Another Sick Day: Staying Home to Read Insurgent

You need this book, dude.

I think you should know there’s, like, a ton of spoilers in this post. And not the good kind of spoilers, like when your grandma used to buy you tons of candy even when your parents told her not to.

For a guy with a solid immune system I sure seem to get sick a lot. Totally left-field for me, I swear. Usually I get one super nasty bug and then I’m Superman for the rest of the year. Not this time though. The Übermensch of cold viruses decided to invade my nasal passages two times this season just to remind me that it could make me its baby boy biatch whenever it wants.

The upside of having a license to ill (that’s a Beastie Boy reference there, FYI) is that I get to stay home from work and do nothing all day–and by “nothing” I mean read Veronica Roth’s new book, Insurgent. Don’t be jelly, people! I’m about 50% through this thing (gotta love the progress counter thingy on the Kindle, right?) and I’ve got a few first impressions to share with all you peeps. I’m assuming you all know the gist of the Divergent Trilogy story line so I’ll just skip the whole synopsis thing and get straight to what I think so far.

The Good: The dialogue has been super dope from the start. The tension between Tris and Four was totally believable, and the snappy banter between Tris and the other Dauntless–especially Uriah–had me cracking up. The description of various places was totally off the chain too. The way Roth laid out the Amity headquarters made me feel like I was right there, strolling under the thick canopy in the orchard. And the way she described the Candor headquarters with the black and white everywhere? Get outta here! What a fricken awesome way to decorate the headquarters of the faction that sees only truth and lies, right? Actually, the way she has painted the headquarters of all the factions has been beyond pro, each one reflecting the character of the faction members. So well done, Ms. Roth.

The Meh: The only thing I thought was a little bit of shenanigans was how seriously mature Tris seemed at times. Perfect example: the scene toward the beginning where she and Tobias were about to do the no-pants dance, but Tris puts the kibosh on old Mr. Grabby Hands before he made it to second. Tris says something about how she doesn’t want to get freaky with him because she feels like its for the wrong reasons, namely to distract herself from her grief. This, I didn’t buy.

Before you get all worked up let me explain what I mean. I get that some people mature faster than others. I, for instance, still get a kick out of typing 58008 on old calculators and then turning then upside down. The thing is, Tris seems waaaay too insightful for a sixteen-year old with almost zero life experience. I know she saw some serious trauma in the last book, but I don’t think that accounts for some of the next level introspection that Tris has going on. Maybe it’s possible for a kid to be that mature, but I just think it’s unlikely.

But hey, what do I know? Girls are supposed to mature faster than guys anyways, right?

So yeah, that’s where I’m at for now. I know I’m the new mayor of Sucksville for breaking my own rules and not posting on Monday, but I like I said, I was super dooper sick. As soon as I finish this book I’m going to be up on here giving you the low down on Veronica Roth’s next installment.

Until then, Dear Reader. G’night.

[image sourced here]

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Article 5, The Never Prayer, and Me Holding a Baby

Holy guacamole, I am about as tired as you can get, but I’m going to fight this sleep a little more as I really want to stick to this new plan of blogging on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

So I’ve finally gotten to a new book after plowing through Kristen SimmonsArticle 5 a few days ago. If you haven’t checked that book out then you probably should stop whatever you’re doing and get it. The book follows the story of a girl living in this post-WWIII America where a Christian theocracy has come into power. Are you freaked yet?

In this Santorumesque world, the government has suspended the Bill of Rights, opting for a simpler–albeit wicked brutal–set of rules called the Moral Statutes. These new statutes totally screw over everybody who A.) isn’t Christian, and/or B.) doesn’t have a penis. The opening scene totally dragged me in, kicking off with the protagonist getting ripped away from her mom because of the institution of the latest statute–Article 5. This new rule literally makes it a crime to have been born out of wedlock. How bad would that suck, right? Seeing as I don’t like being a book spoiler, I’m going to leave the plot outline there and hope you’re hooked enough to check this thing out.

