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A bone to pick

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It seems like “best of” lists are popping up everywhere when it comes to  books published in 2011. Salon has one. The New York Times has one. And Goodreads members voted on one. A lot of the same books appear on all of these lists. Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 seems to appear on just about all of them. I definitely want to get around to reading it.

My bone to pick? That’s with the Goodreads members who chose Veronica Roth’s Divergent as the best book at 2011. Cut to me with my eyes bugging out. An entertaining book, maybe. Shows a lot of promise? Yup. But the best book anyone could have read in 2011? Hellz no.

Here’s my review that I posted on Shelfari:

Divergent started out strong. I liked that it was set in a city that I knew. It set recognizable landmarks into a dystopian future. In this future society is divided by personality trait to avoid violent tendencies (this is becoming a theme; we need to change humanity to avoid warfare and violence). Our protagonist, Tris, chooses the hardest and toughest group thus going against her family. Then the entire book is about her training process. It hardly explores what it means to be Divergent (which Tris is – she tested into multiple groups). And in the end one society goes to war against another all of a sudden. The end is kind of a mess. There’s a bit of sloppy writing going on with the middle being really slow. None of the characters are totally compelling enough for me to give this a four star rating. It was good enough to keep reading, but it really needed another re-write.

I gave it 3 (generous) stars. I want to say it’s good YA fic, but that sounds like I’m downgrading that readership. I’m not, there’s a lot of really great and well written books for the YA demographic. But Divergent really seemed to lose it’s point after a while.

Definitely not the best book published this year. I gave 5 stars to three books in the past year. Bossypants by Tina Fey was published in 2011 and The Thirteenth Tale was published in 2006. The other is the Eye of the World graphic novel. I gave plenty of books a 4 star rating, but it looks like Bossypants takes the cake for best book published in 2011 that I read.

The Hunger Games: A commentary on our reality TV habit?

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I finished The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins the other day. I began the book by listening to it on audio cd on a road trip last weekend and finished it up via the book I bought at the Borders clearance sale. The audio version is really good and pretty nice to listen to. My only complaint is the way the reader says the name Haymitch. It sounds more like “Haymish.”

Looking at the reviews on Amazon, I know there are a lot of complaints that this book borrows a bit too much from the Japanese Battle Royale. That series also has teens fighting to the death in a dystopian society. Beyond that I can’t really comment because I haven’t seen it (although I will). I wouldn’t say Collins plagiarized. Doesn’t a lot of Sci Fi and Fantasy borrow from each other? The plot of the Hunger Games doesn’t have identical characters to Battle Royale as far as anyone has said, just a similar plot. Fighting to the death, fighting for survival, controlling overlords who pull our strings in a post-apocalyptic world are not new themes in this type of literature. So therefore we have to look at The Hunger Games on its own.

I liked Katniss as a character. But then again I’m a sucker for a strong female character. And a strong female character that teens can look up to? Fantastic! She isn’t likable 100% of the time, but no character is. She isn’t even liked by all the characters in the book. Haymitch is meant to be on her side (and he is in his own way), but the two of them are like two strange cats shoved into a closed room. The problem with Katniss is her manipulation of Peeta. You either hate her for it because you can’t understand how she could be so oblivious to his real feelings or you admire how she has such determination and intelligence to play to the audience. I have the feeling this problem, this manipulation, will play out into the next book. Will Katniss come to really love Peeta? Will she have played at loving him that she fools herself into actually doing it? Or was it all just for show after all?

At the heart of the matter is the fact that all of The Hunger Games was played out in front of an audience. I feel like Suzanne Collins was making a statement on how we, as a modern day audience reading her book, also watch lives unfolding in front of us on TV day in and day out. And that has a real effect on the people who are being filmed. Case in point? Russel Armstrong, the estranged husband of one of the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” wives committed suicide recently. Keeping up with the extravagant lifestyle of a Beverly Hills family got to him. When he went into debt it was too much and he felt that the show was going to portray him in a negative light. We gobble up these “reality” shows. J”ersey Shore”, “16 and Pregnant”, “Real Housewives”, etc. It’s our new entertainment. I really kind of wish Collins had expanded on the conversations people were having after the survivors came out of the arena. She touched on something there. Katniss went through an ordeal. But to everyone else all they could remember was where they were and what they were doing when they saw her brush death, or lose a friend. Kind of like us now. I wish this fueled Katniss to anger.

Maybe it will. I haven’t read the second book (no spoilers, please!). I hope she gets ripping pissed at The Capitol. I would be!

