Friday, May 28, 2010

Wintergirls, Laurie Halse Anderson

*I tried to write this prettily, but I just can't. It's too vicious a subject.*

Lia and Cassie are the wintergirls in the title. They both have eating disorders. Or rather, Cassie has an eating disorder- Bulimia. Lia has a not-eating disorder- Anorexia. It opens with Cassie's death. It closes with another death.

I couldn't finish this book. It just is too much like pulling my ribs out of my chest and stabbing myself in the gut with them. It's written brutally, because a long, intimate look inside the head of someone who honestly hates herself and her body can only ever be hard to deal with.

I've had this issue hit my family twice, and I just can't take visiting that place again for the amount of time required to finish the book. So I didn't finish it. But, I did give it three stars out of five, for the part I read. It appears to be very well written, so if you want a closer understanding of what it's like to measure your worth by how little you weight- no other indicators are valid- I'd recommend checking it out.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Skinner, Robin Wasserman

Lia Kahn just died. This is the story of how she continued.

Her world is not the one we know. It's in the future, after a war, with new technology. One of the newest technologies is one which allows a child's brain to be downloaded, and put into a robotic body. There is no organic part in this body, it is all metal and plastic. Adults can't be downloaded, it drives them insane. But the mind of a 16 year old could take it.

Lia was in a car accident, a terrible one. Her family is very rich, and her father paid for her to be downloaded, or "skinned."

So she wakes up in a robotic body, with her memories, and her life waiting for her. Or is it?

This story covers so many issues. Oh man. The rights of health care to the poor or disabled. What does compassion mean. What does it mean to be human? What makes you human? Is it your memories, your body, your ability to feel pain? Your ability to die? Because Lia and the other skinners are  immortal, effectively. Are there medical lines that should not be crossed? Does "quality of life" come into it? Does a robot have a soul?

You see, the war that ruined the world was about religion, which means that it's kind of a hot-button topic. Those who believe in God are adamant that it (the skinners) are an abomination. Sorry, Lia, but you're basically a demon now. Politically Correct people think that it's a wonder of technology, but they don't want to see it.

This book just tore my heart out and stomped on it. The scenes with her little sister were AWEFUL. I gave it three stars out of five. It probably deserves a higher score, I just- didn't like it. I mean, it was VERY Good, and the end was heartbreakingly inevitable. I just didn't like it. One of those books that makes my internal organs try to crawl away. Certain hypothetical situations are just not fun to ponder, and this is certainly one. Makes me glad I'm poor, because we couldn't afford this, and there's no way socialized medicine would spring for skinner children. *shudders*

Because I'm not so sure that the believers are wrong. If you make a machine to think that it is a person, is it really? Are we only our memories, or is there something more? I do think that there is something more, and I'm not sure that it can be copied. Of course, I'm not much of a believer in free will anyhow, so BLARRRRGLLLLLE. *incoherent waving*

This book needs a nice, heavy discussion with lots of philosophy. I just don't want to take part. :D

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Supernaturalist, Eoin Colfer

Eoin Colfer is incredibly adept at world-building, especially the technology. I mean, I'm not so sure how technically feasible his worlds are, but within the confines he lays down, they usually work (with the exception of the Lost Colony, that was just out to lunch,) and they are always COOL. However, I'm not always so amazed and delighted by his characters. They have some nice quirks, but I never really feel like I know them. That, sadly, is what happened here.

Cosmo Hill is an orphan- sorry- Parentally Challenged. He's an inmate- sorry- resident- of Clarissa Fraye School for Parentally Challenged Boys. It works on the capitalist model, which means they have to make money off of supporting a bunch of dumb boys while they learn to breath with their mouths closed. Which in turn means the boys are used as test subjects. Need to try out some perfumes? Gauge their toxicity on Parentally Challenged Boys! No one will complain except for the boys, and they're soon beaten silent. Need to test some biological weapons? Pop over to Clairssa Fraye! They have  targets in all shapes and sizes! Want to see how little your prisoners in the prison you're going to run can survive on? Test your starvation diet on Cosmo Hill first! No government agency is going to worry if HE runs a little too close to the edge of gnawing his own fingers off for sustenance.

