Sunday, September 29, 2013

Novel Review: Confessions of a Hater by Caprice Crane

Rating (Out of 5): ~1
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance, Mean Girls
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publish Date: August 27th, 2013
Spoilers?: Some.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Mean girls are always the haters - Right?

Hailey Harper has always felt invisible. Now her dad has a new job and the family is moving to Hollywood. Just what Hailey needs: starting a new high school.

As she's packing, Hailey finds a journal that belonged to her older sister, Noel, who is away at college. Called "How to Be a Hater," it's full of info Hailey can really use. Has Hailey found the Bible of Coolness? Will it help her reinvent herself at her new school? Will her crush notice her? Will she and the other Invisibles dethrone the popular mean girls? After all, they deserve it. Don't they?

Caprice Crane's funny--and deeply felt--observations about high school, bullies, popularity, friendship, and romance will leave teens thinking...and talking.

Something Specific:

  • "High school was pretty much like this huge party I wasn’t actually invited to, but I still had to show up to every day.” (ARC, pg. 3)
 (You know what? I marked, like, four pages within the first, I don't know, fifty pages. Nothing else. And this is the only one I decided to use, because I actually liked it.)

The Cover:

I don't mind this cover. It works for the book. Maybe I liked it better before I actually read the book, because now I look at it and go "ugh". It's not bad to look at, I generally like the comic book look and it works here.


