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I finished Mockingjay last night. Ultimately, I don't recommend this series. I found it depressingly predictable and frustratingly uneven. The writing itself isn't good enough to make up for plot, story, characterization, and structure failings.

However, if this series landed on my desk while I was acquiring? Hell yes, I would have snapped it right up and published it -- although I'd've made (and/or encouraged the author to make) some different editorial choices.

Those are two separate areas of my brain, though. It took me quite a while, and a lot of coaching from my (amazing, incredible) mentors to learn how to separate what I like as a reader, and what is publishable. Marketable. Money-making.

I don't really have a spoilery review of Mockingjay right now. I mean, I could list everything that was predictable about it, everything that frustrated and disappointed me, every place where I think the author could have done a better job, but why bother? Either you liked it, and the flaws didn't bother you enough to ruin the book, or you didn't like it, and the flaws were unforgiveable. I'm in the latter camp; everyone else I know, as usual, is in the former!

Other books I've read in the last few days:

I finished Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy. It was amazing. I was shocked when I reached the ending, convinced that my (falling apart) copy of the book was missing pages. Then I started to grin uncontrollably, because the ending is actually pretty awesome. For me, it ended in such a way that I can tell myself that there was happiness and satisfaction; someone else could read death and destruction. Very smart -- very enjoyable. Piercy is incredibly skilled; the next book of hers I'm picking up is He, She and It, which was recommended to me by [ profile] belladonnalin, who is the one who recommended Woman... to me in the first place.

Can I just say that I love "person" and "per"? Because I do. So much more than zie and zo and hir. I might start using that instead of zie and hir, honestly, because it really struck a particular chord in me. A chord of happiness.

The other book I finished -- actually, I finished it yesterday, before I finished Mockingjay -- is I Am J by Cris Beam. It's a YA about a seventeen year old kid who has always felt like a boy, but has girl parts. When things come to a tipping point inside himself, he runs away to try to start a new life -- but his old life (mother, father, best friend, etc.) keeps pulling him back. So he has to learn how to balance who he is with how life has to be lived. I am making this sound terribly depressing, but it's actually incredibly uplifting, with a positive ending. I'm not trans, so I don't know if this really reflects the experiences of people who are, but the narrative had that ring of truth (and pure teenage desperation) that I think a lot of outsiders will be able to relate to, even though the particular experiences are not necessarily the same.

Warning for a lot of homophobia on the part of the title character, though. I really appreciated that he got called on it almost every single time, but it's still there. Plus there's self harm (secondary character), and a huge amount of parental conflict and rejection. So judge wisely whether that's something you're up for.

I do think this is miles beyond the other YA trans books I've read in the last year, and I definitely recommend it. (My one real critique is the depiction of New York City; it really didn't work for me. I wish the author had set the book somewhere else, although I got over this by pretending the book was set in the same New York City where all those tv shows are set. Haha.)

Little, Brown is releasing this in March 2011 (my copy is an ARC [personal profile] dianafox snagged for me at BEA), and I'll probably mention it again around then.

Next on my list, to be read this afternoon on the subway: The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting. Highly recommended by real people! So we'll see. My backup book -- either in case I finish it too quickly or don't like it enough to keep going -- is Feed by Mira Grant. I've already read quite a bit of it, so I know I am going to like it; it's just a matter of when I get to read the rest. Social media! Zombies! Bloggers! A virus! Come on, it's like I am the target audience or something! Plus I love the cover. Actually, I have it as an e-book -- but [personal profile] dianafox gave me a paper copy the last time I saw her, which I greedily took so that I can have a book with the cover on my shelf. I love the RSS symbol in blood -- very clever.

Recently purchased: Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien

Powell's is having a YA dystopia sale! That is so awesome and clever. Unfortunately, their shipping is expensive, and Amazon's is free for books priced comparatively. I'd love to support Powell's, but how can I? Especially since their cheap shipping is via USPS, which 95% of the time loses any package larger than a letter. So Amazon and my UPS guy whose shirt is always unbuttoned to his navel it is! If you're more flush than me, you should order from Powell's.

Anyway, when I went through their books, that one is the one that caught my eye -- and it's the one that was recommended to me! So I bought it. Review t/k! I can already tell you that I'll be extremely annoyed if there's a super cliffhanger-y ending, though, since I don't approve of that kind of nonsense -- which is why I didn't also get The Line by Teri Hall -- it looks like it could be super interesting, but the Booklist review warns for an "abrupt cliff-hanger ending"... no thank you! I'll pick up the whole series once it's over!