So yeah, morale at CFSfPCB is low. So low that when the chance to possibly-escape-but-most-likely-die comes up, Cosmo and his friend Ziploc take their chances with death. And no, it's not a magical escape with pixies who save everyone. And yes, I teared up.

Sadly, given everything else that happened in the book, that was the last time I teared up. I mean, there was a LOT of possible mayhem and death. And my reaction to most of it was "meh, are we done yet?" But Ziploc. Ah, Ziploc. I'm possibly not remembering your name correctly, and I'm too lazy to rummage for my copy. But I remember your snarky remarks with fondness. I salute you. May you have found peace.

Notice how I'm not telling anyone else that I hope they found peace? That's because I DON"T CARE. Yeah, I'm in a harsh mood modivated by not enough sleep, but the fact remains that I remember more of the first two chapters than I do of the rest of the middle of the book. I think there was a race? And Cosmo blew someone up with his forehead? Or maybe he was told not to blow up someone with his forehead. I remember how it ended... Mostly. Though I can't remember who died. Did he kill the token girl? Or was it the tortured youth? I'm pretty sure the traitor/Messiah didn't kick it. Or maybe he just transcended us all and became a parasite.

I gave it three stars out of five. The world building was shiny! I liked the moving apartments.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Nikolsk, Nicolas Dickner

So I read this for a book club, and I'm really not sure how to describe it. I'm used to books with a plot, for starters. I really am not sure that this story had one. You'd think that a book that involves a mummified body and piracy would be plot-laden- but no.

So there are three Main Characters. Teenagers! One is in Montreal, two are not. Then for reasons including running away, running to, and staying in hiding, they are all in Montreal. One works in a book store, one works in a fish shop, and one lives over the fish shop. They do not meet.

Time passes. While studying subjects that one of the Main Characters does not want to study, he knocks up a girl. This is about the same time that another girl steals computers and acquires visa numbers by undefined means. She also steals books from another other main character, who watches adoringly and does not do anything. The guy who knocked up a girl runs away with the girl, who does not acknowledge that she was knocked up- or a guy was involved in the fact that she now has a son- in any way. (It's very french.)

Time passes. Computer-thief finds a mummified body and has a crisis of conscience. Student-guy lazily runs away from a flood. Bookseller invites the Thief over to get drunk, and she steals some things and leaves him on the floor with all his clothes on.

People think about their lives. FULL STOP OF STORY.

So, in terms of plot, I'm sure it's in there. Being french. And hiding. But I'm not very clever at finding it, seeing as I prefer my plots of be loudly present with lots of blood and explosions. But the characters were interesting, which is why I gave it three stars out of five.

(And oddly enough, my mom loved the book, which just goes to show. YOU might love it too!)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Here, There Be Dragons, James A. Owen

This starts with a murder. However, we're not really led to feel anything about the character who's being tortured to death, so it's really more of a footnote in the plot. I mean, it's the starting footnote, but it's not IMPORTANT. Except for the person who's being eaten. Probably he considers it important.

ANYWAYS. There is a murder. But we mainly HEAR about it because John is on the train to visit his tutor, and then when he gets OFF the train he's met by the police who want to talk to him about his dead tutor. One thing leads to another, and then he's stuck in a club in London with two new chaps, names of Charles and Jack. (Jack LEWIS and Charles WILLIAMS? Eh? Eh? And he's John TOLKIEN? Get it? Get it?*elbows*)

Then basically one of the Grimm brothers shows up to leak water all over the doorstep and tell them they need to flee town on a dragon, captained by his daughter the pirate queen, and she just so happens to be waiting down at the wharf did I mention the Wendigo who are waiting outside to eat you? Alive?