Warning: Contains mass rage.
I really wanted to like this book. I requested it thinking that I would enjoy it, that it sounded good. Then it started sounding like maybe it would be more annoying, angst mean girls, but I tried staying optimistic. I went in hoping that it would be quirky and funny, and that maybe it would surprise me. And I started it, got a couple pages in, and was thinking I was right. And then I read some more pages, and realized that I was wrong.
This book, very quickly, got on the wrong foot with me, and just continued getting worse and worse the more I read. I’m not even sure what I think about the rating I’m maybe giving it, because I don’t usually give books 1 star ratings, and it feels wrong. But this book rather deserves it.
So Hailey, our protagonist, has to move because of her father’s new job. And she’s totally not upset about this, you guys; she understands. I mean, she doesn’t really, and she’d rather get to stay in her home town with her one friend and those girls that bully her, but she understands, okay? And as she’s packing up her stuff, she finds this old journal of her sister's, detailing how to be a hater, which really means how to be one of those bitch bullies that have always picked on Hailey. But that doesn’t matter, because Hailey totally wants to be one of them, duh, because doesn’t everyone?
So Hailey gets to the new town, and she meets her next door neighbor, a boy who goes to her school. She’s warned away from another girl on her street, because she’s a total freak. And then she goes to school and she gets in with the popular girls, and she’s so excited. I mean, the main girl gives her a speech on how she’s supposed to dress, on how she has to get permission before she buys stuff, on all these guidelines, the first time she talks to them, but that doesn’t matter. Because they’re the cool girls, and so they obviously totally rock, right? Of course, everyone wants to be them, duh.
But then Hailey starts hanging out with that freak girl, and finds out that she likes her more, and then stands up to the girls. She’s warned away from doing this, but she does it anyway. And honestly, this is where I got a little hopeful, for like a chapter. Because that didn’t make the rest of the story any better.
Okay so I hate Hailey. She’s selfish and mean and wants all the attention and to be the queen b of the school. She had one friend from her previous school, who doesn’t get enough mention to seem that great, and is bullied by the popular girls. And yet she never seems actually that mad about it. She acts mad, at some points, but the overpowering emotion I felt from her was that she wanted them to like her. And I don’t understand that.
She gets in with the popular girls, it’s obvious that they are horrible people, but she ignores that. And then when Anya, the freak girl, tells her this, she gets all pissed off/shocked. Like it wasn’t obvious from the start? And yet, despite this, everyone still wants to be their best friends?
Is it just me, who doesn’t understand this whole ‘popular girl’ phenomenon? Because I really don’t. I mean, these girls are horrible, okay? To everyone. And everyone knows it. And yet everyone tries being nice to them, stepping on eggshells around them. If no one did that, then they would have no power. I just don’t understand.
But aside from that. Hailey hangs out with the girls for, like, two days or something. And then she goes to sit with Anya at lunch, because she’s decided that she’d rather be with someone she actually likes. And then they make friends with a bunch of other girls.
I didn’t understand this, even a little. Anya is the freak girl, who used to be popular before something happened. And she sits alone at lunch. But then, suddenly, Hailey makes friends with her, and somehow in the time between two chapters, they make friends with like four other girls. We’re never shown this, they’re just introduced in the next chapter, like they’ve been friends all along. When they were never even mentioned before. But whatever, right? And all of these girls are obviously different and unique, of course. I mean, there’s that one Asian girl, you know, who’s smart and doing some kind of drugs because of all the pressure. And then there’s that one shoplifter. And that girl with really low self-esteem who just wants to be popular. And there’s the teen pregnancy one. None of which, of course, are even a little fleshed out. I couldn’t tell you their names, nor whether that first one is actually the same one or two different people.
I did not care about, or remember, or get to know, any of them enough. The druggy girl even had a meltdown or whatever at the end, but it merely gets a mention and an “I feel bad” from Hailey. Not a fuck given.
And then Hailey’s sister shows up, the girl behind the hater journal book they’re following, and she gives them this big sob story of how horrible that journal is, what it resulted in for her. And it’s just so cliché and overused, that I couldn’t form much care for it.
I’ve talked about how I don’t get the mean girl thing, right? Because those girls… there was not a single likeable thing about them. The main girl is given some hint of a back story, a “oh her family life is bad, she has her reasons” but none of that was fully developed, or explained, nor did we actually get to see any of it. And even if it was, that gives her a reason for it, but does not excuse her behavior, because there's no excuse for being a bitch, okay?
And then there was the whole debacle with their parents having an affair, and we get the hint that that’s not going to work out, because I guess the girl’s mother is horrible or something, even though we never even get to meet her, nor know how that turns out.
Now, aside from this big mean girl plot, there were other things in this book. Things that I didn’t like. Like how Hailey gets a boyfriend and, of course, there’s this big overwrought blow job scene, how she’s embarrassed but is doing it because she thinks she has to (because they’ve been together for a couple of months, even though that is absolutely no reason to do that), and then how she messes it up. The whole thing was dumb and humiliating and had absolutely no point to the plot.
The writing in this book I did not like at all. The author, I think, was just trying really super hard to sound like a teenager, and ended up not sounding like a teenager at all. And then she tried to sound thoughtful and quirky, and ended up just not working that out at all. There were a lot of thoughts from Hailey that were supposed to be funny and true and relate-able, but there were too many, they were too long, and they just ended up sounding dumb. Like getting a paragraph PSA about some doctor job that doesn’t have enough people. And a page or something of how she likes milk chocolate, even though dark chocolate is supposedly better for you but she doesn’t care. Not to mention all of the overused, cliched tropes used in this book, some of which I mentioned above: teen pregnancy, sex and blow job issues and embarrassment, divorcing and cheating parents, mean girls, taking down the mean girls, self-image issues, stealing, doing drugs, connecting with older sister, sisterhood with friends, being Invisible, fighting with your best friend, fighting with your boyfriend. Just.. all of it, in ridiculous amounts.
And then there were all of the mildly to majorly offensive comments, mostly regarding slut-shaming type of things, girls with daddy issues, things like that. And those weren’t needed, either. Then there were the tense changes: for most of the book, it’s in present tense. But then sometimes Hailey will look back on what she did in past tense, from a time after all of the mean girl journal debacle is over, I suppose for some foreshadowing, anticipation. That didn’t really work, but mostly it bothered me that she couldn’t decide which tense the book should be in.
Overall, this book just pulled off pissing me off. I was angry and ready to be done with it by half-way, and thankful it was finally over when I finished it. This book is crap, okay? I hated all of it. I’m trying to think of a single thing I liked. Maybe I liked Hailey’s boyfriend, even though Hailey was not particularly good to him? I think I might have liked Anya, a little, for a while? I don’t think there was enough development, though, for me to say any of those things confidently enough. 
And honestly, I’m rather glad to be done with this book, and be able to not think about it anymore.
Sidenote: Also, I think I'm kind of done with the whole mean girl idea, as well. I used to like it, and I still think it can be done well and exists in real life, but overall I'm just done with it. It's overused and rather dumb, in my opinion, especially when exaggerated.