(Hey, does anyone else think it's hilarious that the Library Journal review of The Line says, "For more engaging dystopian novels, suggest Lois Lowry's The Giver..."? Uh, could there be a book less engaging and less relevant to a modern teen's internal life than that? I mean, okay, yes, it is very well-written and Lowry is skilled and talented and as a nine year old, I enjoyed much of her backlist -- and surely there are YA dystopia novels less engaging and less relevant, but, frankly, I am hard-pressed to think of them.)
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Remember when my dear friend [ profile] doll_revolution sent me rhubarb for my birthday? I used it to make a rhubarb coffee cake for my birthday cake, which was delicious -- and I chopped the leftover pound of rhubarb into 1" pieces and froze them in hopes of making jam. Well, I have the recipe for jam that I want (which is actually a rhubarb-strawberry jam originally made by [ profile] _artemis's mom), and I have the rhubarb -- and after a trip to the hardware store, I have the 4 oz jars I wanted, as well as the tongs specially made for jam-making.

Now I just need pectin. I have been to every single store in my zip code, and more than a few outside it, and no one sells pectin. I am resigned to having to order it off the internet. But then! Then I will have jam, and nothing will stop me!

Day 25 - Any five books from your "to be read" stack

Ooh, my TBR stack is huge. Plus I am currently in the middle of five different books. I never used to read more than one book at one time, but right now I have a book in the upstairs bathroom, a book in the downstairs bathroom, a book in my bag, and two books by my bed.

Okay, five books from my TBR stack (in no order), annotated:

  • Rihannsu: The Bloodwing Voyages by Diane Duane -- technically this is three books in a collection, but whatever. All bound in one paperback = one book. I've had this for months already, but I've never started it. It's so huge that it will be difficult for me to hold in my hands, much less tote around. Eventually I'm going to read it, though.

  • Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy -- this was recommended to me by a dear friend who knows the sort of thing I like, and it looks pretty amazing just from the summary (30-something Chicana woman committed to a mental institution is actually not crazy at all and is talking to two different futures -- one beautiful and one horrifying!). I am super excited to read it -- it's what I'm bringing with me on the subway the next time I go into Manhattan. (From where I live now to Union Square is about 200 pages of a paperback, so one round trip = one book.)

  • The Collector by John Fowles -- this was recommended to me as something I'd enjoy since I like Criminal Minds. I admit, I've started it a couple of times and then shunted it right back to my TBR pile. It seems sort of... masturbatory. And they didn't have shows like Criminal Minds in 1963, so I can see how a book like this would be shocking or whatever to the average person, but I'm sort of like, "Oh, it's a book about a serial killer with OCD who's kidnapped a girl to keep? Ho-hum." Eventually I'm going to read it, though.

  • Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner -- I love stuff about spies and the CIA, what do you want from me? It's totally bulletproof -- put a character in the CIA and I will read your book. (Especially if it's a romance novel. What? It's good to know yourself, right?) I'll watch any movie about the CIA, too; it is no surprise that I've seen The Good Shepherd a whole bunch of times. (Well, I'd've seen it anyway -- Alec Baldwin in a dapper hat and suit? Yes please!) Anyway, I'm looking forward to this one, but it seems like it will be a bit of a slog, so I'm sort of putting it off until I can properly sit down with it and devote some time without having to stop after an hour or two to do work or cook supper or whatever.

  • The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth -- I've read this before and loved it and don't remember anything about it. I mean, I must have been... nine? Ten? I'm looking forward to reading this again and remembering it this time (I hope!). Fighting the Nazis, here I come!!

Plus, two books from my virtual pile of pre-orders:

  • Grace by Elizabeth Scott -- by far this is the book I am most excited about this year. The eponymous main character is a suicide bomber! Who runs away! Dreaming of freedom! And it's set in a dystopian near future! And it's by Elizabeth freaking Scott, one of my top three YA authors of all time!!!!! Um, give it to me now. (You cannot hear it, but my breath has sped up just typing these words!)

  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins -- yeah, yeah, I didn't really like the first two books in the Hunger Games trilogy. So what? I still want to see where she's going with it and what she's going to do and I want to know what is actually going to happen in the canon! Plus the whole internet is reading it, and I don't want to be accidentally spoiled. Blah blah blah. Team Haymitch! (Well, and Team Cinna!!)

Okay, you guys! Now you: what is on your TBR list/pile? Even if you aren't doing the other prompts of the book meme, you should drop by and talk to me (and the other people reading this!) about what you're going to read soon -- and why!

Other days of the book meme )
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Yesterday I...

1. Saw Inception with a friend of mine. Neither of us were impressed at all. At least I stayed awake! (She fell asleep.) I just don't get all the hype; this isn't stuff that's exactly complex, complicated, or new, and the whole thing was so painfully predictable. Plus it struck me as very much a "form over function" movie -- literally all about creating an idea (haha) that is supposed to look a certain way, often at the cost of the plot making sense and the characters being interesting.