CSL, JRRT and CW decide to leave. Now. A dragon sounds like a great idea!

Then they go to Avalon and meet the green knight and some fates with a stew of doom. There is also a man. Boy. Is he the-lost-heir-to-the-throne, evil-traitor-in-waiting, or boy-on-the-verdge-of-becoming-a-man? Only time will tell!

Once leaving the Arthurian reference behind, we visit Narnian references, Wonderland, Jules Verne, and sundry greek myths. Also a faint biblical touch, mixing Lot and Noah together into a DELICIOUS STEW.

I liked it- I think? The literary references were lots of fun, I just usually like a book to contain more in the way of plot and less in the way of "I just included five books in one chapter, oh, the cleverness of me!"


Which was a literary reference. Why yes, I DO take hypocritical pills every morning, thank you for asking. But yeah, the plot just didn't impress me, tragically enough. I think the fact that I learned we were reading about the INKLINGS in the first chapter set my sights too high? I expected immense complexity and depth out the ying-yang. I didn't get it.

I gave it three stars out of five. However, I actually read this at one go, while standing in front of a rack of power cables, which just might have contributed to my mindset while reading. I was waiting for my sister, who was waiting for some exiling shop boy to look up information about her phone. (He didn't find anything.) And it was hot. I mean, whew, nothing like dusty cables for two hours to make you loosen your collar!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Warbreaker, Brandon Sanderson

In most books, the basic things are set up within the first couple of chapters, and then events unfold from there for most of the book, perhaps with a twist at the end. That is a lovely pattern.

That is not the pattern this book follows. Things Just Keep Happening, for the ENTIRE STORY. And I don't want to spoil any of it for you... I'll just go over the basics of how the story starts, then. *nods* That sounds reasonable!

It opens with a man in prison. He breaks out, killing several guards with a sentient, talkative, and bloodthirsty sword, but only after stealing something from another prisoner, and then killing the man. Then he vanishes from the story, and we go to watch a 17 year old princess who has suddenly been declared the most-expendable of her father's daughters. She's being sent off to marry the God-King of a neighbouring empire to try and stave off war just a LITTLE longer. This marriage is considered a death sentence, since as soon as she's produced a heir she's expendable. Also, the God-King has returned from the dead, is considered omnipotent and commands an army of zombie soldiers. This, plus the fact that she's not allowed to look at or talk to him, makes the prospective marriage not quite a completely joyful idea. Meanwhile, an atheist God is grappling with his inclination towards the seven deadly sins. And then- Oh, just read it. Then we can talk about AWESOME SWORDS AND COLOURS AND DEVIOUS MERCENARIES AND SNARKY FREAKING GODS. *cough*

I gave it four stars out of five. The only reason that it's not at five stars, was a vague feeling that it was moralizing in a way that I didn't quite agree with. It was very vague, but enough to make me not want to read it every night before I go to bed/carry extra copies to pass around to friends, which is the level of awe and adoration required to get to five stars in Jasmine-World right now. With that said, you should all go read a copy. Lightsong the atheist god wins at life. (And death.)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Birth Marked, Caragh M. O'Brien

As is proper for post-acolypic dystopian agricultural narratives, Gaia is named Gaia. (I wonder what after?) She's also a teen midwife. Which, you know, is not the most common of tropes. Especially since part of the job description around here "advancing" four babies every month to the walled city known as the Enclave. They supply the shanty town outside with food and a measure of medical supplies, and in return the town takes their children.

Just so you know, the babies aren't being used for organ harvesting, if that was what you thought first. You have a terrible, dark wicked mind. *pause* Let's be friends! *cough* No, the kids are being adopted. They have a chance to live much better lives than the kids outside the wall. Lots of food, lots of water, better schooling, all around comfier lives. However, the Enclave only takes "perfect" children, which is why Gaia was never up for advancement. She has a fairly blatant scar across her face, caused by hot candle wax when she was small.

