Wednesday, February 17, 2016

So Awful, I mean, Shelly

(Hey awesome reader, don't forget about our giveaway going on this month. See two posts down for details.) 

Title: So Shelly
Author: Ty Roth
Publication Date: 2012
Number of Pages: 325 (but you won't make it to the end)
Purchase: You don't want to purchase it. Seriously - if you want it, I'll just give it to you. But you don't want it.

What Goodreads has to say:

Until now, high school junior, John Keats, has only tiptoed near the edges of the vortex that is schoolmate and literary prodigy, Gordon Byron. That is, until their mutual friend, Shelly, drowns in a sailing accident.

After stealing Shelly's ashes from her wake at Trinity Catholic High School, the boys set a course for the small Lake Erie island where Shelly's body had washed ashore and to where she wished to be returned. It would be one last "so Shelly" romantic quest. At least that's what they think. As they navigate around the obstacles and resist temptations during their odyssey, Keats and Gordon glue together the shattered pieces of Shelly's and their own pasts while attempting to make sense of her tragic and premature end.

What I have to say:

I knew this book was going to be bad. 

I was hoping it would be bad in an awesome way.

It was just bad in a bad way.

Seriously, wow. I didn't know a book could be this bad. And when I say bad, I mean bad in every way imaginable.

OK, before I get ahead of myself, let me list the things I liked about the book.

Good points:

The prologue was pretty good.

The main character was OK, I guess.

Sometimes the voice was all right.

The font on the back cover was cool.

And that's it! 

After the promising prologue, this book is badly written, obsessed with teenage angst and sex, and at times downright offensive to the intelligence of the reader. 

The premise of the book is intriguing - the Romantics, specifically Keats, Gordon, and Shelley - as modern American teenagers. OK, yeah, now it sounds really stupid. But I thought maybe the author could pull it off. He couldn't.

If you try to take too seriously the fact that it's supposed to be a re-imagining of the lives of the Romantics, it falls apart. If you don't, it falls apart anyway, but that's not the point. There were huge discrepancies in his account. As somebody on Goodreads pointed out, Keats and Byron were NOT friends. Also, Shelley died after Keats, not before, and other things, but honestly, if that had been the only problem with the book, it probably would have been fine. I just had a hard time swallowing the obvious bias of the book in favor of angsty teenagers against everyone else, including parents, teachers, religious leaders, police - basically any figure of authority. Virtually every paragraph contained a sexual reference, even when it wasn't even relevant AT ALL, and that's only when sex didn't figure as a major event in the story. Then there was all the swearing which just made it worse. And, to top it all off, the author starts implying that people who actually have principles (a.k.a. not having sex all over the place and not supporting other people's rights to have sex all over the place and avoid the consequences) are incredibly dum and cowardly. Also the plot (hint: there was none).

About halfway through I just skipped to the end and skimmed the last few pages. It didn't appear to reach any new heights or plum any meaningful depths, which is, I don't know, kind of what I was hoping for from a book about love, death, suicide, literature, and friendship. The author may have thought he was being deep there at the end, but in reality it was artificial, shallow, and cliche. I got a kick out of the last line because it was so incredibly stupid, but honestly, if the rest of the book had been stupid in the vein of the last line - overtly making literary references in corny ways and not caring - I might actually have enjoyed the thing. As it is, I won't be reading So Shelly again. Or even once, actually. And I won't be recommending it to anyone, either. I'd burn it if burning books wasn't against my principles, so I'll probably just give it to Goodwill, though even that seems wrong because I don't want any more unsuspecting victims subjecting themselves to the poorly written, angsty, offensive train wreck that is So Shelly.

In a way, I guess I'm glad I read this book because it taught me how not to write a book.

But yeah, I'm not really that happy about it.

If you're thinking about reading this book, don't. 
That's all you know on earth, and all you need to know.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Okay, This Looks Bad . . .

Hawkeye, vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon


Title: Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon
Author: Matt Fraction
Artists: David Aja, Javier Pulido
Color Artist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: Christ Eliopoulos
Associate Editors: Sana Amanat, Tom Brennan
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Publisher: Marvel
Rating: T+

For Marvel fans who haven't picked up a Matt Fraction comic book, you are missing out. Big time. This revamped Hawkeye comic takes place after the whole "Ronin" escapade. (For those of you who don't know what that means, basically Clint Barton aka Hawkeye, was thought dead, but surprise, he wasn't. Anyway so he decided to come back as a different superhero - a ninja called Ronin. While he was going ninja stuff, Kate Bishop took over as Hawkeye.) Clint is back, doing what he does best, beating people up, and getting beat up with Kate occasionally at his side - usually to save him in the nick of time. 

Not only is the art fantastic, but the writing's great too. And, the book reads differently than most comics - it's not very linear, but that's because it's supposed to give  you a sense of what it's like to be disabled. Why? Because Clint Barton is deaf. "WHAT?" you may say, "That wasn't in the movies." No it wasn't, but Hawkeye has always been partially deaf - 80% hearing loss. Most of the time he does lip reading, the comic is supposed to give you a sense of how some people live, jumping from event to event and filling in the gaps in between. 

The story starts with Hawkeye falling through the air only to crash on a car - it then skips to a hospital scene. Maybe this is why Hawkeye feels so relatable - he doesn't actually have any super powers, which means that when he falls, he falls hard and then spend several weeks in the hospital - when he gets punched - he has to bandage it up, meaning that he is always bandaged in some way or another, and this superhero work? It's exhausting. 

The story continues to show the reader how Hawkeye got his dog - Lucky aka Pizza Dog, and how sometimes even heroes need back up. And Kate Bishop? She's pretty fantastic back up. Below I've included some of the art that has good quotes and scenes.