I am of the opinion that there was a really cool idea for a movie at the core, but that movie should have been about Joseph Gordon-Levitt and mostly an intense character study, not worldbuilding and Leonardo DiCaprio. (Sorry, I don't remember their characters' names.)

NB, I did absolutely love JGL -- and Ellen Page and Ken Watanabe -- and would happily watch seven million movies in which they are action heroes and awesome.

2. Read Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. This I definitely see the appeal of -- particularly for kids. Had I read this series when I was nine, I think I'd've been a lot more willing to overlook structural, plot, and story flaws in favor of how great all the imagery is, and how creepy the story is.

Since I am not nine, I have a hard time getting over the flaws. Cut for spoilers and a frank few sentences about what I did and did not like. )

...Okay, and now the book meme!

Day 19 - Favorite book cover (bonus points for posting an image!)

I want to pause here and differentiate "favorite book cover" from "favorite book cover artwork" -- and also from "most effective book cover/book cover artwork"! They are all different things -- bad design on a book cover can ruin really good art, and bad art can ruin a good design, and sometimes good design and good art do not make a book cover that is effective in getting people to buy the book. That's just how it happens. (Of course, there's the argument to be made that by definition "good design and good art" is art and design that make people want to pick up the book. That is totally fair, too, but not my perspective -- hence the separation between "good" and "effective.")

I Love You Like a Tomato by Marie Giordano was the first book I acquired and edited myself -- a really amazing literary historical novel -- and it took us a long time to find the right cover. It turned out, too, that what looked good on the hardcover and trade paperback was not the cover we wanted for the mass market edition of the book. I loved the hardcover and trade editions (still have my copies!), but the mass edition's cover really shines:

i love you like a tomato mass market cover
(click to embiggen)

As far as artwork goes... I cannot tell you that The Wayfarer Redemption by Sara Douglass is a really good book, the kickoff of a really good series, or that the cover has an amazing design -- all of those things would be lies! But the artwork is awesome, especially the image of the heroine, and I am pretty sure that it's the first time I ever was really struck by great book art. Low res internet images are not the way to see this artwork -- it's in high res that the details are really beautiful. But whatever, here's a low res internet picture anyway:

the art for the wayfarer redemption by sarah douglass, by luis royo
(click to embiggen)

Feel free to, as always, share your opinion in the comments, or link to your own blog post! Please do not embed images in the comments section, but regular links are fine.

Other days of the book meme )
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It was good I did the meme early yesterday, since I ended up going out for supper with a bunch of interesting people, and then to a poetry reading, and didn't get home until almost 10 PM! The Frick was great, by the way -- I recommend taking an hour to stop there if you're ever touring NY museums. There are a few really great Whistlers, and a couple of excellent Vermeers. And, of course, the clocks!

(Be careful in the room with the fountain, though -- if they don't like the way you're sitting on the benches, they ask you to move!)

I should have done this early today, too, but I left the house before 8 am and only just got back! Now I'm doing this while the onion for tonight's mushroom pasta (mmmm) softens in butter and olive oil on the stove...

Day 03 - The best book you've read in the last 12 months

This is a tough one. I can answer this a couple of ways -- there's the best book editorially, the one with the strongest plot and best characters that I'd've bought myself, were I acquiring; there's the best book in terms of how much I enjoyed reading it, which is not necessarily the same as what I'd acquire and publish.

I did really love Tana French's The Likeness. It's such a strong book, so well put together, and quite enjoyable. It's probably the most engrossed I've been in a book since Heartsick by Chelsea Cain!

Then, of course, there's Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body by Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby -- even though it wasn't any new information for me, I still really enjoyed reading it, and now that I've finished reading it, I'm enjoying lending my copy to people who want more information about size acceptance and the Health at Every Size movement.

Oh, and you know what? Just yesterday I read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. There were a lot of things I really liked about it, and a lot of things I absolutely hated -- but I definitely enjoyed myself and didn't want to put it down when it was time to get off the subway. And I'm looking forward to reading the second and third books in the trilogy! (Also, now my mom's weird gold "mockinjay" pin makes a lot more sense!) I think I'd've enjoyed this book more if I'd read it at age nine or so, instead of now, so for reading the second and third books, I'm going to try to get myself back into that place, that headspace of when things were new and cool instead of cliche. I'll let you know how that goes!

And now it's your turn! I know I am the worst at commenting on other people's blogs, but I am really enjoying reading your meme answers -- keep them coming! Feel free to either comment on this entry with your answers, or link to a post you make to your own blog/journal.

Other days of the book meme )


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anna genoese

November 2015

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