Anyways, there's a bit of the world. When the story opens, Gaia's just successfully completed her first solo job, and as a part of it, had to advance a new baby. It's not the best way to start a career as a midwife, for sure. She's come home in search of some tea and a hug from mom, and found that the day just got significantly worse. You don't like the government regulations on your job? HA! Try the government kidnapping your parents and sending an annoying officer down to question you about how loyal you are! Things can't get worse now! Well, except for the news that execution is on the menu for her family, you know...

Gaia quickly formulates a plan some might call foolish, or even insane. That would be because it IS insane, but let's not dwell too much on that. I mean, what else could go wrong? Aside from the public hanging...

I really liked the characters here. They weren't the kind who start shouting about their emotions all over the page, which I have heard people complain about, because "you never get to know the characters," but I like it. I mean, how often in real life are we privy to people confessing exactly how that makes them   feel in the middle of extensive trauma? Because, let's face it, these are people who have been through a lot, and none of it making them inclined to trust easily. And sometimes actions speak louder than words, after all. *smiles* I'm sorry, the romance just makes me melt inside a bit. I am so behind that relationship it is not even fit. The fact that I started shipping them from the first meeting is probably a sign of my deeply flawed idea of romance, but let's not be too nice about the details, okay?

Oh, and the death scene was one of the best ones I've read in a long time. It's just, quietly devastating.

I gave it four stars out of five. And I had to write the author, and she said there IS a sequel in the works, WHEW. If read it, you'll know why I closed the book and promptly went to her website to find the contact form. It's a very. Um. Modern ending.

P.S. Finding science in the book is a bonus game. :D Play it with your friends!

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Shifter, Janice Hardy

When this book opens Nya is stealing a chicken. On the scale of awesome thefts, this isn't too high up there, amirite? Imrite. She's living hand to mouth, and lately it's been taking rather a lot to get anything IN that hand that's going to her mouth.  (Okay, that was a painful turn of phrase, but I've been putting off reviewing this book, so just go with it. Times are hard, okay? Okay.)

Times are hard, and not just for penniless orphans. Her land was on the losing side of a war a couple of years ago- that's what happened to her parents- and the Duke has taken it upon himself to make sure the people know who is in charge now, and they are NOT first class citizens any more. Tensions would be high, if morale wasn't so low.

Anyhow, that's what going on while Nya is stealing a chicken to get by. But in escaping, she let a secret of hers escape too.

(Wow, I'm sorry for the way my mind is stringing words together today. KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.)

You see, in this world there are Healers, also know as shifters, who can shift pain. They take it from the sick or injured person, and put it in a special ore, pynvium. While they're in there taking pain they are able to fix what is actually making the person ill, and everyone is happy and pain-free. Nya's sister is a healer, and she's in training, getting fed and clothed and taken care of for her skills. Nya would be a healer to, but she can't put the pain into pynvium. She can, however, put it into other people. As a peniless orphan who would be a second class citizen to begin with, that's not something you want powerful and moral-light people to hear about. But now this little piece of information is starting to circulate, and Nya is soon being pursued by two groups with motivation she really doesn't want to hear more about, thank you very much.

Also, cute and responsible boys in uniform. SQUEEEE! *cough*

This book dealt with a lot of moral issues, which is something I am really a fan of in YA literature. How far do you go for the people you love? How far do you have to go to correct things you've done wrong? When do you decide that someone is an enemy, and how should you treat your enemies?

(I do wish there was a mainstream story that dealt with spiritualtiy in a positive way- when the "gods" are not walking around eating people or sending purple-eyed kittens, for example- but so far I haven't found one. Agnostic and bitter teens ftw? *sigh*)

I really liked the plot, and the climatic scene was immensely satisfying. *pleased smile* I want the next book when it comes out. HOWEVER, I never really felt like I connected with the characters. That's probably a personal thing, though, so I gave it three stars out of five.
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