He’s a normal dude trying his best to be a superhero. | Community Post: 24 Reasons Why You Should Be Reading Matt Fraction's Hawkeye:

From Hawkeye #3, by Matt Fraction & David Aja. I just started reading comics, but I'm in love with these.:

Kate Bishop. Just…Kate Bishop. | Community Post: 24 Reasons Why You Should Be Reading Matt Fraction's Hawkeye:

Clint Barton discusses the positive influence of Captain America. (Hawkeye #1):

Action from Hawkeye #2 by David Aja (artist) and Matt Fraction (writer). Kate Bishop and Clint Barton flee the theatrical bad guys.:

Yeah, so if you like comics, read it.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

It's Alive! (Maybe) + Giveaway

Everyone wants to (re)create Frankenstein.

The book was getting adapted in Mary Shelley's lifetime - most famously when she attended a play only to discover when it started that it was an adaptation of her novel. (#famouswriterprobs)

The most recent film adaptation starred Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy in Victor Frankenstein. (Don't worry - you'll get a review. I just haven't seen the movie yet.)

But recreating Frankenstein is not an easy task. To date there have only been two successful film adaptations (always excluding the above-mentioned film which I'm sure will be the best yet): Whale's 1931 adaptation starring Boris Karloff, and Mel Brooks' parody Young Frankenstein.

Maybe it's this repetition that makes it so hard to piece together a new creation from the old scraps of a corpse that has been reanimated regularly for almost 200 years.

And for that reason, when a Frankenstein adaptation succeeds, it demands attention.

Kenneth Oppel's Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein trilogy (I use the word in the hope that the two book series will have offspring) is the best Frankenstein story, outside of the original novel and the 1931 film, that I have encountered.

If you've been here before, you might recall my review of the first book in the Apprenticeship trilogy, This Dark Endeavor, in which I praised the novel to the skies.

A review of the second book, Such Wicked Intent, would probably read similarly.

But because I don't like to do the same thing twice, (come on, you know this blog would be boring if it was consistent) this post will review two Frankenstein novels side by side - like two brothers, one of whom is trying to resurrect the other from the dead.

And, aside from both being YA Frankenstein adaptations, that plot point is the main thing Such Wicked Intent has in common with This Monstrous Thing - the steampunked Frankenstein story by emerging writer MacKenzi Lee.

The two resurrection plots differ in the details, of course: when his brother dies, Alasdair tries to reanimate him using clockwork; when Victor's brother dies, he tries to grow a new body in the hope that he can bring his brother's spirit back to inhabit it.

Oppel's book is a prequel to Mary Shelley's novel; Lee's is a re-imagining of Mary Shelley's world, in which the Frankenstein story is based on true events and the monster is created using gears and clockwork.

I found Lee's story interesting in that it featured Mary Shelley as a prominent character, and I liked the theme of Frankenstein meets Steampunk (because seriously, that's an awesome idea and why didn't I think of it?) I liked the characters, especially Alasdair (the Victor Frankenstein parallel), and Clemence (the capable girl with a secret). And the second half of the book completely hooked me. It was a fun story and one that I enjoyed.

But - and I mean this with no disrespect to MacKenzi Lee, whom I regard as awesome - This Monstrous Thing didn't quite live up to the expectations I had formed for it after reading the reviews on goodreads. It was and is a good story - and the first sentence of the book gave me chills - but when I place it beside Kenneth Oppel's Such Wicked Intent, I find that it pales a bit in comparison.

Oppel's Victor Frankenstein novels are alive(!) with passion, suspense, and a strong undercurrent of the Gothic. The characters are strong and vibrant, and the whole story has a dark, creepy edge that makes you shiver but with delight (if it were really, truly horrifying I wouldn't read it, so you can rest assured it's safe for you). Victor's character is so spot on it hurts, and I loved seeing Henry Clerval grow in this book. Elizabeth was as fiery as ever, and Konrad so likable that you really feel it when he - ok, he's already dead at the start of this book, so not a huge spoiler, really. Let's just say, lots of hyperventilation towards the end of the book.

Lee is a debut author with lots of promise; Oppel is a seasoned writer who knows how to manipulate the variables to in turn manipulate his readers. The choice to switch to present tense when Victor is in the spirit world is brilliant - especially since Victor feels the spirit world as more real and present than the living world, which uses the past tense. Oppel implies so much with just a change in tense. And that is why his Frankenstein story lives while so many others fall flat on their face and die.

Kenneth Oppel is a master storyteller, and as a creator, he puts Victor Frankenstein to shame.

Anyone else think this tombstone faintly resembles R2D2?

I've mentioned several Frankensteinian (if that's not a word it should be) stories in this post. And you could take one home. Or, rather... it could come to your home. That sounded ominous. But all I meant was that if you comment on this post, your name will be entered in a giveaway for one book or movie from the following list of Frankenstein-related fiction:

Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

This Dark Endeavor OR Such Wicked Intent, by Kenneth Oppel

This Monstrous Thing, by MacKenzi Lee

Frankenstein, the 1931 film starring Boris Karloff

Young Frankenstein, the 1974 film by Mel Brooks

If you win, you can choose ONE of these items which will then be shipped to you. The item condition may not be Like New, but it will be decent, and it's free. (:

To enter the giveaway, answer one of the following questions by commenting on this post:

What's your favorite Frankenstein adaptation?

Have you seen the new Victor Frankenstein movie? What should I know? (no spoilers)

What is the worst Frankenstein adaptation you have ever seen?

Or, if none of these questions pertain to you, what do you think of when you think "Frankenstein?"

I'll announce the winner on this blog a month from now, so check back in on March 4th to see if you're the lucky one. May the odds be.... no. Good luck.