The Hunger Games will be a movie pretty soon. Entertainment Weekly posted some pictures not that long ago.

Putting movie theaters in malls is dangerous!

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Just a few things we picked up

My husband and I went to the theater on Friday night to see the new Harry Potter movie. That theater just happened to be right in the middle of a large mall. Whoops! We had some time to kill before the start of the movie….and afterwards. This particular mall happened to have both a Newbury Comics and a going out of business Borders. Cue the devilish grin. We didn’t go as crazy as we could have because, well, we have a mortgage and various other bills to pay. But I was pretty happy with our haul. Particularly with the Buffy lunchbox as seen above. That was made as part of a deal so that my husband could get a Magic: The Gathering 2012 Core Set Intro Pack (black/blue if you’re curious).

The Borders in this mall had much better deals. We think it’s because the rent that they’re paying is much higher and they’re going to close faster than the location we went to previously. 40% off blu-ray!!

So anyway, we saw HP7 part2. Do you really need my review? I mean I think everyone has pretty much summarized it and said it’s teh awesome. I need to reread the book. Maybe re-watch part 1 because they really just jump in there and I reaaaallly don’t remember much from the book or much how the first film left off.

I will say this: if you can (and I know it can be pricey) try and see it 3D on IMAX. It’s amazing! I saw Order of the Pheonix on IMAX as well and thought that was great. Only part of the film was 3D because the technology just wasn’t there yet, but seeing it in that size was so cool. So I knew that this film with it’s action and fight scenes would be even better.

*sniff* end of an era

Memory’s Wake

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Memory’s Wake by: Selina Fenech. 2011I had the great opportunity to read Memory’s Wake by Selina Fenech in order to review it here. This is Selina’s first novel and is a self-published venture. I have been a fan of her artwork for many years and so when I heard she was publishing a novel I knew I had to give it a read. For anyone that follows her artwork (of which she has contributed several illustrations to her novel) they will be unsurprised to know that this novel is set in a world with Fae and magic.

Memory is the name a lonely lost girl takes after she wakes up in an unfamiliar location without any of her memories. Together with another girl she makes a quick alliance with, Memory winds up being chased by everything from dragons to a king. She struggles to find out any truth about herself while also dealing with the truths about those she’s traveling with.

Memory’s Wake was written with a young adult audience in mind. The first half of the book is very fast paced. Selina hit the ground running with her first few chapters. We’re treated to Memory’s point-of-view most often so the audience understands just how scared and frustrated the main character is feeling. This helps for the reader to identify with her, but it doesn’t always help in giving us a clear sense of what actually is going on. I also found Memory not to be a very solid character at times. She did a few things that seemed kind of against the character that she was shaping up to be. I also didn’t have an entirely clear vision of the world I was reading about. World building isn’t the main objective of this novel, I know that, but I think more description would have helped. This is a world of corsets and full length dresses, but aside from one particular black dress I couldn’t tell you what anyone else was really wearing in detail. I couldn’t see it in my mind. The same held true for the magic and the Fae.

As far as plot goes, it’s pretty solid. The character’s objectives are laid out pretty clearly in the beginning of the book (it’s essentially a save the princess story). The story never really drags and the pacing helps the novel move along quickly.

Memory’s Wake is a good first novel, but I can’t help thinking that the hand of an editor would have helped it to be even better. Selina Fenech decided to self-publish versus going through a publisher because she became pregnant and wanted to avoid the stress and the competitiveness of traditional publishing.

Two more novels are planned in this series and I have the feeling that the story will improve with each book.

Will you be affected by Borders closing?

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Borders bookstores has called off the auction and has chosen to liquidate instead. The news is pretty unsurprising seeing as the chain has been battling different problems financially for several years. I think a lot of people have seen the writing on the wall.

But how much will the closing affect you? For me I don’t think it will bother me at all. I haven’t stepped foot in a Borders in quite a long time. I’ve always preferred Barnes & Noble even before I spent some time after college and during grad school working for them. I like their layout, their cafe, and something about the atmosphere always made me feel more comfortable. Borders sometimes felt like a warehouse to me. I also disagreed with some of their categorizations for certain books.

And now I have a Nook so I don’t have cause, really, to buy anything digitally from somewhere else. I still wouldn’t buy media from B&N though; it’s way overpriced (exception being when they have their buy two get one free sale).

I will go to Borders if they have an awesome clearance sale before closing, however!