A lives are fascinating. A drug addict, a pretty girl, an obese boy, a bilingual daughter of an illegal immigrant. A is neither male nor female and has learned how to cope with the eccentricities of this life, and it is this element that makes the book interesting.

Of course, the love story was ridiculous. For some reason that I cannot quite figure out, A is completely smitten with Rhiannon who is not particularly special way, which wouldn't be a big deal except that I am not even sure why A really likes her other than the fact that she is nice. In one day A falls for her so completely, developing a sixteen-year-old worthy crush of the century that, like most teen relationships, is doomed to be short but full of over the top feelings.

Perhaps I sound cynical? And perhaps I am. But after seeing what love is and what love isn't, I find it fascinating that we still pander to the ridiculous romantic notions that encapsulate the romance genre and have made many a friend think that love would somehow be just like in the stories they have read and movies they have seen, leaving very little room for reality.

Lucky for Levithan, this book isn't reality so I guess we will let A get away with its crush. Interesting point, and one you may have noticed throughout this review, A is neither male nor female. I have noticed an overwhelming amount of those on goodreads however, seem to want to call A, 'he'. Talk about a weird concept that is nearly impossible to wrap your head around.