While I was reading this book I kept thinking it was like a YA version of The Handmaid’s Tale, except with more forbidden teen romance in place of the subjugation of women and the Orwellian destruction of language. Not to say Simmons’ worldbuilding lacked anything, but Atwood’s vision of a Judeo-Christian theocracy in the United States is more brutal than Norwegian black metal. That thing makes all these YA dystopian settings look like a five-year old’s vision of Candyland rather than a post-apocalyptic autocratic state.

Still though, I think Article 5 totally shoots and scores on what I think it was aiming to do: be a romantic YA novel that touches on current issues involving religion and its place in the political conversation if it is left to run rampant. And if thats what Simmons was aiming for then I think she totally kicked ass at it. Well done, Kristen!

So yeah, I need to do some talking about this new book I’ve been getting into from Aaron M. Ritchey called The Never Prayer. Let me be straight with you becuase when I saw that this book had angels in it I was a bit hesitant to pick the thing up. Not that I don’t like paranormal stuff–Lord knows I love me some paranormality–but when it comes to angels my brain goes straight to romance. And not the super dramatic let’s-kill-ourselves-and-be-together-forever kind of romance (that stuff can be cool) but rather the sparkly vampire kind, know what I mean?

I’m stoked to say that so far I’ve been wrong. This book doesn’t have any sparkles at all so far, which is a total plus for me. I’m only a couple of chapters in–my stupid Kindle kept updating–but so far I get the idea that there’s some risqué stuff going on with the girl we’re following. I’m talking risqué as in she could have had a song written about her by The Police, asking her not to “turn on the red light.” You picking up what I’m putting down? I hope so.

Yep, that's me holding a baby.

So yeah, that’s about it. I want to apologize right now if any parts of this post are screwy as I am about to fall asleep on my keyboard. Also, check out this picture of me holding a baby. Every time someone let’s me hold their baby I always start to think, “Man, I need one of these.”

Have a good night!

The Scoop on Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children

Getting sick is the pits. Your nose runs, you cough a bunch, and all the Samoas Girl Scout cookies you stuff in your mouth taste like coconut flecked plywood. Okay, maybe that last part is just me, but you get what I mean. There’s a solid upside to contracting acute coryza though: you have an excuse to put off all your “responsibilities” and just read a bunch of books.

My latest bout with the common cold afforded me the chance to get down with two books I’d been meaning to read for a more than a minute. The first, A Million Suns, was my topic of the night a couple days ago. The other was Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, the first novel by a fella named Mr. Ransom Riggs.

Riggs did a solid job of catching my attention from the get-go. He lays out the wicked boring life of Jacob Portman, a Floridian rich kid who is destined to inherit a drug store empire. This kid Jacob, he kind of bugged me when I first met him. He reminded me of one of these bourgeois trust-fund brats who somehow end up with a bunch of emotional troubles despite never having anything to be upset about. His parents were more of the same–a dad who at middle-age is still trying to find himself, and a mom that divides her time between downing wine and complaining about “the help.” Not the sort of folks I’d take pleasure in knowing.

Jacob’s life gets screwed all the way to H-E double hockey sticks when he stumbles upon the body of his dead grandpa, a WWII veteran with a bit of a mysterious past. What’s more, his grandpa’s last words–a cryptic message that make sense as the story unfolds–lob Jacob into the shallow end of the depression pool. Poor Jacob ends up in therapy, trying in vain to sort out the craziness that his grandpa’s message stirred around his brain while his parents try and coddle him back to his old self. The story eventually moves on–a little too slowly, in my opinion–to a handful of discoveries that lead Jacob across the Atlantic so that he can find his true calling as a peculiar child.

