Friday, December 30, 2011

2011, and looking ahead to 2012

A lot of blogs have been participating in year-end favourites lists, and I've been reading them all with pleasure. I always like to see what different people enjoyed. I've wanted to participate myself, but due to some very sad, very difficult things that have gone on in the past week, I haven't had the energy nor the... enthusiasm I usually have. I don't want to say too much, as this blog doesn't get very personal very often, but it's enough to say that my family has gone through hell and back this week. I may or may not write a blog post about this issue, but until I decide what I'm going to do, I thought I would just write a quite wrap-up to say goodbye to 2011.

At the beginning of 2011, I made a resolution to do something I've never done before: keep track of all the books I read this year. As of right now, the number is 57. 52 of those were YA/MG. The adult books I read were either for literature classes or British mystery novels.

Out of 57 books, you'd think I could come up with maybe a top 10. But my brain power right now is zilch. During the year, as I listed the books I finished, I put a star next to them if they were particular favourites. I'm just going to tell you which books I put a star next to.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: This would probably be my hands-down favourite book I read this year. This book makes me feel all bubbly and happy inside the same way Disney's Beauty and the Beast does. It speaks to something inside me that just makes me glow. I can't define that. I can't label it. All I know is that any author who can do this to me immediately jumps to my all-time favourites list.

How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford: A very, very close second to Anna, this book also speaks to me in a way most don't. This book makes me feel like, somewhere out there, there are people who totally get me. These characters are my soulmates. I want to crawl inside this book and live there, with Beatrice and Jonah. I want to call in to old timer radio shows and go on imaginary magic carpet rides with them. Like my favourite movie, Ghost World, this book gives us the weird and wonderful and sometimes heartbreaking world we live in and makes it magic.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson: How to Say Goodbye in Robot reflected the weird world we know, while 13 Little Blue Envelopes shows us the wider aspect of it. This book ignited the wanderer in me and basically inspired the trip to France and England I'm planning for 2012.

The Killings at Badger's Drift by Caroline Graham: One of the few adult books I read this year, it's a murder mystery about an English village. While it isn't as deep and heartfelt as some of the other books I read this year, it does have something amazing going for it: sparkling characters that leap off the page with their chemistry. Chief Inspector Barnaby and Sergeant Troy (who are also my two favourite characters on TV) are gems.

Those are the standouts in my reading for 2011. In 2012, I'm looking forward to Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (of course), The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (also a no-brainer), and too many more to count.

Other awesome things from this year include the film Midnight in Paris and the music of Joss Stone, the Smiths, Jack's Mannequin, Matthew Good, and too many more.

I'm sorry for the understated and sober year-end roundup... but what can I say? I hope 2012 sees me in much better spirits. Happy New Year and much love to you all. I hope to be blogging more soon.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

image from Goodreads

I must confess: this is a review of a book I did not finish.

But there are reasons I did not finish this book and I think they need to be talked about.

I waited a long time to read Shatter Me. I was aware of it before it even had a title, before it had a release date, months and months before it had a cover. I read the author's blog and I find her such a charming person. Regardless of what the book was about or what the cover looked like, I knew I was going to buy it and read it anyway. I support authors like that.

And the internet made no small deal about this book! Probably everyone in the entire YA world was clambering for an ARC and, if they didn't get one, giving the early reviewers the stink-eye. There was a much-hyped book trailer, a much-hyped cover (revealed on MTV!), and some really early rave reviews. The stage was set.

So, does it live up to all that crazy hype?

My answer is no.

Let me explain. From the reviews I read, I knew going in the writing was going to be lyrical. I read a few excerpts that let me in on the style of the novel. In my opinion, it was too much. Way, way, way too much. Every other sentence has a long, rambling metaphor that is beautiful on the surface, but soon becomes too drawn-out and convoluted. At first you're going right along with it because it sounds pretty, but by the time you get to the end of the sentence the meaning is completely jumbled. You start the sentence with a dreamy expression, but by the end your face looks all "WTF?"

I love metaphors. I do. I use many of them myself. Markus Zusak said once in an interview that he thinks each page of a novel should have a gem. That's my theory on metaphors and other pretty devices, too. One per page is nice. One item of beauty per page is perfect.

One. Not ten. I swear, every other sentence of Shatter Me is one of those pretty sentences. It just gets tiring to read and slows the pace down to a molasses-like trickle.

I only got about a quarter of the way into the book before calling it quits, so that's almost too soon to comment on the romance, as it barely got started. But that's just it: I quit so early on because nothing was happening. Adam is the most boring character ever written, I really can't think of a thing to say about him, and Warner? Um, is he supposed to be a love interest? Because I got serious creep vibes. Serious creep vibes. If a guy seems to have put you in prison just to test your abilities and see how you'd react (um, V for Vendetta, anyone??), you do not get involved with him. You do not. I got predatory vibes from him all the way and I can't imagine how that could ever have changed enough for Juliette to want to get it on with him.

Juliette herself is fairly blah. She has the ability to kill people by touching them, apparently, but by a quarter of the way into the book, that ability is barely explained. Mafi skirts the issue, describing Juliette's feels about the power and how her parents and other people reacted to her having the power, but never fully explained how the power worked or what exactly it does. Do people drop down dead when she touches them? Or do they get sick and die gradually? Do they asphyxiate? Or what?

Despite all the hullabaloo, Shatter Me is so messy it's not even funny. It feels like trendbait to me. I never got the feeling that it was a real story. I could never really get past knowing the specifics of the novels creation -- knowing that Jodi Reamer represented it, knowing that it got released the same year as it sold (practically unheard of). I don't think you're missing anything at all if you skip this one.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Please, please, please watch this video

Aside from being beautiful and absolutely necessary, I think there are very valuable lessons for writers in this. Playing with expectations, perspective, and emotional impact...

Also, it's World AIDS Day. I have had a few family members affected by HIV/AIDS, so it'll be a special day of reflection for me. Bless you all.