A review copy was provided by Cuddlebuggery's Little Blogger, Big Ambitions project. Thank you!

Manga Review: A Wise Man Sleeps. Volume 1, by Mick Takeuchi

Rating (Out of 5): ~3-3.5
Publisher: Go! Comi
Publish Date: 2008
Volumes: 2
Spoilers?: Some.
Buy it here: Amazon. Barnes and Noble. (Out of Print)

Goodreads Synopsis:

Miharu hasn't been having a good year. Her mother died, leaving her only a single ring to remember her by, and her father went bankrupt - leaving her with all his debts Though she'd intended to sell the ring to pay off her debts, Miharu finds herself unable to part with it... literally


I’ve had this series on my eye for a while, but hadn’t really planned to get it soon, when I saw it at my ‘local’ bookstore. I’ve read some of Her Majesty’s Dog, also by Takeuchi, and hope to get my hands on that series at some point, but it’s rather hard to find. So, this one.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, going into it. I figured it would be good, entertaining, and that’s pretty much what I got, although it was also a little slow at grabbing my attention.
Miharu, our heroine, is stuck with her father’s debt when he runs off. The yakuza are after her to get it back, and she’s trying to get by and avoid them. It doesn’t work very well. And then some strange guy, Akechi, an alchemist, comes up, claiming that this ring her mother left her is worth a lot, and he’d like to have it. She tries using this to her advantage, but that doesn’t turn out very well. In the end, her debt goes away, and she starts working for Akechi, who owns a jewelry store and is searching for jewels that have, kind of, souls to them, and that dead people’s souls attach to, whether for harm or good. And Miharu swallows her ring, and it kind of fuses with her, giving her the ability to sense the special jewels and see the spirits and stuff, something that Akechi can already do.
This leads to several one-shot chapters where Miharu tries helping, or hurting, people who have special jewels. These cases range from a little girl who lost her mother, to a psycho man who killed his family. One good thing about these one-shot chapters, in particular, is that there is some actual character development, character exploration, in them, which was nice.
Miharu seems like a pretty average heroine. She’s impulsive, barges in to help people whether she should or not, but is kind, I guess. I like Akechi—he’s kind of clumsy and awkward, but I like him. He has a double personality from his ring, one that Miharu likes, who’s very suave and powerful. There’s also a talking doll that Akechi has, a woman named Beatrice, who’s actual form, or creature, I was not expecting, but I like what I’ve seen of her. She's kind of blunt and rude.
There’s only one other volume in this series, which I have already, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the series ends, where it goes from here.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Novel Review: The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis

Rating (Out of 5): ~4
Genre: YA Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Amulet Books (ABRAMS)
Publish Date: January 2012
Spoilers?: No.

Goodreads Synopsis:

A good girl.
A bad boy.
A fairy tale that's true.
A truth that is no fairy tale.

It begins the day Anna finds the child's doll on the floor of the student lounge. When it's claimed by Abel, the school drug dealer, Anna becomes determined to learn more about this mysterious boy with the military haircut and deep blue eyes. She follows him after school and discovers a secret: Abel is caring for his six-year-old sister, Micha, alone. Anna listens in as he tells her a fairy tale, the story of a little orphan queen pursued by hunters across the oceans for the treasure she carries: her pure, diamond heart.