Taken as a whole, the book was pretty darn good. The idea was super original and didn’t rely at all on the sort of gimmicky twists that plague a lot of YA mysteries. I think it’s worth mentioning too that I got sort of a Chronicles of Narnia meets X-Men vibe from it. I think this came from Jacob having a whole world that he can see juxtaposed with all the amazing powers of the kids who live there (I’m thinking mostly of Emma here and her ability to throw fire like a pro). Also, I felt like the role he had to play in this new world was similar to the role the Pevensie children had to play when taking on that cantankerous old White Witch.

The only gripe I had–and this is a pretty small one, believe me–was the part of the book between the discovery of his grandpa’s body and his trip across the Pond. Jacob complains so much about the people in his life that I half-expected him to get all Holden Caulfield on me and start calling everybody phonies. I would have appreciated if Riggs had sped this part of the book up, moving us onto the action that made this book so fun to read.

That’s about it on the review side of things. I’ve got to work on my own book now–you know, the one I’ve neglected for two fricken days. But I definitely want to know what you thought of this book. So lay it on me–good or bad, I want to know.

Space: The Silent Killer (Even if You’re Screaming)

All the hype around Beth Revis’s new book A Million Suns has got me thinking about more than just romantic space travels. See, I was reading Reddit the other day (don’t judge me, please!) and one Redditor posted a question about whether or not people would be willing to volunteer for a generational space flight to colonize a new planet. (For you n00bs who don’t know what a generational ship is all about, click here.)

My first response to the question would be, “NO EFFING WAY.” See, I’m not too keen on the idea of living out my days on a airtight tomb even if I would be remembered for all time as the awesome guy who volunteered to die in a box. Maybe that makes me a l4m3-o, but the thought of my descendants getting the sweet payoff for all my hard work really burns my cakes. I’m down for colonizing other planets, but not only if it means I get to be the one who sees Earth 2.

Are we there yet?

If you’ve read my blog before then you know that space terrifies me. It’s big, cold, and unable to convey the sounds waves produced by a shrieking human voice. However, I do like the idea of space travel. If someone could hook up a space ship with warp drives and replicators then I might be down for an interstellar excursion. I’d prefer there be force fields as well à la Star Trek just in case of a hull breach–you know, to keep the drafty vacuum of space from sucking my blood through my pores–but their absence wouldn’t be a total deal-breaker. Oh, and a holodeck for those moments when you get sick of contemplating your insignificance compared to the vast nothing of space. If you read Revis’s first book then you know that sort of thinking ends up in suicide by airlock.

So what would you do? Would you be the one raising your hand to go? Or would you be like me and try to dodge the get-shot-into-space bullet? Don’t be ashamed if you’re a chicken.

Actually, be a little ashamed.

[image from here]

Writing, Rewriting, and the Holy Mother of Potter

Man, I’m rocking and rolling with this new book. I’ve set out a plan–oh how I love plans!–to crank out two chapters a week, and I’ve been sticking to the thing. Each chapter is about 2,500 words or so, and as I’ve done a super wicked awesome job plotting this bad mama-jama out that the thing each one of those chapters is swimming in nail-biting conflict.

Oh, yeah. I’m stoked.

Bad jokes are what I do!

Writing 5,000 a week is actually a step down from how fast I pumped through the first draft. For that one I was doing three chapters a week and those things were bloated like nothing you’ve ever seen. I’m talking about 3,500-4,000 word chapters kind of bloat. Chapters like that make for a monster book, eh? That’s the problem with plotting out a bunch of crap and then packing in a whole bunch more crap on top of that crap. I started having to set a word limit for each chapter–a rule that’s become useful for this draft as well, actually.

No Potter? No problem!

On a non-writing note, who’s been following the news about J.K. Rowling’s new book? There’s been a bunch of hype surrounding the news, most of it good, some lukewarm. I’m more on the she’ll-knock-it-out-of-the-park side of things. Of course, I might be biased. If it wasn’t for HP I would never have started writing, and what a sad tale of woe that’d be to sing.

Which side are you on? Think she’ll crank out another amazing tale, or will the lack of Potterness end up a bust? Seriously, I want to know.

[those clever pictures are from here and here]