It's a story with parallels to reality. Social services and Micha's abusive father could take her from Abel if they discover the truth.

Despite friend's warnings, Anna is drawn to Abel and Micha, and falls under the spell of the story of the little queen and her desperate voyage.

But when people Abel has woven into his tale turns up dead, it's Anna whose heart is in danger. Is she in love with a killer? And has she set out on a journey from which there is no return?

Something Specific:

  • “I live in a soap bubble. The whole school knows thing I don’t. But maybe I don’t want to know them.” (Hardback, pg. 7)
  • “‘I just wouldn’t believe everything our dry-goods merchant tells you. He’s just looking out for himself. But aren’t we all?’” (Pg. 20)
  • “…the world was too big to stay in your hometown. A world of unlimited possibility was waiting out there for Anna.” (Pg. 28)
  • “‘If you have known someone your whole life, you can see them in the dark.’” (Pg. 55)
  • “‘We…we live in a world in which only we exist and…other people live in a different world…but ours…it’s so…I don’t know…pretty? Maybe too pretty.’” (Pg. 55)
  • “Later, she would think, what if she had called, if she had talked to him on that Sunday, if she had…but who cares about later? Later is always too late.” (Pg. 135)
  • “‘It seems like as of today I’m officially married to him or something. I mean, I don’t live in his pocket…’” (Pg. 208) This one was just funny to me.
  • “‘The hardest thing is always to forgive yourself.’” (Pg. 292)
  • ·         “‘Hatred and love lie close to each other.’”  (Pg. 348)

The Cover:

I love this cover, the white and the purple one. I think it's just really pretty, not embarrassing at all. It fits with the story, both the rose and the general feeling.

I don’t really know how I feel about this book. On one hand, I kind of loved it. On the other hand, I don’t know if I liked the ending or want to cry about it. I mean, the things this book did to me…
I went into this book expecting it to be a bit slow, with beautiful writing, possibly to find the storytelling parts slow, and with a not-nice ending. I was both right and wrong on these things.
The writing is a bit slow, the pace takes its time, and yet the writing is not as gorgeous as I thought it would be. It’s still very nice, though, and it took me a while to get through this book, but not in a bad way.
Abel is the storyteller, and he tells stories first to his younger sister, then to her and Anna, our heroine. And I was expecting this be slow because I knew it would mirror things that were happening already with Anna and Abel, but I was wrong. They were actually very interesting to read, and went by really fast; they did mirror the events well, but they were just different enough. That was a really nice element to the book.
I liked Anna; she’s a bit naïve, curious, hesitant, but smart. Abel’s little sister, Micha, was a sweet, cute little girl, also smart, and learning. There were several other characters in the book, a lot that I liked and a lot that surprised me. Like Anna’s parents, who I really liked: her quiet, gentle mother, and her gardening, protective and kind father. Then Anna’s friend Gitta from school, among others. I’m not going to go into detail, but their parts were interesting, and well done.
Then there’s Abel. I’m so conflicted about him. On the one hand, I like him. On the other…
He’s a good older brother, I understood the attraction between him and Anna, and even liked some of it and agreed with Anna on some things. But then he does several things that are just not good. I’m not going to go into detail, because they are some major spoilers and surprises that I was really not expecting. But I don’t like what he did, and yet I still kind of like him. And I don’t understand how that works.
This book does not go down the same path that so many other books with the same set up do, even the romance and attraction part, and I really liked the surprise of it. And yet it also leaves me feeling so upset. Because, I just… that ending. The ending was horrible, and made me want to cry. But it was also fitting. It fit the story really well. It made sense for the characters, even if it kind of crushed me.
So even while I feel upset and crushed and conflicted about this book, I applaud everything that happened in it. Everything was done so very well, and it was beautiful. I think overall I loved this book, even if there’s a niggling of despair for what happened.